Hardrock 2014

Hardrock 2014 After a lacklustre 2013 which involved moving house and then DNFing The Bear I was hoping to make 2014 more successful. Build up Two weeks before race day Azusa and I flew out to Denver before heading to Aspen to meet up with fellow Brit Stuart Air who was also racing. Stuart had already been out for a few days and had been camping at altitude already, but we managed a couple of run/hikes. The scenery is simply stunning everywhere you look in Colorado. We headed straight to Silverton and got stuck in straight away on the trail marking. An early start the next morning and we met at Charlie’s house in the morning chill in what became a daily routine. Grab a coffee and head to the hills. Azusa had spent the last 3 months locked up revising for her vet finals so the first day trail marking was always going to be a challenge not only with the mountains but also the altitude. I had spent the last 2 months in an altitude tent which I think did help. Trail marking is a great way to enjoy the scenery, meet some of the other runners and see the course. It is very relaxed and there is plenty of time to take photos. I knew most of the course pretty well from last time and ‘revising’ on google earth. It was great seeing familiar faces around town and then at the briefing. There was noticeably more buzz around town this year with so many elites having made the lottery, although Silverton is so laid back, with the exception of the 4th July fireworks which echoed around the mountains for miles around. There was no real medical check in this year just the obligatory signing of the map which was presented to 20 time HR finisher Kirk Apt. It is an honour to be part of the Centurion team and was fun to think that many of my team mates Drew Sheffield, Terry Conway and Dan Doherty would be starting Rhonda Del Cimms 7 or so hours ahead in Andorra. Paul Navesey, Richard Felton (Pro Feet) Claire Shelly and a friend of mine James Warren were all competing in the Celestrail race there too. So if I ever started feeling sorry for myself I knew a bunch of friends who would be sharing the ride on the pain train on the other side of the planet. In fact one of the few team members not to be running this weekend was Captain James Elson who was back home in charge of team moral and would be sporting the pom poms and short skirt. Race day The alarm went at 4.40 and I was at the school hall and signed in by 5am. Back to the B&B for some breakfast and the essential coffee to start the day. I slept pretty well so was good to go. Walking across to the start with Azusa the butterflies were there as usual, it gives me the edge needed to keep my focus. The only guarantees for this race are that it will be ‘wild and tough’. During the trail marking we had been climbing Virginius in the hot sun only to be met at the top by a thunderstorm which dumped a few inches of snow on us, yet looking around the surrounding valleys showed how isolated this particular storm was. Azusa and I about 2 minutes before the start.   GOPR2312_1405298571087_low - Copy The finish line will need to be earned. My race goal was to finish this race in the light on the second day, however, I would still be very happy with a finish, no matter the time. Stuart Air and Tim Adams on the Start line (Photo Azusa Hatakeyama) GOPR2317_1405298628728_low - Copy All of the elites were in the middle of the front line. I stayed well off to the side. The casual go and we were off, the next thing I knew I was just behind Timmy Olsen and Julian Chorier, turned to my left and KJ was there, I was there trading paces with him for the first 50m or so, before I politely allowed him to move ahead. Even thought they were banned there was at least one drone above us at this point which added to the occasion. A group of about 10 or 12 elites separated themselves early on as we ran past the Christ of the Mines shrine and towards the Nute chute. It was a fresh morning but the sun was shining. Down to the first river crossing and there was a big crowd offering encouragement, you heard the crossing way before we arrived there as the front runners were cheered across. Bearing in mind we had run the only flat mile or so of the course the encouragement felt somewhat unjustified. First river crossing DCIM100GOPRO I felt great at the start but was purposefully trying to keep a very steady pace, this seemed to work well through Putnam basin down to KT where I heard Byron Powel (Irunfar) offering encouragement and pointing a camera. Putnam Basin in the morning sun (Photo Tim Adams) GOPR2367_1405298097269_low Now everyone knows that the one golden rule in ultra running is, if there is a camera pointing in your direction you have to run no matter how steep…A brief stop at KT to refuel and onwards but was great to see some spectators had hiked in particularly Wendy and Parker from the B&B there to support. It was becoming over cast and feeling muggy by this point. Crossing the river before joining the Ice Lakes trail (Photo Anon) IMG_29010691038980 I was looking forward to seeing Azusa and my pacer (Cody and his wife Beth who had travelled down from Logan for the week) and Jon who paced me in 2012 and would later be pacing Stuart Air. The plan was for them to climb to the top of Grant Swamp Pass following the start and Jon would be reporting for Irunfar at this point too. It was a slow trudge up towards Grant swamp and some of the spectators were already starting to head down by the time I arrived. Azusa met me towards the top and was excited to climb back up again when I arrived. She told me Cody had been rushed to hospital first thing that morning