Thursday, August 22, 2013

White River and Resurrection Pass race reports (part 2)

Resurrection Pass 50

When I scheduled these races earlier in the year I really had no idea how my body would respond running a pair of 50 mile races 2 weeks apart.  While I experienced some general discomfort in my knees during WR (White River) they didn't give me any major issues.  However, once I stopped running that race and sat down my left knee stiffened up so bad I could hardly bend it and it took 3 days before I could straighten it out. With that said I didn't run at all until the week after the race, a Wednesday, which was also 3 days before Resurrection Pass.  My left knee felt good, and the rest of me for that matter, but I ran a bit too hard and my right knee felt strange.  Either way nothing seemed seriously broken so I knew I would at least start Resurrection Pass.

I heard about the course change in the car ride back from WR which was less than 2 weeks from the race.  Rather than running the 38 mile trail and then finishing off with 12 miles of gravel road, we would run 6 miles down the Devils Pass trail and then back up to the Resurrection Pass trail, creating a 12 mile out and back.  This meant that the entire 50 miles was on single track.  Based on the trails and distance the course has less elevation gain than the previous version, but the course changes also meant only 1 aid station, at mile 24. So overall I would say the course is perhaps a bit more difficult, or at least about the same difficulty overall as the previous course.

The weather at WR was great, clear the entire day, cool in the morning and about 70 at the finish.  The forecast for Resurrection Pass, however, was much different, rain with a high of 59.  It was raining Friday night when we arrived at the campsite but letup through the night.  The race start was about 45 miles away, we woke up early and headed out.  The temperature gauge in the car dipped to 50 while driving over one of the passes, with just a few spots of rain.  I could imagine what the 100 milers had to go through running over  the pass in the middle of the night in the rain, turns out they had a long night indeed.

I was the 36th runner to check in, the director said he had over 70 notify him they would run, looking at the results 48 finished with 1 DNF, so there were 49 starters.  I didn't see anybody I knew so I lined up towards the front.  The gun went off (not actually a gun, the race director gave us a 5 second countdown and said GO!) and immediately 1 runner took off like a wild deer down the trail.  My plan was to run what pace felt good but not be afraid to push the pace a bit.  I knew my body would probably not hold up the entire day so  the idea was to bank time.  Keep in mind this is actually a terrible idea in running, so I really have no idea why this was my approach, but it is generally what I do during races.

It took me about 45 minutes to settle into a good pace, but when I did I started to feel good.  After 2 hours though my toes started to go numb and then felt like someone smashed them with a hammer, I still don't know why but was happy no one was around when I let out random groans of pain.  Rather than walking this early in the race I made some adjustments to my gate that helped a little but generally pushed through the pain.  I ran almost the entire way up to the Devils Pass trail intersection, walking only a short uphill technical section.

I headed down the new section of the course on the Devils Pass trail excited to run a new trail, and this section was awesome!  The trail winds around a few small lakes before heading down the pass along the side of a mountain in a gorgeous valley.

Just a few miles out from the mile 24, and only, aid station, I saw Jeremy's pacer (and our friend) Matt, he informed me that Jeremy dropped at mile 70 from the 100 miler.  As it turns out 7 of the 13 starters for the 100 miler dropped, so only 6 finished (cheers to them and to Tony for ultra #200).  I made to the aid station, got my drop bag, ate some food, filled back up on gels, took a 5 Hour Energy, and headed back out on the trail.

Leaving the aid station heading back up Devils pass is mostly uphill, which really hurt.  I tried to run but my knees were in pain from the climbing, but despite that I was still able to at least walk at a decent pace.  So I decided to just try and power up the hill.  This went well until my hamstrings started to cramp, and for a few minutes my quads felt like they were going to roll up into tight balls of wadded muscle.  Towards the end of the climb my knees really started to hurt as well, but I was still able to run, at least on the flat sections.

