Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Ultra Race Of Champions (UROC) 100k – Not just a check in the box...

Race report from LPTRunner Nick Weid...

Here I am, standing as far back as possible from the starting arch at the 2014 UROC 100K.  Even though it is pitch black out I have not turned on my headlamp, there is enough light from those around me.  Even though there are almost 200 people around me, all I hear is silence.  Even though it is 35 degrees (F) out I don’t feel cold.  In fact I don’t seem to feel, hear, or see anything!  It is as if I am in a dream, a dream which began as a nightmare on a hospital bed in February.

I had knee surgery in late February to repair several genetic issues in my right knee.  As the anesthesiologist finished and I began to drift off, my last thought was of me quickly descending a mountain, and then my legs seemed to no longer work properly.  I fell, or more precisely crashed, then nothing!  I realized before surgery that I may not be able to qualify for the Western States 100 Lottery this year.  Later after some research I learned that UROC, 6 months away, was a qualifier and it seemed that I might be able to recover from surgery in time to race.  Thus began my time running up and down Copper Mountain in Colorado.

[First let me take a second to do something most race reports do at the end and thank a few people.  The reason I am doing this first, is even though running by itself is an individual sport, without the love and support of others a runner would never succeed.  First I want to thank my family.  To my wife, you are not a runner and may not understand ultras, but your support is awesome.  To my two girls, thank you for inspiring me with your ability to find joy in everything.  For Trae and Jessica at Performance Running Outfitters, though I am the “weirdo” ultra guy on the team, your enthusiasm and support for my racing dreams never ceases to amaze me.  To Peter Defty of VESPA thank you for the sage nutritional advice, I truly value your counsel and support.  To Liza Howard of Team Red White and Blue, thank you from the bottom of my heart for first allowing me to represent Team RWB and second for all that you do to aid my fellow brothers and sisters in the military, they are the true heroes!  Finally to Adam McRoberts, Logan Polfuss, Ashley Erba, & Heather Moore my hosts in CO, your generosity and friendship will never be forgotten! ]

Copper Mountain Colorado a beautiful mountain, a skier’s mountain, as it is very steep and very technical.  Well it is no less steep or technical if you plan to run up and down it six times.  UROC is an exceptionally beautiful course put on by Bad to the Bone racing.  B2B did an amazing job and I would highly recommend this or any other race they direct.  Francesca, Gill, Shannon, Mike, and all the others were nothing but amazing both before and during the event.  The 100k course had us running the same roughly 50k’ish loop twice.  Knowing what’s coming the second time around doesn’t make it any easier ;).  This course had over 11,000ft of vertical gain, according to my watch, and the same amount of descent totaling over 22k of vertical change in 100k (62 miles).  The race starts at an elevation of 9800ft and goes up to the summit at 12,441ft, we then spent the rest of the day going up and down between 10,000 and 12,000ft.  Trust me there was not much oxygen.

As Francesca counted down from 10 to start the race, I suddenly could hear again, I could feel, I could see, and I was scared, really scared.  I had been telling everyone the only reason I was doing UROC was to “check the box” for the Western States 100 lottery (A sub 15 hour finish would allow me to enter the 2015 lottery).  This was a lie, well sort of.  I did want to be able to enter the lottery, but more importantly I wanted to, desperately needed to, feel like a trail runner again.  I had a lot of questions and no answers at the start of this race.  Would I even be able to run, as I had only run for 5 weeks 3 times a week prior to the race?  Would my knee hold up to the long assents and descents, as I had only been running flat trails in my runs?  Would I be able to finish, as my longest single run had been 2.5 hours?  Would I be able to breathe and how would I handle being at altitude all day, since I was coming from sea level?  Most importantly would I be able to let go of racing, expectations, and my fears to be able to enjoy my time in the mountains?

The race started pretty easy, with us running first along a golf course path, then a trail along the base of the mountain.  These early miles seemed to flow by pretty quickly and I noticed that my knee/legs seemed to be holding up.  I was able to focus on the beauty of the course, and the amazing sunrise.  Normally I would be talking to anyone and everyone nearby during these easy first miles, but today I went into my own head pretty early.  I was really nervous and decided I needed to focus.  About mile 7ish I met Matthew Young (See his awesome race video here), a West Virginia runner.  We jogged together sharing where we were from (sea level), and what our current fitness level was (mine = surgery and no running, his=severe head cold).  We both made unspoken promises to each other that, as Matt put it, the brotherhood of flatlanders would prevail in the mountains of Colorado.

Soon enough the “flat” running was done and it was time (1 of 6) to head up.  I hit the aid station and got into a great hiking rhythm.  I rolled through the mile 9 aid in about 100th place.  As the course wound up to the summit of Copper Mountain at 12,441ft I began to feel great and I started to pass people, quite a few actually.  As I was passing people I was talking to them and most of them were from places at altitude, this gave me a huge boost of confidence.  This carried over all the way up the summit.  About 900ft and 1.5 miles from the summit was the “Fat Marmot” aid station, manned by non-other than Geoff Roes.  The final approach to the summit was a lot of icy scree.

Coming down the scree, for my first sustained decent of the day, I decided I felt good enough to really push it (test the knee).  I came to CO wanting to feel like a runner and sometime during that decent off the scree, I began to feel the run, feel the trail, become one with the mountain, and I started to fly down the hill.  Descending has always been a strength, and I guess not even knee surgery could change that.  Up and down we went, first the summit, then Union Saddle, then up the back side of Copper Mountain, and back to the start.  Time to do it all again!

