Thursday, October 6, 2011

2011 UROC 100k Race Report

Not just another ultra!  That is what I have been telling myself since I DNF this race last year, granted it was a completely different course and even named (GEER last year) something else, but at least it was the same distance.  I had been training all season for this race; I took weekend trips into the PA mountains to work on my climbing & hiking and for the past four months been taking getting on the stair master for forty minutes followed by an hour spin classes twice a week.  I guess I have been a bit obsessed on not repeating the same mistakes from last year and fixing my obvious training flaws.
detailed course description 1 of 2
detailed course description 2 of 2
My Dad, Emily, and I left Annapolis on Friday afternoon and arrived at the Wintergreen Resort just in time to hear Gill, co-RD, give the pre-race briefing.  After the briefing I got my race swag decided to skip the "meet the elite panel" and decided to grab some grub and try get to sleep somewhat early.  BTW we rented a condo on and found an awesome one bedroom condo that was half a mile from the start/finish and the course even went right past the condo too.  Team Peake (Emily and BillyGoat Peake) and I woke
Team Peake
up early and made our way over to the start/finish area, which was at Discovery Ridge, and that is when the nerves started to kick into overdrive.  I never get nervous because I am a back of the packer and am only running against myself, but this race was different because of the pressure I put on myself (to finish & to get the buckle).  The elite field started at 7:00am while the rest of us started at 7:15am.  It was cool to see all the elite runners at the start, many of whom I regularly follow their blogs, and at least Team Peake got to see some of them run throughout the course of the day.  We started a bit after 7:15 and finally all of my nerves went away because now it was time to trust all the training I had put in the past year.

Off we go...
The race started going off very nicely and that was because the course started by going downhill, I was just enjoying myself and the scenery when I noticed some people ahead of me yelling and hollering.  I didn't really pay any attention to it until I got closer to where the noise was coming from, all of a sudden I heard runners yelling "yellow jackets"!!!!  Next thing I know I look down on my arm and see a yellow jacket stinging me on my arm, while another stung me on my back.  Great, I put all this training and hard work into this race only to have some yellow jackets ruin my race.  After I was stung my heart rate jumped up ten beats per minute and I started having a really bad head ache.  I was curious to see how my body was going to react, I have been stung before but never while running.  It took me 45-50 minutes before all my systems came back to normal.  After running on some mountain roads, the course then moved to some paved roads around the Wintergreen community.  There were some nice climbs once we reached the Wintergreen community and I had no inclination to try to run any of these climbs, but I did run the down hills aggressively because I figured this was going to be my strength throughout the race.  If I could hike the climbs well, then fly downhill while maintaining a reasonable pace on the flatter sections I could reach my goal of running a sub sixteen hour race.

I reached the Wintergreen Summit aid station in 1:06 and I felt like my pace was a bit faster then I was anticipating considering I encountered the first of many significant climbs of the day, approximately 1100'.  I wasn't feeling any stress so I just tried to pay attention to what my body was telling me.  Team Peake helped me make quick work of the aid station by filling my water up and giving me a few GUs plus some Neosporin for my yellow jacket stings.  Once I left the aid station the course went between trails and roads for the next few miles, then the course finally came back onto the roads for a steep decent out of the Wintergreen Resort.  I decided keep running the descents fairly hard trying to not to trash my quads too early in the race.  Once we exited the resort I encountered a nice climb of about 1600' to the next aid station.

I arrived at Reeds Gap aid station in 2:14 and my legs were definitely feeling a bit sluggish after that steep climb, but I will say that climbing on pavement is incredibly easier then on trails.  At the aid station my crew had everything ready for me including a refill of GUs, Vespa and water.  I was taking on my usual two GUs every hour and S!Caps every forty five minutes.  At the aid station I bumped into a guy I ran with for about ten miles during last year's GEER 100k, Chris Cox.  It was nice to catch up with him and trade some war stories about last year's race as well as give a brief over view of each others 2011 season.  Chris is a beast and finished last year's race and ran another solid race again this year and finished in 15:41, this is one tough dude, congrats Chris!!  We ran on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) down to the next aid station. 
nice views
I made my way to the White Rock Gap aid station and because it was mostly downhill on the BRP so I made great time and came into the aid station at 3:08.  After being on the BRP for a few miles it was nice to get on some single track trails and  and it especially nice because I was still running downhill so I was feeling really good.  The weather was staying nice and cool and there was a nice cloud cover up to this point in the race.  I picked up some water and looked forward to meeting up with Team Peake at the next aid station.
Sweet single track trails

