10 Races to Test Your Limits in 2016


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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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 

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

What athletes should know about leaky gut


You have probably heard the term "leaky gut" before, but what does the science actually say  about this phenomenon and how does it relate to endurance athletes?

When we talk about leaky gut, we are really referring to an increase in intestinal permeability. This does not mean that there are holes in the intestines, but rather that the spaces between the cells that make up the intestinal lining have widened. Normally, intestinal cells are closely packed next to each other to form tight junctions that only let small molecules pass from the intestines into the bloodstream. During times of increased permeability, the tight junctions loosen giving larger molecules and toxins the opportunity to leak into the bloodstream.

Increased intestinal permeability is a particularly important issue for endurance athletes because exercise has been shown to draw blood flow away from the gut which increases permeability and may lower the efficacy of the immune system. This can lead to common side effects that many endurance experience such as cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and an increased risk of infection. One study found that permeability increases with running intensity so the harder you train, the higher your risk for these adverse effects. But don’t worry, no one is telling you to lighten up on your training! There is actually a way to help prevent the exercise-induced increase in permeability: probiotics.

Probiotics have been shown to prevent intestinal permeability and even prevent exercise-induced permeability specifically. The idea is that probiotics form a protective barrier around the intestinal cells which reduces permeability and supports the immune system. This may explain why probiotic supplementation is associated with fewer gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses in athletes.

Probiotic supplements are a great tool to help you stay healthy while training hard, but be sure to choose your probiotic wisely. If you read our post on why probiotic strains matter, you will remember that a probiotic should contain the types that have been shown to result in the benefits you are looking for you.

by Katelyn Collins

Katelyn Collins, is a future registered dietitian with a passion for probiotics, a knack for nutrition communications, and a love of athletic pursuits on both land and sea.


Improve Your Cold Weather Running


It is always easy to comment on traditions and customs as an outsider to a particular sport. I just assume people know and understand why I shave my legs as a cyclist. But I must admit I am perplexed by one particular running custom – wearing shorts in cold weather. Runners, it would seem, are the only endurance athletes that when it turns cold, insist on wearing the same gear as when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Is it simply because it’s customary? Does it have to do with ergonomics and not wanting one's legs feeling “restricted?” Is it a toughness thing?

It has been demonstrated numerous times in scientific research that muscle performance decreases in the cold. Power output, force production, and muscle velocity are all diminished when the temperature drops (<50°F). Maximum heart rate is also lower. Granted, for most of us the winter months are about building a base and maintaining our fitness, but why sacrifice the quality of this training by not dressing properly? The better your muscles can function, the better your training becomes.

The reason(s) for running in shorts in the cold is certainly different for every runner, but after reviewing the scientific literature on cold weather and human performance it may be a custom worth rethinking. Since I had so wisely decided to pick up running again right before winter started I for one won't be showing any skin!

There are no hard-and-fast rules about what to wear based on exact temperatures. Over dressing can be just as bad when the weather drops below freezing because being wet with sweat can quickly lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Here is a good review by one winter runner of what to wear.

Stay warm!