Monday, March 3, 2014

An Honest Attempt at Ranking my Runs

Resting between loops at the 2008 Peak Races Funeral Run

I came across a fantastic web journal from a fellow ultrarunner (D. Crocket) where he had discussed the various difficulties with each ultra he had run, followed by a formal "ranking".  He has over 50 100-milers on his very inspiring resume.  I realize any time you rank something moderately subjective like this there is a very large "personal experience" component built in.  Perhaps the course was not very technical, but you had a really bad time with humidity or with keeping food down on race day.  Do you rank the course based on that personal experience, or simply on the technical and environmental difficulties of the course assuming all else being equal?  What about distance, what if you ran a ridiculously tough and technical 50k and a moderate 100 miler.  Does the 100 miler automatically come out being "harder" just because of its length, or do you rank a course per-mile?

I looked back through my ultra resume and while respectable, I do feel it is still somewhat nascent and thin as far as overall number of runs and the diversity of those runs.  I suppose if you factor in my thru-hikes it gets a little thicker.  I decided to try and take a stab at ranking my own experiences...mostly just for fun, and partly as a way for me to walk down memory lane.  In my case I decided to take the overall approach of objective race difficulty and putting my personal ups/downs aside.  Meaning that if someone were to read this, they'd get a feel for the difficulty of the course and race in general and not be influenced by a "bad day" I might have had.  A perfect example of this was my experience at Badwater.  Being that I was ill with a stomach virus, my personal experience of the course was much more difficult that had I been healthy.  This obviously won't apply to people reading my reviews (unless they also happen to come down with a random stomach virus 2 days before race day).

I first broke my races up in to 4 categories:  100-milers, 50-milers (and 100K), 50K, and Sub-50k Trail Races.  I left out road marathons or shorter.  I also decided to do 2 different rankings. I rank each race within it's own category compared to the other races I've done of the same distance, and I rank each race with a distance-weighted difficultly ranking.  In other words I weighted the difficulty of a course somewhat based on it's length, so if a short race was really difficult, I ranked it as more of a "per-mile" rank.  So in this weighted ranking, a 50K could rank more difficult than a 100-miler based on its technicality. 

First some totals:
I have run 
*  17 100(or more)-milers, on 10 different courses.
*  10 50-milers and 1 100-K, on 5 different courses.
*  6 50-Ks, on 5 different courses.
*  7 sub-50k trail races on 6 different courses
There are several other races I decided not to include in my totals as they were mostly all paved marathon or shorter, or simply not worthy or notable enough for this list.

Obviously I haven't run very many high-profile races like Hardrock, Bear, HURT..etc.  These would almost certainly fall high on a difficulty list.  Below reflects just my own personal rankings of the few races I have participated in.

OVERALL RANKINGS (Weighted Difficulty Based on Distance)

1.  Barkley Marathons (100+M)

Without question, this race is at least an order of magnitude greater than any other event I've participated in. It ranks #1 in difficulty by all measures.  60,000 feet of unforgiving gain, endless saw briers, self-supported, compass self-navigation, no digital aids, unpredictable weather, potential for injury, name it.  The Barkley has it all.  The most difficult mind games and self-doubt you can ever imagine and endure.  I am living proof that with proper training, this race can physically be completed by a "mid-packer", but the mental anguish is indescribable and near-impossible to overcome.  The worst race you can imagine or remember, is not even 10% of what you will experience here in this regard (except for maybe a Nolan's run or some such).  There's also the fact that while no one has officially measured it, the course is roughly assumed to be closer to 125 total miles (25 per loop).  On my 2nd attempt last year I only made it around the loop twice and was utterly destroyed.  You are pretty much guaranteed to have weird weather too.  My first year it was 80+ degrees and horribly humid, and last year it was snowing, raining, and foggy.  If you want to get a very small and much tamer taste of what the Barkley is all about, the race director is now offering a 50K version in the fall (The Barkley Fall Classic).  While also at Frozen Head though, this race will be on marked trails and feature aid stations.  Still, I imagine there will be many who don't finish.  Even the marked trails at FH are brutal.  To date, my 2nd running at Barkley is my only recorded DNF.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking:  1
Ranking of 100-milers: 1
Times Run:  2
Total Finishes:  1
Best Time: 59:41:21 (3rd)

