Posts Tagged ‘hardrock’

Hardrock 2013 – The Easy Year

I finally found the time to put together my collection of photos from the 2013 Hardrock 100.

This year was quite a bit different than 2011. I wasn’t nearly in the same shape as I was in 2011 but I was able to finish well thanks to fairly mild course conditions and weather and a very conservative approach.

I was amazed at how dry the course was. There were no snow fields to cross and most streams were barely a trickle of water. The first river crossing I actually had to step in wasn’t until after KT 90 miles in. It did rain on the first night from Grouse Gulch over Engineer Pass to Ouray. But I didn’t get hit with any hail or have any risk of lightning. It definitely wasn’t the same Hardrock that I remembered from 2011.

And taking a slow and easy approach payed off in the end. I spent a lot of time with planned breaks at all aid stations early in the race was able to keep moving pretty steadily the entire time. The first overnight was pretty rough. I had a pretty bad episode of dry heaves on Engineer Pass and I had a nasty sour stomach the entire night. But this was due to the exhaustion of pulling an all-nighter hiking at elevation rather than any mistake I may have made with fueling or hydration. Fortunately the sick feeling went away after getting a fresh, sunny start to the second day in Telluride. My finish splits from Ouray and Telluride to the finish were actually faster than my 2011 splits. I just started off a lot slower and didn’t have the speed or strength to finish as strong as I did then.

A big part of my ability to keep a steady pace this year was thanks to VFuel. Early in the race, I took more time to eat solid food at aid stations but after Handies, I found that real food was just too much for my system to handle. But I could keep getting VFuel down consistently without getting sick. Even later on day 2 after I felt better leaving Telluride, I gave up on trying to eat much solid food. Whenever I took in VFuel, my legs would move and I didn’t get the same boost in energy from snacking on anything else from the aid stations.

Looking back now, I’m glad that I did decide to run Hardrock. I had a great week out in Silverton with some of my best friends. And thanks to Mindy’s help, Baxter and Sheba were able to come along too. Even though I wasn’t in top shape, it was a good learning experience to take a different approach to pacing. After this year’s finish, I really don’t think that finishing Hardrock is really as hard as most people believe – at least for most runners who have experience in the mountains and have finished other qualifiers. As I learned in 2011, the course will eat you alive if you try to actually race it. But 48 hours is more than enough time to work through any issues, take breaks as needed, and steadily make your way to the finish line.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back to run it again. Someday if I feel like I’m in good enough shape to really run my best, I would like to try. I would love to have one more chance to run the course with the fitness that I had in 2011 and experience and fueling plan that I had this year. But I don’t know if that will ever happen and I don’t have any desire to go back to trudge around the course just for the sake of finishing again. It’s a beautiful course and a very well run and well supported race. But there are other races out there that I’d like to try and plenty of other trails that I still need to explore. My best memories of running Hardrock are really from the friends and family who joined me out there. Most of them are right here in Fort Collins and Boulder and would be willing to join me on just about any adventure. I really don’t need to win a lottery entry and go back to Silverton to have another Hardrock experience.

2012

So 2012 is in the books. In regards to my own personal running accomplishments, it was a fairly uneventful year. 2012 started off well with a PR at the Moab 55k. Later in the spring I ran a couple more PR’s at the Horsetooth Half and the Colorado Marathon. But despite my faster finish time at the Colorado Marathon, I can’t say that I ran very well. I didn’t adequately prepare for a hard road run, went out too fast, crashed at the end of the race, and barely held on for a slight improvement from my 2010 marathon time. And the hard road racing definitely compromised my fitness for Bighorn so in hindsight the half and marathon PR’s really weren’t worth the cost. I ended up finishing Bighorn in decent shape and made it through the Steamboat 100 in the fall. Both races ended up being good personal learning experiences and were worthwhile adventures to share with some really good friends.

My best highlights of 2012 were really from being part of the accomplishments of other friends and volunteering with the Animal House shelter.

Running with dogs

Animal House had a record year with over 500 adoptions.

