UROC Men’s Preview with Roes, Mackey, Sharman, Wardian & James

Ultra Race of ChampionsThis Saturday marks the inaugural running of the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k at the Wintergreen Resort outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. As the name would suggest, the race organizers aimed and succeeded at bringing together a solid group of America’s top ultrarunners even in the race’s first year, which I’ll be covering live on Twitter (follow us).

Let’s start with the big five for this weekend: (click on runner to jump to interview) Geoff Roes (pre-race video interview), Dave Mackey, Ian Sharman (pre-race video interview), Mike Wardian, and Dave James.  There are more than a few big ultra wins and blazing times from that crowd over the past couple years. (Here’s our UROC women’s preview)

Behind those guys, a slew of other guys could challenge for the top spots including:

  • Eric Grossman – He won the Miwok 100k in 2009, but has stayed closer to home this year. That doesn’t mean he’s taken a step back as he ran a solid personal best at the Promised Land 50k in April and set a course record at the Iron Mountain 50 mile a few weeks ago. He’s primed to race the East’s mountains.
  • Scott Gall (pre-race video interview) – One of two huge wildcards in the field. He’s a Olympics trials marathon qualifier and a former fifth place finisher at the World Mountain Running Championships. However, he’s only run two ultras, both of which were 50ks. He did run a 3:18 trail 50k at Ice Age this May.
  • Michael Owen – Ran an impressive 9th at the TNF EC Championships in San Fransisco last December and, at 22 years old, just ran a 16:26 at his 100 mile debut at Burning River.
  • Matt Flaherty – A 2:26 marathoner and a 5:59 trail ultra guy should make him the third big wildcard, but he just ran that course record 5:59 at the Wisconsin TNF EC race this past weekend. He admits that could be a bit close to UROC. TNF EC was only his second 50 mile or longer race.
  • Jason Bryant – This year Bryant’s blown away our preconceptions of him as a technical trail specialist with third places finishes at the USATF championship Bandera 100k and Nueces 50 mile. Still, few run rocky Appalachian trails better than he does.
  • Chris Reed – He’s long been a steady runner out east, but has improved of late with a second at last year’s Mountain Masochist 50 mile and a speedy 18:12 at Western States this summer. A good choice for the second half of the top 10.
  • Jake Reed – A 23 year old with only four 50ks under his belt, but with three wins and a third.
  • Jon Allen – A 2:35 marathoner with half a dozen small ultra wins. Aside from a fourth at The Bear 100 last year, it’s hard to stack him up against other top ultrarunners.

Other top men mentioned on the UROC website: Jordan Whitlock, Jeremy Pade, Troy Shellhamer, Todd Falker, Bran Hinton, Matt Wilson, Michael Oliva, and Eric Buckley. The youngster Whitlock could be the dark horse out of that group.

A few entrants won’t be racing, including Karl Metlzer, Duncan Callahan, and Andy Jones-Wilkins. While we wish AJW wasn’t battling plantar fasciitis, we’re psyched that he’ll be helping out with iRunFar’s coverage of the race. We’ve yet to receive confirm, but Andy Henshaw doesn’t have UROC on his blog’s racing calendar.

Here are a few links to additional commentary before we get into our interviews:

Geoff Roes

Geoff Roes smilingiRunFar: After UTMB you said that you needed to take a break and, impliedly, that you wouldn’t be racing UROC. Now, less than three weeks later you’re back in the game. Why the change of heart

Geoff Roes: I took 10 days completely off after UTMB. When I started to do some light runs again I felt good and decided to stick to my commitment to run UROC. I’ve been feeling better each day for almost 10 days now so I’ve built a little bit of confidence back up, but really I’m just running to take a nice trip out East, see some friends and family, and have a good time. I like racing and I think this is going to be a fun one. I’ll still be taking some nice rest after this one.

iRF: What have you done the past three weeks to “reset” your body and mind? Do you think these steps would help others collect themselves after possibly overdoing it running-wise?

Roes: For me resetting is all about having no plan of what things will look like after a period of time away from running. I just knew I needed some time away after UTMB. I really didn’t think that would lead to still running UROC, but when I came back to running that was were my cleared mind and body took me. The key is to just come back totally fresh in your mind and just let that take you where it will.

iRF: Compared to many of the ultras you compete in, the UROC field is heavier with the flat and fast crowd as compared to more mountain trail oriented runners. How do you think that will influence the race? How do you feel your mixed skill set of mountains and road (5:49 at AR 50 last year) matches up against the field and the course?

Roes: Honestly, I haven’t even thought about any of this. It’s going to be a solid field for sure and I look forward to just getting out there on race day and see what I have and how it all plays out.

Dave Mackey

Dave MackeyiRunFar: You’ve been running great this year with a USATF championship at 100k, wins at American River 50 and Miwok 100k, and a course record at the Waldo 100k. What do you think your best race of the year has been and why?

Dave Mackey: Miwok was by far the toughest race of the year. I had never raced a long ultra like that where there was a road marathon style pack stuck together for such a long duration of the race, with the same surges and tactics which play into road racing. I had won Miwok a couple times before and, historically, I’d come into the Randall turnaround with nobody nearby. This year there were six of us and I was on the edge the whole time. Going into mile 60 into Tennessee Valley, Mike Wolfe and Hal were running super hard and I knew it would take an extra effort to get that win. Lucky I had it in me. I found it one of the most inspiring trail ultras I have ever run, as most of the guys were seemingly on the edge too and running one of their best races at the same time. Even a few years ago, Mike’s and Hal’s times would easily be performance of the year. It’s fantastic to see an evolution of the sport, and in many other aspects in addition to performance.

iRF: You were unable to run over at The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc races because your school semester restarted. How did your training go over the summer before heading back to class? Since school started?

Mackey: Our program runs all spring, summer and now so I haven’t had time to focus training in the summer. I took the last fall and winter off from school so I did get in some focused training at that time. But I have actually had an even season of training and racing all year, with not too many 100 mile weeks. In May I was recovering from Miwok and American River and trying to taper for Western States 100 at the same time, but probably ended up training too much anyway in the form of 75 mile weeks. After Western States until now I haven’t run over 3 hours besides Waldo 100k, with a focus on quality hill climbing in July and some leg turnover. This general formula works well and has hugely contributed to my consistency in the long term. Since Waldo my longest run has been 2.5 hours, and a few quality runs as well. I have needed to take extra days off due to school, which I am not very worried about as the 5 weeks between Waldo and UROC are all recovery anyways; just gotta try to stay peppy and not gain too much weight! On the latter point I think I have gained a couple pounds, which is nice. I have had a bit of bronchitis the past week, so I hope that clears by Saturday.

iRF: You’ve literally been unbeatable at 50 miles and 100k this year. Who do you think will be your biggest challengers at UROC and why? How have you prepared for the significant amount of paved road running?

