The semi annual, loosely unorganized, multi-day, fall Coyote running week has become a mostly annual tradition for us since we attended Coyote Moab 4 years ago. Chris Scott always does a great job planning great runs in amazing locations with lots of social activities for the evenings. This year with Coyote being in Arizona with runs split between the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Emily and I decided to tie this in with some additional running and vacation time.
In lieu of doing more races this fall, we decided instead to do a lot of fun runs that have been on our ‘tick list’. So far, we have had a great late summer of runs with the Ruby Mt Traverse and Highline Trail. Last weekend we both paced friends at Wasatch 100 and had a great time (as usual) taking in the race scene. With a wet week and a grim forecast for the weekend, we had a hard time making the decision if it would be wise to head out into the high Uintas. After numerous emails, Christian Johnson, Tom Diegel, Emily Sullivan, Emily and I were all game for a wet run through the Uintas. We all agreed it would be a ‘social pace’ and to be smart and not get summit fever so that if it looked like lightening, we would turn around. We all packed a few extra cloths ‘just in case’ we ended up with a Uinta Epic (I have had many).
The crew arrived at our house at 4AM Saturday morning and we were on the road with full cups of coffee a few minutes later. We arrived at the trailhead just after 6:30 and quickly got our shoes on in the chilly morning air (41 F according to the car thermometer).
Christian, Tom, Emily B, Emily S, and Chad at the Henry’s Fork Trailhead
We enjoyed the cool, rain free morning as we ran along Henry’s Fork River and to the meadow and past Dollar Lake. My only other summer Kings Peak summit had been as part of the Highline Trail many years ago. After 4 trips to Kings in the winter, it was fun to see the trail in the summer. We kept to our ‘social pace’ with several breaks and good conversation. The clouds were low and we were unsure of what our summit weather would be and even if we would be able to summit.
Low clouds in the meadow before Dollar Lake
Approaching Gunsight Pass (Emily S and Christian)
We passed a few other hikers on our way up to Gunsight Pass. We dropped down from Gunsight Pass into Painter Basin and began the climb up to Anderson Pass. This was the area that Emily and I had completely botched on our Highline Trail run. Actually being on the trail, made this climb significantly easier and much more enjoyable. We topped off water in one of the numerous fast flowing creeks and continued to the pass.
We had discussed the scramble from Anderson Pass to the Summit unsure of how slippery the rocks would be for the ~1mile scramble. Our weather had been good to this point, but as we left the pass, the rain started and eventually turned to snow. We were all excited to be in our first snow of the year (it snows all year in the Uintas, but this was all of our first snow of the season).
Climbing up from Anderson Pass to the Summit
We continued to climb, still unsure of the weather, but we could see a few patches of sun in the distance.
Taking an opportunity to play in the snow
Being one with the clouds
Super Hero or Summit Poser
We were treated to a break in the weather at the summit, enjoyed a little food, then headed down. The photos stopped at the summit because shortly after leaving the summit we were in the rain again which turned to hail. By the time were just below Anderson Pass, it was a torrential down pour. By the time we reached Painter Basin, we were all soaked to the core and getting cold. I commented to Christian that at least it hadn’t gotten cold (yet). We all kept to ourselves just moving at whatever pace we could to keep warm. By the time we reached Gunsight Pass, the temperature had dropped. I think we were all not far from being in a bad place, but we all kept moving and laughing about how it is a little odd when we all considered being cold, soaking wet, tromping through the mud with altitude headaches to be fun. By the time we were across the meadow and back into the trees the rain had pretty much stopped and we were able to start warming up and drying out. We were able to pick up our pace and start to eat and drink again now that we could move our fingers. By the time we reached the trailhead, the sun was out and we were ready to get out of our wet cloths.
We had estimated that it would take 6-7 hours and it had taken 8.5 hours round trip for the ~29 miles and 5,000′ of climbing. Part of the longer time was our socializing, but the wet rocks on the summit scramble (which is 2 miles round trip) and being so cold really slowed us down. In addition to a great run, for the second time, I got to take Tom on his ‘longest run ever’. Four of us had commitments at 7PM and it was after 3:30 and we had a 2.5 hour drive so we quickly enjoyed a post summit beer and some snacks then hit the road again. We were back to summit park by 6:05, almost exactly 14 hours after leaving and all having enjoyed a day of epic Uinta weather.