2.  Frozen Snot (14+ M)

This may seem weird to have a 14-miler as my 2nd most difficult ranked race, but from a per-mile perspective and distance-weighted, this course is horrendous (and took me almost 4 hours to complete).  Three horrific climbs, over 5000 feet of gain, and terrible conditions.  If it were stretched out to 100 miles, it would have over 30,000 feet of icy/snowy gain.  Ugh!  Everything was covered in ice, the trails were crunchy with unavoidable post-holing, and some of the descents were so steep that it required rocky/icy butt-sliding.  Trekking poles didn't help here, and screw-shoes or micro-spikes were an absolute necessity.  I started with 36 hex screws in my shoes and ended up with just 8.  To say that this "short" 14 mile course absolutely kicked my ass would be a huge understatement.  In the spring or fall, I would probably rank it lower, but being in the heart of January, just adds to an already brutal race.  The first climb out of the gate was a 1600 foot boulder scramble straight up an icy boulder field (see pic above).  The fact that it took me 4 hours and yet I still finished 13th place should say something.  The only "moderate" sections of this course were the first and last mile.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 2
Ranking of Sub-50K: 1
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 3:51 

3.  Massanutten 100+

There's no other way to really say it.  Massanutten is a really tough 100-miler.  One of the most difficult East of the Mississippi by most measures.  The race is almost 105 miles total, and the rocks are soul-crushing.  Endless miles of very technical terrain, an elevation profile that almost seems like it's just messing with you, and widely-spaced aid stations had me ranking this bad boy at #3.  I had an incredibly tough day at Massanutten in 2012, and struggled even worse through the night.  The finishing percentage might lead you to believe that this course isn't as bad as I make it out to be, but I can assure you that it is a tough one to get through.  I ran very hard, and was in great shape...but still took over 26 hours to finish (and that was a 20th place finish too!).  I struggled many times with the desire to quit during this event and barely hung on.  I told myself that I would not return to the course after I finished, and two years later I still have not been back.  I imagine I will tackle it again at some point, but for now, I am content with my 2012 finish.  It's important to note that the temperatures can get hot too.  I remember it being quite humid during the race.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 3
Ranking of 100-milers: 2
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 26:26:12

4.  Vol State Road Race (100+M - actually 314 miles)

I had a very hard time deciding where and how to rank Vol State.  Certainly based on the finishing percentage, it appears on paper to not be that difficult.  It's just really long.  I remember when waiting to board the bus at the start before the race, Carl Laniak was talking about the overall race.  He looked at a group of us and said something like, "You guys just have no idea how hard this is".  I remember thinking that he was just exaggerating and while it was over 300 miles long, it was all road.  How could it be that hard?  I very quickly learned how wrong I was.  Yes the course is on roads, and yes there isn't much elevation gain. is hot, it is humid, and 314 miles is a really, really, really, long way;  especially if you are entirely self-sufficient.  There's an enormous level of logistical planning involved when thinking about how and what you are going to eat and where you might sleep (if at all).  For over 200 miles you will be operating in a sleep deprived state and taking unsatisfying cat-naps under a mylar blanket in the grass on side of the road.  This is almost guaranteed and it is extremely difficult.  It sounds so easy doesn't it.  Just plod along for 5 days right?  How can the course record only be 4.5 days?  I could do it in 3 easy! you can't.  314 miles is a really, really, long way, and this is coming from someone that has thru-hiked two trails over 2000-miles long.  Completing Vol State is a complete exercise in mental fortitude not all that unlike Barkley, especially if you are trying to finish up front (4-5 days).  You get very little time for rest, and trying plan for food and sleep while in a sleep-deprived haze is a horrific chore.  I stumbled half-awake for dozens of miles along this course and was in constant pain from the endless walking/running.  This race was the one I underestimated more than any other.  It deserves respect and a large amount of humility from anyone hoping to finish, especially in sub-5 days.  You will chafe, you will have chronic pain, you will run out of water at least once, you will likely get chased by dogs, you will almost get hit by several cars, you will take a wrong turn in some random town, and you might even have to eat of a garbage can (ask Alan about that one).  It is a very difficult race, but for very different reason than at typical races.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 4
Ranking of 100-milers: 3
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 112:19:01 (2nd)

