The women’s race of the 2013 Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k was originally set to be a field of 20-plus super-speedy women. But, as seems to be the case with a late-season race, not everyone can turn up healthy, logistically able, and otherwise happy to race. As it currently stands, 11 ladies will work for a top-five, in-the-money finish, still the most competitive women’s field UROC’s seen in its young life.
In addition to a 10 grand cash purse doled out for finishing places, an early-race Queen of the Mountain prime is being offered as is a mid-race, lady-leader prime, both of which are worth
$500 [Update 9/24: Yesterday, UROC announced the primes were reduced to $100.] and might incite some interesting racing strategies far before the finish line. Finally, since this is the last race in the Skyrunner Ultra Series, three ladies will be working toward bettering and keeping their places in the rankings.
There’s no other way to play it but to call Emelie Forsberg (pre-race interview) this weekend’s clear favorite. I mean, after less than two years of ultrarunning, she’s amassed more high-level victory feathers in her cap than most elite women will in a career. She has so many obvious strengths that it’s perhaps more sensible to list her couple weaknesses for this weekend. First, this is her first go at 100k. While she’s run the 50-mile distance a number of times, the add-on of a dozen more miles could be an additional challenge. Some of her 50-mile outings have lasted, due to terrain, about as long as UROC probably will, so she’s got the familiarity of time-on-feet to help her. Also, there’s a good bit of road running to be done on this course, and we all know that Emelie’s heart lies most deeply in technical terrain. Her most recent race on US soil, a win at last December’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile (post-race interview), which is a pretty darn runnable course, went over just fine, though. Emelie’s in second place to Francesca Canepa in the Skyrunner Ultra Series, so my guess is she’s looking to move up a spot for a series win.
Stephanie Howe is the only lady who, on paper, looks like a challenger to Emelie Forsberg. The two have raced each other once at the 2012 TNF EC 50 Mile, where Stephanie finished second (post-race interview) and just a little more than two minutes behind Emelie. Stephanie’s last race, August’s Sierre-Zinal in Switzerland, didn’t go according to plan; she finished eighth, a little dazed and confused by the Euro racing scene, and far off her potential. But her race before that, the Speedgoat 50k in Utah in July went perfectly; she won using a late-race surge (post-race interview), proving that she’s not only got speed but she’s got racing smarts to go along with ability. Stephanie’s also sitting in seventh place in the Skyrunner Ultra Series with none of the current third through sixth-place women racing. As long as she finishes in the top-15 women, she’ll score enough points to boost her onto the podium. [Update 9/26: After a scare with a foot injury, Stephanie Howe has decided to fly to Colorado after all. She’ll determine whether or not she’ll run UROC on race morning.]
Two weekends ago, Kerrie Bruxvoort (pre-race interview) smoked the Run Rabbit Run 50 Mile, winning, placing fourth overall, and running almost 30 minutes faster than her 2012 time. If this is any indicator, Kerrie is ready to rumble this Saturday. Kerrie’s just plain good at racing in the high-altitude, Rocky Mountain-style terrain that the UROC course offers up. Also this summer, she won the 15-mile Continental Divide Trail Run and she was second at the Breck Crest Marathon. Kerrie’s just got a couple hitches in her summer of 2013 giddy-up, a finish but far off her potential at the Western States 100 and a drop at the Speedgoat 50k due to lingering physical issues from States. A healthy Kerrie should be in the top five.
Known for her shorter-distance, mountain-running speed, Ashley Arnold amazed herself (and everyone else) with a dominating win at the 2013 Leadville 100 in mid-August (post-race interview). One-hundred-mile races take a long time to recover from, especially if they take place above 9,000 feet altitude. I can’t help but wonder if she’s physically ready for another beating. Also this summer, she’s won the Desert R.A.T.S., a 148-mile stage race that ends near Moab, Utah, as well as the White River 50. Last year, she won the Ultramaraton de los Andes and placed fourth at the Way Too Cool 50k. [Update 9/25: Ashley Arnold will not be running UROC this year.]
Michele Yates just killed the women’s field at the Run Rabbit Run 100 (post-race interview) two weeks before UROC. She’s a stellar runner with stellar creds, including victory at the 2012 Nueces 50 Mile (6:53), fourth at the 2012 Pikes Peak Marathon (about 14 minutes behind winner Emelie Forsberg), third at the 2012 Moab Trail Marathon (the 2012 USATF Trail Marathon Championships, about seven minutes ahead of Stephanie Howe), an overall win (men and women included) at the 2013 Indiana Trail 100, and fifth at the 2013 Pikes Peak Marathon before moving on to shine at the RRR100. But, I mean, 100 miles on Steamboat Springs, Colorado-grade terrain, can anyone recover enough from that to compete hard just two weeks later?
Down and out with a seriously injured foot a couple years ago and a long road back to fitness after surgery and rehab, mountain runner Anita Ortiz is back. She might be best known among our trail ultrarunning tribe as the 2009 winner (and ninth place overall) of the Western States 100. But Anita has had a slew of outstanding results at shorter, faster, more mountain-y terrain. She just finished sixth at the stacked GoldenLeaf Half Marathon this past Saturday. The weekend before that, she won the Vail Victory Trail Marathon. Earlier this summer, she took second at the Aspen Backcountry Marathon. She also raced the Speedgoat 50k in July, taking ninth, which I think is a fair bit off her potential. One possible issue could be the fact that we don’t think Anita has raced 100k since before her injury. As a bonus, Anita lives not too far from the race’s finish line, so she undoubtedly knows most of the course’s twists, turns, and pavement. I think it should also be mentioned that she’s bred some seemingly fantastic athletic genes into her kids; her daughter, Mandy Ortiz, just won the Junior World Mountain Running Championship in Poland! [Update 9/28: Anita Ortiz didn’t start UROC this year. She’s running the 50k here instead.]
