Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Checking Out the Hardrock 100

I was fortunate enough to find myself back in the San Juans July 8-10. The purpose of my visit was to check out the incredibly difficult Hardrock 100 and, originally, to pace a guy who hoped to be among the elite of the race. However, just after I finished loading the RAV I received word from the runner that he had not gotten on his flight from Seattle due to issues with his wife's pregnancy.

The vehicle was ready to go, except for the cooler, so I got a good night of sleep before heading out on Thursday morning. Thursday evening I followed a custom of eating at a microbrewery. This time it was the eleven-month-old Colorado Mountain Brewery. The meal and beer were good, but a bit pricey.

After taking CO 24 west through the front range, I camped near Buena Vista. On Friday morning I ran for an hour, getting in over 3K vertical. The legs felt great going up and down. The one-hour ride that followed was made incredibly difficult by 40-50 mph crossing headwinds as I ascended the Arkansas valley for 12 miles. The return, of course, was fanflyingtastic!! Thanks to that same wind, several miles on the moderate downslope were clocked at just over a minute! 1:08, 1:07, 1:09, 1:13 - that IS flying folks. Big fun, except for the fact that the side gusts sometimes moved me 8-10 feet and, thus, into the lane of traffic.

Then it was on to Ouray where the Hardrock 56 mile aid station was located. That was where I was supposed to start my pacing duties with Miles. Once there, I put my name in with the station manager. She told me that a French runner named Daniel would be needing a pacer. I told her that I only wanted to go one or two aid stations. This would give me up to sixteen miles and 9K feet of vertical gain/loss. She requested that I go farther, but I told her about the SR50. Then I walked and waited for the runners to arrive.

When they did come, another Frenchman was leading. Julien Chorier led from start to finish, beating a host of very talented US mountain runners. Daniel Levy was in fifth place. When I approached him I was ready to pace him. So was another pacer. And he was willing to pace Daniel all the way to the finish. So he got the nod. I waited.

More than three hours passed after Julien came through before Mike Mason of NC came through in 14th place. Only a few of the leading runners looked strong with 44 miles to go.  Most, including Carl Meltzer, did not look good at all. The sun had set when Mike came through, but he had just passed more than a dozen people. I had been asked by a crew member and pacer to pace Mike to Telluride.

I went back to the RAV with an understanding that Mike would come through at 10 o'clock. He came through 33 minutes earlier and I missed him. So, I missed to opportunities to pace.

Thank goodness! Daniel overcame early GI issues and dropped the hammer. He actually put his talented pacer, Clark Fox, in difficulty a few times when he was feeling good. And the next day, it was Clark who was gimping around while Daniel strolled as if he had not even participated in one of the toughest races on Earth. Amazing! Hung out with the two on Saturday evening, driving Clark to Ouray to get his truck before sharing dinner with him and Daniel - on Daniel's dime.

We had a long conversation during and after the meal. Daniel was impressed with our freedoms and our lands. He was shocked by our over-consumption. And, from the moment he landed in Denver, he was appalled by our, in his word, "size." Daniel did admit that French youth are also becoming obese at an alarming rate. It seems US fast (fat) foods are on the increase in that nation.

I was excited to see Diana Finkel again. She was as humble as when I first met her on Handies Peak, even after winning the women's race and finishing in 5th place overall. She had dueled with Daniel throughout the second half of the race.

What fierce competitors they both Daniel and Diana were! And they both so kind to me and everyone who interacted with them. Daniel repeated many times that he could not have finished his run without Clark's aid. He must have thanked Clark fifty times.

At the award ceremony on Sunday morning it was the race director who was brought to tears when presenting Diana with her award. The crowd of several hundred echoed his response by giving her a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. Diana, with the mike in hand, told how the aid station director grabbed her and asked, "Have you PEED?" Diana assured her that she had. She also added that she had to pee while she was on stage. Many tears flowed. (Recall from an earlier post that she nearly died and spent many hours on dialysis after suffering from rhabdomyolsis, kidney failure, following the 2010 HR100.)

Two runners who I met on my previous visit to the area also faired quite well. Dakota Jones, aka Young Money, finished second overall. Matt Hart, who had hooked me up with Miles, finished 14th. These two are just two more of the outstanding people I met on this journey west.

I also met and had long conversations with several other people while waiting out the race. Some of them, I believe, will be long-term friends. The ultra community is an uncommonly friendly group that I am proud to be a part of  - for that part of the year that I am lucky enough to participate.

I must also add that Chris Gerber, an old friend from Evansville who now lives in the Denver area, finished 22nd in this crazy hard race. What a stud!! He complained about going out too hard, but his rock-steady pacing allowed him to finish in 36 hours 55 minutes. Can you even imagine putting your feet down millions of times on near vertical ground for a day and a half - nonstop! Amazing! It was great to talk to Chris and his family, including his younger brother, Andy.

The HR100 is an unbelievable test of endurance and willpower. Several people asked me if I would try it. We'll see . . .

Some pics from the 2011 HR100.

Julien Chorier at Ouray
Nick Clark at Ouray
Dakota at Ouray
Dakota sitting for a "meal"
SJS50 Champ Joe being aided by the healing Anton

Karl Melter loading up
Julien Chorier closing fast and far too fresh!
Julien Chorier winning the HR100 by almost two hours!
Dakota Jones approaching the finish
Daniel Levy (l) and Clark Fox finish hand in hand.
Diana Finkel winning the 2011 HR100

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