I recently completed my 10th Hardrock 100, finishing in 29 hours and 26 minutes which was fast enough for 7th place. Conditions were pretty ideal. The race day weather was sunny with only a few light passing showers. The night was mild, I crested the top of Handies Peak around midnight in a short-sleeved shirt. And the course was exceptionally dry. Once past the mandatory creek crossing at the KT aid station near mile 11, my feet were never wet again. I don’t recall a single footstep on snow. Oscar’s, Virginius, all the usual wet and snowy stretches… all dry.
Christy, Tim Mutrie, Lissa Ballinger, and Andy Docken crewed for me, and Christy joined me from Sherman (mile 72) all the way to the finish. I owe their support, and particularly Christy’s late-night pacing, to helping me hang on to another sub-30 hour finish. Thank you. I’ve seen what can happen in the late stages of the race and know how things can fall apart, and I consider this year to be one of my best efforts on the course to date.
As fulfilling as it may be to have put together a good race, it’s the big picture that holds the most significance for me.
I’ve now covered 1000 miles on this course over the ten years I’ve run. Seven finishes were in the top-ten, six of them were under 30 hours. I had no DNF’s, my average finish time was 30:07 and my average finishing place was 8.6.
That comes to more than 330,500 vertical feet climbed over 301 hours on the course. I made ten traverses of the 14er Handies Peak, five of them in the middle of the night (I’ve run both directions five times). I consumed somewhere around 350 gels, gallons of ginger ale, Coca-Cola, and chicken broth but also noteworthy— I never once threw up while out on the course. I logged thousands of training miles, spent countless hours stumbling along the trail in the wee hours of the night fighting to stay awake. I needed dozens of massages and downed an unknown amount of ibuprofen to help with sore knees and muscles before, during, and after each race. And I made exactly ten jaunts down through the finish corral to kiss the rock.
It’s been quite a run, both literally and figuratively.
I love this event. It’s always been a highlight of the year for me since I first ran in 2007. I consider it to be one of the biggest challenges anyone can undertake in the mountains in a day (or maybe two). But as much as I love it and it’s something that has become part of my identity, I also feel that I can’t do it forever. When you add it all up, the training, the recovery, and the race itself, it’s a lot. It’s time for a break.
Additionally, while some 800 different people have finished this course over the 25 years it’s been held, many thousands have applied in recent years who also want their shot at the experience. Around 2400 people entered the lottery for this year’s race, vying for one of the 165 or so available slots. Rather than continue to return to the race as a veteran with favored lottery status, I think other runners deserve a chance. For me to continue to participate simply to shave off a few minutes here and there, while so many struggle to get accepted for their first time, is selfish.
So as I look back on my ten years at Hardrock since 2007 (I didn’t run in ’08 and ’15) I’m really very happy. I’ll definitely miss it, but I feel as though I gave it my absolute best, and my record of results on the course make me proud.
Rookie to Veteran — coming full circle
I’ve made many friends and learned a lot over my memorable 12 year journey at Hardrock 100. In the early years, as a neophyte with only a couple of 100 milers under my belt, I loved meeting the veteran racers. It was inspiring to talk with these Hardrockers, with their storied histories over 10 or more finishes at the race. It was hard to imagine running this course as many times as these vets. First things first. Let’s just get one done, right?
I gathered all the wisdom I could from them and others and worked to apply it to my own race. Year-after-year I refined my strategy, trying to teach myself how to run a smart race, and how to do it consistently.
As I kept being blessed with some lottery luck, my races were going more smoothly and my times were getting faster. But I was always in search of the elusive perfect race. I felt I could always do better. I was never 100% satisfied and I insisted that I just needed one more try to get it all just right. So I kept going back.
In 2012 I had my fastest race to date, 28:20. It was my fifth time running and I finished in fifth place (coincidentally, wearing bib #5). It was around that time I finally began to feel like I knew what I was doing.
The following year, running the opposite direction, I managed to finish in 5th place again, and within a minute of the prior year’s race, 28:19.
While I insisted that I could still do better, others had been noting my consistency through the years and attributed it to good pacing. I always started out slower than others to conserve energy, which allowed me to have a strong back half of the race. I began to meet newcomers to the race who were introducing themselves and telling me they were using past splits of mine to pace their own race, as if I was some model to emulate. A few times these introductions happened out on the course, during the race. Comments ensued regarding whether or not it was a wise move to pass me at all, I guess out of fear I would simply reel them in later. In a few cases, some runners actually declared, somewhat jokingly, their intention to just stay right behind me all day so they would be on my pace.
It was around that time that Dale Garland, the race director, called me up at the awards ceremony and said I might be the most consistent top finisher at the race. As I look back, I think that acknowledgement from the RD was the most significant moment of Hardrock for me.
This past July, I walked into the Silverton gym to pick up my bib for my tenth race and I looked around. I saw many familiar faces, exchanged a few nods, I waved to a friend across the room who saw me walk in. I chatted with my now-old friends at the registration table who asked how my year was. Dale came over to say hello. I told him this might be my last year running and he gave me a look that said “Yeah right.” I got my bib, #2, my goodie bag, I saw my name second from the top on the runner progress board on the wall. A friend I met at the race the year before as a first-timer came up to ask if this was in fact my 10th Hardrock. He commented on how cool he thought that was, and how he could only hope to be able to do ten at some point himself. And the idea that I was now the veteran began to sink in. It was pretty special.
Sometimes it’s only in hindsight that you can see the big picture.
Thanks to everyone who supported me and my effort at this race through the years, especially those that crewed and paced me— Christy, Tim, Chris Davenport, Neal Beidleman, Pete Gaston, Jesse Rickert, Eric Sullivan, Kathy Fry, Sean Shean, Chase Edgerton, Lissa Ballinger, Andy Docken, and Chris Chaffin. You’re the best. I couldn’t have done it without you.