5.  Peak Races Funeral Run (50-Miler)

The Peak Funeral Run was a one-time race held back in 2008.  It has since been replaced and/or integrated into other races offered by Peak Races (The same group that puts on the Death Run and the 500-miler in May).  I ranked this run at 5 because as a weighted 50-miler, I think it deserves it.  It's been a while since I ran it, so the details are hazy, but the course involved 4 loops, each being 12.5 miles.  A loop had just under 4000 feet of gain putting the overall gain at about 15000 (if I remember correctly).  Extrapolated to a 100, this would put it up near Hardrock's gain (without the altitude of course).  This was only the 2nd ultra I had ever run so I didn't know any better.  Mostly what I remember was that the climbs and descents were all really tough.  This was the first race I came back from with several bad toe nails from all of steep downhills.  Additionally it took me 12 hours to do the 4 loops and I was running hard.  There were only 7 finishers total of which I was 2nd (beaten by the legendary Ben Nephew).  Having so few runners also meant that I was almost entirely alone on the course, which gave it a very lonely feeling.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 5
Ranking of 50-milers: 1
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 11:55:00

6.  Badwater 135

The Badwater 135 was definitely on my bucket list, but I was somewhat shocked and hesitant when I got the acceptance letter.  When I sent in the application in February of 2012, I had just sort of expected to be rejected.  I threw my name in after again being denied both Hardrock and Western States and thought.....why not!  I have never done historically well in hot races, so I had assumed that this would be absolutely brutal. The race organization boasts that the Badwater 135 is the "Toughest Footrace on the Planet", and I was certainly approaching it as such.  Upon acceptance, I had still not run Barkley, so really had no concept of scale to compare it to.  By the time I arrived for the race in July though, I had successfully survived Barkley and had a much larger level of respect and tolerance for "extreme" events.  Many people will offer many opinions about this race.  Many will declare it nearly impossible.  Some will cite the high finishing percentage as proof it's "quite easy".  For me, I would say this:  If you properly train for the heat by prepping in saunas and steam rooms, and you truly prepare your body for 120+ degree temps, the race itself is very doable.  135 miles is more than a 50k longer than a typical 100, so you also have to be ready to be on your feet for several more hours, but my honest opinion is that Badwater is actually much more tame than you'd imagine.  Now of course it is still Badwater.  It is still 120 degrees in July.  It is still 135 miles on radiating pavement alongside dust devil, sand-blasting storms.  It is still several thousand foot climbs up to Townes Pass and to the Whitney Portal.  It is tough.  But, with proper training, a good crew, and sufficient gear it's actually quite manageable.   This is why it ranked #6 on my list and not #2.  The entire course is on smooth pavement, meaning you don't have to worry about footing or trail tread ever.  If you wear a nice padded pair of Hokas (or similar), your feet should hold up just fine.  With all this being said, and despite my personal situation of getting a stomach virus before race day, I would say that the atmosphere surrounding Badwater is quite surreal and incredible.  I really enjoyed the fanfare of the event, and LOVED the geology and landscapes of Death Valley.  If you are at all into the geosciences, there's no better place to run an ultra than Death Valley.  There were also little things too, like watching the faint line of headlights climbing up in the Distance to the Darwin Plateau.  Popping into the gas station at Panamint Springs at 1 in the morning.  I actually have many wonderful and incredible memories from this race and would absolutely love to do it again someday in the future (when I'm not a poor grad student).

