Monday, October 1, 2012

UROC Not So Much

In some ways it's almost easier to blog about my bad races than my good ones. It's been especially tough just getting a post started lately. Although I don't really want to talk about it, I have plenty to say about UROC 100k. So let's get this over with.

It was a lonely day even when I was running with Mackey. (photo by Gill)

The short story is that I got sick to my stomach and puked around mile 18 for some unknown reason. Although I've struggled for the past year or so to get my gels down, I have actually never thrown up as a result of running. Pretty impressive since I've been racing at some level for 18 years. I got close at Western States, but recovered relatively well. The same can't be said about UROC. I felt better briefly after I got sick, but continued to feel that if I looked at another gel that I'd puke again. So I only ate one more gel the rest of the race. Pretzels and saltines tasted good and settled my stomach but I wasn't eating enough to keep me going. I was still drinking OK, but again, not enough calories. I kept moving forward hoping that I would turn the corner and start feeling better. But it never happened and the legs basically shut down around mile 40.  I dropped at mile 44.3 as recorded by my Suunto Ambit.

I was pretty content with my decision to drop at the time because I was in a good deal of pain and didn't want to risk tearing my body up. Of course, now that I feel better, I am second guessing myself. You always feel like you could pushed a little harder after the race don't you?

An early smile. Wish it had lasted. (photo by

My legs actually felt really good early in the race. I was pleasantly surprised as I felt like I was climbing well without over-extending myself. I have been working on my climbing lately. I wasn't well prepared for the downhills, however, and first three miles of the race were straight down. Although I was trailing off the lead pack of elites, I still probably went too hard. I latched onto Nick Clark for the first big climb and was pleased that I was beginning to get the hang of the short, choppy, climbing stride that just 6 months ago was not in my repertoire. But on the road descent out of Wintergreen I left Nick and descended too quickly trying to catch up to Dave Mackey.  I caught him, but then I got sick.

Elevation profile from my Suunto Ambit.

I was actually in the lead when I got sick, but only because Max King and Sage Canaday had missed a turn earlier and gone off course for a few minutes.  They caught Mackey and I around mile 20 I think.  The 4 of us ran together for a couple miles, but eventually I started to trail off.  And then when we got back on the road again, Max split the pack wide open.  Max ended up running an incredible race.  It probably won't happen because of what Olson ran at Western States, but his performance should be seriously considered for ultra performance of the year.

I came into the race mentally prepared for 7,000-7,500ft of climb and an equal amount of descent.  I heard there was more than that last year, but I assumed the course had been altered since that was the number reported on the race website.  When I stopped at mile 44, I had 7400ft of climb already on the Ambit which is very accurate because it uses a barometric altimeter.  My buddy Jorge Maravilla who finished the race (3rd) with an Ambit on his wrist recorded 10,600ft of climb.  Granted, some last minute course changes had to be made, but that amount of climb takes it out of the "race that favors no one" category.  Sure there was a lot of road, but hardly any flat road.  I definitely wasn't as prepared as I could have been for the descents.  I think my quads and IT bands took more abuse from UROC than Western States.  But, overall I am nowhere near as locked down as I was after WS100, and will recover much more quickly.

But, my main problem is my nutrition.  I have got to figure out how to eat in a race or there isn't much point in me going longer than 50k.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a problem that is getting worse and not better.  I've got some ideas that I'm planning to try, but I'm certainly open to suggestions.  I think gels are out of the question for the time being.  I found chicken noodle soup worked well at Western States, but it's slow, inconvenient, and probably impractical for anything less than 100 miles.

I don't mind making it hurt when I run, but it's just not fun when I feel sick.

Picked up a pretty nice stone bruise early in the race.


  1. I'm not an ultra runner, but I have a sensitive stomach to gels for half & full marathon distance. I have read many ironman race reports lately and have seen they use this liquid shot. thought I would pass it along...

  2. When gels are out of the question, just chug soda! Like a whole can at every aid station while also filling a bottle.

  3. Thanks for the tips.

    Dylan, I have had decent success with sodas during the race, but I don't know if I can handle 12oz every hour. That's a lot of liquid in the gut. I also wonder if it's not an overload of sugar that's upsetting my stomach. I'll give it a shot though.

  4. Your stomach should get better over time with practice in long runs and races. Try experimenting with different gel companies as well. I know that some people can be so sensitive that it's not just one brand of gel that they're limited to, but one flavor of one brand!

    Anyway, good to see you out there and sorry you weren't able to race as much as your legs would have let you.

  5. How about the Vitargo that Dave Mackey uses...supposed to allow you to tolerate many more calories per hour

  6. Have you tried dried dates? they are easy to pack, pack a lot of carbs, downside is they also have loads of fiber, so not sure how your system reacts to that..
    they also look like little turds, which i'm okay with :)

    1. to clarify some more, I fast in the month of Ramadan (Sunrise to sunset) so I don't eat anything all day. And traditionally Arabs (the ancient people of the desert) would highly rely on dried dates in that month due to the amount of nutrition they can deliver in a small package, especially since they were travelers.
      Just food for thought (I had to throw that pun in there, lol)