Well the first 100k is in the books. Ultra running is a very unique sport in that one can do so much preparation, training, logistics planning, and it can still all come crashing down in a single mile. The 2015 Ultra Race of Champions in Auburn, California was an adventure to say the least. For those who want to spare the reading and cut straight to the data, my Strava activity file for the first 57 miles can be found here.
The real race always starts long before I ever stand on the start line. The miles, climbing, nutrition practice, time spent on feet, and patience all go into creating the best chance at minimizing mistakes on race day. For the first time since high school, I have gone a full calendar year without a significant running injury, and I was finally confident the fitness would be there. It by no means was perfect, and I know there is much more training that can be done, but I was happy with where my fitness was and was excited to race.
The morning of the race was calm and pleasant. About 60 degrees out in downtown Auburn. The fact that it wasn’t cold at all was a bit worrisome to what the afternoon heat might bring. I was fortunate enough to know that I would have a crew consisting of my girlfriend Madi and my parents at miles 5, 22, 37, 43, and 58 to give me food, water, and plenty of ice throughout the day. At precisely 6:32am, the race was off.
Within the first half hour, the lead group of about five had two minutes on me. I couldn’t believe how fast everyone was going out, but I guess it was the Superbowl of ultra distance running right? After coming through the five mile mark and grabbing my pack from Madi, the next time I would see my crew was at the first river crossing at mile 22. The next few hours of racing flew by as I was feeling great, the views were awesome, and there was still a chill in the air. The UROC elevation profile claimed 11,000 feet of climbing, and through 22 miles I was barely over 2,000. Coming in to the river crossing at 22, I was in 5th place and feeling very in control and ready to tackle the out-and-back section of the course.
The out-and-back section of course consisted of one climb and one descent, turn around, do it again. The way out things were still feeling strong. After a sock change at the top of the climb, I made my way down to the Ponderosa Falls aid station turn around. The first surprise was that I thought this turn around would be at 5.5 miles. It didn’t come until 8, so my 11 mile out-and-back just turned into 16. The climb after the turn around was brutal. the first few hundred meters of it were so steep I was nearly on all fours going up. This was the first time in the race I started to notice the heat. The sun was in full force and I was going so slow, the lack of wind left me dripping. Just make it to your crew, I kept telling myself. The descent coming into the river crossing at mile 37, I noticed a sore spot on the bottom of my foot starting to grow. It was just enough of an annoyance to get me to switch into a stiffer shoe in hopes that would keep the soreness away. After new shoes, ice on my neck, and a new pack full of goodies, I was out of the aid station and up another climb out of the canyon. I was fortunate enough to run and work with the legendary Magdalena Boulet up the next climb. Well for half of it at least until she dusted me…
Miles 40 to 47 were primarily downhill and I was excited to just cruise and get to the Confluence aid station where I would see my crew again. No more than 200 meters after the top of the climb, the sore spot on the bottom of my foot turned immensely sharp and brought me to a halt. A few seconds of stretching and trying to loosen it up would do nothing, as every time I tried to run, it felt like a nail was going into the bottom of my foot. I started walking very slowly trying to figure out what to do. 4 miles until the next aid, and 7 until the next crew point. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Months of training and preparation for this race, and I was figuring out if a car would be able to take me to my crew if I drop out at the next aid. There was no way I could finish if I could barely walk 20 minutes a mile. Two miles and an hour of feeling sorry for myself later, I decided I had to at least make it to the next crew point on my own. I started to jog. It was painful, but bearable as I made it to the mile 44 aid station.
3 more miles to my crew. Then it was like a Christmas miracle. I started hammering the downhill as somewhat of a farewell to the race, and things started working. The run into the Confluence aid station were the 3 best miles of the whole race and I was flying. Then it got terrible again. There was the slightest uphill coming into the Confluence aid station, and my foot was right back to the same state as mile 40. But now I was at 47 and far too close to the finish to call it a day now. I talked to my crew and we reassessed the goals for the day. Finish. Just get to the finish line.
Climbing into Cool, California was Brutal. 1,000 feet of gain from mile 47 to 48? YIKES. Five long, exposed, hot miles around cool, back down the steepest hill of my life and into the Confluence aid station where my crew was waiting. Since I had fallen out of contention for prize money (pacers are not allowed for those who are trying to win prize money), Madi offered to pace me for the last five miles , and I could not have been happier. I was absolutely dreading the last five miles into Auburn as they are all up, and I was only slowing at that point. Madi kept my spirits up and kept me company for a handful of 15 minute miles before she pulled off and let me run through the finish line. After 11 hours, 25 minutes, and 11 seconds, I had finished my first 100k.
A massive thanks to Madi and my parents for spending the entire day helping me get to the finish. I could not have done it without them. Also, big thanks to Hal Koerner and Rogue Valley Runners for helping me get into this race and being the one stop shop for all my running gear needs. And for when I have never needed better lenses more in my life, Revant Optics delivered with some killer polarized lenses for the race and saved my eyes from turning into raisins on this hot day. Now for some much needed rest and relaxation to heal up and get ready for the next big adventure, because yes, I am already anxious for the next one.