In 2012, I ran 589 miles with 48 different dogs:
Alphie, Amber, Angelina, Ashley, Badger, Bogi, Bonnie, Brad, Charlie, Chuck, Dale, Dexter, Elliot, Fig, Franklin, Fudge, Gravy, Harley, Jack, Joah, Joey, Jordan, Kenny, Kit, Lilly, Mac, Marvel, Meadow, Mylee, Nikita, Oskar, Oso, Potatoes, Red, Rocky, Ross, Samantha, Sapphi, Sasha, Scout, Tanner, Tiger, Tigger, Titan, Wheeler, William, Zara, and Zipper. I’ve collected photos of most of them here.

I spent the majority of my time over 232.5 miles working with Scout. After a very long wait, he finally found the perfect home. I heard that he has been doing very well living on a ranch in Wyoming continuing to improve with his training, going on long trail rides with horses, and finally getting to be a normal family dog lounging around on his owner’s bed.

My other favorite running partner, Ashley, finally got adopted in July after almost 9 months at the shelter. She and I ran the St. Patrick’s Day 5k, Fast and the Furriest 5k, and the Fire Hydrant 5k together. She was the first place dog at the Fire Hydrant 5k and 2nd place overall.

1st Dog at the Fire Hydrant 5k in 18:15.
(Photo from the Fire Hydrant 5k)

My own dogs still get out on a regular basis. Baxter joined me for 672.5 miles and Sheba even managed to jog 327 miles. Based on their adoption records, Sheba just turned 12 and Baxter is only a year younger. Baxter has slowed down a bit but still likes to get out to for normal 3 to 7 mile runs with me. But Sheba has really started to show her age. She still insists on joining Baxter and I every time we head out for a run but most days we only jog/walk about half to 3/4 mile away from the house before heading back home. She’s still fit and strong for her age but it’s been taking longer for her to get up and down the stairs. She slipped and fell down the stairs once last week – she was fine but it still makes me worry. I’ll probably need to cut more time out of my running schedule to make sure we can still get out for slow, easy walks on a regular basis this next year.

Fundraising

Thanks to Scott‘s encouragement, I used my March mileage to raise over $3,500 for Animal House. The Otter Cares G3 Challenge program gave each of their employees $200 for charity and gave them a challenge to team up and go out and use the funds to raise more money. To make the program a little more competitive, Otter Box offered a fairly substantial bonus donation to the charity team that raise the most money. Scott used his funds to start both Cat and I on our fundraising runs, organized a benefit show with his band, and recruited a dozen more Otter Box employees to raise funds for Animal House. We didn’t win the overall prize but our fundraising for Animal House came in second and Otter Box generously chipped in an extra bonus for our efforts. I think the grand total from everyone’s donations came out to over $13,000 for Animal House …I don’t know the exact dollar amount but it was a lot. It was really incredible to see how the the entire fundraising project just snowballed with more and more people joining in to donate, volunteer, or simply help in any way possible.

The Animal House fundraising team. (Photo by OtterCares Foundation)

Pacing and Crewing

Quad Rock 50

I almost forgot to add this to my 2012 highlights. I think this photo sums up what it’s like to crew for 200 runners in one day.

Nick and I obviously concerned about something going on during the race. (Photo by Alex May)

Despite the huge amount of work that it took to put this race together, everything went extremely well for a first year event. Nick has been a great partner to work with and we both owe the success of our race to the fantastic community of trail runners that we have in our area. I don’t think we could have had a better group of volunteers or runners.

Hardrock

I was fortunate to get out onto the Hardrock course pacing Jason Koop from Grouse Gulch to Cunningham. He stayed strong and consistent and finished with a 4 hour PR. Any year that I don’t have a chance to run the race myself, I’ll always try to get out to pace, crew, and/or volunteer. The course is spectacular and Hardrock is a really amazing event to be a part of in any way.

Jason Koop on the way to Cunningham at the Hardrock 100.

Vermont

The Vermont 100 was my favorite trip of the year. It was great to have some time to catch up with Mom back in New Hampshire and I had a blast crewing with Mindy and Celeste and pacing Scott for the last 30 miles of the race. Watching both Scott and Cat completely blow away their goals was a highlight of my year.

Scott finished in 20:56.

