On our annual vacation that's called Hardrock, Deb and I began early in Leadville on successive weekends training with her brother Drew, Liz Bauer , Elise Harrington and Scott Brockmeier. Photo links here and here. We had some wonderful hike/runs that included a moonlight hike up Mount Elbert...this training block was followed by our two weeks in Silverton, marking the Hardrock course and just visiting with all of our Hardrock friends, most of who stay at the Avon Hotel.
But let's get on to what this post is all about. The Hardrock Hundred...
This was my 10th Hardrock start and 3rd finish. I finally got the counter clockwise direction done after many failures and it was also special for us, as this was the first time Deb and I both finished. I don't know how, considering all the roadblocks on the way, but we did. I'll get into those details below. I decided to not take any photos during the race this year in order to focus on the many other things you need to focus on to be able to get through this run (hike). So most of the photos are from Gerry Roach.
Drew and I are ready on race morning...Deb is, too!
Away we go!
Mark Heaphy in the pink shirt and knit hat would be my trail buddy most of the day
As we left the rock to Dale's words "Get going", my HR started to rise as I did some slow jogging. Soon I was walking in the back to keep it under 125 and even slower as we started up the Ski Hill. The plan for fuel was to eat meals at the aid stations, supplementing with EFS Liquid Shot in between. I use a 2 bottle Nathan waist pack, as I find that the hydration vests just make me hot.
The climb up to Dives-Little Giant pass was pretty uneventful, other than a pit stop, and spent most of this time with Deb, Drew and our many other back of the pack buds. Up and over the pass, then down to the Cunningham aid station, I felt good and even held back on the downhill to the aid station (125 HR). Nothing dramatic happens early on at Hardrock, but the drama is on it's way.
Top of the pass, Dives little Giant
Crossing the creek into Cunningham Aid Station
Coming into the Cunningham aid station my plan was to eat some breakfast before entering the Green Mountain section over to Maggie Gulch aid station. I came in behind a long conga line down the single track trail behind someone who was clearly nervous and holding us all up. Jim Campiformio and I decided to just sit back and relax ;-) I got in and ate some of Deb's fantastic vegan potato pancakes and a bunch of fruit off the tables with Jennifer Roach's help.
Deb and I as we leave Cunningham aid station
I was yelling out to Gerry Roach "I got 2 days!"
The steep climb up Green Mountain section
Next up we climbed up Green Mountain over Stony Pass and Canby Mountain to the Maggie Gulch aid. Another uneventful section, just getting the miles in and keeping from going to quick this early on in the run. Reaching Maggie, I had a fantastic avocado tortilla wrap that I ate while leaving the aid station into Pole Creek.
Deb running towards Pole Creek
How to feel very small
The "Pole" creek section
In the Pole Creek section, I was with Scott Brockmeier for most of it. We went back and forth, me dropping back when the HR went above 125. At one point after crossing the final creek crossing, I stopped to get some rocks out of my shoes. I learned about doing this from Dennis Herr one year we were running together. That year, maybe in 2003, after surfing the scree down Grant Swamp Pass, Dennis was sitting at the bottom taking his shoes off to get out the rocks. The conversation went something like this...
Me: Dennis if you wore gaiters, you wouldn't have that problem. (I had on gaiters)
Dennis: Do you have rocks in your shoe?
Dennis: How you going to easily get them out?
Dennis: I like to stop and sit down, relax while taking off my shoes and take in the views, let my HR come down a bit.
(Dennis went on and ran around 37 hours, while I dnf'd)
I no longer wear gaiters and always think of Dennis when I stop and take rocks out of my shoe.
One thing I made note of was all the water that poured out of my shoes, Inov-8 Roclite 295's. This would lead to some severe pruning of my feet and lots of foot pain later in the race. My feet still haven't recovered from wearing these shoes, now 4 days after my finish. More on the shoes at the end of the report.
The Pole Creek section ends at the Sherman Aid station at around mile 29. I always have problems during this section due to the fact that it is always midday, so hot and most of it is up above 12,000'. This year focusing on HR, I felt good coming into the aid station. This was planned to be lunch and upon arriving I asked for a plate of veggie spaghetti, washing that down with some almond chocolate milk. I carried out with me an avocado wrap to eat on the way up to Handies. A side mention here that I have been mostly Vegan or Plant Powered the past couple of years. Deb has been for several years.
