Hardrock Reflection

hardrock 100, ted mahon, 2013 hardrock100

At the finish, enjoying one of the simple pleasures I long for while out on the course– a seat.

This year’s Hardrock 100 went well by nearly every measure. At the risk of making it sound routine, it was a fairly smooth day out there. And with the help of my crew/pacer team of Christy and Jesse Rickert– from the Mount Everest/Global Extremes days— I finished in 5th place, with a time of 28:19. It was my sixth time on the course and my fastest finish yet.

The most measurable improvement for me was paring three and a half hours off my previous best time for the counter-clockwise direction. That calculates to about two minutes and ten seconds per mile faster over every mile. My prior CCW finishes were 2011- 31:55; 2009- 31:59; 2007- 33:15 (only 2011 followed the slightly longer Telluride/Bear Creek re-route).

I started out a bit closer to the front this year, arriving to the first aid station in somewhere around the 18th spot. My initial goal of a sub-30 hour finish was about a two hour improvement on my best time to date for this direction. So armed with splits from my prior finishes, I worked to cut time from each leg, and when I arrived in Ouray at mile 56 and picked up Christy as a pacer, I was more than a full hour up on 2011.

grouse gulch, hardrock 100, ted mahon

A second photo of me in a chair. I swear I didn’t sit down very much at all this day. Here we are at Grouse Gulch, mile 41, after getting up and over Handies Peak in PR time, with Christy and Jesse helping out. Krissy Moehl photo.

Christy pulled me up and over Virginius to Telluride in personal record time, and Jesse did the same from Telluride to Putnam (mile 95), helping me to log faster splits on every leg. We ran by Putnam aid station at 9am without stopping, comfortably ahead of my goal and without anyone giving chase, and we cruised to the finish in 1:20. Every split but the first and last of the race were the fastest I had ever run them.

I can’t exactly attribute the improvement to any single factor, and was more likely due to experience accrued on this course through the years. In fact, if anything stood out as being different this year leading up to the race, it was that I was actually very light on training miles. Our Centennial Peaks ski project was in full swing this spring, so April and May weren’t good for running (average about 15-20 miles per week). I sprained my ankle June 1st and was sidelined for a week, I sat out the Dirty 30, and then ran flat miles up until San Juan Solstice 50, which went surprisingly well, all things considered. After that I logged two good weeks of daily runs before an accelerated taper (~ 4 days) to this race. I was forced into a “less-is-more” strategy, and it seemed to actually work.

As always, I kept things simple out there, relying exclusively on gels, S-Caps, Nuun tabs, and Skratch Labs drink mixes. I took very little from the aid stations apart from water, with the exception being a small cup of Coke or chicken broth in a few instances through the night, and two pieces of a PB&J. I did scarf down three pierogies up on Virginius Pass. They really hit the spot.

ouray aid station, hardrock100, ted mahon

Leaving Ouray with Christy, in daylight for a change. I was in 9th place at this point. (photo credit: Bryon Powell/

The low point of the race for me wasn’t so much a mental or physical bonk, but was a slight demoralization from the steady rain that began to fall as I pulled into Ouray. It was a bummer to entertain the thought of heading into the night cold and wet, with a forecast for steady precipitation. Thankfully it didn’t last, though we did get another good dousing after leaving Telluride.

Most interesting to me about the race though was that despite running the course in the opposite direction to last year, I finished in virtually the same exact time and place– in 2012 I was 5th place, in 28:20. A 30 second improvement in a 28-hour race amounts to being .03% faster, a difference that number crunchers would consider to be statistically insignificant.

So I tied myself from last year, running the opposite way.

hardrock 100 finish line, hardrock 100, ted mahon

Huge crowds at the finish.

Many Hardrockers say– and I’ve always agreed– that the clockwise course is faster. The layout of the climbs and descents is more runnable, and late miles are easier when going clockwise. My two fastest times before this year were on the clockwise course, and by significant amounts. But the winning times and course records don’t vary too much one way or the other, and there’s other evidence of parity, mainly from regular racers who finished sequential years with close to, or identical times.

It didn’t matter to me that there were instances that demonstrated things to be equal, I felt CCW was harder, and my times until this year corroborated that idea. But I guess I was wrong. I may prefer the layout of the CW course but that doesn’t mean it’s actually slower.

So having finally settled that, I guess the next thing to do is start figuring on how to crack into the 27’s. After all, next year is clockwise. But first I think I’ll just enjoy the rest of my wide open, race-free summer.

11 comments to Hardrock Reflection

  • Randy Isler

    Wow Ted,your “steady as you go” really is amazing to see.It’s not nearly as “easy”as it sounds.The cumalative affects of Hardrock as you go around the course makes it really difficult to maintain a steady rate,yet you are a minority in that regard,and seem very accomplished at it,The Hardrock miners had nothing on you day after day out there,you would put them to shame,great job!

  • d'Mouse

    Congrats, the both of you are amazing! Significan improvement in both of your races!

  • ted

    Thanks Arlene. I guess I understate things. I was psyched with how it went.

    Randy, thank you for the inspiration. It was a long time back when I first learned of this run and got the bug to make it there someday, no doubt a result of guys like you who got it going and showed up for such a crazy outing year after year.

    Many today are just building on what you and others laid as the foundation.

    As for the Hardrock miners, I’m OK with visiting Oscar’s once a year. I couldn’t handle a trip up and down that road for work. that thing is brutal both ways.

  • You get faster every year Ted. Super impressive man. Hope to share some trail time with you next year.

  • Super happy for you, Ted! You’re solidifying yourself as the quintessential Hardrocker. Hoping to share a little of the course with you next year. Congratulations.

  • Thanks, Ted, for sharing this. An amazing achievement. The scenery is epic there so please post some more photos if you have them.

  • ted

    I’m done carrying the camera. Minutes actually count here and taking photos doesn’t fit in anymore.

    We’re all riding the wave of faster times these days. I think a big part of it is the simple awareness and acceptance that it can be done at a faster pace. Above all else, you have to believe you can do something. Mind over matter.

    Breakthroughs happen in all sports. Free climbing a mandatory aid route, skiing a thought-to-be-unskiable line, running HR in 24. Once the wall is broken down, it usually stays down, and the sport witnesses a giant progression.

    For a while 30 hours was a winning HR time. Then it went down to 28 and now it’s 24. Who knows where the bottom will be put in. I don’t think technology or training has changed all that much, so why the big jump in the past 8-10 years? Hard to say.

    Hope to see you next year there, Tim (and Matt).

  • I envy how steady you are through races, Ted. Awesome Hardrock this year man — and great to catch up with you.

    Maybe see you on skis next winter.


  • Adam Hewey

    Ted it was an absolute pleasure spending time with you on the trails and roads of Hardrock. You ran a great race. I passed you while you were talking to campers, you passed me while I was eating a ruben sandwich walking up a road. This is racing?

  • ted

    Agreed. Funny that I thought I should stop and tell the backpackers up in Bear Creek they would be hearing runners come by ALL night. Not sure why I cared. They seemed to think it was cool. I wonder if they felt that way as the 100th runner came by at 5 am or so.

    It’s great that everyone out there is so friendly all race long. It makes things way more fun and less stressful than to care about what others are doing. AT least until you get near the end, then it’s game on.

    I was with some of you’re old buds from town this past weekend(Travis Moore, Austin Weiss, Billy Madsen) who were impressed with your race and asked how you were doing.

    Hope you went to the chiropractor and got straightened out.

  • Huge congrats, Ted! That’s really impressive. Now, enjoy that wide open, race-free rest of your summer. We should get together later this summer/fall for a peak or something.

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