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,


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