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!

Onward and upward I crept along the road, the machinery noises fading along with the bright lights. A short time later I finally arrived at the aid station at 12:27 a.m. to the sounds of a barking dog.
I didn’t stay very long as I knew the climb to Virginius Pass (13,100’) and the Kroger’s Canteen Aid Station (67.7 miles) would be short, steep and ardous and I wanted to hit it while I still felt great! So after tanking up, again on some more water mellon but now mixing in broth and potato soup to my improving diet, I was out of there and on up the old mine road.

Only a few switchbacks up the road I suddenly encountered Mikio and his pacer coming DOWN the road?! They said they’d gotten confused at an unmarked intersection of roads ahead and didn’t know how to proceed. I told them I’d help figure it out and so they turned around and together we climbed back up the road. We arrived at the intersection and sure enough there were no markers evident. A road continued straight and roughly level and another switchbacked and climbed. I figured we should be climbing so we climbed up the switchbacking road and quickly encountered a locked gate with No Tresspassing signs all over it. I knew that was wrong so we back tracked and continued on the other road and soon came across a course marker. I kept climbing strong and soon left Mikio behind as the mist we’d been climbing through turned into a drizzle of rain. I didn’t care, I felt pretty warm still and the rain helped cool me down. I was still in a short sleeve shirt having finally stowed my jacket. I don’t know how cold it was but it was enough that I could see my breath in great clouds! But I was never cold!
The mine road abruptly ended and the route turned cross country and extremely steep, like 100% grade steep as I passed by the remains of the Virginus Mine. I really had to dig in with my poles to keep from sliding back down the gravel chute I was climbing it was that steep and loose! I continued up and eventually rounded out into the upper basin when all of a sudden I heard cowbells and yelling ahead and above me. I looked up to see a UFO; the Kroger’s Canteen was seemingly a mass of glowing lights and shapes that floated in the jet black sky above me! Wow what a sight to behold! It was impossible to tell how far away the aid station was but I knew from experience I was close. I knew my friends Roch Horton and Scott Mills were manning the aid station and I couldn’t wait to get there. When I crossed into hailing distance they yelled down and asked for my race number. I yelled it and soon later I heard Roch and Scott yell my name and whoop! So after another extremely steep uphill gravel and snow scramble I arrived at the Canteen at 1:52 a.m.

What can I say about my favoriate aid station? It’s just a small nitche in the high, knife edge, ridgeline between basins. The total square footage of the Canteen is less than the size of your average prison cell. The staff look like they’ve just stepped off an Alaskian crab fishing boat; dressed in thick insulated coveralls and jackets, mittons and skull caps. With the aid station being so high up and exposed they’re often subject to violent rain storms and extreme cold! Scott and Roch work the aid station with extreme efficiency. They quickly sit me down on a flat rock covered with an insulated sleeping pad, place a warmed 2 liter bottle of water between my legs then cover me with a thick down sleeping bag. Next they hand me a bowl containing two pierogis, wonderful cheese filled dumplings. Amazingly they sound very appetitizing I quickly devour them both. They thrust a steaming mug of broth into my hands and tell me to drink up quickly as they want to get me out before the next runner comes in (Mikio’s lights have just appeared in the distance). And just like that I’m in, fueled up and out just like a NASCAR pit stop! Thanks Roch and Scott, the pierogis were awesome!
Out of the Canteen the half mile or so is an off camber rocky traverse over to Mendota Ridge which I carefully make my way too; my belly full of delicous warmth! At the ridge I cross the narrow saddle and behold the lights of Telluride far below. The route down to Telluride is extremely steep, over 4500’ of descent over the next five miles! I get rolling pretty good on the well worn trail and despite several recent, huge Aspen tree blow downs I make great time and arrive at the Telluride Aid Station (72.7 miles) at 3:09 a.m. To be continued...
In Telluride, crazy eyed and starving!