Friday, August 9, 2013

Hardrock 100 - 2013

Thank you to my wife Pam, daughter Kalinda, crew/pacers Joe Ziegenfuss and Dakota Jones, and crew Reese Ruland.  Without them I would never be able to finish.  Thank you to every single person associated with helping put on Hardrock, without them none of us would even get the chance to start or participate in the event…because it wouldn’t exist.  Thank you to my parents who gave me the legs and mind to push on.  Thank you to my brother who reminds me there are other ways to enjoy life. 
Crew Chief & Supervisor

Where is Joe Ziegenfuss?  The rest of the crew...

The last time I started Hardrock was 2010, two weeks after a dismal showing at Western States that put me in the hospital for two days with rhabdomyolysis.  I made it 30 tough miles before dropping at Telluride and it felt like I had run 100.  It wasn’t until 2013 that my name was selected again via the lottery and I wasn’t going to let any races leading up to Hardrock put me into that situation again.

In 2009 I finished Hardrock and was very happy with my time, 26:01.  I used that as a 2013 goal of finishing under 26 hours.  That meant creating a crude spreadsheet that compared day by day my 2009 training to what I was doing in 2013.  Early in the spring my volume, measured simply in training hours, was consistently lower than 2009.  Much of this was due to record Colorado snow in April.  At the end of April I had to get away and went and ran a 100k in California with friends from Team Diablo who got me started on ultrarunning.  That led into May and June when my training started to be a bit more like 2009.  Those months still left me a few hours short per week compared to 2009, but I feel the quality of training was a little better.  The frustrating part was that I never felt great until late June when I started running at higher altitudes.  Once I started feeling good up above 10,000 feet I began to have more confidence that things were coming together.

The two weeks leading up to Hardrock were spent in Aspen, Durango, and Silverton.  Almost all of my workouts during those few weeks felt great.  Still, I approached race day with confused optimism and wanted to make sure I got to Ouray well within my limits.  Here is how the day went:


Silverton to Cunningham (0 to 9.2)
It seemed that the second after the National Anthem finished Race Director Dale Garland said “GO” and we were off through the streets of Silverton.  The first climb up to Little Giant Pass felt great and I made sure I did not push to keep up with Sebastian Chaigneau and Joe Grant.  I know that I’m not running my own race when I run with the guys that start out up front, and Hardrock was no place to test that strategy.  Scott Jaime and I came into Cunningham in just under two hours, about 5-10 minutes faster than in 2009.  While I felt great, I was very aware that this might be a little too fast.  I picked up my pack and hiking poles from Pam and kept walking through the aid station.

Cunningham to Sherman (9.2 to 28.7)
Leaving Cunningham I got my music going and my hiking poles set for the spectacular climb ahead.  Knowing I was a little ahead of schedule I really made sure to stay within myself and focused on hiking strong.  Scott Jaime pushed past and he was making it look like he was hiking on flat ground.  I think we came into Stony Pass within minutes of each other and I headed up once again and then back down to Maggie Gulch (15.3).  The next section was hard for me to recall since it had been four years since I was last on that part.  Scott kept me on course through here at least three times and I owe him a lot for this.  Without his help I’m sure I would have wandered around for a while trying to find the right route.  It was nice to swap places and run together with Scott for a number of miles through Pole Creek and heading down towards Sherman.  Scott is a fellow Colorado Front Ranger, great guy, and amazing runner and athlete that I’ve always respected a great deal.  I don’t really recall where I ended up in front of Scott, but I know that we were still within minutes of each other at Sherman.  Similar to the previous miles I was still feeling good and well within my limits.

