Tuesday, October 2, 2012

2012 UROC - DNF

Ultra Race of Champions 100k (50k & 1/2 as well) - 9.29.12 - Wintergreen Resort, VA

This 'race' essentially went just as planned:  have fun, get in a long fully supported training run (25-30mi), watch some elite level ultra racing in action, help out friends at iRunFar (if possible) and most importantly... do all of that injury free.  In short... MISSION ACCOMPLISHED (and then some)!
Friday's Elite Advisory Panel - Fun times again this year

The calm before the storm... <10 mins until the elite start @ 7a

Elite's are off...

...15 minutes later the rest of the 100k field was given the call to the trails/roads!  I put myself near the back of the start in an attempt to not get sucked into the leaders of the chase pack and within the first 1/2 mile I was able to follow my plan as I walked some of the first hill.  The plans going forward were to walk lots of the hills, take my time, and enjoy the scenery (took lots of terrible pictures from my phone), work on hydration/nutrition plan, drop around the AS (aid station) after mile 25 or mile 29... and again NOT GET HURT!  Obligatory ultra blog post warning... This is rather long, read at your own risk or not.  I write these primarily for me to look back on so there is usually more info than others might care for.

This course got to business right away with some loooong steep downhill that you run as an out and back meaning you have to run back up it (and then some).  Traveling up, you drive along the Wintergreen Resort roads going up and up higher then down the roads leaving the resort then up the road toward the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway) and Reed's Gap about 15 miles in.  Anytime I said UP or DOWN you can assume the ascent/descent were pretty stout!

UROC 100k Elevation Profile (first 29mi w/ 6,000'+ gain)

Somewhere around mile 8 I found myself running alongside one of the top females in the non-elite field and once I realized we were on a similar pace and pattern I decided to strike up a conversation.  After a few attempts to try and learn how to say it properly, I learned her name was Ayano.  One of the things I love in an ultra is chatting with people and learning about them as you share the miles.  Some people you might only share enough trail with to get in a quick 'good job,' but you never know when you might end up spending hours with a person running along (even if unintentionally).  Ayano is from Japan but has lived here in the states for ~12 years and her husband ran last year and he will be running MMTR (Mountain Masochist) just like me.  Her English wasn't the best (but of course better than my non-existent Japanese) so it almost became a game for us to try and communicate back and forth (usually with hand gestures and long explanations).  I was happy to help when I gapped her a little bit early on before an aid station with just enough space to alert her family that she was coming by pointing backwards and saying 'Oh I Know' (I didn't know if this was entirely correct pronunciation but they got the message).  Husband, kids, and grandparents began to pile out their mini van engulfed in window painted Japanese symbols that I can only imagine said things similar to the 'Great Job Mom!' and the likes that you would see on her English speaking counterparts family vehicles.  We ended up sharing most of the miles between mile 8 to mile 15 when the course took a turn from the BRP to some sweet (and very much missed) single track (White Rock Creek Trails) and I took off like a kid that just arrived at an amusement park.

White Rock Falls (picture doesn't do it justice)

I had a lot of fun on this portion since I had just spent a lot more time on the roads than I normally would care to.  It was great just being on the trail, and I was trying hard to pretend like I didn't know that there was some serious climbing coming up just past the White Rock Falls.  Not long after the falls, part way up the climb (~20 miles), was the first sign of any sort of trouble for me.  My quads had started to cramp and I was feeling pretty gassed but not a huge deal at this point.  I honestly hadn't been keeping up with my nutrition as best as I should (hoping to get in a gel every 30-45 minutes but being closer to 45-60), but that wasn't as bad as the fact that I evidently hadn't gotten enough salts in and had done without any S-caps or salt pills.  For hydration I was experimenting by going almost solely on Gu Brew in my Nathan handheld.  I was wearing a hydration pack but really was barely sipping from it from time to time and more using it to rinse the gel off my hands to keep from sticking to my gear.

Overlook view above White Rock Falls

The wheels started falling off after crossing BRP near Slack's Overlook (mile 22).  I took 3 S-Caps but it was probably too little too late as I was cramping pretty bad.  I didn't think it was anything that would lead to injury but since I had to keep one of my top goals (NOT GET INJURED) in sight, I really took it easy on the climb through this portion. 

Technical trail leading up before Bald AS

Looking back down the 'trail' before getting 
to the smooth road leading to Bald Mt AS

I did a lot of massaging my quads and found myself squeezing my hands tightly on my quads on each steep step to try and help.  It seemed like it might have helped, and I got excited as the rocky/technical ascent leveled off onto a relatively smooth dirt road that marked about one mile of downhill to the 25mi AS at Bald Mountain.  The excitement and anticipation of actually running some decent speed ended abruptly as intense cramps soon took control over both of my quads and right calf instantaneously.  My legs went stick straight and I fell sideways off the trail in slow motion onto a fortuitous soft patch of moss/leaves.  I laid there for a second in a great bit of pain and soon started laughing out loud.  I laughed so hard I had tears running down my cheeks that I'm almost certain were just from the laughing.  I laughed because after slugging it out for the last 3mi climb, I was so looking forward to this runnable portion and here I lay, I laughed because I'm laying on the trail around mile 24 where I wouldn't even be to the halfway mark in the race I'm training for, I laughed because of the entire situation and the thought of just laying there by the side of the trail not entirely sure that I could get my legs un-cramped and even if I did, I was unsure how far down the trail I could get before moving them again.  I massaged and even started punching my quads to try and bring back life (which of course led me to laughing at myself even more).  Luckily nobody was around to hear or see me because I probably looked like a lunatic.  After what felt like an eternity (but my watch tells me was ~3-4 minutes) I was back on my feet and painfully moving again.