Mackey: Wow. I actually don’t like to think about the competition at UROC as it may give me nightmares this week! Really any guy on the list can win this. This race is the most stacked non-100 non-international in the US as far as I know. Man, I don’t like this question as I know there are a bunch of guys I will be missing. Geoff emailed me and said he is racing, which I think is way cool as he has had a tough year in some races, but raced well in others, and I hope this time he busts out a solid performance. But, of course, I want a better one than him at the same time. Scott Gall is a wild card; under 50 miles he could possibly be the fastest out there. Mike Wardian is … wel,l he is Mike Wardian! He just podiumed at the World 100k so I can’t see him being recovered from that. Dave James goes out fast and if he can keep his pace he will be right up there. Ian Sharman has the greatest potential of anyone out there, but he may race hard ultras too often to peak at the right times. Andy Henshaw just raced worlds, too, and podiumed, so otherwise I’d see him in the action. On paper ,Michael Owen and Jordan Whitlock look fast, too.

As far as pavement, I haven’t been hitting it too hard the past month or two, but I am not worried in the least. My Hoka Bondi B will prevent me from getting too trashed. Those shoes have been a big part of my success this season.

Ian Sharman

Ian SharmaniRunFar: You’ve already raced quite a bit this year with at least 540 miles of racing from eight ultras alone. How are your legs feeling at this point in the year?

Ian Sharman: That question got me thinking and I looked up how much I have raced this year and the total is around 900 miles, which seems like a lot to me and definitely took a toll around Spring that I still don’t think I’ve recovered from. Races are just too much fun and I’ve found it very difficult to say no to ones I know will be excellent (and there’s a lot of them). I’m more worried about a nasty head cold that just hit me 10 days before the race, but the enforced lack of running may help. Like I said to you before UTMB, over-tapering is better than over-training.

iRF: You ran the sixth fastest time in Waldo 100k history last month, but fellow UROC competitor Dave Mackey bested you by 36 minutes. Do you think Waldo was indicative of your fitness? Do you think the extra road sections at UROC can help you reel in Mackey?

Sharman: Dave is having a great year and is a difficult man to beat over 100k of trails at any time, but I was disappointed to be nowhere near him at Waldo – he just ran every mile 30 seconds quicker than me and I was never in touch, feeling off my game all day. The road sections at UROC should make it faster for everyone and will mix things up a bit, but Dave isn’t exactly slow on roads either. Neither’s Mike Wardian and he’ll be the one who benefits most from the roads.

iRF: You’ve obviously got road speed, but you also suggest that you’re a solid technical descender. How do you think the highly varied terrain of UROC will suit you?

Sharman: All I’ve seen is the course profile and have no idea how technical the course gets but I do love steep descents, especially with big rocks to jump around on, so some of that would be great. After all, trail running in the UK often means fell running which involves no path to follow on descents, just hell-for-leather bounding downhill. And I like a course with variety since it gives the legs a break from just using the same muscles in the same way for the entire distance.

Michael Wardian

Michael Wardian MdS 2009iRunFar: To start, you just won individual silver and team gold while running a PR at the 100k World Championships. What are your thoughts on that race?

Michael Wardian: I am so so excited with our team race at the 100K Worlds, everyone laid it down and let it hang out and really went for it and that was impressive and I was just glad to be in the mix.  I don’t like to lose, so coming in second while my best finish ever and a PR was not the Goal, so I need to work harder to get to the top of the podium and I will for next year in Italy.

iRF: You’ve had a great season on the roads with a USATF 50k championship, your best effort at the Comrades Marathon (11th overall), a solid Badwater debut (3rd), and, now, the 100k World Championships. Are you excited for the significant amount of road at UROC?

Wardian: Thank you about my season. It has been incredible. I have been working really hard and doing lots to try and improve, so it is nice to see some good results. Comrades was big deal as think it was the second best time ever from a male USA runner behind Alberto Salazar and I know I can improve next year. Badwater was amazing. Super glad I was able to podium at Badwater and run longer and farther than I have before.  I don’t know if you caught it but I also finished pretty high (believe 16th) at the super competitive Two Oceans Marathon, and would like another crack at that course.

In addition to the above also winning a bunch of marathons (National Marathon, Delaware Marathon, San Francisco Marathon, Grant Pierce Indoor Marathon, Lower Potomac Marathon-as Spiderman setting a Guinness World Record) and getting my Olympic Trials Qualifier and a new PR by running 2:17:49 at the Grandma’s Marathon, just a few weeks after Comrades and The North Face Endurance Challenge, DC.  I also won the first ever The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K & 1/2 marathon road races in Kansas City, that was a great tough race and lots of fun too. In addition, I have set personal best at 10 Miles, 10K, so seems like things are going really well and jazzed to keep improving and keep mixing it up with the best of the best.

As far as if I am excited about “road running” at UROC, I don’t really care if it is road or trails. I will run any surface/terrain, anywhere, anytime. If there are people racing and I can make it, then I would like to be there.  I don’t consider myself a “road guy,” just a runner and whatever you put in front of me I will accept the challenge and do my best and mix it up.

iRF: On the flip side, how have you incorporated trails into your summer training?

Wardian: I always run trails, so not really doing anything different. As mentioned, I run everything and I love road, bike path, dirt, gravel, snow, wet surfaces, sand, treadmills, I don’t care, as long as I can run it, I will.

Dave James

Dave JamesiRunFar: You had a great early season placing second at two USATF championships behind Dave Mackey at the Bandera 100k and Jason Schlarb at the Nueces 50 mile. You also won The Coast Challenge as well as the Coldwater Rumble and American Canyon 50ks. You’ve had some ups and downs since then. What have you been up to?

