UROC 100k Race Report
Been seriously neglecting my blogging duties. Sorry, I'd say I didn't have time, but I did. I guess I was just lacking something to write about.
But now I have a story to share. Its called, I got ROC'd at UROC/remembering how to have fun at races.
I had a really good summer of training and racing. There is no way I could complain about the two top ten finishes at the Leadville series of races. But then I had to go back to Michigan, finish my dissertation, move out of my apartment, defend my dissertation, move to Colorado, start a new job, and hopefully train as much as possible.
I did all those things, but some of them I did a better job at than others. Actually I trained really well through late August and into mid September. However, after starting a new job doing research at the University of Colorado, I was noticing that my system just felt stressed. OK, I need to rest, I'll start my taper for UROC.
UROC is the first of the series of races I signed up for to keep myself out of trouble this fall. Its the unofficial "World Championships" of ultrarunning, but actually it was the championship race for Skyrunning. This meant that it drew an incredible field of the best runners in the world, and I was excited to see what I could do relative the what is generally considered some of the fittest endurance athletes in the world.
In fact, I was so excited that I was vibrating the entire day before the race, it'd been a while since I was so excited mentally to go out there and run run run. Maybe it was because I'd been spending a lot of time cooped up in the lab.
|Sammy and I - ready to party|
It snowed a lot up high the night before the race, and by up high I mean above 11,000 feet. That's really high up if you're not from Colorado. Like two miles up.
Anyways, after figuring out what I thought was appropriate clothing, I found myself giving Sammy a high-five and making my way towards the starting line for the start of what could only be something EPIC. The gun sounds and we're off. A stampede along the road until we hit the ski slopes in Breckenridge. As soon as we hit the climb I knew something was wrong. I felt really good on the flat, then going up had NOTHING in my legs. Scary Nothing. Like a mile into a 60+ mile race scary. Whatever, I've run enough of these things to know that sometimes you just gotta be patient and stick it out and things will turn around.
On the climb up I kept the elites in sight and watched Sage, Dakota, Killian, Rob Krar, and Emelie Forseburger-doodle go flying down the singletrack towards Frisco. Yay, my turn to go down. Then people started passing me. Thats weird, not a lot of folks can usually pass me going downhill, quads kinda feel achy. Uh oh, flashes of previous poor races came rolling back into my mind. I pull myself together, keep running and find that as we get closer to Frisco (and lose altitude) I start to reel back in the people who passed me earlier.
Frisco Aid Station. Its cold, but not terrible. Ryan informs me that I am currently 5th woman. I get a good laugh out of his joke, slurp down a half frozen gel, and run back out of town. No clue what is ahead.
I'm starting to realize this might not be "my day." I've been blessed to have a lot of good races; perhaps because of my grad student-ness, I was typically well rested/unstressed before races. Shiiiit.
Going up. up. up. I talk to some folks, and then they run away from me. Glarg, competitive spirit does not like it. I try to go harder. I feel sick. Almost puke. Slow down. Long race, not even 20 miles in right now. You'll catch them later.
Holy crap, all of a sudden we're above tree line and there is... ~10 inches of snow on the ground. Slip. Slide. No motivation to run hard. Francesca Canepa trucks on by me. She looks super strong. Euro power. Wait, I'm in a good mood? Look around. Crazy wild terrain, where in the world am I?
12,500 feet up running along a ridge line looking out over the 10 mile range at some jagged peaks covered in fresh snow on a blue bird day. Oh. Ok, ok ok, this is still fricking awesome. Descending now, into the Copper Mountain ski area. Really muddy with all the snow melt below tree line. No problem for me. I like mud.
Hmmm, GPS says 28 miles and I'm not at the 26.5 mile aid station yet. Consistent theme throughout the day. See Ryan, Liz, Tiffany, and Justin when I finally get to the aid station. No BS to Ryan, bad day for me, just going to enjoy myself. Then 12 miles of road. Legs fall off again, while going up. Some guy passes me. His pacer is carrying all his shit for him, #cheating #idontcare. I'm walking, but walking fast... Im whining in my head right now. No, I'm such a stud to be walking so fast.
