Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hardrock 100

First off, apologies for being such a slacker keeping the blog current.  I have no excuses about not having time or opportunity to post.  The explanation is that what happened at Hardrock this year was a huge disappointment to me and really got me down.  I lost the motivation to post and pretty soon I was far behind which made me avoid tackling the task even more.  I hope to have things caught up here by the end of next week though.

Hardrock is far and away my favorite event.  And I say 'event' because this is so much more than just a race.  I've been attending since 2004 and all the folks that return year after year to run, volunteer, crew or whatever have really become family.  I usually am in Silverton for the two weeks prior to the race to enjoy hanging out with everyone as well as all the cool activities.  Nearly every day there is course marking going on.  Newbies are strongly encouraged to take that opportunity to learn the course and many veterans also participate.  There are any number of folks doing different training runs/hikes.  On July 4th there is an early 10k race and then a parade in which all Hardrockers are invited to march.

Silverton's main street.  Similar mountains surround the town.

Hardrockers getting ready to march in parade.
After the parade on the 4th there is a waterfight between two fire departments, a rhubarb pie bake sale, and one of the most amazing fireworks displays ever with the sound and light of the fireworks rebounding off the 13,000 ft peaks surrounding Silverton.   As the race approaches there are course briefings, a pot luck picnic, and pre-race meeting.  You can feel the excitement building in everyone as the Friday morning start approaches.  This year there was also a new running event two weeks prior to the race put on by the Coury brothers, the Silverton 6/12/24 Hour, held on a tough one mile loop next to Kendall mountain.  This is the same course as is used for the Silverton 100, a race too crazy to exist!

Dinner with friends before the race at the Avon Hotel.  Bill Duper is in first seat on left facing Mike Dobies.
Pre-race briefing in Silverton High School gym which is also the site of the start/finish.
 One inevitable bit of pre-race drama is the Thursday checkin deadline where we find out who on the waitlist gets into the race.  There are always more people in town who are on the waitlist than can get into the race.  This year the first person on the waitlist when the checkin deadline had passed and open spots had been given to waiting runners was none other than Liz!  Yikes, too much drama!  Some years there are people who are in the race that cannot or choose not to run on Friday morning and the first waitlisters are encouraged to put out drop bags and be dressed ready to go on Friday morning.  As Liz and I were preparing to head to the gym for the 5:45am Friday checkin deadline, Rebecca Clark, the registration czar knocked on the RV door telling Liz that a runner had chosen not to run and that she was in!  Cool beans.  This was Liz's attempt at her 5th finish which would greatly enhance her chance in subsequent lotteries.

We all set off at 6am with a course that was in as good a shape as I have seen with little snow, and very dry conditions.  Things were going fairly well through about 35 miles though I felt sluggish and felt I was working too hard to keep my position in the back 1/4 of the field.  Climbing up to Oscar's pass was as nice as I've ever done with nice cloud cover and no bugs at all.  This section can often be hot with biting flies.  It was definitely slow and I was feeling fatigued but things seemed to be shaking out okay. As I descended from Oscars down into Telluride, though, my race fell apart.

Several years ago after a very hard 48 hour effort, for the first time ever, I experienced very sharp shooting pains going through my toes.  Liz, who ran as far as I did in that race also experienced the same pains, and also for the first time.  Since then we have both had these pains after tough 100 milers but only after the race for a few days.  This year though, with all the races stacked on top of each other I started to experience the pains during races.  At first this wasn't much of a problem as it only lasted about 10-15 minutes.  Descending from Oscars though it went on and on without letup.  To be clear this is an excruciating kind of pain that is impossible to ignore.  I had tears in my eyes from the pain as I walked down.  It just would not go away.

