In a couple days I will be lining up to race the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k near Charlottesville, VA. It should be an exciting race with the best competition I have ever run against in an Ultra. I decided to run this race because it allows me the opportunity to better myself by racing against runners that are better than me. When I started Ultra running last year, my goal was to train hard and see if I could be competitive by the time I was 30. I don’t turn 30 until next year, so I guess this should be a good gauge of where I am. I am obviously at the back end of the “elite” group, but I am just excited to have the opportunity to run with so many very talented and experienced Ultra runners.
I also think the race is good for the sport. Gill and Francesca (the race directors) have put a lot of effort into making this a really top notch event starting in Year 1. There seems to be a lot of criticism about catering to the “elite” runners and whether or not it is a true championship. My take is simply that it will be a one of the most competitive Ultras of the year, and the winner will be the best of this group of runners on this day. We don’t have a championship, and there will be a lot of elite runners that won’t be in the race for various reasons, but that is no reason to dismiss UROC.
Still being relatively new to the sport, there seems to be two distinct groups in the Ultra community: one that wants a competitive sport and one that views it as a run or an event, a challenge to oneself to run all day(s) on varied, hilly and sometimes technical terrain. I don’t see why we can’t have both. Just because you are not Ryan Hall doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run a road marathon, we all have different goals. Running 50, 62.5 or 100 miles is an amazing feat whether you are doing it competitively or doing it as a challenge to yourself. A friend of mine will be running his first half-marathon at UROC. He was inspired to run, not by the elite runners, but after attending an Ultra and seeing guys like him pushing themselves to finish the race. This is what Ultra running is about and I don’t see why we have to lose that aspect, just because there will be some more structure and support for the competitive side of the sport.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. How am I physically? I think I am in pretty good shape. I’ve been training well and my ankle seems to be nearly fully recovered. I ran the Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 50 Miler a few weeks ago and had a shoe mishap that cost me about an hour+ of time. I started the race with a light-weight shoe that did not have enough ankle support when we hit the trail sections, and did not have my change of shoes in my drop bag (about mile 23). So after way to much walking/hiking to protect my ankle and sitting at the aid station (thought I was just going to drop as I could not run in the shoes I had), a friend happened to have a pair of 11.5 trail shoes in his car. So I figured I would try them out. I headed back out on the course jogging along with another running friend, James Brennan. At this point I had fallen way back and was probably in 10-12 place. After jogging for a couple miles I decided to start running again, and while there was some pain it didn’t seem to be getting any worse. So I thought I would try to move back up as much as I could. I ended up finishing in third. Up and down run, but it was good to test out the ankle and realize that I need more supportive shoes on the trails still. Since then I have been running a good amount of volume and shorter, local races on the weekends to try and improve my speed and turnover. Mentally I’ve been a bit strained with school starting up again, switching projects at work and then several personal matters. How will it all pan out? I am not sure, but it should be fun and as always an adventure.