I tried to calculate mileage remaining when I got back to the pass and onto the Resurrection Pass trail but my brain wasn't working too well.  I tried running when I could which was still about 70% of the time.  A few miles back on the pass headed toward Hope I witnessed a strange event, the sun came out!  After raining most of the night and most of the morning there was a clearing!  Unfortunately my body wasn't too willing to take advantage of the weather as I was now walking more than running.

While making my way down the backside of the pass I ran into Greg, he was the one who dragged me so fast through the race last year.  We chatted for about 15 or 20 minutes while we walked along and then I decided to keep moving (he was finishing the 100 miler).  It didn't take me long to resolve myself that I was going to have to walk it in as well, my body overall was doing fairly well but my knees weren't working well at all and were getting really stiff.  Honestly at this point I was getting concerned about injury.  A few miles later I saw Brandon running towards me to pace me back to the finish.  I continued to walk but having someone to chat with and walk behind not only helped the time pass by but kept me motivated to keep moving as fast as I could.

I saw the bridge and people cheering so I knew I was at the finish.  I crossed the bridge and then the finish line in 11:38:07, quite a bit longer than the 8:57 it took my last year but still not a bad time at all!  Looking back at my splits it took me about 4 1/2 hours to run the first half and then about 7 hours to run the second.  I think the first word out of my mouth was "chair", I sat down, drank a beer, chatted with a few people, relished in the finish, and then we headed back to the campsite.  As most ultra runners will tell you, the real pain has only just begun!

Part 3 coming soon, lessons learned!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

White River and Resurrection Pass race reports (part 1)

Ultrarunning is an interesting sport.  The highs and lows a runner experiences both during racing and in training are difficult to describe to those who don't run ultras.  Since running White River and the weeks that have followed I have been through a plethora of these feelings.  Why do I run?  How is that person faster than me?  I am never doing this again!  That was awesome!  I hate myself for signing up for this race.  Why do my toes feel like someone smashed them with a hammer?  Was that my ACL that just popped?  How far to the next aid station?  Will this uphill EVER end?  I could go on for a while, but you get the idea.  Despite all this in the end, we run across the finish line triumphant, proud of the accomplishment and, after some recovery time, are ready to do it again!

This is part 1 of my race reports, the White River 50, part 2 will be on Resurrection Pass and will come later in the week, part 3 will be on lessons learned.  For now, here is my recap on White River.

White River 50

This race is a classic northwest favorite and has seen just about everyone in the ultra running world run it.  The race website says the course has 8,700 feet of climbing with an equal amount of decent.  However, after a course change and talking with other runners I was hearing numbers as high as 10,000 feet of gain and loss, although I believe it was somewhere around 9,500 feet of gain and loss.  What does all this mean?  That course is hlly!  I should have been tipped off when we drove the camp sight in a valley sandwiched between mountains.  But, it is difficult to wrap your head around courses simply by maps, pictures, and course profiles, sometimes you just have to run it.

The race starts at 6 AM on a small airfield that was just a few miles from our camp sight.  In hindsight I started too far up front and went out too fast, but that was always my plan, in a way.  I knew that the goal of 9 hours was very optimistic and that 10 hours was more realistic.  However, this didn't prevent me from going out at a 9 hour pace.  I was feeling good as we went in and out of the trees for a few miles before crossing the highway and running on more rolling single track.  After about 4 miles we started the first climb, this is probably where the day started to turn for me.  I didn't anticipate the hill lasting as long as it did, somewhere around 3 hours.  I knew what 3,500 feet of gain would feel like, but for some reason this felt more difficult and much longer.  I was trying to keep up with those around me which meant I was pushing myself a bit too hard.  In hindsight I think the hill was less steep than I anticipated and therefore just drug me along.  I think I was more prepared for a steeper climb.

We crested the first big climb and the course flattened out a bit before we hit more switchbacks and then a longer flat section heading into the first big aid station which is the high point of the course.  I actually hit the first aid station at about a 9:30 pace.  Having started with a backpack I stopped at the aid station only to get a few pieces of watermelon before pushing on.  Mentally this was probably the high point of the day for me, once I moved through the aid station the crowd really thinned out and I was able to run without any pressure.  With no one right in front of me and no one right behind me the race started to feel more like a training run and I was able to move at my own pace.