This 4 mile section of road up to Burrow's Park is never fun with all the Jeepers and ATV's
After leaving Sherman feeling pretty good (first time ever), we hike up a steep trail to the dirt road leading us to Burrows Park at the base of Handies Peak, the highest point on the course. The road stretch went by quickly and due to a little rain, was not as dusty as had been in the past years. Soon we were in the new aid station at Burrows and on our way up the trail to the Handies summit. I went by a dry heaving Chris Twiggs sitting on a rock not far up the trail and knew I'd see him again later on. About halfway up it started to rain, so I stopped to put on my shirt and jacket, then eat my avocado wrap. This is where the drama begins and the almost undoing of my run and the undoing of many others runs.
Grizzly Gulch trail up to Handies Peak
Handies is the high point of the run at over 14,000'
Looking back down Grizzly Gulch from Handies
This was during course marking, not the run
On the final steep trail section up to the summit, the wind picked up and started to hail. The hail hurt my bare legs, but I didn't want to stop to put on my pants because of the thunder I heard. I was climbing behind my new friend and first time Hardrocker, BJ Haeck with Roger Wrublick coming up behind. Just as soon as I jogged to the summit on the flat spot on top, I heard a boom with a flash at the same moment right above my head. BJ looked back at me with that look and we started to fly down the other side. I could see Bob Combs and Hans Dieter-Weisshaur running down not far up ahead. Bob took off and soon BJ and I caught and passed Hans to get down to the Grouse Gulch aid station. I was wet and really cold, but knew warmth would only be there by getting down as soon as I could. The next miles were passing or getting passed by runners as our different paces were getting us to warmth and safety. This is Hardrock!
As I reached the road after the final switchback, I passed by Dima Feinhaus as he was heading up the Engineer Pass road, he looked good and said hi. I got into the tent after checking in and got all my warm and dry clothes on. I was soaked to the skin and shivering. The doc, who knows me well and has pulled me from the course a few times, sat and watched me. He said if the shivering didn't stop soon, that I am hyperthermic and would need to be attended to, which meant I'd probably be pulled from the race...so I drank hot soup and got some blankets over my shoulders and legs.
It would have been so easy to stop here...I was cold, wet and not even halfway. It was around 8:15pm and now dark, but I felt good, all of that aside and knew to look forward, not behind to finish Hardrock. I wasn't having any altitude issues, like in the past here, and mentally I felt strong. So after about 25 minutes sitting and warming up, the shivering stopped. I got up, put my MP3 player on and started dancing to let the doc know I was OK. He smiled and said "get going". I left just after Mark Heaphy, who would be my companion in the run for most of the rest of the way.
Up the Engineer Pass road I went, now in the darkness with Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Tarkus" playing in my head. My music kept me company on the long 8 mile hike up the road in the cold, wet night. Once Tarkus finished playing, I set it on mix and got some great music playing like "Hello, Darkness my old friend" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Yellow Submarine" by Ringo Starr of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones "Hot Rocks" mix. It seemed to take forever to reach "Oh Point", the top of the road where you go down the trail to the Engineer aid station. I believe it is about 8 miles up the road, which at 2mph probably took 4 hours, but who knows, who cares.
The trails down to the aid station were a horrible, slippery mess and the deep trail was too narrow for my size 13's to fit in, so I kept stumbling and tripping. It's probably around midnight, but I'm too cold and tired to care enough to look, so I keep stumbling on into the aid station. The plan here is to not eat anything, because I would not usually eat at that time of day, but they wisely gave me a cup of hot soup. While sitting there, Mark Heaphy came in and after several minutes I left with him.
Mark and I had a good run/hike down the Bear Creek trail down into Ouray. I welcomed the company and put my music away for good. Along this stretch Jamil Coury went by us like we were standing still. He ran into a little trouble and had to spend four hours in Grouse recovering....and recover he did! He finished in 14th!
Mark and I came into Ouray aid station with Rick Hodges as Scott Brockmeier was leaving around 3:00am. I sat down to remove my pants and after having the full menu mentioned to me, which included eggs, all sorts of meat, etc., I mentioned I didn't eat any of those things and was offered a fruit smoothie. That sounded awesome and had two of them! That would be the last thing I could keep down.