Dave James: When I got back from Costa Rica, I started working tons of OT as an EMT out here in Phoenix at my new job. I was on 3 month new hire probation and the extra money was nice. I was on nights working about 60 hours a week in 12 hours shifts. My running and health suffered. There were some awesome life moment’s too: I got married! We got a puppy! They both run.

The “slump” started when I decided not to go race Way Too Cool 50K. I had just gotten beat and I also took an OT shift instead of racing the road 100K championships and Zane Grey. When I got selected for the US Team for the IAU World Trail Championships in Ireland, I tried to up my training but the cold rain and hills in Ireland took their toll on me and although I helped the USA take 6th as a team, my 50th place finish was a huge personal disappointment.

The experience was amazing though and motivated me to run the USATF 100 Mile National Championships in Ohio at the end of July. I started Western States with no real intent of finishing just 2 weeks before Ireland, but was shocked at how sluggish and slow I felt after just a slow 50K. The longest run I had done before that 50K on the States course was in April at Leona Divide when I DNFed around the same distance when James and Jorge and Josh dropped me like the old married working man I felt like that day.

iRF: You won the USATF Championships at Burning River. Can you tell us a little more about that?

James: I won, but I had a horrible race. I couldn’t pull away until about mile 33 due to early stomach issues and multiple bathroom breaks. I was still under Todd’s CR pace and building a solid lead but about halfway through I was tired and drained and knew it would be a long day. There was a young kid that was chasing me and he was close, about a mile back through 80 miles. Eric Grossman was also running strong but I think I got into his head at a little out and back section when he was coming down a hill with one of the volunteers marking the course and I was on my way back out. I pulled the same move I used at Javelina in 2009, turned on the smile and cheered him on and told him he looked good as I kicked it up a gear. In the end, I finished just under 16 hours at Burning River, about an hour slower than I would have liked but I guess with only deciding about 2 weeks before the race to go for it, I was right where I was suppose to be that day.

iRF: What are your thoughts heading into UROC?

James: For me to be racing at my potential I need the rest of my life to be “right” first. When I ran that 13:06 100 miler and made it another 20 miles, when I set the CR at Javelina, when I ran the streak of USATF Championship seconds: the 5:52 50 2nd place finish to Todd, and the two you mentioned everything outside of running was great! Today, I am working a job that tires me out, where I am not appreciated, and have to interact with people on their worst day. Still,  while Dave Mackey has to be the UROC favorite you know I won’t be shy out there. ;)

Call for Comments

How do you think the men’s race will play out at UROC? Who’s the man to beat? Who are the long shots that will surprise us?

There are 109 comments

  1. Schlarb

    What an awesome race with awesome runners! Furthermore, spectacular pre-race coverage and interviews Bryon. Your coverage of all the big races this summer has made my season abroad much more entertaining. Thanks.

    Good luck everyone, can't wait to track the race.

  2. olga

    Man, this dudes are unreal. To me, it's a toss-off between Mackey (Da Man at the distance, and all respect for all older generation with jobs and kids), Roes (may he lit the fire back up again) and Wardian (the man is an animal, defies all odds of running/tapering/recovering laws of Universe).

  3. AJW

    Looking forward to seeing you out here for the race. I wish I was running but it'll be really fun to "cover" the race with you! I am thinking of all my interview questions already:)


    1. DJ

      He has to be the favorite, but I have heard the course has some road sections? I just figured with Trail Runner involved it would be trails? Wardian will love this course!

  4. Coach Weber

    Call me old school but every ultramarathon is a 'race of champions' … it's great that some folks in the sport run faster than others (and it's not by 'magic' … they earn that speed and endurance through tough, dedicated training … and the talent to do so .. and I respect that and enjoy watching it in action … and if those speedsters can feed their family with some prize money it's well-deserved), but let's not lose sight that our sport is made special by ordinary people doing extraordinary things … for free and without fanfare and for the simple enjoyment of trotting along through the great outdoors.

    1. Andy

      Agree wholeheartedly. I'm running UROC in spite of it's name (why couldn't they have called it "Blue Ridge 100k?") for the personal challenge and "enjoyment of trotting along throught the great outdoors." The name and sponsorship may have drawn big-time competition to a pre-existing series of races, but the mission for most of us will be the same regardless — enjoy, endure, and celebrate. I guess it will be cool to see the elites start 15 min ahead, pass them on their return (out-and-back course), and maybe even seee them at the finish after they've had a chance to eat, shower, sleep, and return to greet us regular "champions."

  5. Bob C

    I thought Roes wasn't running? Anyway, looking forward to having you all on my mountain this weekend. My goal is to spot the elites an hour, then run the 50K and try to finish in time to see the 100K winner come in.

    Here's an insider tip on the course. Watch out for a spongy few steps in the new part of the Laurel Ridge Loop trail you'll hit around mile 7, when you get on the other side of the mountain inn. We just re-routed part of the trail away from where heavy rains had eroded this creekside trail, and while it's in great shape, the very first part is mushy and I hope nobody has a problem with the surface change. Also, watch out for the slick greenstone rock if the rains don't clear out in time this week. Looks like they should, though. The trails are in good shape at Wintergreen.

  6. swampy

    Mike Wardian has been flying under the radar for a few years now. I am looking for him and Geoff Roes to battle it out. Seriously considering making the drive up to C-ville to soak in the vibe.

  7. Brad Williams


    I let it pass without thinking twice when I didn't see my name under the main contenders but was a bit hurt that I didn't get a wild card bid. I mean you did show some love for my fellow Iowan Scott Gall after all… I'm kidding of course but thanks for the interviews. It's getting me even more excited for the race.

    Safe travels,


  8. Amy

    Could someone explain to me the point of an "elite start" in a race with maybe 20 "elites". I'm using the term "elite" very liberally as there are likely less than a handful. With elites runing off the front anyhow, this doesn't make sense to me and gives the event an elitist feel, which I find pretty unappealing.

    1. Bryon Powell

      I'll check and see what I can find out about this. Seems that TNF EC, WS, etc get away without an elite start. The only special treatment I've seen at the start of an ultra was an elite corral at UTMB, which makes sense given 2,300 starting on the roads in downtown Chamonix.

    2. Bryon Powell

      Russell Gill explains the elite start as such, "It's very simple. We built this as the championship for the sport of ultra distance running. If you compete in other high profile running events, the elite field starts before and separately from the rest of the field. If you want to compete for the ultrarunning championship, and work hard to be at that level, you should be given every opportunity to succeed."