Cat wasn’t far behind Scott finishing in 21:40. And yes, she beat my Vermont 100 PR.

Nolans 14

I can’t say this was my favorite adventure. I’ve decided that I really don’t like 14ers. Anything above 13,000ft is just a crappy pile of rocks and falling on my ass in scree and banging my ankles and shins on sharp talus just isn’t my idea of fun.

But Eric is a real mountain goat at heart and has been working on finishing Nolans 14 for several years. He’s been a huge help pacing and crewing at many of my 100 milers and I’m glad I had the opportunity to try to repay the favor. And I don’t think I’d fully understand or appreciate the magnitude of his accomplishment if I hadn’t spent two nights out on the Nolans route with him.

Eric’s full trip report is online here.

But he left out a couple minor details. The first night out heading over Missouri, Belford, and Oxford went fairly smoothly. We had a gorgeous full moon and were able to hike most of the climb up Missouri without lights. But the descent off of Oxford was incredibly steep straight down a grassy slope. A thin layer of frost and loose hidden rocks under the grass made it incredibly slick. I was having a tough time keeping my feet getting down the hill and Eric told me that he wanted to stretch his legs out a bit and was going to just run ahead to treeline to take a short break while I made it down. So yeah, he dropped me and had a good ten minutes to rest while he waited for me to catch up. He had already covered 7 14ers and I had only made it over 3 …of the easy ones.

The second night out over Princeton wasn’t nearly as pleasant. It was horribly cold and windy climbing up the exposed ridge that seemed to go on forever. Eric was having a tough time keeping steady forward progress on this climb …and understandably so since this was his second night out with only a short 45 minute nap. But he was still walking upright and I had to convince him to get his hands down onto the rocks for better balance …which is exactly what I had been doing crawling up after him for the past couple of hours already.

The way down was even worse – down a nasty chute of loose scree and talus, across boulder filled tundra, and some bushwhacking to finally connect with an old trail down to the road. But other than a wrong turn on the road that added a half mile tops, Eric never lost focus. I, on the other hand, let myself get frustrated and lost my patience. In the original rules for the Nolans 14 challenge, pacers are not allowed but I can honestly say I was absolutely no help to him as a pacer on either night out. In case of an emergency I did have a set of maps that I could have used but Eric navigated the entire way and other than a few sections where we were each just picking our way through rocks and bushes, Eric led the entire way. I don’t think I was even very good moral support on the second night out and I took lousy pictures.

Eric on the Princeton summit. We paused just long enough to get a quick photo. Yup, it’s another pile of rocks and it’s damn cold and windy.

The Bear

The Bear was one last ultra weekend to end the season. I went out to help crew and pace Steph for her first 100 mile finish. Chris and Kristel were there to help pace so we were able to split up into reasonable sections. After sending Kristel off for her final leg with Steph and handing over crew duties to Chris, I was able to jump in for a few more miles to pace Andy in to the finish. Nick, Rob, Victoria, and Alan all finished well too. Rob ran an incredibly strong race and finished well before I arrived. And as usual, Nick had already gotten in a decent night’s sleep by the time I got to the finish.

Steph cruising along already 40+ miles into the Bear 100.

Andy running down to the finish at Bear lake.

Andy crossing the finish line.

Steph finishing strong.

Victoria’s 1st 100 mile finish!

Alan finished the Rocky Mountain Slam. Bighorn, Hardrock, Leadville, and the Bear in one season. Damn impressive!

2013

I was fortunate to get an entry into Hardrock again so this will be my primary goal race of the year.

I also won a lottery entry into Massanutten but have decided to drop it in favor of running the Pocatello 50 in June. I know I can finish multiple 100′s in one year but I really want to improve and do well. And Hardrock isn’t a race to take lightly. I’ve done better in past 100′s when I’ve been able to fit in a good quality 50 mile race and Pocatello looks like an ideal course and perfect timing to prepare for Hardrock.

I’ll also be running the New Orleans Marathon in February. Since I really didn’t feel like I ran well at the 2012 Colorado Marathon, I thought it would be a good idea to find time to put an honest effort into running a road race. February seemed to be ideal timing to allow me to focus on track and road work during the winter months to avoid cutting into any quality trail time later in the spring.