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 6
Ranking of 100-milers: 4
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 38:06:00

7.  Rothrock Challenge 30K

Oh Rothrock.  I have an absolute love/hate relationship with this race and this course.  It is brutal.  4500 feet of tough gain over 19 very rocky miles in the heart of summer.  There are also a couple of sketchy boulder scrambles and a few 1200' steep climbs.  It's a beast....but it's also the course that's in my backyard that I ran back-to-back every weekend while training for Barkley. There is no better place to train for the steep and unforgiving terrain of the Barkley than up and down the direct trails on the Rothrock Course.  As a weighted course, this is easily #7 if not higher.  Both times I've run this race I've finished completely depleted and exhausted (and usually covered in ticks and mosquito bites).  In  2011 when I ran this course I idiotically ran it wearing minimalist shoes.  To this day, I still deal with toe pain incurred at that race when I smashed my big toe into a rock.  Mile-for-mile, Rothrock is right up there and will put you out of commission for a few days afterward from the general soreness.  On the upside, there is always amazing food and beer at the finish line.  It's one of the best post-race parties second only to possibly Hyner.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 7
Ranking of Sub-50K: 2
Times Run: 2
Times Finished: 2
Best Time: 3:39:00

8.  Virgil Crest 50K

Again, strictly weighted for distance here, I would rank Virgil Crest at #8.  This course is another tough one riddled with some hearty climbs and descents.  I would rank it as the most difficult 50K I've ever run by far (edging out Hyner 50k).  The 100-miler is no joke and many people this year dropped down to the 50 miler option.  The course features several direct climbs up ski lift slopes and back down rocky technical trails.  For me this year, the mud was a killer, but that does not weigh into my ranking.  As you can see from the elevation profile, you are always moving vertically on this course with no level trail (although the steepest climb is only about 800 feet).  Still with 6500 feet of total gain, you can imagine doing it three times for the 100-miler.  This past year there were only 18 finishers of the 100-miler with the average finishing time being about 30 hours.  

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 8
Ranking of 50K: 1
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 6:24:00

9.  Hyner View 50K

16 of the 31 miles of the 50k

The gas-line climb up "The S.O.B."

The Hyner View 50k is another one of these hidden gems of Pennsylvania that makes use of our underestimated, steep and rocky terrain.  I have run the race twice now, and both times I finished completely exhausted.  Like Virgil Crest, the climbs and descents are endless, and in many cases more technical.  The one exception here is that through the middle 10-15 miles of the race, you actually get a little break with a decent and run-able "flat" section up along a mountain top.  Still, with climbs like "Humble Hill", and "The S.O.B.", you can pretty much guess how the course will be.   The race used to just be a 16 miler but now features the longer 50k.  The original and more difficult 16 miles (see profile above) are still in the 50k course, but with the several more moderate miles in the middle.  Hyner also features the absolute best post-race party-shindig that I've ever experienced.  I'm registered again for this April.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 9
Ranking of 50K: 2
Times Run: 2
Times Finished: 2
Best Time: 5:44:26

