2012 UROC 100k Preview

Now in its second year, the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC 100k) is once again drawing a strong field comprised of competitors with a wide range of backgrounds. The doubling of the prize purse from $10,000 to $20,000 – 1st: $5,000; 2nd: $2,000; 3rd: $1,500; 4th: $1,000; 5th: $500 – has also meant a fresh infusion of talent. The only damper on that is a number of entrants who won’t be racing – a natural result of this being a late-season race. Here’s how the elite fields (like the Run Rabbit Run 100 two weekends ago, there are two separate fields, Correction: but unlike RRR100, all runners are eligible for the big prize money) stack up.

As you might have guessed, iRunFar.com will be livecasting this year’s UROC 100k, which kicks off at 7 am EDT on Saturday, September 29. You can follow all the action on our 2012 UROC 100k Live Coverage page and on iRunFar’s Twitter feed.

Thanks to Injinji for sponsoring iRunFar’s coverage of the race.

Men’s Field – 2012 UROC 100k

The talent at the front the UROC men’s field leaves me at a loss for where to start, so we’ll start with seniority.

Dave Mackey has probably won more USATF ultrarunning national championships than anyone else and, if he’s got a distance where he’s king, it’s at 100k. Just because he’s logged more years ultrarunning than a handful of his top competitors combined doesn’t mean he’s over the hill, if anything, he’s all the more dangerous from all of his experience.

It might be hard believe, another Dave, Dave James has the second longest ultrarunning history among those who have a chance to hit the podium. While James has excelled at faster 100 milers, he recently got an eduction in perseverance as he shivered and suffered through the back half of the Run Rabbit Run 100 just two weeks prior to UROC game day… though that’s gotta take something out of his legs.

The next three podium contenders all started running ultras in 2007 and have racked up impressive resumes since then. Nick Clark is a 100-mile beast – with many notable thirds, although he’s also the only person to ever run two Western States 100 under 16 hours on the modern courses. Third place finishes at Western States and the Leadville 100 this summer show he’s in top form. Here’s what Nick had to say a week ago about this year’s UROC:

The field at UROC looks to be road-background heavy, so I’m expecting a different kind of race than I’m used to. I’m 100% prepared to let a lead pack develop ahead of me if I feel the pace is unreasonable for me and the distance. My strengths versus the faster road guys should manifest themselves in the second half of the race, and if Steamboat is any example then hopefully there should be some significant gains to be made as people start to get tired. Despite the impending and guaranteed suffering, I’m looking forward to participating on a good mix of terrain against some talented runners that I’ve either never run against or who I haven’t raced over a longer distance.

Kicking off his ultra career just a month (Correction) in 2005 two year’s before fellow Brit Clark was Ian Sharman. Long known as a guy who could crank on flat and fast courses–indeed he has the North American-soil record for fastest trail 100 miler in 12:44–Sharman showed his growth as an ultrarunner by taking fifth at this year’s Western States in 15:54. Finally, there’s David Riddle who happened to set the JFK 50 record last year, was top American (5th) at the IAU 100k World Championships in April, and took a respectable 11th at Western States, his first 100 miler.

While a half decade or more of ultrarunning experience has great value, there’s something to be said for pure speed and talent and the next group has both in spades.

  • Sage Canaday is having one heck of a rookie season on the mountain/ultra/trail scene. He kicked things off with a second place at the Chuckanut 50k, won the Mount Washington Road Race, set the course record at the White River 50 mile, and was fourth at the Pikes Peak Ascent. Dang!
  • If you think Sage has had success at a ridiculous spread of events this year, let me reacquaint you with Max King. He kicked the year off with a 2:14 at the Olympic Trials Marathon in January. In March, he was leading the Chuckanut 50k (ahead of Canaday) before taking a wrong turn late in the race and finishing 17th. From then through mid-July, King won a slew of Oregon races from half marathon to 40 miles… and, with minimal specific prep advanced to the in Olympic Trials finals in the Steeplechase. In July, he took third at the Speedgoat 50k before placing third at the Pikes Peak Marathon in August. This weekend he won both the USATF trail 50k national championship at the Flagline 50k and his fifth-straight XTERRA national championship. While King has never raced 100k (nor has Canaday), he should be well prepared for the mix of road, trails, flats, and climbs.
  • Jordan McDougal has excelled at trail 50 milers, in particular The North Face Endurance Challenge 50s, as he’s won three of the five he’s entered, including both this year. In his only non-TNF EC ultra, McDougal won the USATF 50-mile trail championships at the Nueces 50 in March.