      1. Amy

        Huh? We're talking about a couple hundred runners. What is a mass start going to do to impede one's opportunity to succeed? Stick the "elites" in front. Give the newbies a chance to have a break-out first or second race and still be part of the competition. There is no ultra I know of with an elite start; so UROC thinks it's higher profile than any other ultra? This isn't the NYC marathon where a wave start actually makes sense.

      2. Scott

        This is asking for trouble. Even in road races (Chicago), they have begun doing away with a separate elite start due to so many "dark horses" having breakthrough races and the ensuing drama that follows when awards are withheld or dark horse times are better than elite times despite the order they crossed the finish line.

        It all depends on how they are going to conduct this I suppose. Is there going to be a significant time gap between letting the elites off and those behind? And does it really make that much of a difference at such a long distance?

        I don't know, I get the feeling there are so many "dark horses" in ultramarathons right now that separating the fields can be an issue. On the other hand, if UROK is trying to take it to the next level of "hype", lending more legitimacy to the sport for the media attention, than I understand why they would mimic the standard road race format of elite special treatment to do so.

        Eh, this seems fairly new…so they'll figure it all out.

      3. DJ

        When Geoff told us about this race in the spring and asked us to come race it, he explained how the RDs were trying to help promote the sport so a bunch of us changed our fall plans to race. I normally support the USATF events but am skipping the 50K Nationals this weekend to make the trip back east and do my partin what will become a HUGE race on the circuit! UROC baby! Let's just run! :). If there is a "dark horse" at the race he or she should contact the RD and ask to be included in our start. I am sure the RDs would let them and we would love the energy up front of another young new runner! It wasn't long ago I was in their shoes.

        1. Bob C

          Yeah, there's no qualification to do the elite start, at least not an official one, so just ask the RD if you have any notion at all of being in the money. I'm not really sure why they are doing it this way since the trail is wide for the first few hundred yards for things to sort out somewhat, and room for at least 2 wide for most of the first 1.5 miles.

  9. Tony Mollica

    I loved the interviews! I am sorry Andy can't run, but it should be a blast having him cover the race. He has a great personality and is really interesting to listen to when he does an interview.

  10. Chris Cawley

    I think the concept of an "championship" ultra-event is a good one, but I think this one is still too close to several bigger events, and it would be a shame for a late september event to essentially try to cull competitive entrants from well-established events like Wasatch. Why not something in October? As far as I know, there's nothing super high-profile in October in the US.

    I also think that regardless of the competition, even some of the fastest runners will often choose to run certain races for the location–to "enjoy, endure, and celebrate" a new place, a favorite mountain range, or a perfect course. What if this UROC course is not well-recieved? What if it always rains on UROC weekend, as it often does on the East Coast?

    1. Bob C

      I believe the problem with October for this particular race that pretty much needs the Blue Ridge Parkway to connect trails is that the park service won't allow it in October, when all the leaf watchers are driving the parkway. Obviously you could completely change the venue, more than they did from GEER in past years, but that is up to the RDs.

      Historically, weather has been mixed. Last year was pretty warm and sunny (great for working the aid station on Bald Mtn as I did, but hard on runners), the year before it went from a nice cool misty morning to a cold miserable downpour all afternoon and evening. Usually it's in the range of what you'd want.

    2. DJ

      As the Boss sings: "let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!" October has the 50 Mile Road Nationals on the East Coast and although Wasatch (which doesn't let in elites, ask Mike Arnstein about the RD's response to his attempt to go for the Slam record) and this year the World 100K and next year the World 24 hour are in early September and Montrail Cup races like Vermont and Run Rabbit Run are held in mid September so yes it is a busy time of year for our sport. Saturday alone will have UROC, Vermont 50, and the USATF 50Ks in Bend!

      1. Speedgoatkarl

        Arnstein should have entered Wasatch to begin with. If I were the RD, I would have certainly let him in Wasatch, but the WF100 is the definition of old school. They don't recognize elite runners, could care less about a course record or Slam record. Kinda like WS not letting in elite runners that are qualified….hint hint. That's just how it is, some day RD's will actually care about competition. Not yet.

        1. DJ

          He tried to get a bib after Leadville and the RD said no. I paced my friend Anthony at Watasch last year and was there when the RD told everyone that there were a lot of great runners there but none of them would be acknowledged and at the finish when they gave out burger king hats to the Crimson Cheetahs. It was comical but doesn't do a whole lot to draw media attention and coverage to our sport which really needs a boost like UROC is providing.

          As for States letting in elites, they do have that Montrail Cup series where a top 2 will get you a bib, which is a lot better than races like Hardrock which shut out Geoff this summer.

          1. Speedgoatkarl

            Yah, Wasatch doesn't recognize anyone. And they could care less about growing the sport. Old school doesn't get any older than that.

            My biggest gripe about WS qualifiers, is they are all easy courses. Every one of em' Granted, WS is an easy course too. (the race isn't easy being so fast, but the course is) Why don't they have a few races that are 100 miles to qualify? Apparently, they think WS is the only 100 on earth. The 100 mile distance is entirely different than any little 50 mile run at AR or Ice Age.

            They should also save a few competitive spots, as Matt Carpenter created for Pikes Peak. This way guys like me, a specialist at 100 miles. (yup the distance of the actual WS race) would have a chance to run. I'll enter again this year, for the 5th time, but I bet I get shut out again. I would like to make a run at the Grand Slam Record, but never get the chance to even start it. Kinda sad really. I actually have a chance to take that record down, but dont' get the opportunity.

            HR and Geoff, and many other fast guys….I hear you, I wish they could all get in, I even throw in my two cents every year, but they are almost as Old School as Wasatch, and don't care about the competitive nature of our sport.

  11. Coach Weber

    Is it just me or does this event seem over-hyped? From the UROC website: "He (Gill) makes no bones about the fact that his main goal in launching the Ultra Race of Champions is to create the “Superbowl” of ultra distance running. He notes the sport has grown dramatically in the past decade and many followers of the sport have longed for a true annual 'championship event' that would determine the sport’s best ultra distance runners for that calendar year. Now, that day has come. 'Every major sport has a single day competition to determine that year’s Champion' says Gill 'Now, ultra distance runners will have their day.' " All due respect … and noble goals … but really … just because you call it something, does not mean it *is* something.

