10 Races to Test Your Limits in 2016

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What is epic or extreme is really in the eye of the beholder. Your local 5K could be an epic adventure for the right person or under the right circumstances. But for those competitive athletes who like to push a little further, here is a list of 10 races sure to offer up a challenge and test limits. We tried to stay within the continental US and spread out the options throughout the year. We also looked to some lesser-known races, because we could probably fill up this list with 10 Ironman races alone! Which races did we miss? Be sure to let us know your thoughts on the comments to the blog…. 

Arrowhead 135 – January – International Falls

Less that 50% of participants finish the Arrowhead 135. Whether by ski, foot or bike, racers face a punishing 135 mile trail at probably the coldest point in the lower-48 states. Temps can fall to 30 or 40 degrees below 0 pretty easily. The mandatory gear list alone is enough to scare most away from entry. Check out this short film on the race. www.arrowheadultra.com

Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon – June – San Francisco

Perhaps not the longest or most “extreme” on the list or even in the world of triathlon, but watching first-hand as swimmers battle the cold and choppy bay waters is enough to give you pause. Add in some brutal climbs on the bike, and the run up the iconic steps of Baker Beach, and this triathlon is a very punishing yet accessible short-course adventure.  http://www.escapefromalcatraztriathlon.com

Race Across America/RAAM - June – all over America

Teams and individual riders climb 170,000 ft in elevation along the way from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD.  The winners average about 22 hours a day on their bikes and there is a cut-off after 12-days. But don’t expect to just show-up, the shortest qualifying race for the RAAM is 375 miles long, not too mention the support crew set-up that is needed for this epic adventure. www.raceacrossamerica.org

RAGBRAI – July – all over Iowa

Created by a couple of journalists for the local Iowa newspaper, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is the oldest and largest week-long bicycle tour in the World. Averaging 500 miles across 7 days, the event draws cyclists of all abilities and ages. It’s a race or it’s a party depending on what type of adventure you are looking for. www.ragbrai.com

American Birkebeiner – February - Hayward

To ski or to bike? Located in northern Wisconsin, the Birkebeiner offers a few options for an intense winter workout. The 55k ski race takes place in late February and is North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon. And then a couple weeks later, the Fat Bike Birkie gives cyclists the chance to race along the same trail at either a 47k or 22k distance. Prefer a dry race? There is even an Ultra run on the same course in October. www.birkie.com 

The Dipsea – June – Mill Valley

It’s only 7.4 miles, but most would argue that they are the most grueling 7.4 miles you could ever run. There are steep steps and treacherous climbs. And folks love it. Billed as the oldest trail race in American, the race limits itself to 1500 entrants because of its popularity. The race entry process takes this into account, so plan ahead. Check out some amazing photos at www.dipsea.org 

Badwater 135 – July – Furnace Creek

It starts in a place called Death Valley and proceeds through Furnace Creek. Badwater is known as one of the hardest races, let alone foot races, in the world. And if the names of the locations don’t scare you off, the course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600 ft of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100 ft of cumulative descent. If a 135 ulta run isn’t your thing this year, Badwater hosts several other races of varying distances around the country.   http://www.badwater.com/event/badwater-135/

Big Sky Ridge Run – August – Bozeman

In 2013, Outside Online named the Ridge Run one of its Top 10 Bucket List trail runs in the world. The Ridge Run is 19.65 miles of brutal climbing and descending, complete with unstable footing and unpredictable weather. Unfortunately there are only 250 racers allowed in each year, but the lucky few get to tackle over 6800 ft in elevation gain. http://winddrinkers.org/ridge-run/

Everest Challenge – September – Bishop

The race is billed as the hardest two-day U.S.C.F. race and ride in the US. With 27,000 feet of climbing over just 200 miles, it just might be. Take in the beautiful scenery in the eastern Sierras while you’re catching your breath. https://www.t.bike/2006/09/everest-challenge.html

Moab Trail Marathon & Half Marathon – November – Moab

Thought of as a mountain bike destination, the Moab Trail Marathon actually hosts the 2016 Trail Marathon Championships. The terrain includes single track, rugged jeep trails and even old mining trails. The top runners will run all but the fixed rope section and are expected to finish in less than 4 hours. Average runners will do a combo of running with a bit of walking and are expected to finish in the 5 to 6 hr range. Did we mention it’s in Moab? http://www.moabtrailmarathon.com

What are some of your favorite epic races? Share your thoughts with us below!