Friday, July 20, 2012

Hardrock 100: Chapman Aid Station

All year I have been looking forward to the Hardrock 100 Mile Run. Not because I was entered in it. I wasn't. My desire to witness this event stemmed directly from having watched it in 2011 from its Ouray midpoint and from the finish line in Silvterton. I was drawn in because of the amount of suffering that I witnessed. More specifically, I was fascinated and awed by the ability of the Hardrock entrants to persevere, to continue with their relentless forward progress in those unforgiving, rugged mountains amidst numerous high energy storm systems.

Even the top ten runners, renowned and respected long distance mountain running machines, with strained eyes and unsteady gaits announcing their fatigue, entered Ouray looking as if they had already covered a full 100 miles. Watching the leaders struggle, my mind lodged on the notion that these people were only about halfway to the goal. There were several more high mountain passes to ascend and, worse yet, descend in the dark.

Then it occurred to me that most of the runners in the field were many miles and multiple mountain passes behind these leaders. They would suffer longer. They would endure more of the storms that were tormenting the San Juan Mountains. Many of them would still be on the picturesque, brutal course a day later when the sun would set on the race for the second time. For a variety of personal reasons, that are worthy of research, these people were putting themselves through an incredibly hard to grasp physical and mental nightmare. This, I appreciated and, in fact, loved.

So, when a turn of events allowed me to be in southwest Colorado again this summer, I made certain to put myself on the course. Through my friend, Chris, I was able to meet a group of people at the Bighorn 100 in June who, acknowledging the mental status of mountain ultra runners, called themselves Idiots. One of those Idiots, Kari, was in charge of the Chapman aid station at the HR100. She welcomed my offer to help out.

Because Chapman was only about 19 miles into the HR100 course on this clockwise year (the course is reverses every year), the runners were still in high spirits and not yet worn down by the mountains when they passed through. I did not see a single broken down runner until the next morning when I watched the winner finish.

More than two dozen volunteers showed up at Chapman to take care of the runners' needs. Many of us spent the night in Chapman Gulch in order to produce a functioning aid station by the expected 9:45 am arrival of the lead runners. What follows is a light hearted photo essay of how the aid station, known as the Bacon Station, was built and worked.

Interacting with the runners made this a memorable and moving experience. Working and playing with the other volunteers created a festive atmosphere that, I hope, enriched and energized the runners' experiences.

Basit adds Artistic Flair to his long list of skills.
Random shot of San Juan Mountains - perty, huh?!
Kari and I setting up the drop bag tent.
I did help. Honest!!
Basit seems on the verge of discovering which
side of the tables goes up.
The runners zigzagged up that slope to
the low point on that ridge after they left us.
It is called Oscar's Pass and it is more than
3000 feet above the Bacon Station.
Then I needed a nap.
With most of the Bacon Station crew assembled, Kari
goes over our responsibilities. Kari has done this
before and leads like an Aid Station Sensei.
 The sun is up and these tents are about to be emptied.
We meet again over breakfast. Kari delegates duties to
the crew and preaches on efficiency. The crowd of
of ultra runners understands her words. 
We are open for business!
Ning, aka the Bacon Master, is makin'
Bacon almost as fast as Basit devours it!
All of that jabbering on the walkie tuckered
me out. 
My buddy Corey, who finished 29th(!!!),
rolled into the Bacon Station with an
infectious smile.
Chris, now a three time HR100 finisher, takes
over my nap chair, but only to snack on the bacon.
Alan, one of the Vi Endurance founders,
also samples the bacon on his way
to his first HR100 finish.
Hal and second place finisher, Joe Grant, discuss
their close race shortly after Joe kisses the rock.
Third place finisher, Dakota Jones, eyes
the Hardrock he is about to kiss. He says
he is out for next year. Many of us are
hoping to get in.
Darcy Africa embraces her daughter
after winning the 2012 HR100

"Everybody needs beauty . . . places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike." - John Muir

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