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Michael Benge Friday, 18 November 2011 09:13 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Ready or Not - Page 4

PLOTTING A COURSE

A hardcore trail snob might cringe upon reviewing the UROC-course pie chart breaking down the terrain: 46.4-percent pavement, 11.2-percent gravel/mountain roads and 42.4-percent singletrack. Conceived to test a varied skill set, the course was a far cry from the mostly singletrack mountain races that many trail fiends crave. With 12,500 feet of climbing, though, the race was far from a speedy road cruise. While some runners predicted an eight-hour-ish winning time, Roes said, "I knew nobody would run that time."

"This course has something to lay everybody low," said the consummate veteran Eric Grossman, 43, of Emory, Virginia (who has accumulated many ultra victories over a nearly 30-year career).

At a panel discussion the evening before the race, the moderator, an accomplished ultrarunner named Andy Jones-Wilkins, 44, who recently moved to Charlottesville (and had pulled out of the race due to a case of plantar fasciitis), said, "This race is going to be a true test. ... We have a fair amount of roads, hills gnarly East Coast rocks, ups, downs, and sticky, nasty stuff. How have you prepared for that?"

And, as predicted, the course delivered a tough test on race day. From Reeds Gap, the runners broke south for five miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the White Rock Gap aid station, then ran three miles of singletrack to Sherando Lake, at 1820 feet. There, as the sun peeked out of the clouds and the humidity skyrocketed, runners popped out from dense woods onto a broad grassy dam before dropping down on stairs cut into the hillside for a one-mile singletrack loop around the lake.

Heading back up the same stairs, the front pack looked like this: Mackey and Gall ran together, with the following group spread out in singles and pairs over 15 or so minutes -- Matt Flaherty, 26, of Chicago, Illinois (who holds a marathon PR of 2:26 and was coming off a win at Madison, Wisconsin's The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler the week before); Roes, Grossman, Wardian, Basham; Jonathan Allen, 32, of Greenville, South Carolina (back-to-back recent wins at South Carolina's Laurel Valley 35-miler and Georgia's SweetH20 50K); Michael Owen, 23, of Pomeroy, Ohio (a recent college grad, with a third place at Burning River 100-miler and a victory at West Virginia's Sasquatch Trail 50K); and yet another favorite, Sharman, 31, originally of the UK (who ticked a course-record 12:44 at Texas' 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100-miler for the fastest trail 100 ever, and second place at South Africa's prestigious Comrades Marathon). For the women, it was Crosby-Helms, Petrie and Riddle-Lundblad, spaced out over 15 minutes.

This was the course low point. It was also the beginning of trials for Roes. "I just thought, `Here we go again,'" he said later, referring to a rough string of recent races. "It was unlike any race I've had in terms of my mood swings. One minute I was running six-minute pace and, the next, a 10-minute pace felt like a struggle."



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