In the wildcard/darkhorse division:

  • Todd Braje – Braje might give Mackey a run for his money as having the highest percentage of wins among the ultras he’s started. He’s also run fast times from 50k (3:06 at Caumsett this year) to 50 miles (5:30 Jed Smith ’09) to 100 miles (15:29 Burning River ’10). However, we’ll have to see how he hangs on the climbs.
  • Iazaldir Feitoza – My Portuguese is rusty, but it looks like this Brazilian has been at the front of numerous 50k to 100k trail races in South America over the past two years.
  • Dominic Grossman – Frankly, it’s not been Dom’s year after a very strong 2011. We don’t know if something’s wrong or if he just had off days at his higher profile races this year – Leona Divide 50 (9th) and Hardrock 100 (14th). Dom, you’re a reader, so let us know what’s up!
  • Jim Johnson – Relatively new to the ultra scene, Johnson has already logged a 3:05 50k at Caumsett in 2011. From New Hampshire, he’s also successfully run some gnarly trail races out East.
  • Jason Lantz – Nothing on Jason’s resume is going to blow your socks off, but he’s logged some strong results in the Mid-Atlantic the past few years, most notably third place at this year’s Bull Run Run 50 mile (6:33) before winning the Massanutten 100.
  • Jason Louttit – Louttit is a wildcard in any race he enters due to his aggressive racing style. We’re trying to confirm he’s racing as he was entered, but did not start the Run Rabbit Run 100 a week ago.
  • Jorge Maravilla – Maravilla ran himself into Western States this spring before running an impressive eighth in his first (correction) second run at that distance. In late July, he didn’t fair so well with an 18th at the Speedgoat 50k. Whether eighth, 18th, or 80th – this guy will be in great spirits the whole way.
  • Shinji Nakadia – Nakadai won the 2010 IAU 100k World Championships in 6:43 and followed that up with a fifth place in 6:48 in 2011. Those are some serious wheels! We’d love to have some Japanese readers fill us in on Nakadai’s trail running experience, if he has any.
  • Troy Shellhamer – After finishing seventh at least year’s UROC 100k, Shellhamer blazed a 15:27 100 miler at Umstead in March before winning a couple trail races in the Appalachians more recently.

We try not to show favoritism here at iRunFar, but no one can blame us if we’re cheering for Scott Jaime every time we see him. He’ll be smiling his way somewhere into the top 10.

Most notable among those who won’t be starting – Geoff Roes and Michael Wardian, who raced each other for the win at last year’s UROC. Roes is out with yet-to-be-diagnosed health concerns while Wardian is recovering from a stress fracture. Adam Campbell will also be missing from the start line after IT band issues kept him from running early in the season.

Women’s Field – 2012 UROC 100k

After a few notable withdrawals – Stephanie Howe, Tina Lewis, and Joelle Vaught – women who are off the national ultrarunning radar are in position to bring home cash, which goes five deep.

Without a doubt, the pre-race favorite is Ellie Greenwood. She’s undefeated in ultras on this continent so far this year and that’s not with a light schedule. Her wins include the Chuckanut 50k, American River 50 mile, Western States 100 (course record), White River 50 mile, and the Arc’teryx Squamish 50 mile.

