Uber Rock 50k Race Report

1st place - 4:00:21

Finish of the Uber Rock 50k
Strange to find myself back at the starting line at the Ultra Race of Champions (albeit in the 50k race, not the premier 100k).  I raced this event in 2011 and 2013, but with the move to high altitude for last year's race (resulting in a DNF for me), I didn't think I would be running UROC again.  At least not while living at sea level and with no readily accessible mountains.  But when I found myself heading to Colorado UROC weekend for a wedding, I figured why not at least hop in the 50k (called Uber Rock).  

The particularly great thing about this was the fact that the 100k and 50k races started at the same time and followed the same course.  Since the 100k is the premier event, and thus more competitive, the guys I got to run with were mostly 100k runners, though a few 50k guys were in the mix early as well.  My plan for the weekend was to get in a great training effort running in some beautiful mountains.  Though I didn't feel great to start, things ended up going more or less to plan, and I ended up running most of the day with my friend Chris Vargo.  (Chris ran a very solid 9:44:43, winning his debut 100k in the process.)

Training in Minturn pre-race

Training run with Rebecca.  Minturn below.

Backyard ice bath... it was a sweet setup!

Unlike last year at UROC (which took place a bit later in September), the weather was great.  We got started pre-dawn at the base of Copper Mountain, with temperatures hovering around 40ยบ F.  Avery Collins, a young gun I met at Cayuga Trails 50 this year, bolted off into the dark, while the rest of us—50k and 100k runners alike—settled into a relaxed pace for the initial circuit of the golf course.  After just a few miles, we hit a brief out and back section of singletrack that remained quite tame.  Avery, who was running the 50k, took a wrong turn along this stretch and ended up a bit behind us as a result.  I was feeling pretty crappy, but that's not a huge shock since I was running at just under 10,000' elevation.  

The challenging part of the course came with the two big climbs up the ski slopes of Copper Mountain.  Both were between 2000 and 2500 feet of gain, topping out near 12,000 feet.  Interestingly, the hardest part of these climbs for me was the first few hundred feet of gain.  After that, I seemed to settle into a decent rhythm of short-strided running and power hiking.  I essentially kept pace with Vargo on both climbs, though I was behind him due to longer aid station stops.  Even though Vargo was running the 100k, I was satisfied with matching his climbing, as he's a heck of a climber (and lives and trains at altitude).  We ran the big downhill stretches together; I could have pushed a bit harder, but there was no need, and Vargo was leery of doing so in light of the large amount of running remaining for him.

We parted ways a mile shy of the 50k finish, so I cruised in solo to take the win in 4:00:21.  Though I never felt great during the run, I did feel better and better as the day went on, and I got a great training stimulus.  And that's really what I came for—to get a couple of great climbs, to crush my quads on some long descents, and to enjoy some beautiful Colorado mountains.  

The men's podium for the Uber Rock 50
Vargo en route to his 100k victory
Enjoying a Quaff ON! Brewing Co. Busted Knuckle Porter post-race!
Many thanks to Gill and Francesca with Bad to the Bone racing for hosting a solid event.  This year's course, with a common Start/Finish, proved much easier logistically than last year's Breckenridge to Vail route; easier for spectators and crew as well.  Thus, when I finished racing, I got to hang out with my friends and cheer on the 100k runners in multiple locations.  

In addition to Vargo tearing up the men's race, my Salomon teammates Anita Ortiz and Cassie Scallon had a great battle in the women's race, with Anita coming out on top.  UGo Bars teammate Sandi Nypaver battled some mid-race stomach issues to hang onto third place.  Additionally, UGo Bars co-founder (and my friend and neighbor) Rebecca Walter made it through 46 miles of the 100k before dropping (she was also having stomach issues); a pretty solid run for a Midwesterner who had never run more than 31 miles before!

In addition to the race, it was just great to be out in Colorado for most of a week to train.  My crew of Bloomington folks rented a house in Minturn for the week, and the running in and around that quaint mountain town was pretty fun.  I also got a quick recovery run amongst the Flatirons in Boulder on Monday, which is always great.  Next up is the Patagonian International Marathon in just less than 3 weeks!

Running amongst the Flatirons in Boulder
Looking North from the Flatirons
Post-run beers at Sage Canaday's favorite haunt