    1. Eddie

      Coach weber…it is good to be old school, seems to me they are just to have a good ole time and pump the sport up a bit. Tons of other races that are and will always be old school. Live not in fear.

    2. Coach Weber

      … a bit of my perspective comes from watching Badwater become super-hyped over the past decade… race management came up with the slogan "Challenge of the Champions" … then started calling it the "toughest footrace in the world" … then, somehow (hype)it became 'globally recognized' as the 'toughest race in the world.' (they must not have heard of some of the Sri Chinmoy challenges among others :-) … now that is repeated endlessly in the media and in the blogs of participants … which still does not make the statement true. Yep, marketing makes things fun but at a certain point it becomes something else.

  12. Ben Nephew

    For a first time event, I think they've done a good job of establishing an ultra trail championship. It's a solid field. With an ultrarunning race, there will always be runners missing from the field of one race due to injury, race conflicts, etc. To those that think it is overhyped, what do you expect the organizers to say, given their goals? Considering the lack of effort by any other race to establish a single annual championship race, calling it UROC actually is progress, and they've done more than just call it something.

    Does anyone want to discuss the amount of pavement on the course?

    1. Chris Dillard

      Good Point Ben. Personally, I was surprised at the amount of pavement coming from Gill and Francesca for this race, especially after running BelMonte this past March which is 99.975% trail. It seems to me that UROC would have a higher percentage of trail for such a high profile race. IMO

      1. Ben Nephew

        Just to make sure I'm not misinterpreting anything, the sections denoted as Blue Ridge Parkway are pavement, correct? Not sure why they discriminate between pavement and the parkway in the course description. So it looks like 30 miles of pavement and another 7 of dirt road. I looked at the course months ago, and don't remember it having quite as much pavement. I actually didn't like the amount of gravel road, which I think was 20 miles. If I was a trail runner at the race, I wouldn't want to be around the road guys towards the end!

        Maybe they had permit issues with the course?

          1. Bryon Powell

            Wardian definitely gets a bump from it being a >50% road course, but Sharman would get a similar if small bump. Then again, both Roes and Mackey have run sub-6 at American River! Gonna be a burner out there.

            1. Ben Nephew

              If the weather is nice, I'll be surprised if this is not a very fast race. You have the all that pavement and a moderate amount of climbing. 12k is really not that much climbing (6k per 50k) and the average grade is 7%. From looking at the profile, the descents look to be steeper, so the average grade for the climbs could be 5-6% if the average grade includes both ascent and descent. None of the hills are very long, but that final climb will probably be a factor if the race is close.

              Sub 6 at American River is fast but I think Mike went through 50 at 5:20 at Comrades? I just hope the course is well marked.

    2. DJ

      Pavement? Really? How much? Ben, you should come down! 6th and 11th at Worlds, this would be the perfect event for you to move up to 100K! And I am sure the course will be easier than Ireland ;)

      1. Ben Nephew

        I used up the rest of my travel points for Assen, and I'm bogged down with work. I'd consider the distance, but my quads still remember running the last 8 miles of road at JFK. They need to run that thing backwards. I'll take bog pain over pavement pain any day! I think that was as much carnage in the Netherlands as there was in Ireland!

        It'll be interesting to see how the 50 milers do over the last 20k. Running conservatively early on and hoping people come back may not work out if you are hoping to finish near the front.

        Good luck! Did you catch the comment about how a little extra cushioning may be a good idea?

    3. Craig

      I know American River 50M isn't UROC, but does it not have half a race on pavement(bike path). No one complains there and look at the faces who show up there. As they have for the past umpteen years and will continue to do so. I'm not elite and would think that if I was it really wouldn't matter what course was laid out.

      As Wardian said in his interview with Bryon:

      "As far as if I am excited about “road running” at UROC, I don’t really care if it is road or trails. I will run any surface/terrain, anywhere, anytime. If there are people racing and I can make it, then I would like to be there. I don’t consider myself a “road guy,” just a runner and whatever you put in front of me I will accept the challenge and do my best and mix it up."

      So, just get out there, run and may the best man win.

  13. MsQuadzilla

    The 'Superbowl' of ultramarathoning is Comrades … want to call yourself **THE ** BIG DOG of ultrarunning … win at Comrades … the most highly competitive ultra in the world … end of story.

  14. Bob C

    The Parkway is most certainly paved, though I guess you could run on the grass shoulder if you wanted. The start on Logger's Alley is a few hundred yards of ski road, then an old logging road that's mostly double track, some wider, and a few spots where only a single track is cut. None of this is open to traffic and it's really more like trail than road. Bald Mountain is the same jeep trail used in Bel Monte (just a different direction) and while there might be a truck or two, it's more like trail, and it's certainly more like trail than the Coal Rd miles of Bel Monte. I've only looked down Spy Run Gap and it looks like a lightly traveled dirt/gravel road.

    So most of the road is on the parkway. The miles on Wintergreen Dr and 664 are paved roads going up and down the mountain, with traffic. btw, there is an Oktoberfest going on at Wintergreen at the same time, so be careful going back up as the revelers are driving down when they leave. It looks like 29 paved, 3 gravel, and 2 jeep road. The last 9 miles are paved and hilly. 664 has a 15% grade. Wintergreen Drive is probably over 10% at the bottom, and starts to flatten out toward the top.

    There was an earlier plan that would've avoided Wintergreen Dr and 664 but it wasn't realistic, as it was on an old abandoned section of the AT and is on national parkland and there was no way they would get permission to clear it or run on it. The issue is that the only way from the Wintergreen trails to other trails is via the current AT, which of course can't be used.

    The course description on the web site isn't completely up to date as there is a bit more trail we found before getting on the Laurel Springs Rd, but they hit another permit problem and had to cut some of the Old AT trail within Wintergreen and replace it with more paved road. It's pretty much a wash. Just don't bother printing the description to follow as there is at least one other gap in the description, missing the Laurel Ridge Loop trail I mentioned, before getting on Pond Hollow. I don't know if this means it's a bit longer than 100K, or if they'll just adjust the turnaround on Whetstone Ridge.

    1. Bob C

      I just want to add, especially since I said things like "we found", that I'm not affiliated with the race. I live at Wintergreen, and I'm running the 50K, and I offered some input to Gill and Francesca on the trails to use up here and I've had some discussions with them about the course. But I want to make it clear that what I'm writing is in no way an official position and I don't represent them. I know the course well and have run nearly every step at one time or another, and I thought it would be useful to give info on what I do know.

