Ok, so I have a bit of an obsession with the San Juan mountains of Southwestern Colorado and The Hardrock 100. It all started innocent enough. I had run a couple of ultra marathon races in 2005 and I was excited to see how far I could run. Sometime in the summer of 2006 I stumbled across these photos taken by Klas Eklof of the 2006 Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run. As soon as I got through the second or third page I knew that I HAD to run Hardrock. It was if it was calling my name. High altitude, steep & unrelenting climbs and descents, unpredictable weather, wildlife and amazing scenery staged through some really cool mountain towns.
I had a connection in Silverton who was also a Hardrocker (Rodger Wrublik who previously organized the Javelina Jundred and Across The Years) and I made plans to attend the weeklong course marking dubbed “Camp Hardrock” in 2007. I made my way up there, camped in the back of Charlie Thorn’s house (where all of the Hardrockers met up to begin each day of course marking) and participated in everything I could. I began to learn the course by doing long hikes and helping with the course markings, did trail work with Kyle Skaggs and Scott Jurek, climbed to the top of my first 14er and soaked up as much knowledge from the Hardrock vets as I could.
I wasn’t able to stay through that historic race (Scott Jurek set a new course record on a badly swollen ankle) but I was hungry to nab my qualifier and enter the lottery myself. You must qualify by running a mountain 100 on the qualifying list and the race is extremely limited to 140 runners each year that are selected through a lottery. I searched the calendar and found that the Angeles Crest 100 was only a 6 hour drive from Phoenix and a HR qualifier. Perfect! My brother Nick decided to jump in as well and we both finished just under 24 hours together and could now apply for the “post-graduate 100 mile” Hardrock event.
I didn’t make it high up on the wait list that first year, but Nick was right on the “bubble” of getting in off the waiting list. The race is unique in that they will keep pulling names off the wait list all the way until race morning so they guarantee 140 starters. We headed up to Silverton two weeks early just in case, and did over 100 miles in the week leading up to the race participating in course marking and doing a few days of trail work, immersing ourselves in the Hardrock culture. We hung out with eventual winner Kyle Skaggs & James Varner, completing an epic run up and over Sultan Mountain on July 4th that changed my perspective on running in the San Juans – Kyle bombed the downs, doing a standing “glissade” down a 1000 foot snow field off the top of Sultan. I was really feeling my calling in the mountains. Turns out Nick got selected off the wait list the day before the race when a runner failed to check-in. I paced him to a 5th place finish and had a blast, I couldn’t wait to toe the line myself.
My chance came in 2009 when I was selected in the lottery to run. I arrived in Silverton a month early to acclimate and pre-ran many sections of the course. I had a disastrous race day experience, mostly due to poor dietary choices on race day nutrition, but persevered through many obstacles to finish in 33:19 good enough for 15th place.
Fast forward four years later and I am again registered for the Hardrock 100 and heading up to Silverton four weeks early to acclimate and train on the course. I’ve got a bit more experience this time around, having nine 100 mile races under my belt and one victory/course record. I’ve dialed in my nutrition, honed my training and logged many, many miles since my first Hardrock 4 years ago. I’ve been incorporating a varied training program into my build up this season that has seen me doing regular speed work, long runs, and several races leading up to the big show in July. I will be continuing my training at altitude and will be sleeping as high as my truck will take me. I will be camping, running and hiking, cooking my own food and soaking up the beauty of the San Juans over the next four weeks leading up to this year’s Hardrock and hoping that it all comes together in a big way. This will also be a special year since Nick also got into the race. We’ll be having a little sibling rivalry thrown in the mix to keep things interesting.
Aravaipa Running is also organizing three running events in Silverton this summer through Silverton Alpine Running including the Silverton 6/12/24 Hour Mountain Runs on June 29/30, Kendall Mountain Run on July 20 and the Silverton Alpine Marathon & 50K on August 24. Our motto at Silverton Alpine Running is “Run Steep, Get High” – no wonder since the town sits at 9318 feet!