10.  Leadville Trail 100

You might be wondering why I have Leadville ranked so low considering that during my first running in 2009, I barely finished under the cut-off.  Again, considering a weighted scale here, I had to think about the course form an overall perspective.  The biggest challenges with Leadville are the overall elevation and the aggressive time cut-offs.  If you come in good shape, and have had a few days to acclimatize, you have a good chance to finish.  In 2009 when I ran, I was in mediocre shape, overweight, and showed up a day before race because I read somewhere it's better to do it that way (which is so very wrong by the way).  Still, I managed to limp across the finish line in 29 hours.  Since then, every year I've gotten faster (except last year when I slowed back down a few minutes).  Generally speaking, the course does have some tough climbs, but really only 5 major ones (Hope pass x2, Sugarloaf x2, and Twin Lakes inbound).  I think an important factor with finishing this race is also to get out at a decent clip during the first 13-mile leg around Turquoise Lake.  Every year that I've run Leadville, the number of runners has increased.  This in turn, has made the narrow single-track around the lake increasingly congested.  I found that just by running a little fast in those early miles, saved me almost 20 minutes on my time by not getting stuck behind the proverbial "conga-line" of slower runners.  In 2009 I made it to the first aid station in almost 2:30.  Last year I did it in 2:00 flat just by running 8:00-8:30 miles for the first few.  I always made sure to keep my heart-rate under 155, so realistically, this didn't cost me much energy expenditure.  On a personal note, I have always had a soft spot for Leadville.  Many people have since boycotted this race due to the direction it has gone from both a management perspective and a race perspective.  Because I almost exclusively run alone (no pacer/no crew) now, I find that despite the 700+ runners, I am still able to find a nice "quiet" spot in the race and really focus on the beauty of the Sawatch Mountains.  I never regret running Leadville despite the chaos that can ensue.  Additionally, part of my experience always involves staying for 7+ days at the Leadville Hostel where I always make great memories.  I have run and completed the race 4 times now, but unfortunately....will not be running this year.  This has nothing to do with the race itself, but rather my impending PhD defense happening likely at the same time.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 10
Ranking of 100+M: 5
Times Run: 4
Times Finished: 4
Best Time 24:17:30

11.  Oil Creek 100

I always have a very hard time trying to find a place for Oil Creek in my difficulty rankings.  I have historically done very well at this race, but I also have several memories of struggling through it.  On paper, the profile doesn't look too intimidating, but the course nonetheless is a butt-kicker.  The overall gain is not tremendous (~14,000 feet), but there are many small ups and downs that add up quite quickly.  In addition there is a very difficult mental component at work here.  The course is 3 full 50K loops around the park, plus an additional 8-mile "coming-home" loop.  This can be very daunting mentally when you are knee deep into loop one, trying to comprehend that you still have to do 2 more full loops plus another baby loop.  I think this is a big reason many people pull the plug early on in this race.  This last Fall when I ran it, I struggled incredibly with this during loop 2.  I actually came relatively close to quitting, but managed to trudge on until eventually I was out on loop 3.  Once on that the 3rd loop, it starts to feel much more manageable.  Weather is usually very nice for this race and the trail tread is fantastic and well-maintained.  The volunteers are some of the best at any race and the director really puts a lot of thought and care into the event.  You can tell when you are there that the group of folks putting this on really think of everyone as a big family.  This is one of the main reasons I keep going back.  It still has the smaller home-grown feel to it as well, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to find in modern ultras.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 11
Ranking of 100+M: 6
Times Run: 3
Times Finished: 3
Best Time 21:43:23

12.  Greenwood Challenge (Half Marathon)

This one was tough to place and even harder to "weight" properly.  The race was a short half-marathon, but quite literally consisted of a huge climb, huge descent, huge climb, huge descent.  Perhaps I'm placing this a bit high, but I think it merits it for how short of a course it was.  I remembering red-lining my heart-rate monitor for the entire ~14 miles and finishing feeling as though I had just run a 50K.  I spoke about many of the specifics in my race report here:

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 12
Ranking of Sub-50K: 3
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 2:08:57

13.  Vermont 100

The Vermont 100 was my very first 100-miler.  Over 75% of the race is on forest roads and the single-track that does exist is fairly tame.  This is a fantastic race to do as a first 100-miler and provides a nice moderate mix with plentiful aid stations (one basically every 3-4 miles).  Even in 2009, when I was in much worse shape than I am today, I still managed a sub-24 hour race.  The humidity can be a bit rough, but with so many well-stocked aid stations and plenty of tree cover, it's quite bearable.  I really enjoyed running along with the horses on the course as well.  This all being said, it still is part of the Grand Slam..meaning it still has some spunk.  One shouldn't go into this race lightly, but if properly prepared, there's a good chance you'll be able to finish.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 13
Ranking of 100+M: 7
Times Run: 2
Times Finished: 2
Best Time 21:48:16

