Thursday, July 25, 2013

Counter Clockwise Redemption: 2013 Hardrock 100 Race Report (Part 4 of 4)

Telluride – Silverton (Miles 72.7 – 100.5, 9609’ gain, 10169’ loss):

I must have really made good time from Ouray to Telluride because when I rolled into the aid station my crew was not there! The aid station felt this was a bigger deal than I did; I was happy to just sit and take a little break. However, an aid station volunteer was immediately dispatched to search the parking lot for our yellow Jeep! Perhaps a minute later Kathy and Fritz emerge out of the darkness; they’d come by the aid station perhaps five minutes before and checked the IN/OUT board and noticed that Darla had not come through yet so figured since I’d been trailing her by 30-40 minutes for a long while that they had time yet. Turns out the board hadn’t been updated; Darla had already come and gone! Oh well. 
Of all the sections of the Hardrock course the next one was the one I had been anticipating the most because of its notoriety and difficulty. Over the next 9.3 miles to the Chapman Gulch Aid Station (82.4) the route climbs 4500’ and drops 3090’. I knew I needed to load up on calories before I left so I devoured a bowl of potato soup and several slices of water melon (love this stuff!). I also knew the next stretch would be during the “doldrums” of the early morning; those tough hours between midnight and sunrise that often reduce even the toughest of ultrarunners to stumbling zombies! Therefore I dispensed with water in my bottles and loaded up on Coca-Cola! And with a final wave I was out of there!
I was only a handful of minutes out of Telluride, on a wide path that switch backed just above the aid station, when I heard cheers and applause from the aid station. Must be Mikio and his pacer I thought. Time to press the pace a bit. The next mile or so is on the wide Telluride Bear Creek Road that has a fairly gentle grade so I tried to run as much of it as I could as I knew there’d be very little running soon enough. A short time later I arrive at the Wasatch Trail and begin climbing in earnest; steep switchback after steep switch back; endless. The route is overrun by thick vegetation which makes seeing my way ahead a bit difficult with my headlamp but there is really nowhere else to go but up! In the less overgrown sections of trail I often pause and cut out my light and stare into the heavens; the Milky Way is a bright and foggy band across the pitch sky! Wow! I’m not just stopping to admire the Universe however; I’m trying to see if I can spot Mikio’s lights behind and below me! Ha! Fortunately I don’t spot his lights and snap mine back on and continue ever upward; the roar of Bear Creek my only companion.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Counter Clockwise Redemption: 2013 Hardrock 100 Race Report (Part 3 of 4)

Ouray – Telluride (Miles 56.6 – 72.7, 4390’ gain, 5460’ loss):

The Ouray City Park was lit up and full of milling about runners, crews, pacers and more than a few curious spectators. We’d just arrived and spotted Kathy and her mother. Kathy told me somebody was there that wanted to see me; it was none other than my old friend David Horton! David was in Colorado to race his mountain bike in the 540 mile long, self-supported, Colorado Trail Race. It was great to see him in awesome shape! He said I looked pretty good mentally and physically and had a good race going; to keep it up! Fritz was done pacing at this point but promised that he’d be good to go to join me from Chapman to the finish in the morning. I’d taken a longer break here than necessary, but it was great to see my family and I’m positive it helped recharge my mental and physical batteries!
I checked out of Ouray sans pacer, paused to see the rest of my family, my dogs Cairo and Tracks at the RV park off Oak Street, then enjoyed the crossing of Box Canyon on the steel grate bridge and erry old tunnel beyond. Next thing I knew began the long crawl up Camp Bird Mine Road which slowly climbs over 3000’ to the Governor Basin Aid Station (64.5 miles). In a word this section is quite BORING! It’s a long drag uphill that is often just too steep to run though I tried to as often as I could when the grade seem to relax a bit. Along the way I passed a runner, (Rob perhaps?) and spotted several deer in and along side the road. After what seemed like an eternity I began to see extremely bright lights up ahead. I niavely thought it was the aid station all lit up. Wrong. It was a fairly new (to me) active mine in full 24-7 operation. The sounds of heavy machinery echoed off the canyon walls and the work area was as bright as day time; the excess light bled onto the canyon walls miles away! I made my way past the mine site full of irrational fears that some beheamouth of machine was surely going to chase me down and run me over if I lingered too long!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Counter Clockwise Redemption: 2013 Hardrock 100 Race Report (Part 2 of 4)

