27 July 2014

2014 Hardrock 100 Pacing Report - Part 2

“Instructions for living a life. 
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
- Mary Oliver

(This is the final post of a five-part series covering my nine days at Camp Hardrock. Days 1 & 2 are found here; days 3 & 4 are found here. Days 5 & 6 are found here. Part 1 of my pacing report is here:) 

I had waited seven days to arrive at today -- Saturday -- when I hoped to pace one of the 46 - 48 hour finishers on their journey to kissing the Hardrock Sunday morning. I was going to do this on the fly, just hanging out Sherman to pick up someone, but as it turned out, I found a runner named Rich on Wednesday night. The plan was to pick him up at Grouse Gulch (Mi 58) and pace him to the finish.
View from Grouse Gulch
Water, water everywhere

When I got to Grouse that morning, I saw Steve Pero, who was pacing Mark Heaphy to his 16th Hardrock finish. Mark went on to finish in 46 hours like a boss. I also saw Julian Smith's wife, Lisa, and Sheila's husband, John after they missed Julian and Sheila (who was pacing him), having arrived earlier than expected. Julian would go on to finish his 3rd Hardrock in 45 hours and change. Respect! 

The two specks in the middle left are Steve and Mark
going up the switchbacks to Grouse Gulch Basin
I also saw Robert Andrulis and his pacer, Gary as I was running around getting myself fed and ready for Rich to arrive. Rich had been behind his splits from what I could see so I wasn't surprised when he arrived at Grouse around 8am Saturday morning. He came in ready to drop. He said he didn't have the legs to climb up Handies and he didn't want to get stuck dropping at Sherman due to missing a cutoff, as Sherman is hours away from Silverton and Grouse is less than an hour.
Robert and Gary coming in to Grouse
Gary notified me that he was dropping due to stomach problems and that Robert had left shortly before by himself. He suggested that I catch him and pace him the rest of the way. After making sure that Rich couldn't be convinced to go on, I took off after Robert around 8:15am. 
Grouse Gulch Aid Station from the top of the switchbacks

Looking west from the switchbacks
If you know anything about me, you know I'm a better descender than a climber. So when Gary told me that Robert was climbing slow, it gave me hope that I'd be able to catch him before he got to the summit of Handies Peak, the only 14er on the course. After ascending a series of switchbacks, I crossed Grouse Gulch and up to the head of the basin. From there, I dropped into American Basin and up to the top of Handies. It took me over 3 hours to get there and no Robert. (sigh) At least I had some beautiful views to enjoy from the day's adventures... 
Climbing up to Grouse Gulch
Looking back from American - Grouse Pass
Looking ahead to Handies Peak before dropping into American Basin
Bottle refill and foot wash station

The iconic Handies shot with Sloan Lake

Marker and wildflowers near the summit
Final push to the top...steep!
Summit view
With no Robert in sight, I pushed the descent down Handies into Grizzly Gulch. By the time I got into Burrows Park (mi 68), I was told Robert was 40 min ahead of me. Damn... so I had to keep pushing as I ran up Cinnamon Pass Rd for 3 miles. When I got to the Sherman Aid Station (mi 72) 5.5 hrs after leaving Grouse, I found Robert sitting down, eating and getting his feet fixed. He was surprised to find out I'd chased him 14 miles from Grouse Gulch, up and over Handies, all the way to Sherman. He thought I'd hitched a ride. I was just happy to finally have a runner to pace! 
Descent off Handies

Grizzly Gulch
Boring "trail", pretty backdrop
Since Robert has a tendency to take too much time in aid stations, I took off ahead of him as he was finishing up and told him to come catch me. I was also secretly concerned that he'd drop me on the climbs. Once he caught me up the trail, I had no problem keeping up, thankfully. We climbed out of Cataract Gulch and past Cataract Lake, which sits on the Continental Divide.

