Coming off of my December DNF at Lookout Mountain 50miler. I’m taking the spring to reset, to focus on speed and to run a fast marathon, which will be Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati OH in May.

Which means I’m now looking for a fall ultra for some DNF redemption. I have some requirements: (1) In a state that I haven’t run before, (2) I need to feel pretty comfortable that I can complete it, (3) I want to enjoy it – so fun or beautiful setting, maybe close to friends I can visit? (4) targeting a race in September or October in the US.

So, I have created a short list of 6 races, and I figured I would do some head to head eliminations and come to a winner! Some note about this short list — it ended up pretty 100k heavy, only one 50 miler made the list. I think that means I’m ready to bump up my distance! I searched across, the calendar by state located on, and They all had about the same information, but just different ways to search.

Round 1

Alright! Round 1! Mines of Spain 100k vs. Hell Creek 100k.

Mines of Spain 100k is in Dubuque, Iowa. It hosts a 100 miler and a 100k, and it looks to have run at least for the past four years. The website describes the race as follows:

This is a true Midwest trail race set in the beautiful bluffs, prairies and forests of the driftless region of eastern Iowa amongst the scenic setting of the Mississippi river valley! The race is held on a ~20 mile course comprised of a wide variety of terrain that will both challenge and inspire runners with its eclectic mixture of steep technical single track, wide rolling dirt and prairie double track with a multitude of other fun and scenic sections mixed in!

What do I like about this race: I think they get a sizable field, but not too big and unruly, maybe about 50-90 runners in the 100k any given year. Also, since there’s also a 100 miler, there’s a generous time limit for the 100k. The trails, from what I can tell, seem pretty runnable. It’s also 8400ft of climbing! so, still a challenge. But those trails have to be more runnable than some of these gnarly appalachian trails out east. I haven’t run in Iowa, but I’ve run midwest trails, and I have to think they’re runnable.
Any concerns about this race: It is 3 – 20 mile loops. I don’t think that’s horrible, but I don’t know how I feel about. Maybe it will be a good way to break up the run? My first 50k was four 7 and change mile loops, and it def made me think of different stages of the run.

Let’s check out Hell Creek 100k in Kansas. This is a relatively new race. Their inaugural year appears to have been last year.
What do I like about this race: I assume because these are mountain bike trails, and in a mountain bike park, they’re all super runnable. While this race will have a lot of elevation for Kansas, this is one of the lower total elevations I’m considering, with only 6,000 ft over the 100k. I can also package up this race with a trip to my former haunts in Oklahoma, see some friends, maybe run some red dirt.
What concerns me about this race: It’s a small, small race. Which I’m okay with, but for a new distance, I don’t know. This race is also 3 loops. They’ve only been doing this for a year? maybe something a little more established.

Winner: Ehhhh – I want to run with more than 10 people! Mines of Spain 100k wins this one!

Round 2

On to Round 2! Midstate Massive Ultra Fest vs. Wild Duluth 100k

Midstate Massive Ultra in New Hampshire is has a 30 miler, a 50 miler, and a 100 miler all going on at the same time. This race runs point to point for all races.
What do I like about this race: Again, there’s a generous time limit since there’s also a 100 mile race going on. This course has a mix of trail and road. Fall in New Hampshire has got to be just amazing! This course has the absolute lowest elevation gain at 3800 ft. — I don’t know if I like that or not, maybe not enough climbing?
What concerns me about this race: Because runners get UTMB points, this race is likely filled with some competitive people, will I be in the back by myself?

On to Wild Duluth 100k; this race intrigues me. It’s been going on for a while. I have heard AMAZING things about the trails in Duluth. Let’s jump in.
What do I like about this race: The trails sounds great up in Duluth. This race has a track record, people like it. It has an interesting course, in that the 50k runners run point to point, the 100k runners run out and back – the first out is the 50k course backwards, and then they run the 50k course the correct way.
What concerns me about this race: Just how technical are these trails? The website seems to lean on them being pretty difficult. What is Minnesota like in October? And is 18 hours too aggressive of a cutoff for my first 100k?

Winner: since I’m just coming off that DNF (by missing a cutoff by 5 min!), I want to bank a more generous time limit for my next race, so it’s Midstate Massive Ultra! But i’m gonna keep Wild Duluth in my back pocket for a future race.

Round 3

Our final round: Fire Tower 100k vs. Javelina Jundred

The Fire Tower 100k was the first race I put on my short list! Mostly because I started with October races and this one is on the first!
What do I like about the race: It’s got a kitsch factor. In the middle of the 50k loops, at one point, you’re expected to also run up and down an actual fire tower. For the 100k, you’re only required to do it once, but if you do it twice you get an additional reward. I love shit like this. This race is then 2 loops – not too many. The swag seems excessive?
What concerns about this race: Again, it’s small, less than 10 finishers? And a more aggressive time constraint than my other options.

At the opposite end, we have the Javalina Jundred. This is like a running party in the desert. And by the time I’m writing this, it may be already sold out! Dang, yes, just looked and there’s a waitlist for the 100k. Let’s compare it anyway.
What do I like about this race: It’s a party! I don’t think I will have to worry about being by myself. The course should be pretty runnable, and the atmosphere should be fun. It’s a really generous time limit.
What concerns me about this race: It may be too big for me. It’s a lot! And it also feels like getting to the race location, with all those people would be a pain in the ass. And it’s expensive. There’s also a larger swing in temperatures on race day than any other race.

Winner: While I think Javelina has a slight edge here, if I’m honest. I don’t think I want to run either right now, and added benefit, some of that decision is made since Javelina already has a waitlist.

So, that takes us to our Final

These both look like amazing races, but I think I’m going to pull the trigger and either register or get on the waitlist for Mines of Spain!! Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

Which would you choose? let me know!