in severe pain with an inflamed liver. He had found out at the beginning of the week he had Mono (Glandular fever) so had been planning on taking it easy anyway. Amazingly in between finding out the news about Cody and climbing to Grant swamp Azusa had somehow managed to find me another pacer in the form of Ryan Smith from Rocky Mountain runners who there with his wife Silke had travelled down form Boulder to be part of the race. Azusa had picked up his distinctive accent, in the thin air, (Ryan is a Brit) which is always a bonus in the US and the rest as they say is history. Climbing towards Grant Swamp Pass with Island Lake in the background (Photo Azusa Hatakeyama) 20140711_101414 Kilian making it look easy (Photo Azusa Hatakeyama) 20140711_091547 It was a great mental boost to see Azusa and Jon at this point and it was a blast scurrying done the back side of Grant Swamp pass. KJ just bounced down this section making it look like child’s play. Grant Swamp pass in the background ( Photo Anon) 10527586_10203362134887784_6200549142658905174_n The photo below is borrowed from Katie Desplinter’s shot which was the finishers print for this year. View is looking down Grant Swamp Pass to Oscars in the background. grantswamp-katiedesplinter Coming into Chapman (mile 19 or so) was a change from 2012 where my feet were already cooked. Everything was in working order although I was finding it very hot and stuffy. I headed out of the aid station with veteran Billy Simpson who warned me to slow down as we were on of 32 hour pace which was slightly optimistic of me. With Billy Simpson heading out of Chapman (Photo Tim Adams) GOPR2400_1405297931809_low The first half of Oscars (which is my least favourite climb) was very hot and I moved extremely slowly. Towards the top the clouds came in and there was a light breeze and even a couple of drops of rain which was a relief. At the top Randy Isler came past me and was flying, I was happy to let him go. In 2012 we had spent much of the race leapfrogging each other so it was great to see him again. Over the top of Oscars and it’s a great single track trail (the only bit of the course I haven’t seen before) all the way down to Telluride. A well trained and motivated John Sharp who took about 6 hours off his course PB, (if you haven’t seen it check out his Hardrock 2012 Summation on you tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57CGUgLahds) came past on this section and then the first heavy thunder-storm struck. I had a picked up a number of the $1 plastic rain jackets which can be great in this situation but as I stopped and fumbled with it Betsy Kalmeyer (2nd lady) flew past. On reflection I should have just pulled on my rain jacket, got wet and worried about it later but the trouble is in the mountains you never know what is coming next and I didn’t want to get too cold to early on. Running in to Telluride it was still raining but the sun was also out so the rain jacket was off again but I was soaked through. The last mile or so I ended up running with Josh a youngster who had somehow managed to beat the ballot for both Westerns States and Hard Rock on his first attempt both in the same year. We agreed we would spend 5 minutes here sorting our feet our and grabbing some food, before embarking on 4000ft climb to Virginius. Each time I have arrived in the Telluride aid station it has always been carnage as there are so many supporters and crew around, you run in shout out your number and hope. A kind volunteer grabbed my drop bag, some potato soup and coke. Lush. It was now very hot and the sun was bearing down which meant it was going to be a ling hard 4000ft climb to Kroger’s Canteen. I dislike running in the heat and sun, so for me it was a long slog and was definitely starting to feel the race on this climb. Scot Mills (not the radio 1 DJ) churned past me at this point looking very strong. Reaching the top of Virginius and the greatest aid station ever (there was a waitlist to volunteer here) I really wasn’t feeling it at this point and declined the tequila in preference of some coke. There was a queue to leave Kroger’s due to the only exit being via the fixed rope. Every competitor arrives and departs to a small fanfare from the volunteers and you arrive to a red carpet in case you didn’t already feel privileged enough. Arriving at Kroger’s canteen, feeling jaded. (Photo Megan Finnesy) IMG_24554375035974 Taking a minute to compose myself at Kroger’s. (Photo Megan Finnesy) IMG_24515816873039 Hitting the track at the bottom of the three drops I emptied my shoes, from here it was a steady downhill for a couple of miles to Governor ( mile 36) which I barely stopped at and then jogged all the way down to Ouray (mile 44). Again it was feeling very hot and I was sweating buckets. I was really looking forward to Ouray as I would get to see my crew (Azusa) hopefully pick up a pacer and mentally for me it is the halfway point of the race. From here we start heading in the vague direction of Silverton. Heading down from Kroger’s through the soft snow (Photo Tim Adams) DCIM100GOPRO Another busy aid station but slightly calmer than T-ride as the runners were spread out by this point. It was good to hear the Stuart was still going strong about 2.5 hours ahead of me having picked up Jon who had spent the rest of the day packing and repacking his bag. Azusa was amazing and ran around grabbing coke and melon and helping refill my pack as well as generally being super positive and injecting me with some positive energy. It was great to meet Ryan who seemed rather excited about spending the night with me. I’m not totally sure he had mentally