One thing that I think could be really exciting (for online spectators) about this race is that they will be doing some race day video coverage of the race! There will be a slight delay in the footage, but this is quite certainly the most ambitious attempt at race day coverage of any existing ultra in North America. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's possible in this regard, but it'll be interesting to see how well they can pull it off and how people respond to it. Check out more info. about it here.
In terms of how I'm feeling about this race, that is pretty hard to say. I'm definitely just heading out there with a very open mind. After UTMB I had decided I wasn't going to race UROC. I knew I needed a bit of a break and I was pretty sure I needed a long enough break that I likely wouldn't be running at all until sometime in October or later. After 10 days completely off after UTMB though I started to go for some short runs and I was feeling really good (both physically and mentally). I spent several days trying to decide whether to race UROC or not. In the end I just felt my intuition pushing me toward doing the race. I have no idea how the race will go for me, and I probably have fewer expectations about this race than most any race I've ever done, but I do feel really excited to race this weekend. Ever since definitively deciding (about one week ago) that I would race I have felt really good about this decision and about this race. I have no idea if this means that I will have a good performance on Saturday from a racing standpoint, but I do feel confident that I will have a worthwhile and satisfying weekend no matter how the race plays out for me.
Some folks have complained about UROC being a bit dramatic and over the top in it's marketing approach, or simply in the approach of calling itself, "The Ultra Race of Champions." Certainly I can understand where these sentiments come from as I have always been a big fan of showing people things rather than telling people things. In the case of a race this would mean simply creating the race, enticing top runners to run, offering some big prize money (optional, but perhaps necessary to getting to where UROC is trying to go), and letting folks decide for themselves that this a "championship" type race. At the same time though UROC's approach makes perfect sense to me. Most races have a vision of where they want to get to. In being really clear and open and active with this vision UROC has gotten very far in one year. Compare this to something like the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship race which has instead gone with the "if you build it they will come" approach. I am not certain if North Face's vision with that event was to create a "championship" type race with dozens of top runners from around the world, but one can only imagine this to be the case due to the huge prize purse they put up and the fact that Championship is part of the name of the race. Assuming that this was their vision all along it's amazing to me that they've done almost nothing to promote or encourage this vision. And I think this is the only reason that it took the NF race 3 or 4 years to develop as strong of a field and as much attention on the race as UROC seems to have in it's first year. I'll be honest, the laid-back approach that the NF has taken is probably a lot more my style than the very active approach that UROC has taken, but it's hard to argue that UROC's approach hasn't been more effective in moving more quickly toward their vision. Ultimately though I guess only time will tell, it will be interesting to see what the sustainability will be of these two races. My guess is we'll see some huge changes (presumably improvements) in the next few years from UROC as they continue to be very active about reaching their "vision." North Face on the other hand has changed almost nothing about their race in 5 years and it'll be interesting to see if this static approach will ultimately be to their benefit or to their detriment.