The miles started to pile up and I entered the mile 38 aid station ready to refuel and push back up to the summit for round 2.  Unfortunately I entered the aid station at the exact wrong time.  They were fresh out of everything, even water.  The truck that had all of their resupply had to take someone off the mountain (Altitude issues) and there would be a delay.  All they had was some energy drink.  I do not, and have never done well with any energy drink.  I decided the stack of saltines and Nutella I grabbed with both hands plus the 12oz of water I had in the bottle stuck in my shorts would have to get me back up to Geoff at the summit.  Well I almost made it; with about a half mile to go I went completely dry.  What ensued was a pretty massive dehydrated bonking mess.  I stumbled into Geoff’s aid station, massively dehydrated, low on calories and energy, and having small back pains (in the kidney area).  I was concerned as I was really dehydrated and had not relieved myself in a long time.  I leaned against, first Geoff, then the table.  Geoff worked on getting me hydrated and fueled (lots of water and broth), while I surveyed this pristine mountain environment.  It was here that I came to realize why I truly run these races, what drives me to find my limits.  Here, standing next to Geoff, I began to ramble on about why I was running this race, TRULY running this race, and what I wanted to do in the future.  Geoff listened and then uttered one small sentence that would carry me through the rest of the day and night.  What I told Geoff I will detail later, but what he said was simply this; “That was the most coherent thought process I have heard all day at this altitude, there is no way you are not going to finish this race.”  Well when Geoff Roes tells you that you are going to finish a race, you have no other option!

Well Round two of UROC went well.  I hiked a lot and managed to stay strong the rest of the day and night.  My pace never really slowed much, which was encouraging.  Also the altitude, although I had dizzy feelings and a slightly elevated heart rate, never really adversely affected me.  My stomach was strong all day and night.  I was able to run whenever I wanted which was a huge confidence boost.  One major benefits of maintaining a solid pace, hiking, and running downhill strong was that I was not passed all day.  I managed to move from about 100th at mile 8 to 40th by the end of the race.  That’s right I went to Colorado, to altitude, to a 100K race up and down a mountain, from WI, with zero specific training, more questions than answers, and I found myself and my answers.

Here was my answer, what Geoff and I talked about near that summit.  I realized that this race, which I thought was a box checker, was so much more.  For the past three years I have focused on Western States 100 as my ultimate goal for a 100 race.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, Western is awesome, the race and environment are incredible and someday I will run that course whether it’s as a pacer or for myself.  What I realized climbing up to that summit for the second time was that I had wanted “in” to States because everyone else did too, not because I did.  What truly motivates me is to push my limits, in the mountains, in places I haven’t been.  I BELONG in the mountains.  I told Geoff that I wanted to take my family to races like UROC, to immerse them in the remote beauty of these courses.  I listed off some of the races that truly inspired me.  Right there with Geoff offering me a hug, (Yes I’m sure I smelled awesome ;) I decided I didn’t care about the States qualifier; I was going to enjoy the hell out of the rest of UROC. 

Just for fun I made it to mile 57 in 15 hours, that’s right had I wanted to run harder, which my body could have handled, I would have made it.  I didn’t care.  Speaking with Geoff my plan going forward is this.  Number one, I need to rebuild all of my lost aerobic capacity from so much time off.  My aerobic pace last year was comfortably 6:45.  I want to lower that to 6:15-6:30.  I plan on taking a long time to do this.  Then I plan to add in a lot of hills both ups and downs in separate weeks.  At the last minute I will add in speed in the form of fartlek and progressive long runs.  Then I plan on taking this training, picking a 100 mile course that motivates me, and exploding all over it.  I am not going to hold back, I AM going to find my limits, and if I don’t finish, it still will be a success!  It will still be a success because I will be able to look my daughters in the eye and know that I have shown them there are no limits to your dreams and achievements if you want it.  Others may say, in my case, you should focus on a race that fits your strengths or those that you can replicate in your training area.  I say screw that, I am going to train for and race what I want, when I want, if I fail it will be video worthy, and if I succeed hopefully it motivates my girls!  This was where Geoff told me to keep moving.

Here is my race placement as well as all of the gear and nutrition info.  As always this gear came from Performance Running Outfitters.  I can never tell people enough just how much PRO means to the local Milwaukee area running community.  The work they do is incredible and without them the running scene would not be the same.  If you have the opportunity please support your local running store rather than buying online!

MB – PRO Race Singlet
North Face No Hands Arm Warmers
Craft head band
Under Armour ColdGear® Infrared Storm Extreme Run Glove
Pearl Izumi Ultra 3/4 Tights
Dry Max Trail Running Socks
Altra Paradigm shoes
Nike Lunarracer3 Shoes
Amphipod 12oz Hand Held x2
Petzel Headlamp
Garmin Fenix2 GPS watch

VESPA – 1 Ultra concentrate  3 hours before race
1 JR 45 min before start
1 JR every 2-2.5 hours
Coke mixed with water during the race
Crackers with nutella
Snack size snickers

40 Nicholas Wied 16:37:45 M  35 Wauwatosa WI
Out of 140 starters

As always find your own inspiration!

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