It's an ongoing struggle to find the time and money to do everything we'd like to do in our lives and never so prevalent than in ultrarunning. The really great adventures are often not out the front door and require a lot of planning, time off from work and the finances to make it happen. Usually the time off work alone is enough of a deterrent for many of these events but one day, I plan to complete all of these. One way or another, some month, some year. I'll add to these as time goes on and hopefully check a few of them off. Of course if you have any suggestions let me know! email@example.com
The "A" List...
Alaska Mountain Wilderness Challenge
This has to be the toughest physical challenge out there for any endurance event. A point to point challenge over Alaskan backcountry covering anywhere from 150-250 miles. You can run, hike, bushwhack, or packraft (pictured) down glacial rivers. There are no aid stations, there are no course markings, often there are no trails...just rugged, wild, bear infested Alaskan wilderness.
They don't just let anyone into this thing and nobody will even know you did it when you finish. There are no awards, no t-shirts. It's simply a challenge that can take you more than 5 days to complete.
I've been through the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona, several times over the years. While many see it as barren, bare, and empty I see it as something so much else. Wild, sacred, and mysterious. Hidden dwellings, slot canyons, majestic canyons. The area is a desolate as anywhere in the US and holds a feeling of solidarity that only a high desert can have. I have a 200 mile route from the Petrified National Forest to Monument Valley mapped out, and ready for that long weekend where it finally happens...
The Tonto Trail
I've done R2R2R four times and sadly...it's the only trails I've even been on in the Grand Canyon. The Tonto Trail and it's 77 mile route is something I've always wanted to complete and even more so after reading Davy Crockett's account of it this year.
The Long Trail - Vermont
Being from Vermont and growing up in the Green Mountains a 200+ mile trail through the entire state, the oldest trail in the country, of course holds its allure. I've spent my share of time staring at maps, reading past accounts of the trail and of course following all the Fastest Known Times trying to decide if one day that will be the goal or if just running through would be enough. My guess is it would be. http://www.greenmountainclub.org/
The Arizona Trail
I've been talking about completing this route for over a year. 817 miles of some seriously rugged terrain, major canyons, massive climbs, and often areas of dry spells requiring either support or some well thought out planning. Starting in Mexico it goes through the "Sky Islands" of Southern AZ, into the Superstition Wilderness, Four Peaks Wilderness, Mazatzal Wilderness, up and over the Mogollon Rim, straight through Flagstaff and through the high plains to the Grand Canyon. A quick drop through Phantom Ranch, out the North Rim and along the plateau to the Utah Border. An epic journey and being a relatively new trail (just finally completed last month) very few have completed the entire route. Just experiencing Arizona in this way is something I think about a lot on runs through areas where this course merges. http://www.aztrail.org/
The "B" List
The alternative to the Grand Canyon's R2R2R this 48 mile traverse of the park looks absolutely incredible and has been on my bucket list for two years now. Logistics of driving and having two groups always gets in the way as it's just not as simple as a 3.5 hour drive to the Canyon. One day it'll be completed.
Phantom Ranch of the Grand Canyon all the way to the summit of Humphries in Flagstaff. Good amount of climbing, lots of miles, super challenging Arizona adventure. Check out Adam Gifford and Jason Henrie's successful trip in the link above (also both are pictured).
It's the biggest, grandest, and possibly most challenging 100 mile race in the world. Emphasis on "race" as I'm sure a 100 mile route can be slung together that is harder but not in this envirnoment with how much the locals support it, obsess over it and genuinely seem to LOVE ultrarunning. No agents, no contract disputes, just one individual competing against the next. With a backdrop of the Alps just for added incentive.
Drawback? Huge expense and time suck getting there, staying there and the risk of weather cancellations as have happened (or altered) to the race the last two years. Regardless...it's the New York Marathon of Ultrarunning. The Superbowl of Ultrarunning. It's Game 7 of the World Series. Bigger than Western States ten fold. Bigger than Hardrock. Just read Christian Griffiths account from his www.run100miles.com site linked above. You'll get it.