      1. Andy

        Bob — given your intimate knowledge of the course, do you have any advice about how one might be best able to leave road and trail shoes at various points for a shoe change to avoid endless miles of pavement in trail shoes? For example, miles 9 to 17 look like mostly pavement with a few miles of trail (e.g., 3.4 on the White Rock trail). How technical are these stretches? Can they be navigated pretty well in road shoes or even minimalist shoes? Thanks for the insider info!

        1. Bob C

          A lot depends on whether it's wet or dry. If it's wet, you want the best traction you can get on the slick greenstone you'll see all over these trails and for muddy hill climbs and descents. If it's dry, there's only a couple trails where there are lots of rocks sticking out and you'd be better served by trail shoes, or you could plow through with roadies. Unfortunately, aid stations with drop bags aren't really positioned well for where to swap shoes. I know you aren't supposed to get aid outside of aid stations, but is it legal to stash shoes along the course? I don't know, but I'll tell you what's ideal and you can ask Gill or decide for yourself.

          Wintergreen is primarily trails, not too bad, but the last mile on Pond Hollow has plenty of rocks jutting out and a couple of small boulder fields. I have thoughts of leaving a small bag or just a pair of road shoes on Wintergreen Drive as we leave the trail, just over the guard rail. If you were to do this, on the drive up you'd pull off onto Fortune's Ridge (the first place you see houses) at the hairpin turn 1/2way up the mountain, and walk back down 50 yards or so. I don't know how that'll be with dozens of shoes now that my secret is out, but if you have a crew, they could park on Fortune's Ridge and walk down to where you come off the trail. That doesn't scale well either so I don't even know if it's a good idea for me to suggest it. You get a drop bag at Reed's Gap, but that's 2.5 miles of steep road later.

          Turning onto the Sherando trails, this part of White Rock is soft and easy, then you must be doing a mile of pavement in the park, though I don't see it in the course description. If you're inclined toward trail shoes, get them at Sherando Lake AS #4 for the loop around the lake, which isn't bad, but more importantly the climb up the Slacks trail, which can be slick, muddy and steep, and then the rocky climb up Torry Ridge. Even the Bald Mtn jeep road is nice to have some foot protection on.

          Bald Mountain AS #6 is an ideal place to go back to road shoes, but there are no drop bags or crew allowed here. It's at about milepost #23 if you're want to leave them yourself. From here, you have parkway, the Whetstone Trail, which I've only run once but remember it to be smooth, then back on parkway.

          Coming back to that same place, Bald Mountain AS #11 it would be good to get your trail shoes back on for the rocky descent on Torrey Ridge (though you don't have to descend the steep part of the Slacks trail). The White Rock falls trail on the other side of the parkway gets just a bit rocky in places, so it doesn't hurt at all to leave them on until the next aid station.

          At White Rock Gap #12, it's all roads to the finish so another shoe swap to roadies is ideal. There's crew access but no drop bags here.

          If it's dry, I'll probably wear road shoes the whole way for the 50K, and just take it easy on the Pond Hollow rocks. I'd do the same thing for the 100K, just being careful especially coming back down Torrey Ridge. If it's wet, I'll probably swap trail shoes for roadies at the road, and back to trail shoes coming back because 50Kers use all the trails coming back, while the 100K continues on road to the finish. For the 100K I'd try to swap where I suggested above.

          Sorry if this isn't clear, and a lot is up to personal preference. I have some foot issues so I tend to protect my feet more than some of you might.

          Trying to simplify, the ideal is:

          Start to end of Pond Hollow: 1st pair of trail shoes

          Pond Hollow to AS #4: 1st pair of road shoes

          AS #4 to AS #6: 2nd pair of trail shoes

          AS #6 out and back to AS #11: 2nd pair of road shoes

          AS #11 to AS #12: re-use 2nd pair of trail shoes

          AS #12 to finish: 3rd pair of road shoes

          If you swap only where drop bags or crew are allowed, I suppose you'd do:

          Start to AS#2: trail shoes

          AS #2 to AS #4: road shoes

          AS #4 to AS #12: trail shoes, though that's a lot of road in there so you might want to just keep road shoes

          AS #12 to finish: road shoes

          Still confused? email me, bob.clouston (at) gmail.com. I'll be around on Friday.

            1. Bob C

              There ya go! I fully expect that everyone who even starts to read my post will get 1/4 of the way through and just say, screw it, I'll pick a shoe and stick with it. And that is probably the right decision. Once I got started typing I couldn't stop, and maybe it gives a bit more preview on the course.

            2. Anonymous

              Still can't find them up here in the Northeast and have been reluctant to order a pair, but have thought about it quite a bit. A little late now. Maybe next year for the first Annual Speedgoat 100k ;-)

            3. Andy

              BTW, that last response was me to Karl.

              And many thanks, Bob, for your runaway description. Maybe I'll forego the hydration pack and just run with a backpack full of shoes!

      1. Bob C

        Yeah, there'll be a beer tent and an oompah band and food just up from the s/f, noon to 5:30. The race will go right by it the tent in the morning, and near it coming back. Unfortunately I don't think you'll be able to see the race from the beer tent and they won't let you take drinks out because of the liquor license rules. More info on the wintergreenresort website.

        1. DJ

          I am going to email the RDs now and ask that the race be rerouted through the beer gardens! ;). I do like the late 7am start but if that cuts down on Octoberfest time I think we should advocate for an earlier start for next year!

  15. DJ

    Jason! We wish you were running with us! Thanks for your service! You are the man! Will you be back for Bandera? You should smoke that course, much faster than Neuces :)

      1. DJ

        Awesome! Someone said Tony is looking to run Bandera too and I am going to try and bring James with me from Arizona too, the kid crushed Leona this April! :)

  16. Andrew

    I actually sectioned the course over a few weekends in August and realized how some extra shoe cushioning would definitely be beneficial given the amount of road running on the blue ridge parkway there would be (after 30 miles the grass shoulder of the blue ridge becomes very enticing). But don't be fooled the road miles are still mountain miles and you are either going up or going down hill so a flat marathon this is not.