This section of trail reminded me of hiking in Alaska

Looking back at Cataract Lake
It was muddy in this section; I looked forward to creek crossings
Pole Creek
We hit the Pole Creek Aid Station (mi 81) at 7p. We refilled water and moved on to Maggie-Pole Pass where the mud was even worse. The views were pretty though, as the sun dropped below the horizon and the light changed constantly the closer we got to Maggie Gulch. As we began the slow climb up to the top of the pass, where we'd drop into Maggie Gulch, I began having trouble keeping up with Robert. My legs were shot from the long climb up Handies and probably affected by bombing down the other side. I told him to go on since I didn't want to jeopardize his sub-48 hour finish. Once I got into Maggies (Mi 85), Robert was already climbing out of the gulch and I caught a ride back to Silverton. 

Heading straight ahead to the saddle
Last light, just before dropping into Maggie Gulch
The next morning, I got to the finish line at 5:15am to watch the last runners come in and got to see Robert as well as Bob Combs, who was featured in my Quad Rock report. No dramatic down-to-the-wire finishes like we had last year with Claire Ketteler. The last runner this year, Amanda Grimes, got in with a good 10 minutes to spare. Out of 140 starters, 100 finished, a 71% finishing rate.

The Awards Ceremony is always a special time. Dale recognizes every one of the finishers from the last person to the first and tells a little anecdote about them as they are given their finisher's print and t-shirt from Lois. I watched my old and new friends go up and get their awards and I felt very proud of them and their accomplishment. While we were all amazed at Kilian's course record run, the one the received the standing ovation was Kirk Apt. It was his 20th running of Hardrock, out of 21 starts in its 21 year history. As a special gift from the Hardrock family, he was presented with a map of the course, signed by all of the participants in this year's run. He choked back emotion as he gave his acceptance speech, which was full of humility and grace. It was a special moment in the history of Hardrock and I am glad to have been there to witness it.
Dale presenting Kirk with his signed course map
Darcy Piceu - 1st place female
Kilian Jornet - 1st place male and CR holder
Once again, I had to say goodbye to my friends as we all returned to our respective homes. I had such an amazing week here and I can't wait to return in 2015. I left Silverton with such a full heart, feeling blessed to be a part of the Hardrock family. I also came away with a strong desire to bring my own family next time so they can have their magical Hardrock experiences too. That was the only downside of being here -- not having them with me. The beauty of the mountains here was a balm in their absence.
'Til next year...
Congratulations to all the Hardrockers that finished this brutiful run. You have my respect, no matter how long it took you to finish. For those who didn't, peace to you all and get back after it. These beautiful mountains, gulches and passes will be here for you to find your limits once again. I look forward to enjoying the beauty of the San Juans with you and cheering you all on in 2015 and beyond.

Happy Trails,


26 July 2014

2014 Hardrock 100 Pacing Report - Part 1

“There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere.” 
- Edward Abbey

Photo: iRunFar/Shelby
(This is the fourth of five blog posts, covering my nine days at Camp Hardrock. Days 1 & 2 are found here; days 3 & 4 are found here. Days 5 & 6 are found here.) 

After nearly of week of running in the San Juans, catching up with friends, and helping with Hardrock 100 race prep, it was time to send the runners off on their epic adventure in the mountains. I was at the Silverton Gym at 5:15a, greeting my peeps and wishing good runs to those about to start running for the next 24-48 hours. Nearly all my photos were blurry, so I pinched the following three snaps off Chris Gerber, who was less than 48 hours away from obtaining veteran status as a 5-time finisher. Boss!
Milling around the gym before race start (Kirk Apt, who completed
his 20th Hardrock is in the lower right corner in the blue shirt) 
Nolan's 14 finisher Eric Lee finally got in and
was excited to notch his first Hardrock finish
Photographers were everywhere. Here Kilian (red coat, bottom left)
chats with Julian, Joe, Seb & Adam just before the start

The only decent snap I got was still blurry with the exception of Race Director, Dale Garland in the yellow coat. A picture of calm in the midst of the storm. Awesome. The spectators count down the final 10 seconds and then Dale says "Alright, Get outta here!" and they're off. Very low-key, with the exception of all the professional photographers. There were certainly a lot more people at the start this year than last year, which I attribute to "The Kilian Effect".

Dale and the two blurry Adams, Campbell & Hewey
Back at the house, Meghan was uploading video and Travis was getting ready to head out onto the course to get pictures and provide real-time updates via satellite phone. Other IRF volunteers were already getting themselves situated on the course to keep everyone updated via twitter throughout the next 24+ hours.