I started the long downhill section and immediately my stomach started to knot up.  This was the same feeling I had during Resurrection Pass last year but not until mile 44, I was only at mile 20.  I was still able to run most of the downhill after slowing down and talking more frequent walk breaks.  I was really excited to hear the cars on the highway knowing the mile 27 aid station was close and I would be able to get to my drop bag.  I reached the aid station a full hour behind my goal pace, but on track for about an 11 hour finish.  I was pretty hungry and was a bit disappointed to see the lack of real food at the aid station.  Either way I grabbed my ipod, slammed a red bull, and took off with my handheld water bottle.

I ran the short section on trails and then on a road before we started the second big climb.  Shortly into the climb I knew I was in trouble as my knees really started to hurt from the hills and my stomach was knotting up again.  But I made the best of it and kept moving.  I reached a small aid station about half way up the climb and in all the excitement of getting water I neglected to grab a gel, I realized this about 1/4 mile out. I could have gone back but I figured I would just deal with it and move on.

My pace slowed considerably as I headed up to the Sun Top aid station.  I was getting really hungry since I hadn't taken in any calories in over an hour.  It was pure delight to arrive at the Sun Top aid station!  I told myself to take time and consume calories.  I ate just about everything I could, several quarters of PB & J sandwiches, chips, watermelon, water, sports drink, and electrolyte capsules.  I was there for about 5 minutes eating and trying to get my stomach to settle.  Once I realized that more food was going to do more harm than good I topped off my water bottle and started down the 4 mile hill.

Some think that running downhill is easier than going up, sure its faster, but that doesn't meant easier.  Just a few minutes out from the aid station my stomach started to knot up again, and with each foot impact it just hurt even more. I tried to run downhill, walking some and running some.  It probably took me an hour to run the 4 mile downhill section.

I kept a running and walking regiment until the next aid station.  I saw the aid station and started hearing some people cheer and holler my name.  To my surprise it was my crew!  This was not actually a crew aid station but it happened to be about 1/2 mile walk on trails to our campground.  Seeing them gave me a huge boost, my stomach changed from knotting to straight nausea but despite this the mental boost meant I still ran the first mile out of the aid station.  My run then slowed to a walk, I was trying not to throw up at this point as I walked it in.  I figured I was too close to the finish line to have a complete breakdown so my plan was to just hold it together until the end.

I managed to come across the finish line in 11:26:18.  Not the 9 hours or even sub 11 hours I had hoped for, but in hindsight running this time on that course is something to be proud of!  That course is difficult, I was simply not ready for the hills (more on that in part 3).  It took 3 days for my left knee to straighten, and I am still not fully recovered.  However, it was a fun day despite all the times I cursed myself for taking part in it, and it was only 24 hours before I told myself I could go back and run it faster.

Next up, Resurrection Pass 50!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Race Season

We are already deep into July, a bit hard to believe.  What this also means is that the summer race season is under full swing.  Even though my first big race is a week away, around the country several major races have already taken place, including the Western States 100 and Hardrock 100.  I can't help but look at the front pack of runners in these races and think that they are true professionals, they make it look easy.  However, the true winners of these races are the runners in the back slogging through the course in twice the time as the winners and often in much worse shape, they have huge amounts of grit.

I write this post a week before the White River 50, my first big, and arguably only, race of the season. While I am running other races, this is my focus race, the one I have trained for and the one I will push hard during.  This is a somewhat iconic 50 mile race that gets a bit lost in the hustle and bustle of some of the big 100 mile races.  A quick glance at the top times of this race and you can quickly see that there is quite the list of who's who of trail running that have run it.  Timothy Olson, Dakota Jones, Anton Krupicka, Mike Wolfe, Elle Greenwood, Nikki Kimball, and even Ann Trason have all run this race.  Many of these names were at the race a few years back when it was the 50 mile trail championship, and there are just a few well known names on the list this year.  But no matter the starters, I have heard this is a great race and really fun, so it should be a great day.