  17. Speedgoatkarl

    I can't believe its got 30 ish miles of pavement. I'll be headed to the beer tent at Octoberfest instead. It'll never become the big rae or championship if that's the case…unfortunately. Give me some prize money to play with and we'll double the Speedgoat 50k, make it 100k with 23k of climb. Now that would be a race. :-)

    1. Craig Thornley

      Gotta be careful what we say as race directors, Karl, but, I agree, the course (and history) does matter. 30 miles of pavement?

      Great pre-race coverage, Bryon. I just donated $100 to iRunFar. Only my second time donating, but I appreciate what you do. You are tireless!

          1. Bryon Powell

            Anonymous, if you'd be so kind as to post with you name (or at least a consistent alias) that'd be great. Don't worry, you've done nothing wrong. I'm just trying to discourage a growing trend of anonymous commenting. :-)

        1. Andrew

          Keep in mind Karl that it may be a bit disheartening to your following to have your face up on the UROC website for a couple months and then have you unable to race it (unfortunately) and then state that you'd rather hit the beer tent and that it will never be a championship

  18. Craig

    From the words of Wardian:

    “As far as if I am excited about “road running” at UROC, I don’t really care if it is road or trails. I will run any surface/terrain, anywhere, anytime. If there are people racing and I can make it, then I would like to be there. I don’t consider myself a “road guy,” just a runner and whatever you put in front of me I will accept the challenge and do my best and mix it up.”


    Personally I would think that it really shouldn't matter what course is laid out. Elite runners in my mind should be good enough to run on nearly any surface. Sure, some run better then others on the road, technical trails, singletrack, high elevation, but that is what it is all about. You bring what you have on that day and go for it. May the best man/woman win.

      1. DJ

        Thank you Bryon! UROC has done a lot of work to assembly an awesome field of runners. Geoff, Dave M. And Two of the Top 3 from the IAU World 100K Championships is "Super Bowl" status for sure :). It might not be the "World Cup" yet, but for a 1st time American event they are really helping our sport grow!

        1. Jeremy Pade

          I'm with Dave, I think its great to promote the sport. The field will be one of the most competitive for a U.S. race with a few real elites and the rest of us "B-level" runners. The only way to get better is to challenge yourself against the best. Whether or not this race grows, I hope the idea does.

  19. Jeremiah

    I think it's a really interesting concept to have an 'ultimate' ultramarathon championship, and it's probably a good idea that's been a long time coming, but I'm a little torn too. I mean, every course and every race are different and every racer is going to have aspects that they excell at. Some people will do better in the heat, some people dominate courses at high altitude or with massive elevation change, some are speed demons on roads… etc.

    In other words, it seems really difficult for any one race to be the 'ultimate', to really determine who is the 'best racer of the year'.

    On the other hand, any championship is going to be determined more by the quality of the racers than by the course and this obviously has an incredibly talented group racing. So whether or not the course is the hardest, or has the most trails, or the most climbing, or the highest altitude, we're going to see (or hear) an amazing race.

    I'm sure the debate about the UROC's legitimacy will go on for a long time, but I'm still looking forward it.

  20. Mackey

    For me personally, I'd much rather toe the start line with everyone who is making the same effort at the same race. Also, much like the English football league system where every team in the country has a shot at the overall title, at UROC, every runner should have a shot at the win and purse.

    Hey Ben Nephew.. why aren't you racing?

  21. Nathan K

    I just want to say good luck to all the racers this weekend at the UROC! I'm doing the 50k option as my first ultra so I hope to finish in time to see the 100k winner cross the finish line. Looking forward to potentially meeting some great runners!

  22. Ben Nephew

    I went to Ireland twice and the Netherlands once to race over a span of 12 months, in addition to all my local racing and a ridiculous amount of traveling for work (Florida to Alaska, nice trails around Anchorage!). It mostly came down to choosing the IAU 50k in August over UROC. The IAU does a great job with their events, and the course had the potential to be very fast, but it ended up being too warm. Although it now will sound odd to say that I was not excited by the amount of gravel roads when I looked at the UROC course months ago, I'd rather do races that are either road (once in a while) or trail. I'd definitely be interested in UROC next year if the race was all trails. Congrats on your season so far, and good luck at the race!

  23. Michael Owen

    It would have been cool to utilize the Appalachian Trail during this race – I am assuming you can't have races on trails such as the Appalachian Trail?? Any explanation?

  24. Ian Sharman

    Why is the hardest mountain terrain considered to be the best test for a championship by many? This is ultraRUNNING after all. Hardest race I've ever done is Comrades which is 100% road. Hilly, yes, but it's hard because you have the world's best there and many are professional. Try knocking out close to marathon pace for 6 hours knowing even a tiny change in pace could cost you 5 positions at the front. I think something like AR50 (or UROC) is ideal as a championship course. It doesn't favor mountain guys over road, altitude dwellers over sea level guys. Surely it's best to have a championship which covers all types of ultrarunner. Kind of like how the Tour de France has various types of stage to find the overall beat rider. Mountains and trails are just one aspect of ultrarunning, not the entire sport. Admittedly one I can't do without, personally, but I couldn't do without all the other types of terrain either. Mike W seems to have the same approach (Marathon des Sables, Badwater, road ultras, WS100, 10ks – he tries to beat the best at every type of running…and usually does).

    1. Ben Nephew

      Based on many of the comments, it seems as though some were under the impression that this was a trail UROC. However, if you read the UROC goals, it is clear that it pertains to all of Ultrarunning. I thought the need was for a single trail championship for many reasons, including the challenge of comparing courses, limited fields, lotteries, lack of prize money, etc. For the road races, we have the USATF championships and the IAU 100k. You can compare road times, and many of these other issues are also specific to trails.

      The winner of the Tour is not the best sprinter, and I don't see any plans for stages or points with UROC. I'm not sure how relevant that comparison is. I think a similar race in track in track and field would be to have a 10k with half XC and half track and call the winner the greatest distance runner on the planet. Now, the World XC is sometimes billed as this, but the track 10k champ is still the track 10k champ and the World XC champ is not automatically acknowledged as the current greatest distance runner. If someone does well at a road 50k, and also at a road 100k, you don't need a 75k race to say he is a versatile ultrarunner. You could make a similar argument for trail and road races to question the need for a 100k with 50k trail and 50k road.