The pain is not from damage to tissue but rather is a neuropathy which results from damage to the nerves.  It took me forever to get down to Telluride and I was emotionally devastated.  I had decided to quit and announced that at the aid station but was persuaded to sit and think about it.  Kathy Lang, an MD was there and gave me some Pennsaid gel to put on the toes.  I sat for probably 30-40 minutes and decided to continue on.  I had no more pain from the toes the rest of the race and I attributed that to the Pennsaid though I now don't think it was the cure.  More on that in the Burning River report.  (Nice teaser, eh?)  Anyway I continued up over Virginius (first time ever in the dark) and down into Ouray moving well and feeling better than anytime in the race.  I was slower than ever before but still had plenty of time.

I fueled up and left Ouray in much better spirits.  Those high spirits soon vanished though as I climbed toward Engineer.  I just had no juice, no mojo.  Even on the short downhills I could not move well.  I was crawling and even at times had to sit on the side of the trail despite moving so slow.  I reached the Engineer AS which is about halfway after the sun was up with more than 24 hours elapsed.  I would need a negative split to finish.  It was nice to see Fred Ecks here and I pretty much gave up here, sitting and enjoying the fire and aid station food.  Finally I left and started up the final pitch to the pass.  I was SO SLOW.  It was pathetic.  I crested the pass and started down the road, finding that even downhill I could not run.  I decided to quit at Grouse and cut several of the road switchbacks on the way down.

Having this, my favorite race, ruined by this 30 in 52 quest really made me resent the whole project.  I have since gotten over that and am back in the effort but the costs of doing so many 100 mile races have definitely piled up in larger and more varied ways than I expected.  The financial, emotional, and physical tolls have been high.

Having quit, I was able to shower, rest and see Liz as she came through the final AS.  The first thing she said was to the effect of the difficulty of doing something like Hardrock after such a year.  I really believe that I was the only one at that race that had any idea of what she was going through.  She is incredibly tough and determined.  My hat is off to her for getting this one done.  While at this aid station I also got to see Deb Pero come through with her brother Drew.  Steve, Deb and Drew had started together and planned to run together the whole race with Drew as Steve's pacer (60+ year olds can have a pacer the whole way) but Steve's vertigo took him out at Ouray.  They were cutting it close but had good spirits and looked strong and confident.  Deb would go on to finish as the last finisher in 47 hours and 49 minutes with 11 minutes to spare!  This gives her a finish in both directions and also the title of most senior woman to ever finish the race.  Congrats Deb.

Liz really struggled to finish, especially on the last climb but persevered and finished in 47:11 for her 5th official finish.

Liz at the finish with the rock.
The awards ceremony on Sunday morning, done by RD Dale Garland is, each and every year, the best post race awards ceremony.  Dale does just a wonderful job, calling up each finisher and usually with some little story, anectdote, or quote about each finisher.  The picture below is of Kirk (Mr Hardrock) Apt who had finished all but the first Hardrock Hundred with 18 finishes now.  The finishers award each year is print of a photo or painting submitted usually by someone in the Hardrock family of some part of the course.  This year, as Kirk came up to get his print he took the mike and did a beautiful thing which epitomizes his gentle and caring nature.  He said that he had many of these finisher prints and that this year he would like to make a gift of his print to a friend of his, the race, and ultrarunning in Colorado.  He asked that anyone who knows Bill Duper to sign the print and that he would present it to Bill late in Leadville.

Bill will be know to anyone who spends much time in Silverton for Hardrock or Leadville in the summer.  He is, I believe 78 years old, and knows everything about current and past ultrarunning in Colorado, the US and world stage.  He drives to all the races and is truly embedded in the fabric of ultrarunning, especially in Colorado.  This was a wonderful gesture that really meant a lot to Bill.  (He had left town before Sunday's ceremony but I spoke with him in Leadville later.)  

Kirk Apt asking people to sign his award print for Bill.
There is a new rule in the Hardrock rulebook that says that anyone with 5+ finishes who dnf's two years in a row will be dropped from the 5+ finishes group for lottery purposes.  This raises the stakes for me next year so if you see me next year in Silverton I will have my game face on!

Race count:  Liz (19)  Scott (13)

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