Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 Hardrock Hundred...or 42!

What can I say....another Hardrock, another DNF. This one really tested me and like my friend Garry Harrington said to me last year after pacing Mike Bur "Wow, I felt like I was in the ring with Mike Tyson. One jab after another, then the knockout punch".

The day started well, as I started out at what I thought was last person to "walk" out of town. After all, most "runners" walk more than 50% of Hardrock, so why not start out walking to keep the heart rate low and not burn up glycogen unnecessarily. I have learned over the years while training per the Maffetone method that the best way to get through one of these difficult endurance events is to get into a fat burning mode immediately, so is what I do. It has worked off and on for me, mostly on since 2004 and I expected it to this weekend as well. I look back and see Roy Heger yelling at me that I'm not last! ;-)

Walking from the start backwards

As we made our way along the beaver pond trail behind the Lackawanna Mine, I noticed ahead of me were Kathy Lang, Jennifer Roach, Marcy Beard and Deb. Perfect! But as the miles went by, I eased my way forward without any effort as the body warmed up, climbing the road up to Dives/Little Giant pass. This is where in the runner's manual it states "Someone could die here" or something like that. Well, I think the more dangerous sections were coming, but more on that later.

Mark Heaphy on the Dives/Little Giant Pass

At the top of the pass, I hooked up with Mark Heaphy for the run down. Thinking back, I now wish I ran down a little easier, but knew that Joe Prusiatis would be barreling down soon and was trying to hold that off as late as possible. Joe usually thunders past in the other direction on the hill down into KT, so this would be the appropriate place and soon I heard the footsteps and ground shake and told Mark he had better step aside. We stepped aside, Joe went by, but soon we reached a conga line of walkers that was impassable with Greg Loomis on the rear of the line, so we just followed behind across the creek into the Cunningham aid station in around 3 hours from the start, which was just about right on for a 40 hour finish.

The creek crossing going in the Cunningham Aid Station

In the aid station, I got my drop bag, which had a gel flask and a chocolate soy milk. I started using this last year and it tastes good, keeps the stomach settled and provided 150 calories, not as much as an Ensure, but too much usually makes me sick. In and out in about 5 minutes, high fiving my buddies and up into the Green Mountain section we go.

Looking back down at the aid station after climbing a bit

Bob Combs coming up behind me

Luckily it wasn't too hot, I seem to remember the last time I ran in this direction that it was hot on the first climb, but today was a cool day. I easily climbed up with Bob Combs behind me and at the top stopped to get some rocks out of my shoes. This was a trick Dennis Herr taught me in 2003...stop every now and then to dump debris out of the shoes, look around and enjoy the beauty, letting your heart rate come down a bit...while sitting there, Rick Hodges and Stan Ferguson hiked past. Once I got going again, I got past Rick and hooked up with Stan. Stan and I stayed together until Maggie aid station.

The beauty of the Green Mountain section

Here I am climbing up in the Green Mountain section
(photo by Jason Halladay)

The Green Mountain section just might be the prettiest section on the route. Green fields, lots of flowers and meadows with majestic mountain views all around. Once up the top of the steep grass hillside, there's some good running until over Stony Pass. You then climb again up Canby Mountain and it was here that Stan and I passed Chris Twiggs, who was dry heaving from the altitude. Chris lives in Florida and always has this trouble, but he's tough, he always finishes!

Stan Ferguson heading down in the Maggie aid station

On the trail down off of Canby, I watched Stan begin to continue on the trail down into Buffalo Boy Mine. I yelled to him to come back and we went the way the route usually goes, but there were no course markers. They had marked it up high to the right to avoid a steep snow cornice on the usual route. Chris came along, plunged over the cornice while we were standing there trying to figure it out and just slid over the edge following Chris. We hooked up with the marked route after going down the hill a little bit. This is where it's both good and bad to know the route. I know the whole route well and rarely look for course markers, but because of this I missed the markers going off to the right up on the top f the mountain. Rick Hodges yelled down to us that they marked the route off a bit.

Chris Twiggs coming up behind me after Maggie aid station

Now on the long downhill into Maggie Gulch, I let Stan go and backed off the pace a bit. I wanted to eat here and did, grabbing a handful of grapes after eating some watermelon, also grabbing a tomato/lettuce, cheese and mayo wrap and ate it on the climb out of Maggie into the Pole Creek section of the course.