      Mountains and trails are just one aspect of trail running, but many are frustrated with the competitive nature of ultra trail running, and would like to see a bit more overall structure. In many ways it seems odd, as road runners don't seem to have the same problems with the USATF events.

      It is possible that the emphasis on including hard mountain terrain can be explained by the desire to differentiate the sport, similar to mountain running from XC. What is the point in having a WMRC that is similar to a XC course and could be won by dedicated track or XC athletes? What is the point in having a national or world 100k trail race that could be won by any of the top runners at the road 100k?

      1. olga

        Plagiarism (own) partially re-posted from another blog on this subject:

        I wish all the competitors the best, although there are seems more elites absent than present for such an ambitious title. Female field in particular is extremely weak, and of the ones who did plan to come, many are not. Although, of course, it is understandable that this is the first year event. And injuries and life happens and prevent athletes from coming to desired races. IMHO, it would be better to work with a governing body for running in US that already exists than creating a new venue. Historically, USATF was not paying attention to neither long (ultra) distances nor much of trail races (or combination of thereof). However, lately, it had made an attempt to address that, and is drawing quite a few ultrarunners into their board of directors. We have RRCA and USATF championship in every distance, well, some don’t like those venues, but some will always not like one versus another (mountain, trail, road, flat, circles, point-to-point etc.) The separation will be taken even further. May be those races that have a fantastic attendance and a track of setting national records could consider working together with USATF and such and bring in the prize money and “name” UROC the person who wins. There are events like WS100, AR50, Masochist 50, JFK50, Miwok 100k that are so competitive…will runners really think the one who won UROC is The Runner? In all, isn’t UROY a better and more descriptive title, when the person gets picked by a panel, over the course of a year, comparing the fields, distances, venues, competition, and so forth? So far, it had been doing a pretty good job naming The Ultrarunner. Do we really think one arbitrary race will tell us who is the best? It is not fare to compare it to marathons/other distances (not to mention other sports) because in a marathon, the setting is extremely similar between courses (road, a few hills, water stop every mile) versus variety of terrain, time and so on one goes through in a (longer) ultra race. May be that’s why a World Championship also adheres to venues that have requirement: certain amount of pavement, elevation change, circles…to eliminate the variations. May be that's also why most thought (hoped?) that UROC would be trail, because we already have a road 100k championship, and the winner(s) go to the World's.

        With that, the runners themselves will have tons of fun, regardless. All of it just a banter, at the end of the day everyone simply loves to run:)

  25. Jas Reeves

    I like it when Karl says what others might want to say but don't.

    That's an awful lot of road but it is billed as UROC, as in ultra, and not TROC,as in trail. I prefer trail but an ultra is an ultra. Good luck to all competing and as always Bryon, you rock brutha.

  26. DJ

    You are doing the interviews Andy? Awesome! But I also wish you were healthy my friend! You have put up some amazing results yourself over the years! :)

  27. Mark Lundblad

    Why does everything have to fit in a nice neat box? There is no one race that will meet everyone needs with the proper distance, location, terrain, amount of climbing, and at the proper altitude. The RD’s here have set forth an ambitious plan to make this a “big time” race and have come up with a pretty good compromise IMO. Is every top ultra runner toeing the line? No, and probably for the reasons I just mentioned above. However it is at least an effort to have a championship type race. Is it perfect? No. It would be almost impossible to have a race that fits everyone’s desires.

    There are a lot of negative comments about all the road miles and how some have been duped into thinking this race was all on trail. Yes the Blue Ridge Parkway is on a paved surface, that information can be easily verified. It is a hilly but scenic road which is probably why the RD’s chose to make mention of it separately. There have been some changes to the course for sure but for the most part it is pretty clear that this race was not going to be a super technical trail race. Every ultra course and distance will favor certain runners both elite and non-elite. The history of ultrarunning has many races that were on roads. Some people new to ultrarunning don’t seem to have a sense of that. We do have very few 100% true road ultras now in the US because the majority of ultra runners seem to favor soft surfaces, myself included.

    However on the international level this has not changed as much. We have had many past “champions” in ultra running who were bad asses on the road from the US and we still do to this day. It does not make them any less of a runner than someone who excels at super technical, rock hopping ultra courses. To each his/her own and if your favorite ultra stud does not win or choose not to race this particular event then perhaps the next ultra race down the road will favor them. I just don’t see the need to bash an event that does not suit a runner’s particular desires/strengths.

    Western States, Mt Blanc, Hardrock, Leadville, American River, Miwok, Waldo, JFK, UROC, Mtn Masochist, World Cup Road 100k / 50k, World Trail Challenge, and all the USATF Championship Races – each one is somebody’s “Super Bowl” of ultrarunning. UROC has an ambitious title and goal and I wish them luck. Mostly I hope everyone has a great race this weekend and has FUN!

    1. dogrunner

      well-said x2.

      If it was not for the title, most of this conversation would be moot. It would be another race, unique in its own way as all ultras are, and runners and fans would just be hoping for a good race. As a fan of the SPORT, I always like to follow races with a good start list of top runners. WS, UTMB, etc are fun to watch (with IRunFar's superb help). That is enough for me. Marketing hype aside (and La Sportiva, and Montrail, and TNF all have their own self-proclaimed titles), I just want a good race and watch the awesome display of human performance.

  28. Sniffer

    I see this going the way of climbing. There is now Trad, Sport, Alpine, Bouldering. Soon Ultras will be road, trail, mountain, euro etc. I think that as more people show interest there will be more of a need(want) to define it.

  29. Bob C

    The weather is looking tougher to call. Earlier in the week it looked like the rains would be moving out sometime Friday. Now it looks like things have stalled though though somewhat broken. Today was supposed to be rainy, and the sun is out. Tomorrow is 90% rain, 60% overnight, 30% Saturday, temps in the 60s. Mostly just showers. Even though there are plenty of trees overhead I still wouldn't want to run a ridgeline or even the parkway with lightning. Who's the best mudder in the field? For all the talk of roads, it's still 1/2 trails.

  30. David T.

    AKarl – I agree with Andrew. it seems a bit disingenuous for your to harp on the need for a championship, then promote this actual race, and then start bagging on it after you drop.

  31. Bob C

    Great to meet some of you these weekend, hope you had a good time on my mountain. I have to apologize to Bryon for calling him Byron. Saw DJ a couple hours ago out taking his morning run and informed him that he was off course and had missed cutoff.

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