I left, hoping Rick or Mark would be ready to go, but neither were, so I went up the road alone. It was cold going up the road, with a strong wind blowing into my face off of the mountains. I was pretty much by myself, except for where Tina Ure and her husband went by. I also found out later that I went by Scott as he slept on the side of the road. During this stretch dawn came upon us and the birds were singing. This was nice.
Coming into Governor's Aid Station around 6:00am, I ran into Flora and her pacer as they were leaving. Tina and her husband were both asleep in chairs. I asked for some potato soup and after eating that, I left. My feet were sore from the pruning and had been changing my socks at every aid station to keep them as dry as possibly, but now here I had to cross yet another creek and get them wet. I couldn't find an easy way across without getting wet, so just plunged through. Man, it was cold! After crossing the creek, I puked up the soup I just ate. I guess my stomach is done before I'm ready to be done...
On the way up, Rick Hodges caught and passed me...I just couldn't match his walking pace and I'm a good, fast walker.
The final pitch of the Virginius/Kroger's Canteen
This is during course marking, our dog Marley rests in the snow
Now at this point in the run is where the fun begins. We have a good four climbs ahead that will test even the most hardened Hardrocker and it begins with the climb up Virginius, aka Kroger's Canteen. This climb is made up of three steep, loose scree ascents. If you've never tried going up one of these, think of the scree as loose sand that wants to push away as you push to climb. Think one step forward and two steps back. You think you're doing good after taking several steps up, but then slide backwards several feet to lose all that you've gained. Luckily it had rained, which packed down the scree enough to get a good foot plant "most" of the time. I think the first section is the worst and concentrate hard to follow Rick up it. The group in front of him went up a rock pile to the left, while Rick and I stayed in the footsteps to the middle right. Once up that first one, the second is looser, but shorter with the third up to the aid station, now a switchback trail and quite easy to ascend. Up the top were friends Rock Horton (captain) and volunteer Scott Mills. It was good to see them and I got some soup, but couldn't eat it. Rick never stopped, just plowed on through.
I then said "seeya" and headed down the loose scree towards Mendota Saddle and eventually Telluride. Up ahead was Rick, Flora and her pacer, who kept coming back to take pictures of me coming down behind him. Along this section I went by Michael Erlich, who was having a bad day and dropped at Telluride. I was really starting to not feel good myself, but felt like I was headed home. I asked occasionally and found out that Deb was moving forward and looked good. Maybe this will be the first year we'll both finish!
Telluride from the trail
Nothing much to say about Telluride. It was hot and crowded with a music festival going on in the park...people everywhere. I had trouble finding the aid station, although I've been here many times, but because of the festival, we weren't allowed into certain areas.
They sent me down the street to some flagging and I ended up in a line of people buying tickets for the music festival. I must have looked and smelled pretty bad, because the beautiful people of Telluride had no problem getting out of my way ;-) I ended up coming into the aid station from the wrong end, which confused the heck out of the timers, but we got it straightened out eventually. Then as I was leaving some guy with a clipboard came up to me and said "#173, when did you come in?" I guess things were still a bit messed up. Too many people trying to do the same thing in a busy aid station...
I went in and sat down, just getting one of my bottles filled with Coke and ice by Jean-Jacque. Steve Patillo put fresh batteries in my light for the nighttime that will be here before you know it. I asked the way out and after some confusion, found the road leading up to the trail in Wasatch Basin.
This, for me, was the toughest section of the run. It was hot, long and flies everywhere. I spent some time with Scott again and we talked about times and what is possible. We realized that it was possible, if you could average 3 mph the rest of the way, to run sub 38. HA! Easy to "talk" about this, but I figured I'd be lucky to average 2mph the rest of the way, which "might" get me in under 45 hours ;-) It didn't matter, I now knew I "was" going to finish. :-)
Oscar's Pass road down into Chapman
Blake Wood photo
Climbing up the trail, the flies wouldn't quit...but they were smart. If they saw you about to swat them, they'd fly off, so no satisfaction in seeing how many I could "destroy!". I really needed a short nap, but knew if I stopped the flies would suck me dry, so I marched on. If I reached a windy spot, I'd stop to take a break, but even in the wind, the flies soon found me. I marched on....fatigue was deep.
Final pitch of Grant Swamp Pass
This is during course marking, it is much steeper than it looks here
Once on the start of the climb up the first pitch of Grant Swamp Pass, I saw Margaret leading Mark up behind me and it made me happy that my two good friends were there. Only thing better would be if Deb was there with me.