One of the poles of Pole Creek, Stan pulling away

Up on this section Stan took off and I climbed up with Chris along the trail and into the Pole Creek aid station. The first rainstorm hit us here and I had to take my jacket on and off several times. Into the aid station, the storm hit harder with high winds, hail and rain. I looked at the table and nothing interested me until one of the volunteers mentioned they had soup. Yeah, soup sounds good! I grabbed a cup of soup, ate it on the downhill and stuffed the cup into my jacket pocket. I think Deb did the laundry this week with that cup still in the pocket ;-)

Jeff List and I did most of the Pole Creek section together

Now we're on the Pole Creek section of the course. I had to be careful of my pace here as it is mostly above 12,000' for several miles and usually I decided to mostly walk this section, drinking water along the way, hopefully emptying my 2 bottles before we reach Sherman aid. I hiked strong and soon saw a runner ahead, walking. It looked like my friend from New England, Jeff List, who I soon caught up to. I told him that using poles this year must be slowing him down because I can't catch him otherwise. He's a really strong hiker. Jeff and I hiked as powerfully as possible with short jogs on the downhill sections and it again began to rain with lightening and wind coming from in behind us. It was so wet in here, our feet were soaked! But I was still feeling really good and Jeff mentioned that we were on a sub 39 hour pace, which is what he ran in 2009.

Jeff pulling away with Cataract Lake alongside

After going by Cataract Lake, I started to feel the first signs of my Vertigo that I've been getting off and on the past couple of years. What happens is if I turn my head to the right or left or up to drink from my bottle, the whole world spins. It has something to do with crystals in the ear moving or not moving or something. My 84 year old mom has it and I guess I'm getting it to. I talked with my doc in NH about it and he said "Welcome to old age!" Not sure that was the right answer to get, but I'll look into it further. One day on a training run about a month ago with Deb going up Santa Fe Baldy, I fell three times in 10 minutes and though it was the dogs getting under my feet, but thinking back I remember being dizzy that day and many times when I go to bed I get the spins when I lie down, so this isn't something new to me...just something new in a race.

So I let Jeff go and again saw Stan up ahead, who Jeff eased by just before the creek crossing. This was about the location of Deb's poster. At the creek crossing, the water was flowing fast and the ledge under the water was slick, so I walked along the log for a brace in case I slipped.

Dropping into Cataract Falls section

Cataract Falls
You don't want to slip and go over this

As I started to jog down the hill, my vertigo kicked in again, so I walked down the long switchback trail into the Sherman aid station, about mile 25. As I did Mark Heaphy and Kris Kern ran past, I walked on. One year I ran down this with Jeff Wilbur and was wasted in the Sherman aid station, puking my way up this year I eased down , mostly walking due to the spins and got into the aid station with my drop bag dumped out on the table for me. I again wanted some calories before this long 13 mile section over Handies Peak, the one 14,000' peak. So I drank my soy milk, had a little bit of mac and cheese and washed that down with a cup of soup. I stayed here for awhile to let the vertigo settle down, along with my stomach, which the vertigo causes to be a little nauseous. By the time I left the aid station after talking some pictures, I completely forgot about the dizziness, felt good and hoped it was gone for the day.

Me fueling up in Sherman

Roger Wrublik leaving Sherman ahead of me

As I left the aid station with Rodger Wrublik in front and Robert Andrulis in behind, I was feeling good now and cranked up the trail. Rodger stepped aside saying I was climbing better than he was. Nearing the top, Ken Ward went by my and I mumbled something about getting old, but once up on the road I reeled him in by off and on jogging and also caught up to Mark Heaphy and Chris Twiggs at the Grizzly Gulch trail head up to Handies Peak. Looking back I probably pushed this section too hard, but it felt easy. Should have worn my HR monitor, which I'll do at the Bear in September like I did last year.

The dusty Burrow Park Road
My last photo

As soon as I started up, I felt the dizziness return, so sat on a log to dump out my shoes again and while doing so Marcy Beard cranked on by. Man, she looked strong as I was starting to feel weaker. So while sitting there I ate some Gu Crumbles and polished off a bottle of water. Again as I started I felt dizzy, so tried to walk up the trail without turning my head to the side and when I took a drink from my bottle, I tried to not tip my head up much. Several times I fell to the side, losing my balance and had to sit down for a bit. Up near the top Rick Hodges, then Robert Andrulis went by. When Chris Twiggs went by I told him to let the aid station know I was having some vertigo, but would be there as soon as I could. I knew they'd be wondering when I wasn't there in the right time. Roger came along and we hiked up the final climb together, he again let me lead and Chris and Bob Combs were taking breaks behind us. The weather was moving in with lightening, high winds and rain, so I put my jacket on...all my really warm clothes were in the next aid station, Grouse Gulch.

