I distinctly remember the moment that I witnessed the hold the Hardrock 100 race can have over people – we were sitting down to dinner at this years Transvulcania Ultra on the island of La Palma and Anton Krupicka was discussing pacing duties with fellow American Joe Grant. If he was unable to compete he was offering up his services as one of Joe’s pacers. The conversation quickly expanded onto the subject of potential winners and what it takes to win this race. Without doubt the collective agreed that whilst other races are becoming more popular HR100 just gets into your blood. On further probing it soon became clear that whilst it has an approach to entry that some find frustrating this also added to the mystique along with massive vertical ascents and altitude. Its more an experience than a running race.
So as this weekend rolls around and all eyes turn on Silverton and the lucky few who get to test themselves we thought is prudent to provide you with our thoughts on who would feature and who might surprise on the day.
We reached out to some of his years competitors to get some insights and also took some thoughts from a couple of Aussies who have found themselves kissing the rock at one of the worlds toughest ultras a few times.
So first of all what is Hardrock all about and why does it have such magnetism ?
Firstly without doubt the beauty of the course is up there with the very best, add in the geographic location, time of year and the altitude and you get a heady mix of fear, concern, excitement and bravery all rolled into 100 miles covered at an average of 4 miles per hour ! Yep, its slow going at altitude with that much elevation.
Some facts that fill people with dread and nervousness :-
The 19th running of the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run will be on July 13-15 in Silverton Colorado. In 2012 the course will be run in the clockwise direction – a big loop through the San Juan Mountains of beautiful southwest Colorado: 100-miles which includes 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 67,984 feet with an average elevation of 11,186 feet – low point 7,680 feet (Ouray) and high point 14,048 feet (Handies Peak).
Mike Wolfe: HardRock100 is iconic because it is the purest mountain 100 in the U.S.: steep, at elevation, toughest course profile, incredibly beautifully rainy environment, and race is organized in simple, clean fashion, with no frills or hoopla!
Marcus: What prep is needed that is different to other 100 milers ?
Marcus: Who is favourite in your view ?
Marcus: What are your duties as a pacer for Joe Grant?
Next we caught up with 3 times finisher and Hardrock legend Australian Andrew Hewatt who loves this race
Andrew: Dakota, he has been living there Skaggs style in preparation.
Marcus: And the womens ?
Andrew: Dianna, she has it dialed in big time.
Marcus: Talking of Skaggs, can his record be beat ?
Andrew: The course change adds 3 miles. Unless we get back onto the old course it will make it tougher but with good conditions and a few class runners to push the pace it could go. Kyle had reasonably good conditions (snow levels, creek levels, weather was ok but a bit hot) as far as HR goes. He lived there for months in advance and slept high in the camp at Molas or Little Molas (can’t remember which) Creek. He trained on the course and knew it inside out. He carried nothing but a bottle a few gels. And of course he is fast.
Andrew: Long climbs. Really long. And long descents. Walking mostly as the climbs are generally unrunnable. And altitude. At least 2 weeks before race day is the minimum. Some people get away with less but they are lucky.
Marcus: Is the new lottery system better ?
Andrew: Yes. It is fairer. But I would like to see veterans rewarded. Chris Twiggs pointed out that when it was 3 finishes for guaranteed entry they had to be in the last 5 years. This went when they moved to 5 finishes. If 7 time finishers were guaranteed but dropped off if they had 2 consecutive DNFs it would keep the incentive without tying up too many slots.
Andrew: Read as many reports as you can find. Talk to other finishers. Enjoy the full experience.
Andrew: It is not a race it is an adventure. It scares the crap out of me and I am yet to finish it on my terms so I want to go back. As Spud said, I reckon it gets in your blood. You experience so much in such an extreme environment that everything is amplified. There might be tougher challenges but there would be few races that could match the total experience of the lead-up and race days. There is a community that is part of Hardrock and to be accepted into that family is an honour. To finish Hardrock is a humbling experience and one you never forget.
I’m excited to be in Silverton and soak up the atmosphere. The San Juans is one of my favorite places to be so I’m lucky to get to come back for the race this year.
To run well here you have to be very patient and consistant throughout. If you burn yourself too early it’s hard to come back as the course is relentless. Staying on course is also a big part of the race. The markings are minimal and you’re expected to know your way around the mountains. I lost a couple hours after taking a few wrong turns last year and tagged an extra peak. I’m confident that won’t happen this year though having more experience with the course and help from my pacers from Ouray (half way point) to the finish. Tony will pace me from Ouray to Sherman and then the wolfepaw will take over from there to the finish.
Hardrock is the highest 100 in the US with the most elevation gain. It goes through some fairly remote areas and requires runners to be self-reliant in the mountains. There’s plenty of support en route but you have to be confident wading through deep creeks, crossing snowfields, and potentially dealing with thunderstorms. Some of the passes are exposed and not a place you want to get caught in lightning.
Kyle is not only a great runner but also very proficient in the mountains. He was perfectly acclimated, had excellent course knowledge having lived in Silverton for the 3 months prior and had a near perfect training block leading up to the race. Above all though it’s his absolute unwavering focus that made him pull off such an exceptional day.
From a physical standpoint, I think Dakota has all the tools to do something special this year. He’s got a good head on his shoulders too and I’d love to see it all come together for him. On a perfect day, he has what it takes to break Kyle’s record. Karl is always one to watch here as he’s won the race 5 times and knows better than anyone how to run hundreds. Hal is in great shape I hear and has been using an altitude tent for his prep. He’ll be tough as always. Nick Pedetella is patient, experienced and executes much like Jared Campbell. Different styles but both will be strong. There’s quite a few other guys in there too that could have really solid runs here.
The race is special for many reasons – the San Juans, the aesthetics of the course, the history, the no frills approach of the organizers, the low key vibe. It brings together a lot of the reasons why I love to run in the mountains.
And finally I was able to grill local Philip “Spud” Murphy on what the race means to him ?
Marcus:Who do you think will win Mens &Womens ?
Spud: Dakota and Finkel (Koerner and Moehl podium spots)
Marcus: What will it take to beat Skaggs record
Spud: Kilian Actually I reckon given good conditions it’s beatable. A more competetive field would definitely make for faster times, look at WS!
Marcus: What specific training does HR 100 require that you dont do for other 100 milers.
Spud: Mountains and altitude…repeat. Elevation acclimatisaton plays a huge role in how successful your HR experience will be.
Marcus: What is so special about this race in your view ?
Spud: It still holds onto it’s no frills, easy going grass roots despite the massive change in the trail ultra running landscape. There is a Hardrock community that once you become part of having run the race leaves an indelible mark on you. It’s also not just the race but the 2-3 weeks you get to spend over there enjoying the town (Silverton) the July 4 fireworks and parade, marking the course, meeting the runners, organisers etc. As Andy says, it gets in your blood.
Marcus: Do you like the new lottery system ?
Spud: Yes a fairer system imo, giving first timers a better chance of gaining entry. That said I would love to see the board accept the top 10-15 ultra runners in the world to race one year.
Marcus: What advice to Aussies who get in ?
Spud: See reply above…acclimatise, if you choose to use trekking poles get used to them. If I was to go back I would definitely take advantage of the Altitude Centre in Sydney. Get over there early and help out with course marking and/or trail work. Great way to get to know the course and meet some awesome people.
So there we have it, Dakota is red hot favourite, records could fall and watch out for Hal ! And Finkel for the womens podium and high up the overall field.
Come Sunday night we will be glued to our screens watching the fun unfold as the runners find out a little bit more about themselves !