14.  Vermont 50

The 2008 Vermont 50 was my very first ultra.  I signed up for it two weeks before (back when you could still do that) after getting back from a mediocre showing at the Rochester Marathon.  I figured the marathon was a good "training run" for a 50.  Little did I know that running the VT50 would forever change my life and get me hooked on ultras forever.  The course is definitely hilly, but is also absolutely fantastic. To this day the VT50 course is still one of my all time favorites...especially the wonderful single track around mile 30.  Nothing particularly stands out on this course as terribly brutal, but overall it's still a challenging course.  There are definitely hills, but they are all quite manageable.  I have run this race 3 times, and look forward to getting back there for number 4 sometime soon.  It can get a bit muddy, but the changing fall colors make it all worth it!

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 14
Ranking of 50M: 2
Times Run: 3
Times Finished: 3
Best Time:  8:42:11

15.  3 Days at the Fair (72-hour)

I was really torn on where to put 3 Days.  I could argue that based on its distance, it could very easily be in the top 10.  But here's the catch.  While it was a 72-hour event, you don't have to run all 72 hours.  The course itself is a 1-mile loop on a fairly even paved path.  The only real difficulty here arises from just how many miles you want to run and how much sleep you want to take.  If you want to get at least 200 miles, then you will struggle a bit.  But as far as course difficulty goes, it's about as simple as you get.  What makes this race so fun are the awesome people you get to hang out with for 3 days.  I had an absolute blast running in circles for three days and managed to finish in 3rd with a very respectable 231 miles!  I am again signed up for this race in a few months and can't wait.  Great people, and a great way to challenge yourself.  I rank it at 15 under the assumption that most people will probably try to get at least 150 miles over 3 days.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 15
Ranking of 100+M: 8
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Finish: 231 Miles

16.  Finger Lakes 50

I have run Finger Lakes 50 four times....and there's a reason.  It has always been a fantastic event.  This could probably be ranked a little higher, but I'll leave it here for now.  What makes Finger Lakes so special is the wonderful homegrown feel to it.  The night before, runners gather around a campfire to chat, sip beers, and eventually retire to their tents.  It's cozy at this race with a very friendly atmosphere.  The course itself has a few climbs, but is essentially all runable.  I've always managed to pace myself down a little so that I can simply enjoy being out there.  This is one of the few events that I ever really check my mileage.  I just sort of play until it's over, and I think this event has epitomized that component of ultras that I love so much.  I am unfortunately not returning this year, but likely will in future years provided I'm still living on the East Coast.  This would be a fantastic 50 to do as a first.  Very very moderate running on well groomed trails, with a couple of small hills.  A really good novice mix.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 16
Ranking of 50M: 3
Times Run: 4
Times Finished: 4
Best Time: 8:54:22 

17.  Winter Beast of Burden 100

The winter BOB 100 is a tough race in that it is held along the Lake Effect tunnel of Upstate NY in the heart of January.'s also on a completely flat and very runable course.  If you can manage your temperature well, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to run a very fast time at this event despite the frigid temps.  For my running, we had avg temps in the low teens with a fair amount of wind chill thrown in.  Still, I set a new 100-mile PR of 19:36 and ran probably 95 of the 100 miles (only walking the last few).  I imagine the summer BOB is even faster!

