Ready or Not - Page 6
While DNFs are common in ultarunning, did UROC's cash incentive and championship potential entice runners who would not have started otherwise? Perhaps. Many runners were coming off long, brutal seasons. Sharman, for example, had already raced over 900 miles this year. Crosby-Helms was coming off a DNF at the 100K Worlds just two weeks before. Mackey had been sick. Roes had taken a break after a DNF at Europe's Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and only trained for a couple of weeks before UROC.
Wrote Bryon Powell (a long-time ultrarunner and a contributing editor for Trail Runner) on his website, irunfar.com: "The money could lead folks to: 1) toe the line when they're less certain they're fully prepared for a race; and 2) go out closer to the edge of their capabilities early in a race and just see whether or not they have it that day."
"I felt tired but UROC seemed like an interesting event that I wanted to see first-hand," says Sharman. "The prize money wasn't enough to entice me, but the chance to race the quality field in this format did."
Indeed, curiosity and the chance to take home a little cash may have combined to lure a strong first-year field. Next year could be a different story, as by the time UROC was announced this year, many runners had already committed to their season schedules, while others took a wait-and-see attitude.
A WRONG TURN
Leaving Whetstone, Wardian looked focused, intense, and at Bald Mountain Overlook (mile 49), held a 15-minute lead over Roes. Most of the remaining miles were road, Wardian's specialty, and the consensus of many was that Wardian had it in the bag. At about mile 52, a handful of spectators and photographers gathered at Slacks Overlook, a small parking shrouded by magnificent tall trees and fog, right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, where runners would climb up singletrack, cross the road and drop down to more singletrack on the other side.
"This a great photo op—of the DNFers!" quipped Jones-Wilkins, referring to Mackey, James and Bryant, who had hitched rides with other followers to watch the race's final miles unfold.
"It's better to DNF than DNS," jabbed Roes' long-time friend Andy Swistak of Charlotte, North Carolina, who was helping crew Roes, to Jones-Wilkins.
"Yeah, your name is listed higher on the results," added the photographer Joel Wolpert of West Virginia.
But minutes ticked by, and the levity evaporated. Had Wardian taken a wrong turn?
"He should definitely be here by now," said James. "I wonder if he went left down there."