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.