Plans for the 2013 Quad Rock 50 and 25 are already well under way. Registrations are rolling in and I’m really looking forward to building and improving on our success from last year.

This next year I’m going to try to do a better job publishing more photos and information about the shelter dogs I run with and I’m going to take more time out to try to get more dogs out to local running events. Several dogs have found homes just from the small effort I’ve made to promote them in the past year. I can definitely do a lot better.

I haven’t made a final decision about another March fundraiser. I will probably find a way to do something to raise funds for Animal House this year but am not sure if I’ll have enough flexibility with work to put that much effort into running for a full month. And I’m not sure if I’ll be physically up for the challenge.

And I need to follow through with a couple thank you’s for Vi Endurance and Colorado Physical Therapy Specialists. My friends at Vi Endurance have been incredibly supportive in this past year providing me with a ton of great product and helping to design an ideal race fuel that I can confidently use. Getting sick and struggling through races without any calories hasn’t been much fun but I think I’ve finally figured out a product and system that works. So I am incredibly grateful for their help. And Terry and his team of PT’s has put me back together more times than I can count now. I wouldn’t have been able to run the Colorado Marathon this year, let alone set a PR, without their help. I’ll take some extra time to write up more details about Vi and Colpts as soon as I have some time.

Hardrock Photos

It’s taken me a long time to catch up and collect and organize my photos from Hardrock. But I’ve finally put everything I have together in one album here.

Hardrock Video

I’m still working on collecting and organizing all the photos from Hardrock but this is a great video slide show that Eric put together. There’s some good video from Grant Swamp pass that gives you an idea of just how steep it and nasty that climb is.

Hardrock 2011 – Through Hell and High Water

Wow. I’m still a bit shell shocked by the Hardrock experience. I’m still not quite sure how to describe it. The course was intensely difficult, overwhelming, and relentless. But at the same time, the scenery was breathtaking and the scale of the surroundings was just awesome. Even in my worst moments on the course, I was happy to be out there on a trail that so few people have the privilege to see.

My race didn’t quite go as well as I had planned. I got sick early in the race and threw up regularly from Ouray to Oscar’s pass. I spent hours in aid stations trying to recover and pull myself together to be able to make it to the next aid station. For many miles, my pace could barely be considered walking. From my own perspective, this was the worst performance of my life. At times, it was downright pathetic. But at the end of the day, I was the 15th finisher to kiss the rock in Silverton. By Hardrock standards, my worst day was actually a pretty good run. Hardrock is a different kind of race.

The day started out extremely well. The first climb up over Little Giant seemed easy and the views from the top were exhilarating. I came into Cunningham well ahead of my planned pace so I took it easy and just tried to cruise through the next few sections. I ran with Duncan most of the way to Pole Creek and after that we played leap frog all the way to Governor’s Basin. On the downhill into Sherman, I ran a much faster pace than I thought I would but my legs still felt fresh, light, and quick on the switchbacks and I was really having fun.

Trouble started shortly after leaving Sherman. I had planned on taking it easy on the climb over Handies and thought that I had plenty of water and time to get over to Grouse. On the way out of Sherman, a volunteer on the road mentioned that storms might be blowing in. There were a few dark clouds forming so I mentally prepared myself for whatever rain, hail, sleet, and lightning the mountain could throw at me and headed up. Since I fully expected to freeze my ass off, I passed right by the last water drop at the trailhead and charged up the trail. I still had most of my hydration pack full from the Sherman station and it was only a 3 mile grunt to the top and all downhill from there to Grouse. Wrong. It was a 4 mile slog to the top and the descent had another 700ft bonus climb up out of the American Basin. Shortly after passing the last water drop, the sky cleared and the sun came out in full force. It never rained one drop and even at the very top at 14,000ft, I was roasting. And just as I made it to the summit, my water ran out. Oh crap! Fortunately there was plenty of snow and fresh run off on the trail near the top. I stopped and stuffed snow in my pack fully expecting that enough would melt on the way down to get me to Grouse in one piece. Not one drop melted. I stopped several times to slurp some water from streams and grabbed handfuls of snow to suck on but never managed to get more than a few sips. It would have been easier if I had a bottle to dip and fill and in hind sight, I should have dragged my hydration bladder out and scraped it through whatever run off I could get in it. Eventually the snow fields ended and I still had a few miles of dry, hot trail to cover to get to Grouse.