Handies Peak up ahead
(Bill Geist photo)

Once we reached the summit of Handies, my fellow runners made sure that I would be alright and I told them to go on with their races and I'd be in the aid station as soon as I could get there. This is where the fun begins!

That bowl in the center with all the snow is American Basin
(Bill Geist photo)

The steep trail off of Handies
(Bill Geist photo)

The snowfields on the other side of Handies were crumbling from the rain and every time I stepped into a footstep, it broke loose on the downhill side of the hillside, causing me to fall and with the vertigo, keeping my balance was near impossible. I immediately turned my light on, even though it was still daylight, in case I did slip down one of the snowfields and could be rescued. I tried running down the loose dirt of the mountain, but was slipping and couldn't look down without the world spinning. The trail at the top was very steep and loose and all I could do was walk while my buds ran off down the trail. After several snowfields I was in the bowl that was the American Basin section and all the way to the top of Grouse-American was snow and most of it was walking alongside a hill at an angle with the snow breaking free with each footstep. The conditions were not good and getting worse. Next up was a flash of light and a boom right above my head. The flash caused the snow to light up brighter than I'd ever seen. There were three flashes and booms, followed by heavy hail.

What it felt like was above me

The clothing I had on was two thin nylon shirts, one long and one short sleeve, a pair of nylon shorts and my Marmot Precip jacket. The jacket was the only thing really keeping in any body heat, but the muscles were starting to clench into shivering and if I didn't move quicker would be shivering. I looked up and saw no lights, I looked back and saw a few a ways back, it was now dark. All I saw ahead of me was a steep snowfield that seemed to go up unending, but knowing the course, I knew that there was a top to this and it would be sooner than later. I was having trouble finding the course markers, but just walked up where I knew I needed to go....more flashes and booms, hail bouncing off my head and bare legs. I had my hood up, tied tightly to keep in some heat and walked up as hard as I could. I also put my aluminum Fenix flashlight inside my jacket sleeve with the front peaking out, worried about a lightening hit.

This is very similar to the snowfield we had to traverse

I soon reached the top and followed the course markers over the top and down the steep scree trail, luckily the vertigo wasn't bothering me right now. I saw a figure in the dark ahead walking down the trail with no light. I thought bear, but it was a runner I caught up to who hadn't gotten his light out yet, he did and followed me down the rocky trail. A couple of nasty snowfields to go down that had no footsteps anymore, so I stepped to the side of them and side stepped down to not slip, fall, get wet and cold. I was exhausted now...and the aid station couldn't come sooner. Once I got back on the trail, me and my now trail companion had two creek crossings that I knew would be raging with all this rain and melting snow. The first one wasn't bad, but the second one was just scary to look at. The water was roaring down the side of the mountain, hitting some boulders and flying up in the air right where we had to cross. I stopped to evaluate my choices and there was only one, right through the middle. I told my companion behind me that I was having vertigo issues and to watch to make sure I kept my footing. I stepped into the water, making sure I braced my foot against a boulder downstream in order to not slip and then jumped across with the water hitting me on my side, pushing me onto the trail, instead of down the waterfall. I looked back to make sure he made it across, I let him by and continued down the now switchbacks.

Yeah I still had some dizziness, the trail was moving not only underneath my feet, but also every now and then it would go sideways and I'd almost fall. WTF!

I got down to the road and into the aid station, they asked if I was alright, I mentioned the Vertigo and they had been waiting for me. Seems that when it was mentioned that a runner on Handies had vertigo, they were discussing a rescue down in Silverton, but the docs at the Grouse Gulch know me from all my years of running this and after talking with Chris Twiggs felt like I'd make it down safely.

I got in the tent, they insisted I lie down and asked what I thought. I mentioned that I was concerned about going down the Bear Creek trail (a shelf trail cut into the side of a cliff with a 400 foot drop to a river) in this condition and thought I should stop rather than put anyone in danger. They were hoping I'd agree to that decision.

The Bear Creek trail
Not a good place to be dizzy

So my race was over....another Hardrock failure. What does it take to get through this run? I did all the training that I knew I needed to do in the past 6 months (averaging well over 50MPW), I was living at 8100' and regularly going above 10, 11 and 12,000' in training with Deb. My weekly training in Albuquerque in the 90's had me heat trained, but that I didn't need this year, I never felt hot at all. I was hoping that Deb stopped at Sherman so that she wouldn't have to go through what I just went through on Handies...turns out she was right on the other side of the mountain coming up, going through her own struggles with the weather, along with Joe Prusaitis, Greg Loomis, Marty Fritzhand and Rick Pearcy, who got really hypothermic.

