The 2010 Hardrock 100 is done and now, a week later, I’m still trying to put it all together.
In the days that followed, as I embraced my “recovery”, mostly in the form of sitting on the couch and watching repeats of the days Tour de France leg, I fought the urge to procrastinate and attempted to post something about the event. But as I sat with my laptop open, I just couldn’t seem to put anything into words. Now a week later, still feeling challenged with the task of reconstructing the day in my head, I’ve come to realize there was so much packed into the 30+hour effort that I can’t do it justice in a simple blog post. The memories I have from the day range from visual images of steep trails, creek crossings, and distant mountains that moved position with every pass I gained, to faintly recalled bits of conversations with pacers, fellow racers, aid station volunteers or myself in my own head(which comprise the majority), to broader moments like the sunset on Engineer Pass, Handies Peak at midnight, dawn in Pole Creek, and more acute imagery like the sickly elk we came upon at dawn, the passed out runner above Maggie, and the finish and kiss of the rock– it is for the third time now, the most unique experience I’ve been a part of. So for that reason, I can only really sum it up briefly, and then hope the photos fill in the gaps.
In sum, having completed the loop course twice now in the counter-clockwise direction, today was my first go the other way. Starting a little faster than in years past, I still kept it pretty mellow, passing through the first aid station, KT, in 28th position, and from there I slowly moved forward. I generally don’t concern myself with overall place during these races, but in hindsight it can be useful to track how you fared when compared to others around you. That said, I left Telluride in 19th or so, and just ahead of a thunderstorm that came through, which would thankfully be the only weather I ever encountered. I left Ouray around 14th and, paced by Christy, we moved up six spots over the next 28 mile stretch, which included the traverse of 14,000 foot Handies Peak, to Sherman. There, in the dreaded wee hours of the night, with tattered Hardrockers now spread out all over the San Juans and with a mentally daunting 30 miles to go, Neal tagged in as a pacer and we left in eighth, and feeling relatively good. This last 30 mile leg, thanks largely to Neal’s motivation, was completed in about nine and half hours, which for that stage of the race, is pretty good. I kissed the rock in 30 hours and 21 minutes, in 6th. And now I’m left trying to figure out how exactly it all happened.
All told, the splits chart reports I spent about 45 minutes total in the 12 aid stations, and otherwise took no breaks. For the most part I carried a hand held bottle with water and a GoLite pack with a diluted sports drink, and typically finished them both by each aid station. I downed an additional bottle of Gatorade, or the like, at all the main aid stations, as well as a random cup or two of flat Coke or chicken broth, when they were available. I think I set a Gu consumption PR at somewhere around 50 packets(gross!) and hardly had a bite of whole food. Two dozen S-Caps and about 8 Advil round out the list of what I put down. I think the benefits of keeping things fairly simple were seen in my relatively solid stomach throughout the race.
New for me this year was the use of poles, which I have to say were awesome. Not so much because they made me faster, but because they spread out the uphill effort to other muscles and seemed to help preserve my legs. Poles are required gear for us going uphill in winter, which we do a lot of, so it only made sense that they would be useful to me here. Once I moved past the stigma I’ve always associated with summer tourists in Aspen using them on area trails, I was glad to have them, and I used them on the climbs of Virginius, parts of Engineer, Handies and out of Cunningham. On a related note, Black Diamond has a sleek, new ultralite trekking/running pole set for release soon and there were several pairs out on the course. The feedback was that they work great– so be on the lookout for them sometime in January.
And what people seem most curious about were my shoes. I switched to the Hoka’s at Grouse, around mile 60, and through the next section over Handies I proclaimed to Christy, no fewer than ten times, how glad I was to be in them. In hind sight I should have worn them earlier, if not for the whole day. As for feedback, I felt little to none of the typical sore knees towards the end of the race and might even go so far as to say they deserve credit for fewer days of sore and swollen joints in the days after the race. I never rolled an ankle and on the more sure-footed descents I was barreling along much faster than I could have in my other shoes, at least this far in the race. The only noticeable shortcomings were that I slipped in a few places descending Handies (on steep loose surfaces) and the off-trail-XC descents like that down from Green Mountain, were a bit clumsy and I had to be real careful with my foot placements. In the end, I still give them a big nod of approval, and when things really start to ache, they’re a godsend. Both Karl Meltzer and Diana Finkel started in them.
So I began this day with the acknowledgment that it would be my last Hardrock, it’s just too hard to get ready for such an undertaking so early in summer. In fact, I repeatedly reminded myself and my crew of this fact through the 30 hour epic. But the further along I got, after never really hitting much of a low point, feeling a sour stomach or going against the urge to sleep, never feeling as if it was dragging on, or bitching about being “over it” I realize I have to go back, it’s just too much fun. It’s funny how the mind works.