May 27, 2020 at 2:54 am #27193IanModeratorMay 30, 2020 at 2:11 am #27221Tim RizzoParticipant
I think there’s some correlation, though it’s not 1:1. Like the Beast of Burden events that use the Erie Canal towpath between Lockport and Middleport are almost entirely dead flat on crushed gravel with potential for fast times, but I wouldn’t recommend to beginners – not enough variation underfoot or in the scenery.
Also there’s the whole timed loop race category which I’d prefer to exclude but are often both fast and good when first trying to hit ultra distances.
Green Lakes 50/100k is probably the fastest I’ve run in the region and one I would wholeheartedly recommend – beautiful course, limited vert, tons of aid accessibility and cushy surfaces.
My friends in PA tell me Blues Cruise 50k is both fast and good for beginners – several of them ran their PRs there – it also has the distinction of being one of the few courses I know of that is a single 50k loop. I’ve never made it out though.June 6, 2020 at 4:46 am #27263IanModerator
Good consideration on the variation. Easy to quickly fry the same muscle groups without it if you’re not that top tier wicked speedy and fit individual. Seems the BOB events don’t necessarily draw the crowds going after speed…more those seeking endurance punishment. Green Lakes does flow, but has some short ups mixed in to slow things a hair. Blues Cruise has crept around the periphery of my radar throughout the years. Will have to check it out.June 16, 2020 at 1:09 am #27292Pete KresockParticipant
The Beast of Burden races are totally flat and run on a dirt path, but the weather often leads to lower-than-expected finishing rate. The Winter Beast can hit single digits over night while running through a foot of snow (which was the case this year, as well as a few other previous years.) The Summer Beast in mid-August is usually blazing hot, and there’s no tree cover anywhere on the course.
For beginners looking for a flat race, the Pine Creek Challenge 100M/100k is probably much friendlier—better running weather on a course that’s just as easy, and with better scenery.November 30, 2021 at 4:30 pm #30576Matthew ClarkParticipant
I second the Winter Gap 50K nomination (although my ultra experience is very limited). The WG50 course is beautiful without major elevation changes, and the trail conducive to a decent running speed. The 2021 out-and-back course eliminated the technical single-path near the north terminus, so I enjoyed it even more. The only hazards were a few roots and big fallen walnuts here and there.January 3, 2022 at 11:35 pm #30579Samuel KirkParticipant
I think this is a really interesting question. Trails Collective did a countdown of the toughest ultras and I thought that was super intriguing as well. From my perspective a rail trail or canal path ultra is more like a road marathon than a trail race and I wouldn’t include those. I think of trail running as a discipline that requires a big variety of skill sets that can offset each other over the distance and the super pancake flat stuff just isn’t part of the same category. From my limited experience I tend to agree with the races at Blue Marsh in PA (Blue Cruise, Naked Nick, Naked Bavarian, Naked Prussian) being great, fast, beginners trail ultras. I think most of the races average 100-150 feet per mile in gain and would give a newcomer a light trail experience. I think a beginner trail runner going from a canal path race to Laurel Highlands or Worlds End or Virgil Crest would have a pretty rude awakening!!! I think the other side of “fast” is the competition side and I think that’s really the more interesting part of the question. Trail Runner of the Year voting just happened and I listened to a podcast just discussing that. With regard to the mountain ultra trail races that get any respect nationally its all on the west coast with the obvious exception of JFK. I know we have great runners out east here too! With so many races out there though, and many of them filling up super fast its hard to know where the most competitive races are… So maybe I’m getting outside the topic but what are the most competitive races in the Northeast?
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