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 17
Ranking of 100M: 9
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 19:36:15

18.  Laurel Highlands (50K)

I really enjoyed the Laurel Highlands 50K.  There is a companion 71-mile race, but I only chose to run the 50K.  The race starts out with two moderate climbs, but once up on the ridgeline, the entire rest of the course was very smooth and runable on beautiful trail.  Very stunning course.  This could possibly move up a spot or two as I do recall those first hills being decent, but like I said, after those climbs, it was all very pleasant.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 18
Ranking of 50K: 3
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 5:54:33

19.  Fire on the Mountain 50K

Honestly I can't remember a lot of the details of this race, other than I PR'd at it.  It was fast, but I do seem to recall a couple of good climbs too.  There was a 6-7 mile road stretch in the middle that was very fast, and some lovely single-track interspersed throughout.  I remember the field being somewhat small, and smiling a lot.  I would like to do this one again at some point for sure.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 19
Ranking of 50K: 4
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 5:40:54

20.  Tussey Mountainback 50

Tussey is fast, and entirely run-able.  It is a great course to shoot for a 50-mile PR.  When I ran it in 2011, I had just PRd my 50-mile distance at the Vermont 50 a few weeks prior with an 8:41.  At Tussey, I went out fairly quick and managed to stay running the entire 50 miles.  I crossed the line in 7:49 which is still my 50-mile PR (and will probably remain forever).  I re-ran it this year and finished a much more modest 8:24, but the course has also been altered to be a little slower now (since 2011).   There are climbs and descents, but they are on roads and all still very run-able.  I enjoy this race because it is right in my back yard and essentially my only "hometown" ultra.  Many members from my local run club run this event as a relay and it's always a great time to be out there will folks I run with all the time.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 20
Ranking of 50M: 4
Times Run: 2
Times Finished: 2
Best Time 7:49:50

21.  New Jersey One Day (24-hour)

This event was the exact same race as the 3-Days at the fair, only it was a 24-hour event.  It was on the same course, at the same location.  I had never done a 24-hour event and this is a superb course to test your limits on.  I managed a respectable 114 miles that day and had a blast doing it (Finished 3rd place overall too!).  Flat, paved, and a lot of great people...equates to very easy running.  If around this year, I do plan on returning.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 21
Ranking of 100M: 10
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Finish: 114 Miles

22.  Allegheny Front Trail 50K

Not much to say about this event other than it was a very relaxing loop around Black Moshannon Park here in central PA.  The trail was well groomed, and the elevation mostly flat (a couple of modest climbs).  I came in under 5 hours which is still my 50K PR.  I don't know if this will be an annual event, but if it is, it's a great place to try a 50K.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 22
Ranking of 50K: 5
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Time: 4:58:46 (3rd)

23.  CJ's Resolution Challenge (3-hour)

I wrote a fairly detailed write-up about this event here: 
For the most part this, despite the cold, this race was very fast, and very moderate.  I ran hard for 3 solid hours and managed a tie for 1st place with local legend Jeff Smucker.  The course was a 1.6 mile loop that we repeated.  Half of the loop was paved, half snow-packed run-able trail.  All fun.  Amazing food and aid station setup at the start of each loop.  There was also a "last-man-standing" race, but that sounded a bit more frantic.  I had a relaxing day doing loops with Jeff.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 23
Ranking of Sub-50K: 6
Times Run: 1
Times Finished: 1
Best Finish 23 miles

24.  Pine Creek Challenge (100K)

And I finish off my list with the Pine Creek Challenge.  Of all the races I've ever done, this is the only one that I've flat out won.  in 2012 I ran the 100K race and finished in just over 10 hours.  The entire course is flat and on a crushed gravel bike path along Pine Creek and the "Grand Canyon of PA".  Very beautiful scenery and very easy to get lost in the miles.  They do tick by quickly.  This is the absolute perfect course to go for a PR at either the 100 mile or 100K distance.  The time of year is perfect, the temps perfect, and the course flat.  It doesn't get any faster.  I ran it again this year and finished about 30 minutes slower in 3rd place.

Overall Per-Mile Ranking: 24
Ranking of 50M/100K: 5
Times Run: 2
Times Finished: 2
Best Time: 10:21:56

So that's it.  Like I said, there a few I left off, but I think this is a pretty good summary of the highlights.  It was fun looking back on some of these.  Ok...back to thesis writing now.  Distraction is over.

hike on my friends,