9 Sep 2014

UROC 100k 2014

Author: Matt Young | Filed under: race-reports

September 6, 2014
“The Hard is What Makes it Great”

Surrounded by mountains.

Surrounded by mountains.

One of my favorite movie lines and one that I use in coaching is from the infamous coach Jimmy Dugan played by Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

I love it. The hard made UROC great but while I was in it I wouldn’t have been able to convince my mother of that fact. Here are a few highlights and takeaways from my first 100k.

It was a celebration: I ran UROC to celebrate my 40th birthday which was August 18th. For several years I’ve wanted to go west and do a run and this was my chance. The only drawback was that I was without my family and I missed them.

UROC the race: The Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100k draws an elite field for the prize money and an open field for the chance to run with the elites. This year it was held at Copper Mountain Resort, CO which rests at an elevation of 9700 feet and boasts its namesake Copper Mountain at 12,300. The course would make two big loops of trails on the mountain plus warm up miles on the golf course and a rolling Colorado Trail. See the course profile here. 

Frisco and fishing: Copper Mountain is a ski resort and was about to shut down until October 31st. You might argue it was already shut down. So I went a few miles up the road to Frisco, a sweet little town with good restaurants, shops, and a grocery nestled in the mountains. With 10 Mile Creek flowing through the resort property I took my fly rod and caught a few browns and brookies on Thursday and Friday. I was surprised that the streams and the fish looked just like ours in WV, save the mountains surrounding them.

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Ultrarunning Celebrities: Perhaps the highlight of all aid stations that I’ve ever encountered was the one manned by Geoff Roes, star of Unbreakable, Western States 100 winner and owner of several more 100 mile wins. It wasn’t advertised that he’d be there but I knew he was connected to the race. He was the lone volunteer at the aid station on Copper Mountain. He was gracious to let me take his picture and even more gracious to serve the many runners coming through that day. On my second tour through his station I sat and talked to him for a while and he pitied me when he learned I was from WV. Not that he had anything against WV but he had an idea that the elevation was taking its toll on me. When I mentioned the movie Unbreakable he just said, “Yeh, that was a fun day.” Sage Canady was on site but not running and of course, Chris Vargo, the favorite, and he did win. The lady elites were very kind and encouraging and because of the many out and back portions of the course I saw them frequently. I couldn’t resist a few high fives. Most of them didn’t seem too annoyed by me. Some even laughed and smiled in the midst of their own painful day.


Geoff Roes serves Gu Brew and Ramen Noodles

Where’d all the runners go?: Bib numbers were issued the week before the race and there were about 110 in the 100k event and more in the 50k and half marathon. The final results showed 55 finishers on the 100k. Maybe a bunch of people didn’t actually start the race and of course, some dropped or didn’t make the cutoffs. And there could have been some that switched to the 50k. Regardless, I was surprised so few were in the results but I was glad to be one of them. 41st to be exact.

Three things I’ve never done before in a race; and almost a fourth. First, I’ve never taken my phone for texts, pictures and videos during a race but this race was different. It was about the experience for me and I wanted to share a two dimensional view of the race with friends and family and give them text updates along the way. It took time but I’m glad I did it. Second, I sat at aid stations. Even if I’m not running hard, more like a training run, I don’t linger at aid stations. I get in and out as fast as possible. But as the race wore on I sat and stopped and loitered even. To give you an idea just how much, my total time was 16:43 but my moving time was 15:50. I spent almost an hour sitting or standing still. In June I spent just 3 minutes standing still over 40 miles at Highlands. Third, I stopped on climbs and just rested. Walking and power hiking are normal ways of resting on hills but I was so sapped of strength and vigor that at times I would just stop, put my hands on my knees and hang my head. And fourth, almost, was throwing up. I couldn’t eat for the last 20 miles and had very little to drink. I fought the urge to throw up and now looking back, wish I had. I was more afraid of being caught in a bout of dry heaving that wouldn’t end so I fought the urge and trudged on.


Colds and races don’t mix. I started getting sick with a cold on Tuesday before the race on Saturday. I didn’t feel great. I was congested, had trouble breathing, and didn’t feel 100%. Such is life. Not every thing works perfect all of the time.

The effects of altitude. I read a bunch, asked others about their experience, looked for solutions and developed a plan to deal with going from a home at 500 feet above sea level to existing between 9000 and 12,000 feet for four days. The common advice is 1) arrive weeks in advance to acclimate and 2) get an altitude tent. Neither were an option for me. Most likely was to race 20-30% easier than normal, try to boost V02 max through workouts and some natural supplements (Gingko, COQ10). It was mostly about the experience so I was prepared to grin and bear it.


