I put in a significant amount of time and effort preparing for Hardrock this year. I ran a lot, not tons, maxing out at 127 miles and I believe 33,000' of climbing in a peak week. I got in many training miles with friends including: Bear Cyn to Guffy CG and back, Bear Cyn + 3 T's, 9 Peaks of Baldy, Mammoth w/ Keith & Co., Rae Lakes Loop & camping trip to King's Canyon, and the 220mi JMT w/ Michael 'Nano' Chamoun.
I knew backpacking the John Muir Trail, from Yosemite to Whitney in 7 days, finishing 9 days before Hardrock was a little risky. Would my body be able to recovery in that amount of time? While a lot of runners didn't think so, and I was even leaning towards thinking it was a bad idea, I knew I lacked backpacking experience to know. So I asked some people with more back packing experience. Chamoun said I'd be fine, but of course he'd say that so that I'd go with him! Andy Salinger said I'd be able to recovery - he's a runner AND back packer, and he's smarter than he looks, I trusted his advice and always do. Kristin Farley, who completed the JMT with her son Ryan in 7 days, said with some hesitation that I'd probably have enough time to recover before race day. In hindsight, I think it was very good training for racing 100 miles in the San Juans, hiking for 12-14 hours a day with a 25lb pack, reaching 14,486' on top of Whitney. Sure, having a couple extra days to recoop would have been nice, but scheduling didn't allow it and it was too special of an opportunity to pass up. Thanks again Mike, couldn't have done it without ya!
After speaking with Dylan Bowman at Hypoxico I rented an Altitude tent and generator for four weeks, sleeping in it before the JMT trip. I'm sure it helped me acclimate. I wish I would have rented it for a couple more weeks. I gradually cranked the simulated altitude up a little higher than recommended, because I was going to be racing higher than most people who use the tents. This left me a little lethargic at times, but I was also in the middle of my peak training. Using the tent a couple weeks prior to peak training would have been smart. If I use Hypoxico products again that is what I'll do. I probably should have just bought the tent!
|Chamoun on Mather Pass, 12, 080'|
|Home for a week.|
Elissa and I drove our Subaru over to Silverton, caravaning with Katie DeSplinter. Upon arriving in Silverton I was pretty nervous. Getting outside and getting in a scouting run each day with Elissa, Tommy, Pam, and Chamoun helped calm me down.
|Running from KT to the Finish a couple days before the race. Tommy, looking back at Kamm Traverse.|
My Parents arrived Wednesday, and came over to our house for the meeting to go over when I'd be at what aid stations, who was pacing me, how to get to each aid station, which ones required 4WD, etc., etc. I'm so glad they made the trip! Loved walking around Silverton with them and I think of all the races I've run, this is the most beautiful area and most unique event they could come to. Not to mention that they helped out a ton with crewing, as did my Crew Chief, wife and llama, Elissa, Tommy, Pam, Dom, Katie and Mike.
|Photo by Dom Grossman.|
|Elevation Profile with projected splits, who was pacing when, coffee stain etc.|
Friday morning came and we were off at 0600. We made our way through Silverton and within a couple miles started the long steep ascent up Divies. This was the first of 8 major climbs, 7 of which peaked around 13,000', with the exception of Handies which tops out at 14,000'. I had no idea if I would fall way back in the beginning or feel great and foolishly lead the charge, but neither happened. Joe Grant and Seb C. slowly slid ahead of everyone else with Troy Howard fairly close behind. I settled in with Scott Jaime and Josh Mietz.
On the way down to Cunningham Aid Station at mile 9 I was surprised at how hard this downhill section was. Way steeper, requiring a lot more energy than I'm used to, no easy gradual cruiser miles to be had yet.
|Photo by Katie DeSpinter.|
I saw my whole Posse cheering me on at the aid station. Dom informed me of a stiff climb headed up to Green mountain and I quickly learned that he wasn't wrong. Scott pulled away from me to Join Troy and I was all alone, which is where I stayed until the next aid station. I kept eyeing Diana Finkel behind me. With her course knowledge I knew I was on track if she was taking the same route, and I was excited to see that I was staying ahead of her (for now).
I made my way down to Maggie Gulch and eventually to Pole Creek AS where I thanked all of the volunteers, many whom I worked with at this aid station last year. The next section consisted mostly of a gradual uphill climb around lakes and creeks before steeply dropping down to Sherman AS.
As I was feeling more and more beat, I was greeted by my family and friends and my spirits were instantly lifted. They took my trash, loaded my pack back up and ushered me out on the dirt road towards Burrow's Park.
As I ran/hiked towards Burrow's Park my stomach started feeling queasy - probably related to a combination of altitude, heat, and humidity, which all lead to my heart pounding faster than it's probably ever beat. I saw a familiar face at the aid station, Jerry Armstrong, it was nice to chat with him as I left and feed off of his energy and optimism.
|photo by Jerry Armstrong|
As I left the aid station and climbed above tree-line I continued to catch glimpses of Diana creeping up on me. She quickly caught me, I stepped off the trail to let her by and cheered her on, she said some kind words of encouragement before flying up and over Handies Peak. As I approached the peak clouds were gathering, it was getting darker and the occasional rumbling of thunderheads were becoming louder. As I summitted I scarfed down a honey stinger waffle... and my stomach got weirder. I gently ran downhill to keep from vomiting. It started to drizzle and was cold so I stopped and threw on my windbreaker and gloves. Five minutes later as I started the climb up Grouse-American Pass I was overheating and had to stop to put my windbreaker back in the pack.
|Coming into Grouse Gulch with Elissa. photo by irunfar.|
|Leaving Grouse with pacer Tommy Nielsen. Dom and Mike warming up for their pacing duties. Photo by irunfar.|
Nausea was making it challenging to keep up on my caloric intake, but I ate when I could and ate what sounded good. Tommy and I wound up the gradual dirt road towards Engineer Pass. I saw a red shirted runner speeding up the road behind us. Wow, at that speed he'll catch me soon I thought. I later learned that this was Nick Coury, and luck for me, he didn't maintain that pace forever.