Training has been going well.  I wanted to up over 80 miles per week with a few weeks over 90, but the best I managed was a handful of 70+ weeks, still not too shabby by any means.  I used basically the same schedule as last year but added weekday AM runs to get my mileage up without increasing evening runs.  This worked fairly well but getting up before 5 AM to run for an hour took more determination than I had on many days.  Wednesdays I would do a hill climb, and many of those days I went up the Wolverine Peak trail.  After a mile or rolling double wide trail the path narrows and begins the 5 mile, 3,500 foot climb up to Wolverine Peak.  I like this route because it is not crowded and involves a good amount of runnable ascent and some really fun downhill.  Adding a few hilly routes on the weekday and climbs on my weekend long runs and I was able to get my weekly vertical up above 5,000 ft per week most of the time.  Not a lot, but I feel good about my training since my weekly hill run went really well just a few days ago.

White River 50 takes place on the 27th, 2 weeks later, granted I am not injured, I will start Resurrection Pass 50 hoping to improve on last years time now that I know the course.  I had a great debut at this race running just under 9 hours, I won't sent a time goal until after I recover from White River.  My hope is to run White River hard to get a good time and then I can kick back a bit the rest of the summer.  There are still many trails, routes, and peaks I need to check out before the season is over.

Here are my totals, I will get a race update sometime next week.

May - 250 miles, 42:06, 18,000 ft
June - 253 miles, 47:41, 30,300 ft
1 July - 20 July - 134 miles, 21:59, 13,600 ft

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Mayo

Today is the 5th of May, why some choose to call it cinco de mayo I don't really know, but what this has to do with running is the real mystery.  Honestly, other than the fact that I went for a run today the date really has nothing to do with running, I just needed a title for this post.  Now onto running.

Here in Anchorage we finished up with one of the coldest and snowiest April's ever, but this week is finally warming up with lows above freezing and highs forecasted in the 50's.  Even with this weather though the snow just today cleared off most of the coastal trail.  It probably would have melted yesterday if not for the fresh snow, but luckily that turned to rain by the end of the day which also helped melt the snow.  The snowpack in the mountains is a quite different story.  Here we are in May and hardly anything up high has melted, so I expect it will be June until any trails open up, good thing I didn't get into Western States this year!

As for my running it is going quite well actually.  The warmer temps and less snow means I can go out in normal running shoes and gear which requires less prep time, so that means more running.  My morning runs are a standard 6 mile route over some hills that has about 200 ft of gain and decent, not much but it is better than nothing and I think it is really helping add strength.  I am back on my Wednesday hill climb day and this year I have been going up the Wolverine Peak trail.  This week I plan to get the bikes up and running and also start running to work.

Overall though not much to report, here are my weekly April totals and a few pictures.

April 1 - 41 miles, 7:40, 2700 ft
April 8 - 52 miles, 9:47, 2800 ft
April 15 - 50 miles, 8:22, 2700 ft
April 22 - 34 miles, 5:29, 1700 ft
April 29 - 68 miles, 11:21, 4700 ft

April total: 195 miles, 33:53, 10,600 ft

10 April, yup, still quite a bit of snow to melt. 

10 April, Prospect Heights parking lot trailhead entry to Powerline and Wolverine Peak trails.

11 April, Earthquake Park entrance to the Coastal Trail. 

11 April, a snow covered bench on my morning run. 

16 April, sunrise over Anchorage from Pt Woronzof.  Boston Marathon was heaving on my mind that morning. 
19 April, another sunrise over Pt Woronzof.  Notice the difference in sunlight in just 3 days, pictures were taken the same time of the morning. 
4 May, woke up to fresh snow. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring Training

Last year we had record snowfall, 135 inches if I remember correctly.  This year we were below average until the end of March when we got 14 inches.  Then the days after got really cold, -5 at my house.  Just over this past weekend (less than 2 weeks after we got 14 inches) we got another 10 inches, so now we are nearly 1 foot above average snowfall for the season.  To add to that, we have another 12+ inches on the way starting tomorrow, which means we could have as much as 3 feet of snowfall in as many weeks.

