Although it still feels like the dead of summer in many parts of the country, fall—and eventually winter and its concomitant winter roll around your waist—is coming. Fight back against the winter bulge by putting an endurance race on your calendar. It will give you something to train for, and make you more likely to peel yourself off that warm couch on a particularly cold winter day.
If you're going commit to a race, you might as well make it something ambitious, in a beautiful place. Here are some tough, scenic options in a variety of sports. Best yet? They’re all in the spring and summer, so no matter what shape you’re in right now, you have more than enough time to get ready.
Grandma's Marathon, Duluth, Minnesota
A favorite within the running community, Grandma’s Marathon will kick off on June 20, when racers will travel the point-to-point course on the scenic Old Highway 61 with views of Lake Superior to keep their minds off the pain. The course is relatively flat, with just a few rolling hills, so it’s a good race to point to if you’re looking for something pastoral but not too brutal.
Or consider: The Big Sur International Marathon along California’s promontory-filled Central Coast is famous for being one of the most beautiful marathons in the world, and it’s on virtually every hard-core runner’s bucket list. Of course, given its popularity, it is already sold out for 2015.
Ironman Coeur D'Alene
Ironman competitions, which some call your ultimate endurance race, happen all over the world, but the mid-summer one in north Idaho is one of the most popular because it’s also one of the most gorgeous. You'll swim in glacier-fed Lake Coeur D'Alene and bike and run long straight sections along the lakeshore. The June 28 race is also a good one for spectators, because the course loops, and there's only one transition zone, so your cheering section will have a relatively good place to post up (in Ironman terms).
Or consider: The May 2 Ironman 70.3 in St. George, Utah, traverses some breathtaking scenery in Zion National Park. The course is so difficult, though, that it was recently reduced from a full Ironman event to a half-Ironman event (which is also known as a “70.3” for the 70.3 miles racers cover).
Every spring standup paddlers paddle seven miles down the Colorado River through Red Rock Canyon near Moab, Utah, including the aptly named Postcard Alley. The water should be relatively flat with high spring flows. And racers are helping the river they're paddling, as some of the funds from the race will go to Save The Colorado, a nonprofit that's working to conserve and protect the river.
Or consider: If you want an ocean race, head to Maui in May for the Ho'olaule'a downwind run on the North Shore.
The 4.4-mile swim across Maryland's Chesapeake Bay, which happens in early summer, is one of the oldest and most iconic open water swims in the country. It's been happening since the early '80s, when only two people entered the first race. These days, around 600 swimmers get in the water at Sandy Point State Park and swim across to Kent's Island. There's also a one-mile version you can do if you're not up to the full swim.
Or consider: The 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Swim, a full circumnavigation of the island, which is a whole different kind of beast.
Hood to Coast
Oregon's Hood to Coast Relay, which is August 28 to August 29 next year, is the biggest relay race in the world. Teams of eight to 12 race 199 miles from Timberline Lodge, on Mt. Hood, to Seaside, Oregon. It's notoriously hard on your body because of all the downhill pounding, but team spirit is known to be extremely high. More often than not, teams are in costume, and there are fans with signs lining the course.
Or consider: The 208-mile Blue Ridge Relay, which goes from Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia, to Asheville, North Carolina, through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In July, ride from Evergreen, Colorado, on the Front Range, over three Rocky Mountain passes to Avon, just west of Vail. You'll gain more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain, which is nothing to sneeze at when you're starting above 5,000 feet. You can also do it as a relay, or you can turn around and do it back the other way, in the Double Triple Bypass.
Or consider: The modestly named America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride, which takes place around Lake Tahoe (which is, obviously, gorgeous) in early June.
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