The climb was approached and after several steps, I had to stop and rest, leaning on my poles. Even doing this, I was keeping ahead of M&M and actually pulled away on the big climb. The big climb up the scree of GSP was hard....very hard. But I knew it was the second from the last major climb, so just getting up and over was a huge accomplishment.
What we see as we top out on Grant Swamp Pass
After getting over the top of the pass, I stopped and said hi to Joel Zucker and started down. At the bottom of the steep trail I waited for M&M, in order to have some company. I mentioned to Margaret that I was having trouble staying awake...she advised I either take some short naps or take a good nap at the KT aid station. Just before breaking out of the trees, Mark had to stop and I went on to the aid station. Coming in, I asked about a cot and blanket and one of the woman volunteers let me sleep in the back of her car...in her sleeping bag! I removed my shoes to leave outside the car and lubed up my feet again. I lied down, closed my eyes and immediately heard knocking on the window. I asked for 20 minutes and it was up already. I thought she was lying to me, but looking at my watch I saw that it was time to go.
The trail (Kamm Traverse) coming into the KT aid station
Not a good place to be sleepy
This was taken during course marking
I got nothing to eat, checked out and left. Tina Ure was hurrying to catch M&M and told me to come...but I wasn't really awake left and wasn't thinking right. I went down to the creek crossing and spent way too much time seeing if there was a place to not get so wet. I looked upstream and saw a beaver splash his tail at me. Was this a hallucination? Nope, I saw him again...
I crossed the creek, which was knee deep at it's deepest and started up the climb, hoping to catch M&M to have some company in this last stretch. The climb is hard....the first section is steep trail through the trees and I was convinced I was stuck on a loop because everything looked the same. I made note of a course marker that had a yellow flower stuck to it and if I saw it again I'd scream. If I was thinking intelligently, I'd have know that the trail absolutely does not even come close to looping back, but my brain is starting to not work right.
The Porcupine section in the daylight
I finally broke out of the trees into the Porcupine section where Charlie tells us to take a right at the log. It was very dark now, night #2 and no log was seen. I just followed the markers we had put down 2 weeks earlier. I looked up and saw three lights up on the ridge, Mark, Margaret and Tina most likely. I'll never catch them. But those lights might also have been stars! I marched on in the darkness, following the course markers that I was sure we put out enough of, but now thinking we could have used more.
Course marking up the Putnam climb
This is steep
At the top of the first ridge, I came upon a couple that were confused/lost. I remember the woman pacer asking "Dennis" if he was doing OK. I never thought it was my friend Dennis Drey, but looking at the results it had to be. I led them back onto the trail, but they weren't able to keep up with me. I pushed on up the steep, grassy Putnam slope and the markers seemed to be all over the place, not in a straight line, like they should be. I know the course angles up and then to the right, but it felt like I was going now left. WTF! I also knew not following the markers could get me good and lost in the dark, so followed I did and eventually ended up on the trail along the ridge and to the right. I remember my light dying again this 2nd night, even though I put in fresh batteries, so I got out my Surefire to spot the markers in the distance. This worked well. The BD Storm was OK for following the trail, but finding the distant markers, it wasn't so.
The trail down to the Putnam aid station was so overgrown, I kept worrying I had wandered off of it. Just as soon as I started thinking that way, I'd see a reflective marker. Approaching the aid station, I checked in and out. The volunteer to me looked sad that I wasn't going to stop. My mind was playing tricks on me.
OK, approx 5 miles to the finish, but weird things are about to happen...hallucinations started from being awake for almost 40 hours! Here's what I saw...
Walking down the boulder strewn, overgrown trail I was sure that there was a line of row houses to my left. I knew it was only trees and a hillside there, but the light playing with my glasses made it look like house after house. I even heard women talking on the decks! Funny thing is even though I knew they weren't there, I kept seeing them in my peripheral vision and enjoyed the company. Good thing they didn't invite me to join them ;-)
Then I saw a bunch of hiking gear on the trail in front of me. I started wondering why it was there and how I was going to get through it! It was packs, tents, etc., but when I reached the spot it was a bunch of rocks.
I also saw someone sitting on the right side of the trail in the distance with their face in their hands. I thought it was a runner and was going to help them get up and get moving, but as I got closer, it was just a bush.