Into Sherman

Sherman to Grouse (28.7 to 42.1)
The descent into Sherman is one of many enjoyable downhill sections to run at Hardrock.  I came and went quickly at Sherman and recalled from 2009 that from the aid station we bushwhack up to the jeep road that heads up towards Burrows Park and Handies.  I easily found the initial bushwhack turnoff, but then could not find another marker despite wandering around for a good 5 minutes.  Out of paranoia of getting lost I thought it was best to slowly go uphill but wait until I could hear or see Scott behind me.  Once I saw him I realized where the route was and easily found the jeep road.  Unlike 2009, I ran nearly the entire road up to Burrows Park, which is really only a few miles, but it sure seems longer.  Once on the trail up to Handies I again got out the hiking poles (Black Diamond Z Poles) and hiked strong to the summit feeling good.  There was lightening off in the distance, but the summit was without rain or any sort of discouraging weather.  I was feeling great and was really enjoying listening to my music.  What I didn’t remember was that within a few miles down off the summit there was a hard left turn that takes you up a short climb and then plunges you down to Grouse Gulch.  I did, however, remember there was a turn once I was a mile or so down the wrong trail and saw a dirt road with a number of cars parked.  I caught a hiker and asked if she might have seen a couple of runners.  She looked at me and immediately knew what had happened.  Her response was something like, “the turnoff you are looking for is back behind you at the top of the drainage”.  It was disheartening looking back up 1000 feet to the trail.  I hit my stopwatch to see how long it would take me to get back to the trail and began to head cross country to cut off a little distance.  It took me 11 minutes of all out running and hiking to get back on track.  Not only did I probably exert way too much energy but I was also mentally discouraged.  I figured that four or five people passed me during my side trip.

My detour

Grouse to Ouray (42.1 to 56.5)
Upon coming into Grouse I saw Scott leaving and figured either he stayed a really long time, or I may not have lost too many places and might still be running pretty good.  I complained to my crew and pacers for a few minutes about my mishap but realized that nothing was going to change what happended and that I needed to put it behind me.  I quickly changed packs and set off with Joe Ziegenfuss who would lead me to Telluride.  Joe is a great friend who has run with me more than anyone else since moving to Colorado.  He’s the one suggesting we should run up a 14er at 5am before work, and deals with my crazy ideas like running a double Pikes Peak.  We’ve spent countless hours running in snow (especially this past April) and every other kind of condition.  Thank you Joe for making the trip to help me out and see firsthand what Hardrock is all about.

The grind up Engineer Road from the Grouse aid station went by quickly as it was nice to be able to hear what everyone’s been up to during the day.  We saw Scott and then Diana Finkel below and Diana looked like she was making up a ton of time.  She would later drop at mile 89, which was heartbreaking as she is a Hardrock master.  After Engineer we made good time down the amazing Bear Creek Trail into Ouray and I was still feeling really solid.  Running on the smooth road into the Ouray aid station I felt great and it was then I heard that Joe Grant was still sitting at the aid station having some issues and that Seb had stayed a while.  While it got me a little excited, the reality was that we still had 44 miles to go and I just needed to keep running my own run and enjoying the Hardrock experience.  I did get the feeling in Ouray that there was a little bit of USA versus France starting to heat up, which was exciting to be a part of.  We left quickly.

Bear Creek Trail to Ouray

Ouray to Telluride (56.5 to 72.6)
Initially out of Ouray you cross this amazing box canyon via a tunnel and bridge hundreds of feet up.  Then you intersect on to Camp Bird Road and grind uphill for about 7 miles that can feel like 17.  I ran and hiked the road and stopped briefly at the Govenors aid station before climbing some more road.  Eventually the trail leaves the road and shortly before that we turned on our headlamps.  The climb up to Virginius Pass is another one of those “I can’t believe this is part of the course” hand and knee climbs.  This year there was no snow on the climb up, which I heard hasn’t happened in about ten years.  The aid station crew, led by Roch Horton (I’m a huge fan), is at the top of their game.  It was also great to see Scott Mills (San Diego 100) and Megan Finnesy (Golden Gate Dirty Thirty) up there where I heard it was anything but pleasant weather all day and during setup.  The run down to Telluride was fairly uneventful and for some reason I just remember three down trees across the trail and I wondered how many people stop like there was a 50 foot wall of concrete in front of them.  Or maybe that was just me.  An advantage from my hockey days is that I’m very good at “hopping the boards”.  It is one of the few hockey techniques that translates into an advantage in ultrarunning.