As Tommy and I began our descent to Ouray I began a noticed a pattern that continued for the majority of the race: my stomach would get upset near the top of climbs, stay upset for the beginning of descents, but quickly become fine after heading downhill a short while. I got into Ouray about 40 minutes later than I had hoped. The warmth and humidity continued to take its toll on me.
My awesome friends and family cheered me up and pointed me out of the aid station. Tommy and I started the winding up the dirt road, alternating running with hiking depending on the pitch. We quickly caught Joe Grant and his pacer. I was sad to see him fall from the lead, but knew that there was plenty of race left for him to bounce back. Force feeding myself was getting more and more difficult until I got to the point where just thinking about a gel made me throw up. I was surprised with how much I threw up. A lot of fluid, gels, bars, banana. But I felt 100x better afterwards. We made it into Governor Basin AS and I threw down some coke and banana.
As we continued our 10+ mile climb with over 5,000 feet of climbing Tom was telling me that I was doing a good job. I didn't believe him for quite a while. Then I thought, well, no one besides Diana has passed me today, so I guess I'm doing okay. My stomach was better, but I still had to be careful about when, how much, and what I ate. We made it to Kroger's Canteen on Virginius Pass and were greeted by Roch Horton. He served us up some Perogies, which I ate with hesitation, but they did the trick. We saw headlight's climbing towards us, maybe 50 feet down from the pass. I believe it was Ted Mahon closing quickly. Roch kicked us out of the aid station and we took off down the dark mountain towards Telluride.
|Kroger's Canteen with Tommy. Photo by Roch Horton.|
With our headlamps a glow and the climb behind us I cooled down quickly for the first time in hours and my stomach felt okay for the first time in 30+ miles. We arrived in Telluride around midnight, about an hour off my splits, but after seeing my crew, fueling up and drinking a redbull I felt like a million bucks.
I picked up Dom as a pacer. His enthusiasm, music and energy kept me pumped up as we made our way up and over Oscar's. On the way we saw plenty of animal eyes, tapetum lucidum reflecting our headlamp lights back at us, very surreal. The cool air and drizzle cooled me to the core and I loved it. We saw Scott Jaime cresting the pass ahead of us and lights behind us as we approached the top. While I felt uber slow going uphill, Dom told me I was doing well to maintain consistent forward motion. We traversed the 'golden road' and cruised down into Champman, where I arrived only 20 minutes behind my split so I was almost back on track.
Dom passed off the pacing duties to Chamoun and we snuck away in the night.
|Photo by Dom Grossman.|
Like Tom and Dom, Chamoun continued to encourage me, he helped with navigating and his optimism kept me going strong. We could smell Scott Jamie's grey hairs on the trail as I attempted yet failed to chase him down. The sky began to lighten as we slowly made our way up Grant-Swamp Pass and I could hardly make out Island Lake as we passed by. At this point I could smell the barn and this inspired me. Mike was pumped up as well which made me even more excited. As dawn brought out the lush greenery all around us we made out a pair of headlamps down the mountain. We quickly caught Diana and my excitement with moving into 4th was tempered with sadness because like last year she went from performing so well to struggling with renal issues and eventually dropping. She is such a phenomenal athlete and from what I gathered after my brief interactions with her, a wonderful person.
Mike and I clicked off our lights as we hit Kamm Traverse and I cruised down to KT aid station. "How long ago did Scott leave!" We asked, "10-20 minutes," they responded. We left quickly en route for the final climb of the course. Mike pointed out 3 healthy elk as we approached the top of the tree-line. We exited the trees and continued primarily cross country (sans trail) through miles of wild flowers.
With the climbing all behind us, Mike and I turned it on and pushed it to Putnam AS. "How far ahead is Scott?!" "10-20 minutes." I knew my chances of catching him were slim, but I felt good so I went for it just in case, finishing 13 minutes behind him, 49 minutes quicker than I was hoping in 26:51.
|Photo by irunfar.|
Anyone can be a good sport when they do well, but Sebastian Chaigneau was an exceptional example of a grateful and appreciative winner. Many people's favorite to win, Joe Grant, also exemplified great sportsmanship even after he dropped shortly after leaving Ouray, 56 miles into the race. I love the atmosphere in Silverton for the race. The board organizes and maintains the best event I've ever participated in. Thank you Hardrock Board of Directors! After volunteering at the race last year and running it this year, I see why people refer to those involved as the Hardrock Family. There's magic in these mountains.
INKnBURN - My shirt and shorts worked great. No chaffing issues at all, pockets up front in shorts are very handy. I also like the woman's headband that I wore.
Rudy Project - Zyon glasses with the racing red lenses, haven't worn anything else in a long time.
FLUID - drank a lot of the new Citrus flavor performance drink throughout the race, and drank a couple bottles of chocolate recovery fluid at different aid stations.
Drymax Socks - I finally got to meet Bob MacGillivray and shake his hand, what a nice guy. I wore one pair of Lite Trail running socks the entire race. They worked perfectly as they always do. Thanks for all of the pictures Bob!
All the support from my crew, pacers, family and friends before, during and after the race is almost overwhelming. I feel guilty that so many people did so much for me. I hope I can return the favor soon! I am a lucky man to have such great family and friends. Elissa, Mom, Dad, Pam, Tommy, Dom, Katie, Mike, I love you all!