Since my assignment was to get pictures on the Bear Creak Trail out of Ouray (mile 47), I had a little time to kill. First thing I did was make Meghan some breakfast since she'd be going pretty much non-stop until Saturday night.
Meghan's colorful breakfast
After packing up my stuff for when I'd be leaving on Sunday, taking a little time to check out the last couple of miles of the course, I headed on out to Ouray. It was a beautiful day and my plan was to be in the canyon by 2p, in case runners were pushing course record pace. As it turned out, they weren't so it was nearly 4p when Kilian rounded the bend with Julian following about 5 min later. Julian appeared to be on the hunt while Kilian looked pretty relaxed. Here's some of the pictures that I took for iRunFar, posted on their Facebook page along with a few others that I took: 
(All remaining photos: iRunFar/Shelby)
Kilian rounded the bend in good spirits, chatting and giving high fives

Taking in the beauty of Bear Creek Canyon
Julian Chorier and his pacer, Brendan Trimboli
Julian was focused; he got 2nd place
Prez followed a few minutes later, looking good despite the pain 
of a turned ankle and dealing with some dehydration at this point
I managed to coax a slight smile out of him, anyway. 
His ankle got worse and he had to drop later on.
He wrote a delightful report about it
Seb was having a low patch and not in a smiling 
mood. He later dropped with Rhabo symptoms
Took me a few seconds to realize it was the Canucks -- Adam
Campbell and pacer Gary Robbins -- rounding out the top 5. Adam 

was looking great at this point and went on to a 3rd place finish

At this point, I headed down to the trailhead and got a few more shots of the front runners before sending them to Bryon Powell:
Check out that smile I got from Coach Koop. Unfortunately, he got stuck in a lightning storm on Handies and had to drop due to hypothermia.
Joe tore his quad and later had to drop. He was still his
chatty self though as he told me about his bum leg on
the way up the climb. He wrote a great report here:
Kaburaki, before he got hit in the face from a rock fall.
Still managed to finish 6th, blood and all. Rock star!
Jeff Browning had a great blog post on his 4th place finish
Diana Finkel dropped with rhabdo symptoms for the 3rd time
Darcy Piceu went on to win for the 3rd straight year, 11th overall

I saw Scott Jaime and his pacer Nick Pedatella on the way up the climb, but wasn't in a good spot for a picture. Scott went on to finish 5th in textbook style. I was sorry to have missed Tim Olson, as he was in a low point, but still managed to get 12th overall by gutting out a hard-earned finish. He wrote a blog post about his Hardrock experience that's worth reading. 

After going to Ouray to send photos to Bryon, I heading back to Silverton to eat and get to bed early. Kilian was expected to finish as early as 4:30am so I wanted to be there for that. 

The next morning, I was a running a few minutes late and as I was jumping in my car at 4:41a, I heard the cheers as Kilian was coming in. Crap! So I missed his finish by a few minutes as I drove down and parked outside of the school. 
Great video here from iRunFar of Kilian's finish line interview

Kilian smashed Kyle Skagg's stout course record by 42 minutes and that was only due to pushing the pace in the last 28 miles. He employs strategy keeping the pace easy (which was still faster than the other runners) and then pushing the pace in the end. I loved how he enjoyed the course by taking pictures, waiting for Julian to join him for some some company and taking his time at aid stations talking with the volunteers. He nailed this run expertly after less than a week of scouting it and only a month after setting an FKT (fastest known time) climbing up and down Denali's West Buttress in 11 hrs and 48 minutes. He really is in a class all by himself.

Kilian is the first ultrarunner I became familiar with, after Runner's World did a two-page spread on him back in 2009. I've been following his career ever since and was inspired to do longer, more technical, mountain runs here in Colorado thanks to the inspiration of his Kilian's Quest videos. Congrats to him on yet another outstanding achievement. I expect that we'll see him next year to run the course in the opposite direction and thus becoming an "official" Hardrocker. 

I'm going to break this report into two parts since I still have my Saturday pacing adventures to post about as well as Sunday's award's ceremony. Stay tuned for the last installment, which I hope to get out in the next day or so.

Happy Trails,