Despite this however, I have managed to at least get some running in, although not as much as I would like.  However, I do feel that I am building a strong base (about 40 miles per week) that will enable me to quickly ramp up to 50, 60, and 70+ miles per week once the snow melts.  Running lately with all of this snow has been tough, and slow. But, I keep telling myself some is better than nothing when it comes to running and that the snow will melt eventually.  Another positive note is that other than a small flare up of a nerve issue and some sore muscles now and then, my body is holding up well and responding nicely to the demands of snow running.

With that said, here are a few pics I have taken and my totals for the first 3 months of the year.

January - 89 miles, 15:50, 3,700 ft
February - 104 miles, 18:50, 5,000 ft
March - 141 miles, 25:29, 5,300 ft

The short section of single track by my house.  This was taken a few days ago just after we got the 14" of snow at the end of March. 

Powerline pass on a gorgeous evening a little over a week ago.  Still a lot of snow to melt.  

This is what running in April in Alaska is like. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

2013 Running Schedule

It is that time of year, I registered for my first race last week which means my 2013 race plans are finally coming together.  However the schedule is still not complete, I don't have my class schedule for the fall semester so a few races are up in the air this fall, but I will comment on that below.

Overall, due to my school schedule (started grad school in January which is roughly 1 weekend per month) my calendar is looking quite bare compared to recent years, but after last year I am looking forward to it.  While I enjoyed all the races I participated in last year it seemed that once the summer months hit I was so busy running in races that I forgot to just go out for a good Saturday afternoon jaunt in the mountains.  Plus we had record snow last year so the trails up high didn't open up until mid June.  This year however, we are just slightly below average which means we have less than half the snowfall we did last year!

So here is what it looks like right now:

Hatcher's Pass Marathon - July 5
White River 50 - July 27
Resurrection Pass 50 - August 10
Ksugi Ridge - September 7
Eqinox Ultra- 21 September (if no TNFEC)
TNFEC 50 Atlanta - 28 September (if no Equinox)
Winter Solstice 50 - 12 December

A few notes are needed here.  White River 50 will be the big focus race, I will shoot for getting my Western States qualifier at this race but have set my personal goal below that.  Also this will be my first out of state ultra so it should be loads of fun!  If I am feeling up to it 2 weeks later is Resurrection Pass, which I will tentatively plan, but if I am am wasted after White River I won't run it.  Normally these races would both be the last weekend in July but Resurrection Pass is under a new director so the date has changed.  Which also means the race itself could change so it will be interesting to see how that pans out.

As mentioned earlier I don't yet have my school schedule for the fall semester, but 2 out of the 3 races here seem plausible.  There is a strong possibility I will not have class that first weekend in September which means Ksugi Ridge should happen.  This is a new race that is approximately 27 miles in Denali National Park, looks really run so it should be a good one.  If I have class the 21st then I will head to Atlanta to run The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler.  However, if I class on the 28th then I will run Equinox.  I am pretty bummed I won't be able to do both races, but either race I do will be a great time.

The Winter Solstice 50 brings me to another topic, Susitna 100 in 2014.  The Susitna races are 11 months out but since it takes place in the middle of February I will need to start training once the snow flies in November.  I won't go into too much detail right now on that race other than the Winter Solstice is a new race so I plan to use the 50 miler as a training run for Susitna 100 a few months later.

As you can see there is no 100 miler in 2013.  I applied for Western States but didn't get it, but plan to keep applying until I do.  I did consider applying for another 100 miler but that didn't work out.  2014 is looking to be my entry into the 100 mile distance, which I am actually feeling good about since it gives me another year to run more ultra distance races and gain the experience.

On a closing note I got LASIK eye surgery on the 28th of January.  So far the results are great!  I went from worse than 20/400 in both eyes (big E was blurry) to about 20/25 in both eyes.  Running is so much more enjoyable not having to worry about contacts or glasses.  I also think that my vision now is better than my corrected vision has been for years!  With that said I am really looking forward to hitting the trails once the weather warms up!