Once done I was able to get a ride into town by Chris Twiggs' parents along with Jeff Heasley, there was a lot of shivering in the heated jeep. Thanks for that ride!

Now I look ahead to next year...should I try again? Initial thoughts say no, but that always changes in time. I'm thinking I can always enter and if I don't get in, the decision is made for me, if I do get in I then have 6 months to decide.

I'm now in the process of recovery....42 miles at Hardrock takes more out of me than most completed 100's. That was 42 miles in 16 hours! 16 hours of climbing and descending, battling the cold hail and rain and fighting with the spins. I'm also going to have this vertigo checked out, because if it continues, Hardrock will not be attempted's just too dangerous and I'm putting others at risk if I had to be rescued.
I've been running Hardrock since 2000 in one form or another and these were the worst conditions I have ever seen. One of the officials said they were the worst conditions since 1997.
Several people have asked if I am disappointed, but really neither of us are because Hardrock isn't about the's about the 2 weeks spent with our Hardrock family doing the course marking, marching in the parade, watching the fireworks. I could not have asked for a better vacation. Besides, what a great training run for the Bear! :-)

So in three weeks Deb and I are running the Speedgoat 50K and in 9 weeks, the Bear 100. Deb's running Wasatch in 7 weeks.
Our forests in NM are closed, so there will be no trail training until those open again and that won't happen until the monsoons come. We may occasionally go up to Colorado to do some long runs, it's only a 4 hour drive.

So that's it, Hardrock is history. The weather caused 60 runners to drop from the race, the officials feel lucky that they had no casualties and could easily have had some if the field of Hardrock weren't so well accomplished in running mountain in all kinds of weather, this is one of the reasons for the strict qualifications.

I did take some pictures until the vertigo got worse after Burrows road and those can be seen here:
If you back up to my album you can view the photos I took during course marking and also some videos of the fireworks on July 4th from the Avon Hotel back porch. Great memories :-)
For complete results go here:

For shoes I wore my LaSportiva Crosslite 2.0's. They had good grip, but the comfort went away after about 20 miles. I was going to wear the more cushioned LaSportiva Quantums, but the wave sole would not have worked on the snow.
For fuel I started with some EFS Liquid Shot, which I used to compliment the food I was eating. That and my chocolate Soymilk that I put in all my drop bags. I need to eat more during these events, but just can't or I'll get sick so I'm always on the edge of bonking.
Socks were Drymax Trail Lite, I love these socks.
Nathan 2 bottle waist pack
Fenix LD20 handheld was my light with a Petzl Tikka plus as a backup.

As for Deb she was recovering from a truck accident from back in December and was having some issues still, but felt ready to give it a go. The weather is what knocked her out, not the injuries. I think the weather knocked out the majority of the 60 runners who did not make it to the finish.

See you on the trails!


Derrick said...

Looks like quite the beast indeed. 42miles of that is surely worth 100 elsewhere as is evident with how you're feeling. Recover well and good luck at SpeedGoat and Bear.

Brennen said...

Next year? Of course, Steve. You bring the passion to Hardrock that AJW brings to WS. Which makes it all the harder to read your report and where the race went for you.

I was really pulling for you here in NYC behind this computer, following your progress, knowing you wanted to get 'er done. Still, seems you have the right perspective, know the real reason for the yearly vigil to the San Juans.

Hardrock is somewhere in my five-year plan, kind of a once-in-a-lifetime race for me. Just gotta get my ducks in a row, keep my passion kindled for the running (it's pretty much died before), and maybe by the time my son is five or six the family can head out there for two or three weeks.

Until then, I've just got you and others to let me know what's happening at Hardrock. Many thanks for the report.

Olga said...

That vertigo story you told me in Silverton, along with a turned-on flashlight, was a bad story to hear...and a good decision to make. I wasn't even thinking about Bear Creek trail!We were glad to see you both, and happy to hear your house was intact in the fires back home. Next year, yes, you will come, in one capacity or another:)

Steve Pero said...

Thanks, all....2011 Hardrock is now a memory, not a great one, but not a bad one...on to the Bear!

Whippetman said...

Thanks for sharing Steve. Hope the verigo gets sorted. I had a viral episode of that a couple of years ago and know how debilitating it can get. Hoping to get through the lottery myself again next year and it wouldn't be the same without you guys there. Come lottery time will be looking for your name on the list. Well done and wise decision, you have nothing to prove by taking what could have been a disastrous risk continuing.
Cheers, Andy