At Grouse, I took some extra time to sit and try to recover. Or at least I thought I took an extra long time at the aid station to pull myself together. But I was still caught up in the excitement of the race. Volunteers and crew were buzzing and Maria was geared up and ready to start pacing me through to Telluride. I left the aid station in less than 15 minutes planning to just walk most of Engineer pass while continuing to catch up on hydration and calories. Well, everyone in the best condition just walks up Engineer pass – seriously, what the hell was I thinking?!? And I quickly found that just walking up to 13,000ft isn’t the best environment to catch up on hydration. It was still roasting hot out and I stopped once to stick my head in a snowbank and then filled my shorts and arm sleeves with snow. Looking back now, I realize that I was already severely dehydrated and overheating and should have been more diligent in icing down to control my body temperature.

At the Engineer aid station, I started to feel better and managed to get a few orange slices down. I loaded up with a fistful of saltines to tide me over until I could get to the low point on the course in Ouray way down below at a reasonable elevation around 7700ft. As we dropped in elevation, I felt better and better and my legs were moving well on the nice gradual descent down the canyon. This is one of the sections of the course that most people are terrified of with a narrow trail winding along the side of a cliff and a sheer drop off just inches away with a raging river below. But the trail was really one of the smoothest and most runnable sections of the course. For a few miles, I forgot about how tired and sick I was and just had fun cruising down the trail. Towards the bottom, I met up with Matt Hart, on a section of loose shale. He warned me to save my quads and I joked that I lost my quads long ago. But honestly I felt pretty good. I’d spent months training my quads for this abuse and they were holding up better than I ever imagined. The shale snapped under our feet like dinner plates and I got a childlike satisfaction imagining that we were crashing our way through fine china so I kept stomping away down the hill.

By Ouray, I was feeling pretty good. I was tired and my stomach was still queasy but all things considered, I felt better than I thought I would 56 miles into this ordeal. I took another extended break at the aid station to re-hydrate, re-fuel, and re-charge for the big push up over Virginius to Telluride. Or at least I thought it was an extended break – I was out of the aid station in 12 minutes. And as soon as I checked out and turned the first corner out of sight, I threw up everything. This really wasn’t the condition I planned to start the 7.9 mile grind up Camp Bird road to the Governor Basin aid station.

The road to Governor Basin was a long, tedious climb. The only upside to being stuck on this road was that we could continue hiking into the dark without using our head lamps. Eventually Maria switched on her head lamp and I stayed a few yards behind in the shadows which helped to save my eyes and eliminate some of the dizzying effect of staring through a tunnel of artificial light. I threw up again along the way and finally realized just how bad my condition was. I was burning hot – even as the sun went down and the temperature started dropping. My forehead was dry and burning and I was dying of thirst. All I wanted to do was guzzle cold water. But I was so nauseous that my stomach protested at even the smallest sip. We still had several miles to cover to get to the aid station and I was seriously worried. I finally ditched the pacing goals and told Maria that we had to stop at the next available rock to sit. I needed to get water down and get myself to Governor Basin in a condition I could recover from. Pushing any harder could put me over the edge and end my race and probably put me in the hospital. It took over half a mile to find a rock to sit on. Seriously?!?! I planned to sit for as long as it took to get 10 sips of water down. I threw up once but bit by bit, slowly counted out the sips and let each settle.

We made it to Governor Basin and I told Maria I would stay there as long as it took to make sure I could recover enough to get up and over Virginius. Getting sick and crashing on Camp Bird road may have meant dropping out of the race to get a ride to the hospital. Getting stuck in this condition on the snow fields on Virginius at 13,000ft at night would be a search and rescue nightmare. Whatever finish goals I had set my sights on at the beginning of the race just weren’t worth the risk. And to confirm just how bad things could get, Hardrock veteran and 2010 champion, Jared Campbell, had been wrapped up in a sleeping bag for an hour when I got there. The volunteers where whispering to Jared’s pacer about dropping. He had an easy way out to just take a ride back down the hill to Ouray. But Jared surprised them and came back from the dead, geared up, let out a huge shout, and stormed out of the aid station up Virginius. Unfortunately Jared couldn’t pull off the same recovery again and eventually dropped in Telluride. I stayed at Governor for a full hour and threw up my first attempt at some tea, ginger ale, and a sandwich. Eventually I managed to alternate ginger ale, broth, and saltines to get enough liquid and fuel in me to have the confidence to push up and over Virginius.