New aid station up ahead, I act like I've been running the entire time. Oh hey, its Geoff Roes. I make a few jokes, he laughs, now the paved bike path heads downhill. I jog, then run, then run fast. I'm flying. I pass at least 4 or 5 people. I take a gel, I feel really good, make jokes at another aid station, keep the mood light, stay positive. Now I'm running up this big climb. Ok, hitting about 11,000 feet and snow again, I'm in a strong pow-hike, no one is gonna catch me at this rate, 42 miles in and I might be finding my form. Some guy goes running by me like its no big thing. I deflate physically/mentally (not sure), laugh, and decide not to suffer so much and relax.
I get to the top of the second to last climb. Coughing. A lot. Kinda deep chest rattle. Pulmonary edema? Don't be dramatic. Eat a gel, instantly barf neon green into the snow. Lemon lime gel. Eat another gel. Stays down. Run down fast. Start seeing other runners who were way ahead of me. I'm actually catching up. Get to Minturn, GPS watch says 56 miles, aid station says 51. Someone is lying. Bachelorette party offers me a cigarette, I strongly consider taking a drag. Decide no. Grab my headlamp, and for no known reason decide to change shoes. Bad idea. Eat two turkey sandwiches on my way out, to the amusement of many passerbys I'm jugging Turkey Sandwich #2, headlamp, gloves, jacket, shirt, waterbottle.
Up. Up. Up. This again? I catch a few more people, feeling strong at this altitude. Starts getting dark. Turn on headlamp. Uh oh. Not working. Bad. Arrogantly didn't think I would use it at this race - didn't change my batteries out from Leadville pacing duties (4pm-4am). Rotate batteries. Maybe 20 lumens.
Top of last climb. Eat soup. Too hot, burn mouth, spit it out. Politely ask them to put water in it. Try again. Good. Ask for soup in my waterbottle. Get a weird look. Confirm that is what I desire. Sipping on chicken broth all the way down the mountain.
Where am I? Lost again. Turn around, go back up. Find trail. See a person with a pacer, dash ahead of them. Stay ahead. Run off trail into bushes and into a branch. People behind ask if I'm OK, yes, just lost. They guide me back on trail. I dash ahead again. I'm being stubborn. OK lost again. Last time I swear. No reflective tape on flags, very few markings, headlamp almost dead, blah blah, poorly marked course at night. Now the people who've I've been dashing in front of are gone. Where did they go?
Finish line in sight. Just finish. Almost go the wrong way. Finished in under 14 hours (30th at the "World Championships"), get belt buckle (all I really care about). Coughing, trying to find Pizza, end up in a room that was supposed to be locked. Its all set up for a wedding reception in the morning. Am I hallucinating? Smell Pizza, FIND PIZZA. Chair. People who I kept dashing in front of finish. They got lost, despite the fact the pacer had run up that road earlier that day. See! Not just me. I swear. Hot tub. Beer. Sleep.
And that folks, is my UROC summary. Everyone said it was long. Probably 4 miles long. 66-67 miles, depending on how many times you got lost (67 miles for me!). My legs honestly felt dead tired if I tried to go fast, they didn't ever really hurt, I had no cramping issues to speak of, but struggled mightily to find energy and keep food down when I got up above 10,000 feet. That being said, I had a fantastic time, the pressure of racing hard was gone because I knew I just didn't have it. Its nice to know that I'm strong enough to just kinda meander through a race on a sub-par day and still find the finish line. I can't help but wonder if the race had been another 33 miles, would I have reeled in more people? Despite no speed, I felt capable of moving at my pace all day, probably because I was going so slow earlier.
First year races are a gamble. They need to figure out the distance, and mark the course better for night time running. I believe 73 people finished out of 215 starters or something. Thats a very very low finishing rate. Perhaps that speaks to how hard the race is, but also how demoralizing it is to get lost/find out you have 5 miles further to go than you thought.