Unless something goes wrong with Ellie, it looks like Liza Howard will be leading the charge for second. Howard’s run fewer races this year with a second at the Bandera 100k and 14th at Western States in the first half of the year. Last month, she took second at the Leadville 100.

Ragan Petrie won last year’s UROC 100k and is back to defend her title. Since her big win, Petrie has taken fifth at two national level races – JFK 50 and Miwok 100. More locally, she placed second at the Capon Valley 50k in May and won the Highlands Sky 40 mile in June.

As far as we can tell, there are only four other women entered in the 7 am elite start. Here they are:

  • Verity Breen – Coming east from California, Breen has run a single ultra, placing third at the Skirt N Dirt 50k in August.
  • Krystle Martinez – Martinez was fifth at last year’s UROC and has won two 100k’s in Florida since then.
  • Jacqueline Palmer – Palmer won the 50k version of UROC last year. Since then, she’s run ninth at JFK and fifth at the Bandera 100k.
  • Anne Spillane – Spillane was 12th woman at last year’s JFK 50. Last December, she won the Seashore Nature Trail 50k in a speedy 3:55.

Call for Comments

  • How do you see the front of the men’s and women’s races shaping up?
  • Anyone we missed who should contend?
  • Know if someone we mentioned isn’t racing? Let us know!
Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com. Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

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View Comments (67)

  • Just a head's up in the Roes/Wardian paragraph you spelled out least when I'm thinking you meant last. Pumped for the coverage this weekend!

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    • Spike, corrected and thanks!

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  • I think sage has this one in the bag

    David Riddle to win if Sage has a bad day

    and Sharman for 3rd

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    • ps is this the farthest Max has ever raced?

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      • Got to think Max will challange Sage for first.

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  • As far as I know, Japanese Nakadai has no result on trail ultra race even in Japan. I found his record on Fuji Mountain Race / half(15k) in 2010 and Lafuma Ohme Takamizu 30k, but not significant.

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  • Is irunfar also covering the cavalls del vent?

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    • That event has a very good field as well. Probably a better field then the UROC. It has Dakota, Killian, Anton to name a few.

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      • Yes, i know. Was just wondering whether irf has someone there to report.

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    • We'll have a preview, but we won't be there in person. Though... we may have some updates. :-)

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  • Jordan Mcdougal knows how to run.... fast. If he's training how he should be then he's just as fast as max and sage on flat stuff and better at longer races.

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    • There's only one huge climb (close to 3000') and one more over 1000 ft, but there's very little "flat" in this race, unless you consider the 3-6% grade on much of the parkway section to be flat. It'd definitely very runnable, but it's nothing like an Umstead or Rocky Raccoon or certainly not any typical road marathon.

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  • What about Eric Grossman.. isn't he still running it? He's been dominating the Virginia trails for years. :)

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    • I heard from a friend who runs with Eric that he will not be running UROC. I don't recall the reason.

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    • Didn't see him on the 7 am start list. Now need to check the full list, as I incorrectly thought only the 7 am starters were eligible for prize money. Very odd start time distinction.

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  • McDougal!

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  • For those who ran last year, there are a few course changes this year. Notably, the run down Wintergreen Drive and up route 664 (and return at the end) are out, replaced by a new trail connecting Wintergreen to Reed's Gap. Be careful on this new trail, especially if you're returning in the dark, as the footing isn't great in some places, but it's an improved course over those roads, IMO. The race now starts with about a mile+ lollipop road loop, and there's also a big drop to the valley and back up on a jeep trail early in the race, and a bit more road within Wintergreen. Overall I'd guess maybe 3 more miles of trails (less roads) than last year. From 6K to 13K is close to a 3000 ft net climb.

    I don't think I want to get into the shoe advice again this year! There are some technical sections mixed in throughout the race with road sections. Probably best to find one shoe that can handle long road sections but won't get eaten up by the few fairly rugged trails.

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  • I witnessed McDougals win at Nueces, he came out of nowhere! Guy is a great tactician (Foote style)! However, King has had a phenomenol year...it will be hard to discount any of these guys performances. Will be an exciting race!