prepared for what would be the next 27 hours but he was a top class runner based on Boulder. To give you an idea of his fitness level a week or two after Hardrock he got up early summated a 14er but was still in work for 0900. We heard that the leaders had been through ‘a while ago’ and Timmy Olsen had stopped for 45 minutes and just collapsed on an old mattress next to the trail. You really need to he recced this bit as the first couple of miles out of Ouray could be tricky. We left Ouray about 2000 and the clouds were forming into a stunning sunset. Already we could see the start of a thunderstorm that lasted for about 5 hours. Thunder clouds forming (Photos Tim Adams) DCIM100GOPRO Heading up the Bear Creek trail the temperature finally dropped and I started feeling fresher after the dense warmer air of Ouray which is the lowest point on the course somewhere around 7500 ft. We left it as late as possible to turn on our head torches (I was using the light and powerful Petzel Nao which was doing a great job), the drop off at this point on the trail are hundreds of feet so the head torch is either pointing straight at the rock face or into space. It was here that the lighting and thunder announced itself. The storm itself was still a way away but the sheer noise and power of it were intimidating even where we were. The course headed us straight into the storm and we could only imagine what the conditions were like at the storm centre. The rain slowly increased in intensity as we gained height. Even though it felt like I had been drinking well all day my mouth was very dry and I was continually drinking little and often although at this point I started throwing up the water too. Didn’t seem too bad but I was aware that everything I drank came back up. Ryan was very supportive in a pacer type way and just let me get on with it. Standard procedure. The course was much wetter this year and the streams were generally higher too so plenty of river crossings in this area. We suddenly came across Engineer aid station and were lucky to arrive before it was flattened by the storm. They had a big fire going and I had already warned Ryan not to let me get sucked in by the fire. I sat down behind a tarpaulin and grabbed some noodles and salties and tried to keep something down. It was wet and windy and I was starting to get cold immediately and needed to move. The next section up to Oh Point and down to Grouse is very exposed and whilst there is a red light flashing to indicate the pass this was obscured by cloud most of the climb. It felt more like a night in the Brecon Beacons and was starting to get very exposed. Ryan had full waterproofs on and I had my jacket and $1 rain jacket which was doing a good job but we were both saturated and freezing. At the top conditions were pretty bad and visibility was zero, fortunately I knew the route and we were able to get off the high ground although it still must have taken 40 minutes to get below the clouds. We were both wet and miserable at this point and I was still throwing up fairly regularly. We had already agreed we would regroup and warm up at Grouse (mile 58); however, I managed to puke 4 times in a row just before the aid station. With Handies looking ahead I knew I needed to keep some calories down if I was to get past it. Entering Grouse was like a war zone, bodies were scattered everywhere. Fortunately Azusa was here (0230 in the morning, it was cold wet and miserable and everyone was jammed into the tents. As I collapsed into a chair Azusa made me wear some girl tights and donated her jacket to help me warm up whilst she was shivered next to me. There wasn’t room for pacers although Ryan was able to warm up in the car. The dry kit helps to warm me slightly and Azusa made sure I only slept for about 15 mins and generally looked after me grabbing tea coke and soup, although we ended up stopping for about 2.5 hours which included a specially made cheese toasty, guaranteed to settle the stomach. I was definitely feeling a bit sorry for myself at this point and there was a small wobble before I was told to in a loving way to suck it up and get moving. The stop had allowed my stomach to settle and as soon we were climbing and feeling on it. Azusa had been up at the same time as me for the start of the race and had been driving or hiking around the course all day including driving 4wd mountain roads in a 2wd car through a thunderstorm in the pitch black with cliffs on one side and deer and other animals spooked by the storm intent on throwing themselves in front of the car. She eventually made it to bed around 0600 after a long 25 hours of crewing. Crewing races like this are almost as tough as running the race itself and her selfless support helped inspire my finish. It’s also probably worth noting that shortly after I left Grouse (mile 65) KJ was kissing the rock. I tried not to think about that. American Basin at first light (Photo Tim Adams) GOPR2460_1405297572402_low Moving up Handies I felt much better and as we crested American Basin, 24 hours into the race (about an hour behind my 2012 time) the sun was starting to rise, the clouds had gone. Summiting Handies I immediately overheated in the tights and morning sun. Physiologically this was the end of the race for me. At this point I knew I would finish unless something drastic happened, equally it was still going to be long day ahead, 15 hours to be precise. Then it was a steady trot down to Burrows Park (mile 66). Apparently KJ had passed through here 12 hours previously. The next few miles were along a relatively level 4wd road and Ryan was forcing me to run as much as