When it comes to the effects of altitude you’ll find that it’s very personal and affects each person differently. I didn’t get headaches or nausea but my heart rate was elevated. Part of that was my cold and part was the elevation. But here’s my assessment of the real effect on me. I started the race much better than expected. My heart rate was low and my pace was good. I was aerobic and moving just fine. In fact, it stayed that way through 37 miles. However, on my second loop through the course I fell hard and fast. It was like a flip was switched and the hills felt steeper and longer, my stomach was unsettled and my heart rate would not go high enough to let me work. And it all happened very quickly. I could run downhill and a little on the flats but the hills were a slog. My first 30 miles went by in about 6 hours and 15 minutes. The last 32 miles took over 10 hours. So if I had to describe the high elevation’s effect on me I’d say it caused me to fatigue hard and fast and without warning. It was like running off a cliff.

By the numbers: 62 miles in 16:43 for 41st place out of 55 finishers. Average pace of 16:24 and average moving pace of 15:50. Elevation gain/loss of 11,300 feet with a minimum elevation of 9718 and max of 12,300. Average heart rate of 72% of max and max of 84% . 6636 calories burned. See the Garmin data here.

When the body fatigues the heart will not beat fast enough, hence the low average heart rate. At the end of the race I couldn’t run because my heart wouldn’t work hard enough. It’s something most people don’t realize happens.

In the end I got what I wanted; a great race, a beautiful course, and views of the Rockies that I earned with every step up the mountain.  As painful as it was towards the end I loved it and I can’t ever explain why.  The course was well marked, the volunteers were great, the other runners were supportive and encouraging of each other. I caught some fish, ate good food, had a couple of massages, relaxed and hung out. Two things would have made it better. First, I wish I had been 100% healthy. Second, I wish my whole family could have been there. I really missed Ann Marie, Caroline and Charlie.

It was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Covering the final 32 miles in over 10 hours figures to be about a leisurely walking pace for most people. It might even sound kind of easy, like anyone could do that.  I agree, maybe anyone could. But on that day it was all I could do and I was glad to finish the race that I started.

I had a simple prayer all day. It started before the pre-dawn start and went all the way through the finish line in the dark; Jesus help me.  If I prayed it once I prayed it hundreds of times.  Simple, to the point, and effective.

And now, here’s my one and only video race report. Enjoy.

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  1. Clark posted the following on September 9, 2014 at 8:53 pm.

    Outstanding, brother. You inspire those you train and those who watch from afar.

  2. Nic Wied posted the following on September 10, 2014 at 7:25 am.

    Hey Matt it was awesome meeting you and spending so much time running with you. (Running, haha. I’m pretty sure us two flatlanders were rocking some serious powerhike!) I look forward to running with you again, maybe in WV. Keep up the good work and talk soon.

  3. dad posted the following on September 10, 2014 at 8:35 am.

    Excellent report I am glad you were able to finish I can tell it was extremely hard on you and it was also hard on those of us back here not knowing but just praying all would go well. Thanks for your texts thru out the race. Your report encourages me when i don’t feel like finishing or the race being too hard (kanawha trace 25k) nothing could ever be as hard on me as your race was on you. In hard races it will inspire me to keep on going Thanks for sharing the excellent race report I will make a copy and read it before my races You can’t always pull off easy start strong finish Sometimes your body just doesn’t let you do that But at that altitude you had no idea how your body would respond/ react Once again thanks for sharing your race with us and a big congratulation and thanks be to God

  4. Smitty posted the following on September 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm.

    Outstanding job Matt! You are an inspiration to me. Thanks for being a mentor, a coach and a friend. Praying for your continued success in changing peoples lives through running.

  5. Jay posted the following on September 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm.

    Great job Coach! This is quite an accomplishment, thanks for documenting it for us to read. You are truly an inspiration to the people around you. I really enjoyed the video too…”all I can think about is throwing up and going to bed”

  6. Cecelia Young posted the following on September 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm.

    Sorry I have no comment except I am very glad you are home and safe.

  7. Angel posted the following on September 10, 2014 at 6:37 pm.

    Love this race report! So proud of you and honored to be a part of your runner world!

  8. Aunt Maureen posted the following on September 12, 2014 at 5:59 am.

    WOW! What a great accomplishment for you! I admire your perservance under such adverse conditions ( cold, nausea). You are an inspiration to all of us who think we can’t run.
    Aunt Maureen

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