After making short work of the trails down to Sherando Lake aid station, I arrived in 3:50.  I wasn't feeling too hot at this point and started to cramp up, which is weird because I had been drinking plenty of water and taking S!Caps on a regular basis and it was early in the race.  What gives!!!  I then decided to stop taking GUs and start taking my EFS shots which has calories and electrolytes, my thought was that the GUs were causing me to become dehydrated.  At the aid station my crew brought along my secret weapon, coconut water.  I had been experimenting with this during my training runs and was interested in its electrolyte properties.  This turned out to be a huge difference in me fighting off my craps.  After I drank half, I went around Sherando Lake, which was a little over a mile, and by the time I came back to the aid station I felt much better and my cramping had gone away.  After I made out of the aid station I knew this would be the most challenging part of the course because I had a 1800' over the next the next seven miles which isn't too challenging but I knew the true test would be managing my fluids during this section.  I started the arduous climb toward Bald Mountain and not feeling bad at all, but that changed after about five miles when I ran out of water.  I made it to the top of Bald Mountain and started the short decent down the other side to the aid station and I got a chance to see Michael Wardian running the opposite direction.  It was so cool to see the top guys & girls run, they are truly amazing athletes.

When I made it to the Bald Mountain aid station I was feeling horrible, I had wobbly legs and could feel the dehydration side effects (disorientation, sweat rate was slowing down).  The aid station workers were asking me if I was OK and decided to take a few minutes and drink plenty of Gatorade and try to regain my composure.  I was still doing well time wise (6:15) and didn't felt like extra time at the aid station would be wasted because I would make up by running stronger on the next section of the race.  I exited the aid station and started running on the BRP then took a side road and then reconnect to the BRP again.  This section I was holding on and not running well but not running poorly either.  This is where the fog started to roll in and made for some interesting running.  It was kind of creepy running as I could only see twenty feet ahead of me, but it certainly made this race that much more memorable. 

Little bit of fog
I was looking forward to seeing Team Peake at the Whetstone aid station, but when I arrived my Dad looked at me and said you need to drink more.  Hahaha, guess I was not looking good.  I drank some more coconut water and restocked on EFS shots and S!Caps.  I was starting to think about the 17 hour finish time that was needed to obtain the belt buckle and I wasn't sure if I could muster another thirty miles feeling like I was.  Once again the coconut water really did the trick and I felt like a new man.  I started to pass people along the Dragon's Back trail and got to the turn around and started to make my way back (password was Quadzilla).  This was probably my favorite section of trail as everything was runnable and didn't have any technical sections so I was able to make good time.

I made it back to the Whetstone aid station in 10:16 and my spirits were lifted because I had BillyGoat Peake to take me to the finish line.  We made sure to stock up water, grabbed a delicious turkey & avocado sandwich that Emily made and grabbed our head lamps and we were out of there.  We made our way back up the BRP and then took a gravel road detour before getting back onto the BRP (same part I ran coming out of Bald Mountain to Whetstone).  When we made it to the BRP heading towards the Bald Mountain aid station I was starting to slow down, it was a matter of running and trying to only walk when I absolutely had to.