Below are a few pics I took 5 days after surgery enjoying my new eyeballs.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 Alaska Ultramarathon Calendar

UPDATED: The 2013 Alaska Runners Calendar is out (published every year by the Municipality of Anchorage, a big thank you to all involved), which means I can finally compile the list of all Alaska ultramarathons for 2013, plus add a few more races that are worthy of mentioning.  There are some changes this year, both good and bad, but overall still a good list for the Alaska ultrarunner and one that I was honestly surprised by.

Frosty Bottom 50/25 - January 5th.  This race is actually taking place as I write this post, and not surprisingly is the first of 6 different winter ultras in the state (big shock I know).  A ski, bike, or run event that has a 25 mile route and 50 mile route, this is technically the only ultramarathon with the city of Anchorage, and this years race brought in over 200 competitors across all divisions, although only 7 are signed up for the 50 mile portion.  The race takes place on groomed multi-use double wide trails with probably only a few thousand feet of climbing.  The 25 mile races goes one way only and 50 mile racers follow the 25 mile route during the mass start but turn around and go back to complete the full 50 miles.

Susitna 100 / Little Su 50k - Cancelled.  Normally this race takes place during the second weekend of February, however the 2013 races have been cancelled.  The website states the reason for cancellation as "several unrelated, unfortunate circumstances".  This is really unfortunate since these races are so iconic to the state and very well organized, however this is just for 2013 and the races will be back in 2014.  I was a participate in the Little Su 50k in 2012 and that race will forever have a special place in my heart as my first ultra.  These races are also ski, bike, or run events and take place on flat, groomed snowmachine (snowmobile for those outside of Alaska) trails mostly on frozen rivers and lakes with only minimal elevation gain.

UPDATED: Campbell Creek Endurance Runs - February 24.  First of all this is not a race, but a self designated "fat ass" run. I don't know if these will take place every year but they are for at least 2013.  These runs will be both a 50 mile and 50k option and are designed to fill the void left by the cancellation of the Susitna races.  The course will be mostly on multi-use trails in and around Anchorage.

Iditarod Trail Invitational - Qualification Required.  February 24.  This race follows the historic Iditarod trail in either a 350 mile or 1,000 mile version (yes you read that right).  Another ski, bike, or run event, this is one of just a few races on this list that require qualification.  This is mostly a self supported race so participants are pulling sleds with the required gear and any "comfort" items (similar to Susitna 100).

Homer Epic 100k - Qualification required.  March 16.  In just its second year it will be interesting to see how many runners show up for this race.  Last year there were only 2 runners, 1 female and 1 male, and both of those individuals will be at the Iditarod Trail Invitational this year.  While runners are welcome as this is another ski, bike, run event, obviously most of the participants are skiing and biking.  This race also takes place on trails (double wide) and has about 6,400 ft of elevation gain.  While 100k may not seem that long this race appears to be quite difficult based on last years finish times and the 24 time limit.

The White Mountains 100 - March 24.  This is just the 4th year of the event but this race has gained popularity so fast that it had to move to a lottery application process in 2012, the 3rd year of the race.  Yet another ski, bike, run event this race attracts a fair amount of runners since they have no required gear so participants do not have to drag a sled.  However, temperatures in the first year were -40 F the first night so extra gear is probably a good idea.  This race only has about 7,400 ft of elevation gain and takes place entirely on trails so it is considered an actual mountain race unlike the Susitna 100.

UPDATED: Sluice Box 100 - June 29-30.  2012 was the first year of this race and only a few runners showed up (4 finished).  This is more of a bike race that is also welcome to runners, at least that is the way I see it.  Last year the race was mostly on single track trails with some dirt roads and had at least 15,000 ft of elevation gain.  However, the race was denied a permit so a new course is being determined, but the race is a definite go for 2013.  Since this race takes place near Fairbanks and only a week after the longest day of the year you can leave the headlamp at home!