I also saw all these rectangle shaped black rocks on the trail that I thought were transistor radios, I was going to pick some up and take them back. You had to grow up in the 60's to even know what a transistor radio is! No, I didn't have any rocks in my pocket when I finished.
One last thing I remember is a beautiful painting of a deer hopping over something on a rock in the middle of the trail...I actually stopped to look at it. I bent over, looked at it and decided that I'd go back the next day to retrieve it. I also didn't mention that just about every rock had a face on it, all smiling and happy :-)
OK, enough of the hallucinations, time to get this run done. I kept looking back and saw no lights, so I figured I could relax and power hike it in after crossing the river. But once I neared the river I saw lights....damn! No way I'm getting passed, if I can help it, after 98 miles! I ran to the river, following the winding trail to it. Crossed it, holding onto the rope, it was only knee deep at one point and ankle deep for most of it. Kurt Coonrod was on the other side and asked if I had seen Dennis. Oh so it was THAT Dennis! I told him I last saw him up on the Putnam ridge and had to go, see you at the finish! 2.5 miles to go!
The lights were right behind me and closing, I started power hiking up the hill using my poles to push into the trail. Reached the top and ran..the lights were gone. I reached Nute Chute and ran some more until the big hill on the far end, then power hiking up it, running down the other side. The lights were still there. Reaching the Christ of the Mine road, I again power hiked as hard and as fast as I could. I soon saw the lights of the statue and looked left and said thanks to Jesus for helping me get this far and to watch over Deb...took a right down the trail and ran as hard as I could, taking a left on Snowden St towards the finish at the gym. People were in the road and on the corner. I turned the corner and ran as hard as I could to kiss the rock, which I did at 44:39:48. 86th out of 104 finishers, 140 starters, 6th over 60.
Moments after kissing the rock
(Shelby Berg photo)
I told Dale I was running away from some lights and he asked "where?". What I didn't realize was that Mark and Margaret had stopped in the middle of the road to talk with Wolfgang before turning the corner and what I thought were spectators, was them. Mark "really" finished before me, I just kissed the rock first...and the lights that were chasing me was Andrew Barney and his pacer. Andrew told me he would have caught and passed me, but I gave too much of a fight, so he didn't.
So this makes it finish #3 and now have both directions. All is can say is this was hard, real hard. I sit here four days later, still sleepy, two swollen feet and a sore spot on my left metatarsal. I think it's just a neuroma aggravated by the swelling and hope it's not a bruise or even worse, a stress fracture from the shoes I chose to wear. As I said earlier, I wore the Inov-8 Roclite 295's, the new version with the green sole. I don't think they were protective enough for the rocks and for being on the trail for this long...plus they didn't drain of water too well, which caused the pruning. I wished I had my other shoes, my Montrail Masochists at the midpoint, but didn't so I live with the consequences.
Not sure I can get Deb to write her story, but just briefly she ran well and also got her 3rd finish and wasn't last this year. She had Jennifer Roach pacing her, who did a great job keeping her from sitting a lot and kept her moving. If not, she may not have made the cutoff. Deb is yet again the oldest female finisher of Hardrock.
As for me, this does it. I've been wanting to not run any more 100's now for a couple of years and now that I finished Hardrock in both directions, it's a good place to stop. I'll still run ultras, but have no desire to go into the night anymore. I've been running 100's since 1998 (Vermont) and running since 1975 and want to do other things, like qualify for Boston again (13 finishes) and run some 50K trail races. Time for a change!
I hope you enjoyed this story and if I can get Deb to add to it, I will....but I don't see this blog going on much further after this post. I'm having trouble keeping up with it and writing takes too much time of my day when I have work and a house to maintain.
For the results, go here.
We'll see you all out there somewhere on the trails and roads...Happy Trails!
Steve and Deb
Below are several pictures of Deb that Jennifer and Gerry Roach were nice enough to send to me.
Deb and Jennifer coming in
I think I see tears of joy
Deb with Jennifer running down Snowden towards the gym
Deb dropped all her junk off before the finish
She said she felt like a pack rat
Deb goes to kiss me before the rock and everyone started yelling "No, kiss the rock!"
I'm thinking "Where am I?"
Smooch and an official finish
Deb and Dale, Hardrock RD
After the awards, very tired after only 1.5 hours sleep in 2 days