Race: Umstead 100
Runner: Matt Urbanski
Location: Raleigh, NC
Results: 3rd OA, 15:26
Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1496682914
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- The course is runnable. Literally every step of the course can be run. There are some hills that are steep that many will want to walk, but the course has no technical parts and is generally smooth for running the entire time. Awesome.
- Competitive. Two guys ran near 14 hours flat. Wow!
- Weather. It was cool and rainy for the run. Doesn’t sound like good running weather, but for going all day long, not dealing with heat issues was a blessing.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
There isn’t anything I can think of to complain about with this one, other than how beat up I felt by the end of the race. But that’s not the race’s fault, that’s my fault for not preparing better! 🙂
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
There was aid available every 2.5 miles or less. I’ve never had an ultra with that much aid. It’s a weird thing, though very positive. Some of the stations were un-manned water stops, but it made it really easy to plan and to not have to carry much.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
- I kept running the entire race. Other than to stop at aid stations to get more fueling, I ran every step of this race. This is a big deal to me b/c I got beat down significantly over the final 30 miles. Looking back, I didn’t have enough longer races (marathons and 50ks) as part of my build up and my legs just weren’t ready for the distance. My muscles were shot and it was a grind to the finish. Even though I slowed (last lap got really slow!), I kept running the entire time and I am really proud of that.
- I am also really proud of my mental game and self talk that got me through this one. I repeated to myself hundreds of times, “Suffering is optional”. I acknowledged the pains I was experiencing, but I focused on continuing to smile, continuing to focus, and continuing to do my best all the way to the finish. I could have gotten really down and lost it out there, but my focus on not suffering and continuing to put forth the best with what I had was a super hard effort, but very rewarding looking back on the challenge.
- My family was all out there. Julie and Paavo were my cheer squad, my parents were both there from Ohio to help, my sister was running and her family was there to help – thanks Austin (nephew) for the crew help!, and brother bear Jeff was the crew chief and pacer extraordinaire, helping me navigate the challenges of the hundo. He paced me the final 37.5 miles, ran the show at the aid station – he knows what I need and my racing style at this point such that we function as a truly fine team, and he solved problems for me when shit was getting rough during the final lap. Thanks family!
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- It’s so easy to run fast early. You will almost, without a doubt slow down as the race progresses. Manage your day well given that this course is so runnable.
- The weather can be varied for NC this time of year. It was warmer in 2017 but cooler and rainy in 2018. Be prepared and have strategies for dealing with whatever nature throws your way.
- The pollen can be really really bad here in April. Both years I was here, the pollen was so bad that I couldn’t wear my old school hard contact lens. They collected so much gunk that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Thankfully on race day, all the rain knocked the pollen down so I was able to race with my contacts, instead of glasses.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
Do more long races to have my legs ready for this much running. With minimal to no hiking “breaks”, this course can really beat up specific muscle groups. If I ever race this one again, I will be better trained so I can run those last few loops better.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
The second half of the 12.5 mile loop is hillier than the first. There is an aid station at 6.8 miles into the loop. Almost immediately after leaving that aid station, the course gets hillier. The hills are short and sometimes steep. If you race mountain races they won’t seem like a big deal. If you always run flat, these hills will be a real challenge. By lap 5 or 6, they become a challenge for everyone! Know that these hills are there, your splits the first half of each loop will likely be faster than the second half.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
I think it’s a pretty course. It’s a wooded park, the paths are wide, it’s spring time. It’s not UTMB so don’t go in expecting breathtaking views, but it’s pleasant forest run.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
It’s 100 miles, so yes. However, there is nothing to trip over – the course is super smooth. There is 80’/mile of vertical gain on average so that can become challenging, especially as the race progresses. But from the traditional viewpoint of “tough courses”, this is a relatively easier course.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
They run a really good race. Friendly environment, easy packet pickup, easy race day logistics. This was the case even for it being a crappy, rainy spring day.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Yeah! Men’s race had 4 guys under 16 hours.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
- You have to be on it for registration. By that, I mean that you have to be at your computer hitting “Register” the minute it opens. It sells out immediately. They do reserve some spots for runners with faster PRs to make the race more competitive.
- Hotels are plentiful so lodging is easy, and they’re close to the race course.
- The course is close to the RDU airport. Super simple. We rented a car which made things easy for getting around the area too.
Lots. I didn’t utilize any of them, with one exception, so I don’t know much about what they had, but everyone was friendly! On my final lap, I was freezing my ass off and my brother managed to get me a fleece jacket and a garbage bag for dealing with the cold and sleet. That aid station magic worked wonders for my core temps as I shuffled to the finish. Thank you!
Weather and typical race conditions
Rain. Heat. Perfect. Who knows? Spring in NC; rolling the dice!
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
- I love the loops here and the frequent aid. I was able to go super minimal with this one. I used the Nathan Krar Vapor waistbelt. I carried one Salomon soft flask, at only 1/2 to 2/3rds full from each of the two main aid stations. I ate Gu, Huma gels, and blocks, along with a few other random snacks from my crew.
- I wore Salomon short tights with the waist pockets and my compression shirt. My rain jacket was helpful as the day progressed and it got colder in the rain. (UD rain jacket)
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
- The course is open so people could theoretically be anywhere on the course. My family was there and stationed up at the Start/Finish. Seeing them every couple hours was great and made logistics really easy.
- There is an out and back section on the course, people getting lapped, and another section with some overlap of runners. All this means you have nearly constant support from your fellow ultra runners. Very cool and motivating! There was a ton of positive support out there.
How’s the Swag?
- Buckle at the finish for 100 milers. Short sleeve tech shirt (or a hat, you get to choose during registration), and a pair of socks.
- Standard stuff.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5 out of 5. Know what you’re getting into with a runnable 12.5 mile loop in the forest on well maintained multi-use gravel trails, be ready for any weather, and then enjoy the hell out of this well run, fast and competitive race!