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  • I ran with him for the first 20 of bear mtn and he looked like he wasn't trying at all. Handfulls of straight table salt. He knows what he needs to do to win.

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  • My sleeper pick for one of the top-5 money spots is Frank Gonzalez. He took ownership of two impressive records here in WV this past summer. He runs hungry and hard -- all the time.

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    • Frank the Tank! Good call!

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    • Amen on the Tank.

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    • The Tank is running strong and WILL BE a definite force to reckon' with!

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  • Hahaha, oh man, I knew Hardrock would have this initial effect, but my year started well, until I tore my calf in February, then lost some speed spending a lot of time practicing hiking for Hardrock resulting in a sluggish Leona Divide. I had a tough time with the altitude at Hardrock (11th place) and have started to get back to running a bit quicker in the 2nd half of summer with a 2nd place finish at Mt. Dissapointment 50k. I have definitely noticed a bit higher VO2 max from the Hardrock experience, and much stronger climbing legs. My standard training runs on the AC course have all been faster and felt easier than ever, so UROC should be a good test for the long term experiment of "The Hardrock Effect".

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    • Awesome, I knew we could get info straight from the unicorn's mouth. :-) Looking forward to seeing you out in Virginia.

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    • still planning on MMTR? hope you are all healed up and do well @ UROC!

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  • Regardless of who wins, for me the real interest is now Max and Sage (and Jordan?) do at 100k. I think any transition-to-ultra doubts have been put to rest by Sage's staggering White River 50 CR. The upside of the cash is that it incentives 50k/mountain/(steeple chase?!) studs to get outside their comfort zone a little. They may crack (especially after so much racing) but King's always done that. It'll be very interesting.

    On the women's side: for some reason I thought Sabrina Moran was running. If she is, she may not challenge Ellie for the win, but 147+ for 24 + a couple of 100 wins makes her legit for the top 5. I could be wrong about her running though...

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    • I've heard from another friend who knows Sabrina (now Sabrina Little) that she is not running. I think it just didn't work for her schedule. She would definitely challenge!

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      • Thanks for the update!

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  • I think Dave Mackey will do to UROC what Karl did to RRR. Experience takes the cake! (and the cash)

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  • Fast race, with Dave Mackey, Ian Sharman and David Riddle on the podium.

    Experience of Dave vs. speed of Ian and David.

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  • Agree with the Mackey- Sharman finish. Would love to see my guy Shellhamer improve on last year's run.

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  • Quite a loaded men's field! My pick is Sage Canaday for the win. The guy flat out performs when serious cash is on the line and he seems to be figuring out these ultras as he bumps up in distance each time

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  • Bryon, it certainly looks like a great field and the race could end up going to the wire with any number of combinations of the guys you mentioned fighting it out. The road/trail dynamic will make it interesting as it did last year, but with much deeper competition.

    One minor correction - I started running (and ultrarunning) in 2005 (not 2007) with London to Brighton 54-miler as my first in the final year ever of that classic race.

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    • Oops... didn't realize you hit one before your first Comrades. That was in 2007, right?

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      • I heard about Comrades when running with a Saffer in a UK ultra in 2006. But My first Comrades was 2007, yes - he had several hours to sell me on the idea :)

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  • Thanks for the update, Bob. I'll definitely be coming back in the dark on that new trail. Glad the Wintergreen Dr/664 road section is out. For that 6k-13k section, was that part of the course last year? I don't remember it if so. I thought the only major hills near the start were Wg Dr. > Reeds Gap AS.

    Hope to see you on Friday.

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    • Nathan, the big climb is the jeep trail that was going to be part of the 50K race (but not the 100K) last year until they rerouted it. So after you cut across the ski run and go down old logging trail, instead of turning up hill you go another 2-3 miles downhill, and then return and keep going up. See you Friday or Sat morning.

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