Overall Rating
Overall Rating (3 Reviews)
4.7
(3 Ratings)(3 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
4.7
SCENERY
4.7
PRODUCTION
4.7
SWAG
4
2020 EVENT RESCHEDULED FROM AUG. *** The Kodiak Ultra Marathons are situated in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California at an elevation of 7,000′. The cozy, cool, alpine village of Big Bear Lake is ready to host you and your crew! This course is the MUCH anticipated complete loop … MORE
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Recent reviews

    M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '19

    BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for a memorable summer ultramarathon in a scenic mountain setting, take a long look at the Kodiak Ultras. But beware — nearly a year later … MORE

    BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for a memorable summer ultramarathon in a scenic mountain setting, take a long look at the Kodiak Ultras. But beware — nearly a year later I’m still not sure how to caveat the word “memorable,” because this race chewed me up and spit me out. “Big Bear” isn’t just the host city, it’s also an apt description for what is likely the toughest 50K you’ll ever run. As if the August heat (which was mercifully mild in 2019) and mountain elevation (topping out at nearly 10,000ft) weren’t enough — and apparently they’re not — the severe elevation changes (7,554ft up, 7,801ft down) and technical terrain will eventually wear you down.

    The diverse and picturesque Kodiak course throws everything it’s got at you, so wear your grippiest trail-running shoes and come prepared both physically and mentally. The terrain varies from steep dirt trails to boulder-style scree fields to soft sand to a few short, paved transitions. The race even starts with an immediate ascent of Sugarloaf Mountain, as though not to lull its prey into a false sense of confidence. Kodiak was far and away the slowest of my four 50Ks, besting (or worsting?) my inaugural 50K seven years earlier by more than 90 minutes. Somehow, though, I still managed to finish 63rd out of 150 runners, so clearly there were plenty of folks behind me suffering worse than I was.

    Of the 34+ miles we ran (yes, it’s a trail 50K so do expect some “bonus” mileage), six of my miles exceeded 20 minutes each, including aid station stops — that’s a first-time feat I hadn’t even accomplished at the 2017 Run Rabbit Run 50 Miler in Colorado, which started with 3,600ft of elevation gain in the first 10K followed by 38 miles at an elevation of 9,500ft or higher. My mile 30 at Kodiak‚ which came on the heels of a 28.5-minute mile 29, clocked in at a fleet-footed 32 minutes — and I passed at least two people along the way. (These two miles were the most punishing of the day because not only were they uphill, but the terrain was largely loose sand — so two steps forward, one step back.) Likewise mile 21, which was interrupted by the Skyfern aid station, featured a strenuous uphill climb on a dirt trail with motor bikes kicking up dust in our faces as they passed. Not since the Pikes Peak Ascent nine years earlier had I walked/hiked as many miles as I did at Kodiak — and Kodiak was 20 miles longer than Pikes Peak.

    So yes, the Kodiak 50K in the popular resort town of Big Bear Lake is a memorable ultra and an epic challenge that will test your mettle. At the same time, keep in mind that when it comes to ultrarunning, miserable is memorable.

    PRODUCTION: Kudos to Race Director Susie and her team — the organizers and volunteers were the angels that offset Kodiak’s devil of a course. The Kodiak krew did a fantastic job throughout the weekend, and the volunteers were first class in every respect, from their friendly smiles and constant encouragement to their general amazing support. I even saw someone I knew volunteering at one of the aid stations, which was a pleasant surprise. Speaking of which, the five aid stations are pretty spread out along the course, so unless you’re at the front of the pack I’d highly recommend you carry your own hydration/nutrition — especially if it’s hot.

    As it turned out the finish line festival, which like the pre-race expo was held in town on a small dirt lot bustling with sponsor tents, may have been the highlight of the day. There I was able to collapse in a shaded chair and recover while cheering my fellow masochists, including 50-mile runners and the occasional 100-miler, across the finish line. Post-race fare included pizza and vegan donuts (the latter from local favorite Dank Donuts), though as usual my stomach would have nothing to do with solid food; rather, I enjoyed a pint courtesy of the event’s most appropriate sponsor, Sufferfest beer, while I sat and appreciated the energy and camaraderie all around me.

