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Halfway from recovery to goal 100K at UROC

Six months from last Friday I underwent emergency abdominal surgery, forcing me out of what would have been my first 100K that following weekend. Today, marks six months from that race — the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) — and will still be my first at that distance.

I am grateful that UROC race director Francesca Conte allowed me to defer my entry to 2019 when my plans changed suddenly days before the event. Now, I believe physically I could finish a 100K sooner but the race in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains represents so much more to me.

Climb that goddamn mountain.

Even if that phrase is often incorrectly attributed to Jack Kerouac, I still love it. The words still resonate with me. So much so that it is a fine mantra I use when challenges arise.

I began to climb my proverbial mountain to recover from the surgery, starting with slow, methodical steps around the hospital — even as UROC 2018 participants were racing. As I continue to claw my way up that mountain, I am getting closer to the physical shape I was in six months ago. A true test will come three weeks from now when I set out to do a 50-miler.

The upcoming 50-miler features rolling hills. At the point-to-point UROC course, there will be significant climbs and descents. The 100K course offers about 12,000 feet of gain and about 9,000 feet of loss. There is also a 50K version (5,429 feet of gain, 4,671 feet of loss) and a 25K race (3,153 of both gain and loss).

We cannot lower the mountain, we must elevate ourselves.

Join me at UROC, and bring a friend

For the May 11 event, race directors are offering a special deal — a 15 percent buddy discount. To receive the code, runners can apply with a friend. Email Conte directly with the name of the friend you are bringing.

While it’s important for individual runners to understand their own personal “whys,” there are some other incentives to run UROC. Among them:

The course is beautiful. It is mostly track trails with a short section on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Great support. The race management team is outstanding as I found out when I ran the Belmonte 50K a couple of years ago. That race was very well organized, aid stations volunteers were friendly and helpful, and the post-race party was chill.

Get your UTMB points. All three races at UROC are 2019 UTMB Qualifying races (four points for the 100K, three points for the 50K, one point for the 25K.) Conte is also trying to increase the number of 100K finishers so that the race becomes a Western States qualifier, as the East Coast needs additional opportunities for runners looking to get into the WS100.

Buckle up. Those who finish the 100K in under 15 hours receive a special “black buckle.” Those who finish before the cutoff receive a “finisher buckle.”

Running, wining and dining. The host site, Skylark, opened a winery this past summer. “We know that running and wine are a perfect pairing and we look forward to sharing our wines with the participants after the first harvest,” Skylark co-owner Craig Colberg said. “The climate and soil at Skylark are very unique and similar to the piedmont of the Alps, allowing us to grow grapes normally not found in the area. This differentiates Skylark from the current winery landscape: we know our wines will be very well received and cannot wait to debut them.”

Just keep climbing

UROC represents a significant goal for me. But it’s not the final one.

As a relative latecomer to running, I have found join in pushing my body to go faster and to go longer. In the first half of 2019, in addition to UROC, I will also toe the line at the Boston Marathon for the first time. That is the crowning achievement for reaching my time goal that at one point seemed out of reach.

But, as I have learned, nothing is out of reach. Not even the next goal on my to-do list after UROC — finish my first 100-miler.

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”

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