Krogers in the daylight

Telluride to KT (72.6 to 89)
In Telluride I was told that Seb was still about 20 minutes ahead of me.  I also picked up Dakota Jones in Telluride.  Dakota paced me in 2009 and back then it was the first time we’d met.  Since then he has paced me at Western States and I paced him during his first Hardrock.  When Dakota asked to pace me this year my biggest concern was whether he would suddenly be asked on an international expedition of some sort a few days before Hardrock.  As luck would have it the expedition was the week before, and he held true to his commitment.  Dakota was just what I was looking for in that part of the course.  Someone who kept me on the course, made sure I was eating and drinking, and telling me about some of his experiences over the past few years.  I could not have asked for anyone better for what I required this year.  In my only real focused attempt at trying to catch Seb, I pushed the climb up to Oscars Pass.  However, the last few miles up to the pass I know I really slowed down and that was where I had to stop in order to eat a gel.  It became too hard to hike uphill, focus on the trail, and eat a gel at night all at the same time.  At the top of Oscars it was raining, windy, and fairly cold so I put on my windbreaker and gloves and began shivering.  Luckily as we descended to the Chapman aid station it got warmer, but was still raining.  Shortly after leaving Chapman the rain stopped and I was no longer worried about not having enough warm clothes. 

The climb up to Grant Swamp Pass (another section that is remarkable for its difficulty) was really good and I remember actually holding a conversation with Dakota for a while.  At this point the uphills became pretty hard for me, but once I got my legs going a few minutes the downhills were still feeling good.  We made our way down to the KT aid station and I knew that barring any catastrophe I’d finish.  Bryon Powell was at KT and told me that I was just barely under the old course record.  I knew that my uphill pace probably wasn’t going to keep me under the record, but I did know that I had a good shot at getting under 26 hours.  We left quickly.

KT to Silverton (89 to 100.5)
From KT to the finish I knew I just had to be consistent and follow Dakota up the hills.  I continued my “stop and eat” tactic, but other than that I felt relatively good heading into the Putnam aid station.  I feel bad because they came up the trail about a mile to meet me and see what I might need at the aid station.  At that point even one word was hard to articulate and I feel like I came across a little rude and unresponsive.  If anyone from the Putnam aid station reads this please know that I was in no mental state to do anything but focus on the finish and that you all rock.

It was a very dark night heading to KT

I remember being told that from Putnam to the finish should take about 1:20-1:30.  I knew that probably meant that I would get under 26 hours and was very focused on that.  My time was around 1:05, although it seemed much longer.  During that time I was hoping more than anything that my wife and daughter were able to get a few hours sleep and they would be at the finish.  I was obsessed with being able to carry Kalinda down the finishing chute and kissing the rock holding her.  I was happy to run the final few hills with Dakota and Joe, who had come out on a bike to ride in with me.  Joe got a hold of Pam and let her know that I wanted to run in with Kali.  We finally crested what I call “Jesus Hill” and was elated to run into town, make the left turn, see Pam and Kali, pick Kali up, give her a little hug (she’s only 15 months) and head to the kiss the HARDROCK with her. 

Almost there - very low water

I was done.  It took me a minute to figure out how to even stop my watch.  Pam was there and I hugged her, I think I hugged Dale who was trying to put the finishers’ medal around my neck.  Then I sat, drank a lot of coffee, and waited for Scott to finish.  He wasn’t far behind and he also had a personal Hardrock best.  The rest of the day was spent going back and forth from our rented house to the finish.  Even when you are done you still feel the need to be connected to those still on the course.  The Silverton High School Gym was the place for this.  Each time a runner makes their way down the road Dale comes into the gym to announce a finisher is on their way.  The gym empties and we all cheer them to the Hardrock. 

Race Day Nutrition
This is very close to what I ate and drank during Hardrock:
60 GU Gels/Roctane Gels
3 GU Chomps
7 Accel Gels
4 Bananas
3 Protein drinks
40(?) S!caps
Mix of tropical fruit and grape GU Roctane in my pack

Race Day Gear
Shoes: Hoka Stinson Trail
Shorts: RaceReady
Shirt: Team Diablo!
Socks: Wrightsock
Hat: Headsweats, Buff at night
Poles: Black Diamond Z Poles, Backpacking Light Stix
Headlamp: Princeton Tec Apex Pro

See my post race interview with iRunFar's Bryon Powell here.


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