The layover at Governor was just enough to get me up and over the top of Virginius and Maria and I made good time keeping up a steady hike up the pass. At the top, we were greeted by the world’s best aid station crew. Roch Horton, Fred Ecks, and a handful of other hard core volunteers were perched on a the ledge at the top of Virginius under a tiny little tarp. They had propane tanks, lights, and even a stereo blaring. Roch ushered me over to sit on the one available spot with a camp pad laid out while other volunteers draped a sleeping bag over me to keep me warm. In quick succession Roch handed me coke, chicken broth, and a pierogi. He was so efficient about it that I didn’t even have a chance to think about whether or not my stomach could handle it. I just drank and ate whatever he gave me. The pierogi was possibly the best food I’d had all day! While I swallowed the last of my pierogi, Roch gave some good words of encouragement and rattled off the stats, "I was doing great (really?), only 33 miles to the finish, 5 miles to Telluride, just a small 40ft climb over Mendota saddle, one snow field on the traverse below, and just a couple patches on the other side to get to good trail, and you’re out of here in 5, 4, 2, 2, 1." With that, I was on my feet and on my way down the hill.

I had my first big fall on the way down. Snow fields opened up to a really steep and rocky section with running water over loose gravel and scree. I tripped and went flying head first. I was able to get my hands up but I still had a firm grip on both trekking poles so I ended up punching both fists straight into the rocks in front of my face. I took most of the fall on my left arm and just barely bumped my head and rolled over through the running water. It hurt like hell and I couldn’t put much weight on my left arm. But I still was able to grip my pole and was able to use it for balance the rest of the way down.

By Telluride, I was getting seriously sick again. I threw up in the bushes in the park one more time and then settled into a chair to re-start the slow process of getting fluids and calories down bit by bit. Eric, Lisa, and my mom were here to help and while they may not think they did much, it was a huge help to have friends and family with me.

Just before dawn, I finally decided it was time to go and got up and headed up the long climb to Oscar’s with Eric. I was still nauseous and was barely able to keep up sipping water and nibbling on saltines. To make matters worse, I had developed a nasty cough. I kept hacking up crud from my lungs which threatened to trigger another violent episode of vomited every few minutes. Eric and I caught up with Blake through this section and we played a game of slow motion leap frog all the way to the Chapman aid station. I joked with Blake about racing as we traded places ….our head to head battle up to Oscar’s was probably a bit less exciting than watching senior citizens putter along with walkers and canes. At the top of Oscar’s we were rewarded with some amazing views. I actually felt fortunate that I had such a rough night. If I had pushed on through Governor and Telluride without stopping, I would have gone over this pass in the dark and missed some of the best views of the entire course. For a few moments I was having fun again, enjoying the views, and soaking in the experience of being out on such an amazing trail. And then I puked again. Just a few steps from the top on the last snow field, I just couldn’t hold it. I swear, my socks nearly came out through this one. It was awful.

On the other side of Oscar’s, I was greeted by the gnarliest, nastiest, pile of talus. It was almost impossible to walk through this jagged pile of rocks. I took back all the bad things I said about the climbs up the snow fields. This was just brutal!

At Chapman, my day finally started to turn around. Ryan and Megan were at the aid station waiting for their runner so it was nice to see some friendly faces. We all had a good laugh …mostly at Eric in his ridiculous outfit. He’d been wearing Kari’s pink running skirt and a hog heaven tank top all day. We laughed about some other stuff …I’m really not sure what. At this stage of exhaustion, you kind of have to laugh at everything. Otherwise you’d just break down and cry. Good times!