Sherman – Ouray (Miles 28.7 – 56.6, 9943’ gain, 7983’ loss):

I took a good break at Sherman, sitting in a chair for the first time while I restocked my pack with the contents of the only drop bag I’d use at the race. I scarfed down some more water mellon (see a theme here?) and asked if they had any popsicles (they did) and eat that too. I then drank a whole bottle of water too fast and my stomach instantly cramped up. Ouch! I just sat there and took a few deep breaths and the uncomfortable knot loosened up. Phew! Then I was out of there, once again chasing to keep “the group” in sight. The group roughly consisted of me, Darla Askew, Rob Erskine and Mikio Miyazoe along with a few others from time to time; Sarah McCloskey, Jon Teisher, David Coblentz…
The next section I’m very intimately familiar with as I’d been vacationing in the Lake City area and we pass by Sherman and this section of the course to do several 14ers in the area. We began our approach to Handies Peak (14,048’), the highest point on the course, up the long Cinnamon Pass Road that is often sees heavy ATV and Jeep traffic as the road is part of the popular Alpine Loop. Luckily most of the traffic we saw were crews and they kept the dust stiring to a minimum. The uphill grade over the next four miles to the Burrows Park aid station (32.6 miles) or so is fairly slight so we all tried to run as much of the 4x4 road as we could. This is an amazing road, a single lane literally blasted into the side of the mountain to form a “shelf”; on one side is the steep rock wall on the other a 200’ drop into the upper Lake Fork river!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Counter Clockwise Redemption: 2013 Hardrock 100 Race Report (Part 1 of 4)


What is the Hardrock 100? Well, in brief, it’s a grueling 100-mile mountain run that connects the four major mining centers of the San Juan Mountains: Silverton, Lake City, Ouray and Telluride and is dedicated to the spirit of the Hardrock miners whose trails they blazed we follow! The race features 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 67,984 feet with an average elevation of 11,186 feet - low point 7,680 feet (Ouray) and high point 14,048 feet (Handies Peak); the circular route reverses direction each year. But that doesn’t paint quite paint the full picture because more than 73 miles of the route is on moderate to severely technical trails or completely cross-country! The remaining mileage is on 4x4 roads in various degrees of disrepair. Only a small fraction of a mile touches pavement! Now add to the picture the fact that runners can expect to “do some mild form of rock climbing (hands required), wade ice cold streams, struggle through snow which at night and in the early morning will be rock hard and slick and during the heat of the day will be so soft you can sink to your knees and above, cross cliffs where a fall could send you 300 feet straight down, use fixed ropes as handrails, and be expected to negotiate the course with or without markers.” (2013 Hardrock Runners Manual) Next include the fact that runner’s must be prepared for all types of weather thus requiring carrying of addition layers of clothing and gear to handle extreme heat, cold, rain, wind, snow, hail, etc… often over a relatively short period of time! The completed picture gives you one of the most difficult mountain 100 mile races in the world and the reason it’s considered a post-graduate 100 mile race!
So how did I do? I finished 15th overall (13 male or M13 in Western States parlance) in 31:19:30 which surpassed my previous best of 33:36:13* (2008-CW) by over two hours! Even better, I avenged myself of my poor 2005 CCW race, which was an epic “two nighter” which took me 43:43:26 to complete! A CCW personal best by well over TWELVE hours! This was also my fourth finish in seven attempts and 17th hundred mile finish (19th event of 100 miles or more).

*In 2008 I actually had an extra week of acclimatization (3 weeks total) which I really think helped. So even though I was over two hours faster this year, the course was in much better condition than it was in 2008 (less snow).