Bald Mountain AS (25.3 miles) eventually came into view from the trail.  I could drop here and be perfectly content with my training run if I wanted.  I had loaned my car to Bryon & Meghan of iRunFar and one of them would be meeting me to pick me up when the leaders came back through on the out and back course.  We had planned that they could grab me anywhere between this AS to the next one (Spy Run Gap ~29 miles).  This AS was manned and had a nice spread of food with friendly folks to talk with and Spy Run was simply a water jug with nobody manning the station.  After a quick self assessment (cramps had eased some and legs could bend) and an update on where the elite leaders were, I decided to press on for a bit more.  I started eating anything with salt... potato chips, pretzels and even sprinkled salt from a shaker into my mouth.  A small pack of runners came into the AS (including Ayano) and we all headed out together.

The final 4 miles (for me) were filled with minor cramps but were enjoyable as I had a group of new running friends to chat with and I was glad to see Ayano still running well (she ended up finishing top female from the non-elite group).  It also probably helped to know that I would be quitting soon.  I shared this with our small group to save confusion for when I pulled up and stopped and tried to lend as much encouragement as I could (as I did with every runner I shared paces with).  I got to talk Czech (literally & figuratively) with a runner living here in the states from a small town outside of Prague.  If anyone knows me, I love to talk about all things Czech and Eastern European so it was fun to talk foods, phrases, and about some small towns Ashley and I had visited in the Czech Republic.  Whatever passes the time/miles while running always helps.

iRan(kinda)Far as I encountered my iRunFar savior driving my car... I was finished!  No injuries... sore/cramping legs but no injuries!  Mission 'Get in a fully supported long run without any injuries' Accomplished!  I had fun hanging out as the top elites started to pass by on their return trip and getting caught up on what had happened in the race so far.  Being behind the scenes watching iRunFar cover a race is exciting and boring all at the same time.  Those that follow the online coverage probably have no idea what Bryon and Meghan go through to try and get as much info out to their readers as possible.  I think I was still a little hyper (pulse going from the run) so for me it was hard to sit around waiting for runners to pass when all you want to do is drive along the course and see as many of the runners as possible (I'm sure I probably was annoying since I was still going 1000 miles a minute in my head).  This is the nature of their coverage though.  They have to drive along the course to find the best areas with signal to send out tweets/updates/pics then camp there to get as much info as possible to the web.  For those that have followed coverage and complained that there 'wasn't enough coverage of the women' or things like that... they have no clue what it would be like to cover things like this where the 2nd and 3rd place women are spread out over 1/2 to 1 hour apart and the top men are hours up on that.... they do the best they can to bring as much coverage as possible.  If you haven't followed iRunFar for ultras and trail running in general, then you definitely should.  They give selflessly to this sport and I don't know that anyone could come close to doing what they do (nor would anyone want to).

iRunFar Crew for UROC (Bryon, AJWs son Carson, Me, Meghan)
Image courtesy of iRunFar

The race ended, Max King (men's winner) and Ellie Greenwood (women's winner) absolutely flew (as did many other top elites).  I was lucky enough to be sitting near the finish line hanging out and chatting as I looked around to find myself surrounded by ultra royalty (Bryon Powell-iRunFar, Dave Mackey, Nick Clark, AJW, & UROC Champion Max King).  It was great to be a fly on the wall but also participate in the discussion from time to time.  The awards ceremony came and went and a huge group of us all went to dinner at the Devil's Backbone Brewing Co.  We couldn't talk Max or Ellie into bringing in their 'Happy Gilmore checks,' but a fun time was had where I again found myself in a game of 'one of these things is not like the other' surrounded by top names of the sport.  Topics of discussion ranged from the course today, continued talk of when Max will run a 100 miler (he toed the line at WS100 once but didn't finish), all of the top ultra runners showing up (flash mob style) to a race in costume and who would dress as what, etc.  Among the group was Max, Ellie, Jorge Maravilla, Nick Clark, Scott Jaime, Ian Sharman, Dave James, Bryon & Meghan, AJW & his family, Sage Canaday, Dave Mackey, and I'm sure I'm probably forgetting someone, but we had a large group.

Best Finish Photos Ever... Ellie Greenwood

...or Jorge Maravilla?
Finish photos courtesy of iRunFar

I planned to drive back that night, but it was getting late and since I had to drive Ellie, Dave & Nick back to the resort after dinner, Dave & Nick let me crash @ their condo.  This was much appreciated because I know I would have had a hard time staying awake for the 5hr drive home to Charlotte.  I woke up in the morning and turned down an easy run with AJW & Bryon to hit the road so I could get home a little earlier to see the family.  That was my reasoning on the outside... internally I think I knew my legs didn't want to have anything to do with running for at least a day or so.  I had a great trip filled with good miles and good times.  I'm sad that UROC is leaving us (the East Coast) next year but excited to see how it can grow with the planned route traveling from Breckenridge to Vail.

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