In our short stay at Chapman, I managed to get a cup of coffee down and ate a few cookies. Eric and I repacked our gear to take just what we needed to cover the last 18 miles to Silverton. It was still only a little after 10am and Eric pulled out one head lamp and asked if I thought we should take it. There was an awkward pause for a moment and the head lamp went back in the pack. "Only" 18 miles at Hardrock was still a long way to go and a lot could go wrong.

From Chapman to the finish I was able to keep drinking and eating cookies. I kept a schedule of 1 cookie per mile and wow, what a difference some consistent calories and fluids makes. We hiked steadily up Grant Swamp pass. I pulled myself up the final near-vertical scree chute almost entirely with my poles – just kicking my feet into the loose dirt for enough foothold to plant another pole up the slope and haul myself up another foot. We lingered at the top for a few moments to catch our breath, enjoy the views, and visit Joel Zucker’s memorial. After a few switchbacks of sliding and tip toeing through more nasty scree and rocks, the trail opened up and we were finally able to start running at a decent pace to the KT aid station below.

On the climb up to Putnam from KT, I finally got hit with a major hail storm. Fortunately we stayed below tree line for most of the storm and just got stopped for a few minutes at tree line with Nathan and Devon and several other runners. I was amazed at just how drastically the weather changed. My feet were numb from running through the hail and ice water filled single track and I was starting to have trouble bending my fingers to keep a good grip on my poles. Just 20 minutes earlier I had been roasting under the hot sun. And a mere 20 minutes later on our way up the endless climb to Putnam, I was roasting again under the blazing sun. On the climb to Putnam, the end was finally in sight and I finally started to get some energy for the final push. From the ridge it was all downhill to the finish. But wait, that one wasn’t the ridge. The top is the next ridge over on the right. Oh crap, that’s not it either. The top of the ridge is way the hell up on that next huge hill. Straight up the grassy slope, one pole plant and one foot step at a time. Ugh!

The cruise downhill from Putnam went well. Eric and I stopped just long enough to say hello to Mark Overson and check that we had enough water to make to the finish. I was able to move pretty well through most of the easy sections and only slowed down to pick my way through the intermittent talus fields along the way. At the bottom of the hill, we had one more challenge blocking our way to Silverton – the Mineral river crossing. The river crossing was roped off but after 97+ miles, getting across without losing my feet was no easy task. The water was waist deep and running fast. I had to hold the rope with both hands and lean with my full weight upstream with both legs locked. Each footstep was an effort and it felt like the current was going to rip my quads right off my bones.

After a few hundred yards hobbling on numb, tired legs, Eric and I got moving again ran the last couple miles into town. We hiked a couple of the last slopes, turned the corner at the top of the hill by the shrine and ran every step of the way through town. No one was chasing me at the time. I wasn’t racing any more and really didn’t have any reason to hurry. I just wanted to get to the finish. No matter how bad some of the run had been, I wanted to finish strong and I wanted to run. I can’t describe just how good it felt to get to the end and kiss than damn rock.

This event was far more than a race. Hardrock is ultra running at it’s best. It humbles the elite. It’s ruthlessly unforgiving of the ill prepared and inexperienced. Fierce competitors become allies. Strangers become friends. There is an overwhelming positive force from every person involved that wills you to succeed.

Congrats to all of the 80 official finishers as well as the 2 final finishers who made it back to Silverton after the cut off. Thanks to Duncan, Matt, Blake, Nathan, and Devon for the good company out on the trail. I’m glad you all made it to the finish line. Thanks to Eric and Maria for doing such an awesome job pacing and escorting me safely for over 60 miles to the finish. Thanks Mom and Lisa for coming out to support this crazy adventure driving all over Colorado and staying up all night in the middle of nowhere. And a huge thank you to all the volunteers who made this event possible.

I look forward to seeing everyone again in Silverton next July. If I don’t get a spot as a runner in the lottery, I’ll be out there to volunteer, pace, or crew to try to pay back some of the support that helped get me to the finish line this year.

For more insight into the Hardrock experience I recommend reading Nick, Joe, Dakota, Devon, and Tim‘s reports.

I’ll post more photos as soon as I have a chance to get them organized.

The map info is online here.