It's Hardrock. It's hard as hell to even get into the lottery and get selected to run. THEN you realize that you just got selected to run 100 miles at over 10,000 feet and with 33,000 feet of climbing. A badge of honor of sorts for those that have completed it and for someone that loves the mountains, of course I'd want to do it. I didn't get selected this year but hopefully in 2013 I'll have better luck. http://hardrock100.com
Superstition Wilderness Eastern Range
The Superstition Wilderness is massive. Starting at the Lost Dutchman State park and it's majestic wall of rock facing all of Phoenix it disappears into a wandering, hidden series of valleys, canyons and slots of old mining camps, hieroglyphics, and lost hikers. With each trip into the 'Supes it gets stranger and stranger, more mysterious and ever changing. Beautiful as any area in Arizona it always draws me back and after this years 50+ mile adventure out in the less used trails it makes for greater interest in the Eastern range of the Wilderness area.
The "C" List
The Plain 100
Held in September in the Easter Cascade mountains of Washington state this race has only one aid/drop bag. No pacers. Little course marking and a course that is as tough as anything out there. Here are some quotes about the race on the website: “Well, at least I finished Hardrock this year.”“I could have built a big log cabin from all the blowdowns that were across the trail.”
“The water’s pretty clean, except for that one mud puddle that I drank out of….” “Yes, next year I’ll try something different. Running barefoot on a belt sander in a sauna for 20 hours comes to mind.” And my favorite: "...you decide to quit at 70 miles but have to drag yourself to mile 95 to find anybody who cares." Martin Miller http://www.cascaderunningclub.com/plain100.html
The Ultrarunning Grand Slam -WS100, VT100, Leadville 100, Wasatch 100
A fairly new trail system I'm not even sure is completed but as it traverses the Bradshaw Mountains it has its appeal. 78 miles long from the Carefree Highway just north of the Phoenix and ending just northeast of the State Route 69 and the town of Mayer, Arizona. The Bradshaw's are a rugged series of mountains holding Black Canyon City at it's base, Mt. Union at it's summit and the small town of Crown King right in the middle. The trail is for horse, mountain bike and hikers and access's a lot of other trails. Either a straight through or just a good location for future long runs, this system is close, tough and beautiful. Fits my list just right.
Starting up Lazy Mountain (straight up...not much that's "Lazy" about that) you clear the trees before dropping all the way back down the valley to the base of Matanuska Peak. Then a full climb to the scree top granite peak before turning around and going all the way back. It's a big deal for the Anchorage are residents every year, usually following a couple weeks after the Crow Pass Crossing. I've done the course around Lazy and the backside but ultimately turned around when we started to get a little concerned about bears, cut across the entire ridgeline off trail, added a couple hours...typical disaster...
But if I'm in Alaska the next time this race is going on I'm definitely going to enter.
Mount Marathon Race - Seward, Alaska
I went to Alaska as a fifteen year old to visit my family in Eagle River, Alaska. It was one of the best summers of my life. Hands down, one of those summers as a kid that forever shaped your future. Would I be nearly as adventure minded had I not had this summer? Despite living and growing up in Vermont, running, hiking, mountain biking, nothing has ever compared to Alaska and that one summer. I remember going to Seward that summer and staring up at Mt. Marathon from the bank of the ocean. It seemed so far up there and as we started to climb I couldn't believe people raced up this mountain and then ran back down. Ever since that day I've wanted to return to Seward and repeat that climb, to race the athletes of the world that come from all over to challenge this mountain.
The interesting part of the race is it's only a 5K. With 3,022 feet of climbing...43:23 is the record. Average speed up is 2mph, down is 12mph. That's pretty dang fast on the downhill but I think I could do well in this race. It's incredibly difficult to enter, go figure, but one day I'll spend my 4th of July there and compete.
You're only tired because you think you're tired. Keep going.