possible. We caught up with HR board member Blake Wood just before the steep decent to Sherman (mile 72). It was getting hot again by now which I didn’t appreciate. Arriving at Sherman the aid station staff made me a fresh breakfast burrito which finally settled my stomach and a takeaway too. The next section was hot but sheltered by the tress as we climbed steadily toward Cataract Lake. Crossing the river over a tree bridge above the falls, I managed to slip on the log and almost face planted into the stream just managing to catch myself by smashing my leg on the log instead. Well it woke me up at least. By the time we reached the top and the ground briefly flattened the clouds invaded and we knew we were in for another heavy thunder storm. This time the storm was much closer and the thunder boomed around us as we ran today’s Pole Creek. This section seems to unending and further than the suggested 9 miles. Earlier in the year I had run the Fellsman which was great practise for running through the boggy ground. Arriving at Pole Creek (mile 81) I had a small sense of déjà vu and we stopped briefly for some food and feet care. It was a relatively quick section to Maggies (mile 85) where it rained a couple of times within the space of 4 miles. Pole Creek Aid station (Photo Tim Adams) DCIM100GOPRO It was a great relief to grab some soup at Maggies (circa 1700) 35 hours in. I felt like I was almost there, it was raining again only 15 miles, 2 climbs to go. I remembered then that last time this section took me 9 hours…I decided not to mention this to Ryan. The climb out of Maggies is straight up, there is no path and you just follow the markers but the views are stunning and no sign of civilisation whatsoever. By the time we arrived at Stony mountain the weather was back to hot and sunny. Top of the Climb from Maggies (Photo Ryan Smith) GOPR2475_1405297497393_low Then it was a long cruise down Green Mountain to Cunningham (Mile 91) where Azusa was waiting. We hadn’t seen her all day since Grouse at 0400 and it was now about 1900. Apparently KJ ran the whole climb 2700ft in under 45 mins, it took me an hour and a half and that was hard going. We crested Dives little Giant just as it was getting dark with a sigh of relief. View towards Green Mountain and Stoney Pass during the course marking with the Weimuneche Wilderness area in the background (Photo Tim Adams) 20140706_111525 I don’t think I had given a thought to finish time since the start of the race. I had hoped to finish before dark but couldn’t make it this time. From here it was all downhill and starts off feeling like you are covering the ground fast but that last 7 miles or so seems endless. Leaving Cunningham I predicted I would finish around 2250, but didn’t kiss the rock until 2309. Ryan was constantly looking at me to check that we were still on course. Finally the ski slope where Azusa and Silke were to welcome us back, from there it was half a mile through town to the rock, a time to savour. I felt blessed to have been able to kiss the rock again and for the support of Azusa, family friends and Ryan my pacer who was amazing especially with zero notice. Not many people could turn up and cover 55 ish miles of the HR course in 27 hours straight off the bat. Stuart had a great race and finished in the daylight around 5 hours ahead of me despite an ankle industry which flared up for the last 40 miles or so slowing him down. I was certainly tired at the end but feel that fitness wise I could have moved faster if I could have found a way to settle my stomach and there was more in the legs, I even ran up the stairs in the B&B when we arrived back to prove the point. The next day everyone shuffles to the award ceremony and Dale the RD start with honouring those who DNF, the supporters, crew and volunteers and then always finds a story about every single finisher. It really feels like a family event and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Initially I thought I had escaped without getting cankles but they soon appeared. Despite the wet course my feet were in good condition with no blisters and had dried out within a day or two afterwards. Unlike last time where I was wheezing for a couple of weeks after wards, this year my lungs were in much better condition and other than being tired felt in good shape. Words don’t really do this event justice so I include a few shots of the course to fire your imagination. Whether you manage to get a slot during the race or not why not head out to Colorado and cover the course or run the Soft rock course, it is simply stunning. Note; As part of team Centurion I therefore receive some assistance regarding kit, that said the choice of kit is all mine. Kit selection; S-lab 5, Salomon Bonatti jacket, Black diamond z-poles, Inov8 F-lite 195 or x-talon 190, Petzel nao headlamp dry max socks. S-tabs Hardrock100-295 Hardrock100-298

One thought on “Hardrock 2014

  1. Wow such stunning scenery but I am concerned on your behalf regarding the sickness and climatic conditions. I hope you got over the after effects as quickly as you hoped.
    Sounds overwhelming to me just to want to run the course again much less do it.
    The bigger the support team you can organise the more chance you will have completing the course again with you in tip top condition .
    Congratulations to everyone that finished the full 100 mile and also to those who had to give up before the end regardless of the reason .Anyone that even contemplates the run is seriously super fit to think they can finish within the time available. Well done to all


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