We eventually made our way to the Bald Mountain aid station and it was completely dark by this time.  My Dad and I refueled and got out.  I started to feel my hip pointer bother me so I would stretch it when we came across a good section of trail in which to do so.   As we made our way up Bald Mountain the fog was making it increasing difficult to see rocks on the trail because our head lamps were reflecting against the fog (think how difficult it is to drive in the fog, then turn on your high beams and it becomes even more difficult).
section of trail that looks technical during the day, trying running at night in the fog!
Above is a great picture of a section of the trail that we had to run in the fog with our head lamps and this was my Dad's first time running on trails at night!!!  Trail by fire I suppose, hahaha (I know it's suppose to be trial but I was trying to be funny).  We eventually made our way unscathed, for the most part, to the White Rock Gap aid station and we definitely didn't break any speed records.  We really just wanted to come out of there uninjured  and knew that we could make up time on the roads.

Once we reached the White Rock Gap aid station the rest of the course was on roads to the finish.  Emily was there to meet my Dad and I.  I promptly finished the rest of my coconut water, one last Vespa (I had been taking these every 3 hours during the race) and even took in an energy drink just to give a me a little pick me up because I desperately needed it as I was starting to run out of steam.  After all we reached the aid station in 14:22.  Now I am starting to do math in my head for the pace my Dad and I would have to keep in order to finish in under 17 hours.  As we made our way to Reeds Gap aid station I was starting to doubt if we were going to make it and I was becoming pessimistic to put it nicely, but the old man was keeping me in check and helping not dwell on something that hadn't happened yet.  This is where my Dad really helped me out, he helped me focus on only running from aid station to aid station.  My mind was starting to play tricks on me and I just wanted to slow down and not push, but then I thought about running all day and missing the 17 hour cut off by a few minutes.  Had I really battled all day just to come up short by a few minutes, hell no!!

Next thing I know I hear a familiar voice yelling from behind a wall of fog, it was Emily and we were at the final aid station.  15:26 was our time as we trotted into Reed Gap aid station.  We had ninety minutes to go five miles, four of which were up a 15% incline to the finish.  This was going to be close.  At the aid station all the volunteers were great, they were telling me ice cold beers and a shiny belt buckle awaited me at the finish line.  Needless to say that put me in a great mood.  We enjoyed a nice mile and a half downhill decent in which we were clocking a 10:30 pace, I wanted this buckle so bad I could taste it.  Now for the fun part, we hit the 15% incline to the finish.  I was possessed and was hauling ass up the road and my Dad was just a few steps behind me.  I kept pushing and pushing next thing I know I couldn't see my Dad's head lamp anymore.  He had hit a bit of a wall (naturally after running 6.5 hours with me) and I had to keep pushing in order to make the cut off.  As I was climbing I passed a few people who looked tore up and that only fueled my fire.  Push, push, push that is all I kept telling myself.  This hill went on forever (look the elevation my Garmin GPS charted during these miles) and I am all by myself, just me and this never ending incline.  The fog was still very heavy and it was difficult to see, I couldn't even see ten feet in front of me, but I could feel the hill was becoming easier.  I knew I was close to the top so I started to run again and pushed it really hard (almost felt like puking a few times) and finished strong.  Funny thing is that I could have walked to the finish and made the cut off with plenty of time to spare, but that's not how I roll.  Coming down the finishing chute was emotional because I was thinking back to all the training runs, all the sacrifice, all the spin class & stair master workouts.  Suddenly everything came together and with the help of Team Peake I finished in 16:31:51.
Little redemption for last years DNF
I wanted to thank Emily and my Dad for being there and sharing this special moment with me and I wouldn't/couldn't have done this without them.  Also the volunteers were great througout the race and all the spectators seemed to cheer everyone, there were even people driving in cars along the BRP slowing down to give words of encouragement.  Gill and Francesca did an amazing job creating a course that catered to road runners, mountain runners, technical and non technical runners.  This race will get bigger I promise because they the passion and fortitude to put together an event that can host elite and non elite athletes on the same course with enough difficulty to challenge everyone.

my splits

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Montrail Sabino
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: Nathan 1.5 Liter Backpack 
Nutrition: GU, S!Caps, EFS shot, Vespa, Coconut water, XS shot,
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Sleeves: Moeben
Shirt:  Tech T-shirt  
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
Watch:  Garmin GPS 310xt 

 Extra photos from the race

Watch the video entitled white rock junction to finish and forward 2:15 into the video

See ya on the trails,


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