UPDATED: Resurrection Pass 100/50 - August 10.  Enough people have stepped forward to help, including a new race director, that at this point this race is moving forward for 2013 and looks to have both the 50 mile and 100 mile version.  The 50 miler had almost 40 participants in 2012 (including me) and the 100 miler had about a dozen.  The 50 mile route starts off with 38 miles of unsupported single track trail over Resurrection pass before finishing off the last 12 miles on a dirt road for a total of about 5,000 ft of elevation gain.  The 100 mile route starts on the dirt road, traverses the trail, then goes back on the same route as the 50 miler.  Normally this race is on the last Saturday of July.

Equinox Ultramarathon - September 14.  The younger but larger brother to the Equinox Marathon, this race started out in 2010 as a 50k and then in 2011 became the 40 mile course that it is now.  Runners start with the nearly 1,000 marathoners and stay with the pack until about mile 20 before peeling off and covering parts of the course backwards with an out and back section thrown in.  This race is a mixture of pavement, single track, double wide, and dirt roads, overall a great course if you ask me.  I believe the race has about 5,400 ft of climbing.

Winter Solstice Distance Festival - New for 2013.  December 21st.  This is the only new race on the ultra list and will be a 50 mile distance.  Since this is a new race I don't have much info on it, okay I don't have any info on it other than the date and distance.  But what I can tell you is that the day will have races of 5k, 1/2 marathon, full marathon, and 50 miler and will mostly likely be on snowmachine trails.  I know the race organizers and have ran their races before so this should be a well organized race on a fun route.

Honorable Mentions:  These races are not technically ultramarathons but deserved to be mentioned due to length, difficulty or otherwise ultra type feel to them.
Also see the Alaska Mountain Runners website for many fun, ultra-type races.

Mt Marathon - July 4.  This race takes place every July 4th in Seward, Alaska.  Think of this in terms of a vertical K course, because that is basically what it is, 3,000 ft of climbing in 1.5 miles, then you get to run back down.  Lottery only for rookies and difficult to get in.  This race is also part of the Alaska Mountain Runners Grand Prix.

Hatchers Pass Marathon - July 6.  Probably closer to 27 miles, this race takes place on paved and dirt roads and ascends up and over Hatchers Pass for a total elevation gain of 4,000 ft, which makes it feel much more like an ultra event than a road marathon.

Crow Pass Crossing - Qualification Required July 30.  Advertised at 24 miles this race traverses over Crow Pass then descends some snow fields before going through glacier fed Eagle River and is entirely on mountain single track.  The distance could be anywhere between 22 to 26 miles depending on which route you take (certain sections) and if parts of the trail are washed out or otherwise non-passable.  Due to the lack of any on course aid and general difficulty this race also has a qualification standard.

Matanuska Peak Challenge - August 4.  Only 14 miles, but you get to climb 9,000 ft in those 14 miles by ascending Lazy peak on your way to Matanuska, which means you get to go back over Lazy on your way down.  To put this into perspective the same elevation gain in a 100 mile race would be something like that of  Barkleys marathon. This race is also part of the Alaska Mountain Runners Grand Prix.

Lost Lake Breath of Life Run - August 24.  Technically a charity run for Cystic Fibrosis, this 16 mile trail race has become so popular it sells out in just a few days even with a high 600 person limit.  This is arguably the most scenic race in the state, although you could put any race in just about any part of the state and most people would still consider the views as scenic, gotta love Alaska for that!

Kesugi Ridge Traverse - New for 2013.  September 7.  This 27 mile race traverse the Kesugi ridge in Denali State Park, and since this takes place in Denali in September the weather is anyone's guess.  Without knowing virtually anything about this race I do plan on participating in this race as it sounds fun and challenging and will be a new trail for me.

Alyeska Climbathon - September 8.  What is this race that is only 2.2 miles long doing on this list?  Well for starters it has over 2,000 ft of elevation gain in those 2.2 miles, but that isn't really why it is on this list (see the Alaska Mountain Runners schedule for about a dozen more races like this).  This is an uphill only climbathon, so you run up, take the tram down, and repeat as much as you can for 10 hours.