    Note on registration: Kodiak is a popular summer option, and all distances did sell out in 2019, so if you drag your feet you’re likely to miss out. (On the other hand, dragging your feet on race day is not only acceptable but expected.) I learned this the hard way when I went to register in mid-July and found the race sold out. Luckily, Race Director Susie responded to my inquiry and encouraged me to add my name to the wait list, which I did; less than a week later, I received confirmation that I was in. Thanks, Susie! (I think…)

    SWAG: The hard-earned finisher medal, paired with a plain black ribbon, is a basic yet attractive nickel-plated cutout with the top half of a bear claw above the words “KODIAK 50K.” Race apparel consisted of a comfortable gray short-sleeve technical tee that actually looks pretty sleek, plus a Kodiak Buff I’d normally never wear but which came in handy at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, before masks were readily available.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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    cdardant FIRST-TIMER '07

    I picked the race because of the proximity living in OC, as it was my first ultra I was worried not to make the cut time or not to finish … MORE

    I picked the race because of the proximity living in OC, as it was my first ultra I was worried not to make the cut time or not to finish because of the altitude, the 9,000′ climb or to get lost. I started in the middle of the pack as not to speed up and from there kept my pace , the sunrise was magic and made me feel good as I passed a few runners, the path was very well marked and beside the first mile after Sugarloaf 2 I did not hesitate even during the night run, the practices run on July 4th weekend helped me a lot, I just wish I tried 7 oaks before race day as I thought it would never end, actually it did even if I was not ready for it, aid stations were great and volunteers fully dedicated to the runners, the small extra station before 7 oaks is a great addition, I made it on time with tons of memories that I will keep forever, definitively looking to come back.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    jcostello FIRST-TIMER '19

    I'm very happy to share a glowingly positive review of the Kodiak 50-miler here, mostly because the few reviews I've found of earlier iterations of this race reflect runner frustration … MORE

    I’m very happy to share a glowingly positive review of the Kodiak 50-miler here, mostly because the few reviews I’ve found of earlier iterations of this race reflect runner frustration with sub-par course markings. Now, I can’t speak to the first 50 miles of the 100-mile course, but as a 50-miler I found the course consistently well-marked (even for the first 90 minutes or so in the dark) and never lacking in volunteers to point us in the right direction whenever there might be confusion. I never once got lost or found myself unsure on the route, with the possibility of the final approach to Skyfern aid station, which comes at the end of a 1.5 mile run over asphalt through a mostly residential section of Big Bear. (I did find it, though, so no complaints.)

    What really sets this race apart for me is the volunteers. Every single aid station was packed with eager, enthusiastic race supporters manning the stations and tons of food, drinks, cold sponges, sunscreen, you name it. Big shout-out goes to the Sugarloaf aid station, which everybody hits at least once (twice for 100 and 50-milers and once for 50K’ers). That place is Grand Central Station for the race — big, busy and bustling. It’s easy to move in and out if that’s what you need and it’s also *very* easy to spend a little too long prepping for (or resting and recovering from) the Sugarloaf Mountain climb and descent.

    As for the 50-miler, go in expecting thin air, long, tough climbs and breathtaking scenery. I’m a trail runner based in Burbank, but I did make time to join one of the many training runs hosted by the Kodiak folks in the lead-up to the race. If you’ve never run in Big Bear or at altitude in general (average altitude of the race is 7000 feet), I would *highly* recommend making time to join up for the Sugarloaf climb (to 10K) and a trek out to Dead Man’s Ridge. Having scaled Sugarloaf going into Kodiak made a huge difference in my confidence on race day. I would also recommend trying to get out for the Seven Oaks climb out of Siberia Canyon if you can swing it, although nothing can really prepare you for that climb at mile 44. All I can say is, it does eventually end.

    Stay hydrated, stay cool, stay consistent and stay positive. Go in prepared and you’ll love this race! I did!

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
    My Media

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