May we all bless Francesca Canepa. Why? She just won the Tor des Géants for the second year in a row. TdG is a 330-kilometer race over quintessential Alpine terrain, with unceasing climbing, descending, and technicality. She finished the race in 88.5 hours on September 11! She’s clearly making the long journey to America so soon after her TdG win for one reason only: to try and hold onto her top spot in the Skyrunner Ultra Series. She’s so far competed in three series races, winning Ronda dels Cims, taking third at Ice Trail Tarantaise (one hour, 20 minutes behind winner Emelie Forsberg), and 10th (more than 45 minutes behind winner Stephanie Howe and just behind ninth place Anita Ortiz). Francesca leads Emelie Forsberg in the series by only a moderate margin, so it’s going to come down to race day for who pulls off the series win.
Notes on the Skyrunner Ultra Series
Mentioned above, the women’s Skyrunner Ultra Series podium and prize money ($3,000, $1,500, and $750 for first through third) is still up for grabs. Only three high-ranking women from the series are racing, Francesca Canepa (1st, 236 points), Emelie Forsberg (2nd, 200 pts), and Stephanie Howe (7th, 100 pts). This weekend, points will be awarded for the win through 15th place at 100, 88, 78, 72, 68, 66, 64, 62, 60, 58, 56, 54, 52, 50, and 48 points. Also, a 20% point bonus, as per rules, will be added onto all UROC scores as it’s the final race in the series. [Update 9/24: Also, runners’ best three races of the series will be used in scoring.]
Basically, if Stephanie can score points, that is, finish in the top-15 women, she’ll launch herself onto the series podium. The only way she can finish any higher than third, though, is on the extremely remote chance that Emelie DNSes, DNFs, or finishes outside the top-15 women.
[Update 9/24: We updated this section to reflect that the Skyrunning Ultra Series is scored as the best three races a runner runs in the series. It was previously written indicating that all points a runner scores by participating in the series will go toward their final total. This was incorrect and sorry for our error!] Let’s throw a couple scenarios out there just to show how dynamic the top-two slots are. Francesca has, from three races, scores of 100, 78, and 58; she’s clearly looking to better that 58-points finish with UROC. And Emelie has two 100-points finishes. If Emelie wins UROC, she wins the series, hands down. If Emelie, say, finishes fourth place at UROC, her series score will be 272. In that circumstance, Francesca would have to win UROC in order to exceed Emelie’s series points score. In short, a tired-from-Tor-des-Géants Francesca will have to work dang hard to maintain her top podium spot against the almost-unbeatable Emelie in the Skyrunning Ultra Series.
Other Fast Ladies
We think Helen Cospolich is due for a good race. She just had to drop from the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc less than a month ago due to sickness, but she’s otherwise very fit. Her best results in the last year include sixth at the 2013 Moab Red Hot 55k, which was hyper-competitive (about 20 minutes behind third place Kerrie Bruxvoort), third at the shortened-due-to-fire-danger Miwok 60k, and second at the Silver Rush 50 Mile. The UROC course is basically Helen’s backyard, so she definitely has a home-field advantage.
She’s been talking about UROC since her interview with us after her breakout win at the competitive Cayuga Trails 50 in June, so if there’s any woman out there who wants to finish well in this race, it’s Kristina Folcik-Welts. Since then, she’s also won the Hampshire 100k, and she was third at the Leona Divide 50 Mile earlier this year. Looking at her results, a clear shift happened during the spring of 2012 when she went from finishing her races to winning almost all of them. But UROC will be the most competitive field she’s seen, so it will be fascinating to see how her race unfolds.
We know Krystle Martinez mostly because she’s finished fifth and in the money at both previous UROC editions, when the race was held in Virginia. In both races, she’s finished about four hours back of the winner, though. This year, in addition to mountainous terrain to deal with, Florida-based Krystle has to handle high altitude. Since her fifth at UROC last year, it seems her best result has been a win at the Green Swamp 50 Mile.
Pretty much nothing is known about elite entrant Esther Murithi. She’s from Kenya, has been identified previously in the media as a middle-distance specialist, and has done some road racing in France. Wow, what will Saturday bring for Esther? [Update 9/28: Esther Murithi did not start the race.]
Notable Entrant Absences
For a variety of reasons, the following athletes or their sponsors have confirmed that they aren’t racing UROC.
- Darcy Africa
- Jennifer Benna
- Tracy Hoeg
- Tina Lewis
- Fernanda Maciel
- Petra McDowell
- Devon Yanko
- Ellie Greenwood (Though she’s not listed on the UROC elite runner list, it’s been reported in other media that she’s racing. She is not.)
Call for Comments
- Who do you think will rise above the rest of the women this weekend?
- Who will have a break-out race?
- While we’ve covered all the elite women who have been previously identified as racing, we don’t yet have an official entrants list. Is there anyone else you know is racing who could finish inside the women’s top 10?
- Finally, what do you additionally know about these women’s previous athletic performances as well as their UROC preparations? As in, who’s fit and healthy? And, who’s not?