The Uintas are one of the only ranges to run east/west in the US and contain the highest peaks in Utah. I have always had an affinity for the Uinta Mountains for many reasons. Over the years I have had many summer and winter great trips and epics in the Uintas. The western edge is only an hour from home so it is a shame that I don’t go there more often. The Highline Trail is an ~78 mile trail that runs east/west across the Uinta Mountains in eastern Utah (although most of us who have run it have come up with distances of around 81-83 miles). The trail is predominantly above 10,000′ and travels from pass to pass and lake to lake crossing through high elevation meadows in between. The entire trail is around 100 miles and 15,000′ of ascent, but the eastern section has been turned into ATV trails and is not really considered worth running. When I ran the Highline Trail in 2010, I had set a fastest known time of 28:16. I always felt that this was very slow and that the record should easily be down around 24 hours. My record was broken twice this summer and the current fastest known time (FKT) for the Highline Trail was 27:41 hours set by Stephen Jones in July.
When Emily and I were contemplating what we should do over Labor Day weekend, I mentioned maybe she should attempt a women’s FKT for the Highline Trail since there was currently not a recorded women’s speed record. She thought this sounded like a great idea, so we started putting our plans together. We weren’t sure if it was a good idea to be going for a speed attempt a week after the Ruby Traverse, but we didn’t care too much as our main goal was to just do the run together as opposed to getting caught up in chasing the existing FKT (not always an easy thing for me to do). We did hope to finish in 27 hours as we felt that would be an achievable time if we had good weather and good navigation. Emily had not been on the Highline Trail since we backpacked it many years ago so she was excited to get back on the trail. Having learned a hard lesson in Uinta weather in 2010, I updated my gear list to include an extra running jacket, better lights, and a full handheld GPS.
We spent the week getting a few odds and ends together as well as getting the mapping dialed in (well, I thought it was dialed in a lot more than it was). On Friday we shuttled a car up to Hayden Pass (the western trailhead) and convinced our friend Meghan into driving us to the Leidy Peak Trailhead on Saturday morning (a 4 hour 1 way drive).
Chad’s gear for the run (Emily’s gear was similar). 6,400 calories, good lights, warm weather gear, minimal first aid all crammed into the great CAMP Trail Vest Light
The weather was looking perfect (which rarely happens in the Uintas) and we were on the trail at 10:32.
Perfect Uinta Weather Forecast
Our packs were heavy with food and emergency gear. My pack was just under 14 lbs and Emily’s was just over 12 lbs (with water). After my struggles in 2010, I knew it was worth the weight for the full size GPS and BD Icon headlamp (both were the most essential gear we had). At 10:32 we were off at a leisurely pace and were enjoying the great weather, beautiful mountains, and technical trail running. The miles clicked away and we were settling into our routine for navigation, treating water, and eating.
Around 4 PM, the first storm moved in. As we were getting higher and higher on North Pole Pass, we had lightening and thunder on 3 sides of us. We kept moving as fast as possible and dropped down the other side of the pass to the protection of the trees around Brook Lake. We were making great time all through this and were quite a bit ahead of my 2010 split times (around 40 minutes at North Pole Pass). We were lucky that the weather parted without any rain.
It got dark when we were in Painter Basin on the east side of Kings Peak and it only took 10 minutes of darkness before we were off trail. We were following the GPS closely and we would be on trail, then back off trail just as quickly. After struggling with this for some time, we made the critical mistake of deciding to just scramble straight up through the scree to Anderson Pass. This cost us at least 30 minutes of extra time and took a ton of extra energy as we took two steps up and slid one step back.
We continued to have good weather, but also continued to struggle with navigation. After getting off trail a couple more times in Garfield Basin, we decided that we needed to take a slower pace as anytime we started to run through the meadows, we would lose the trail. We figured that if we just followed the GPS route and did a fast walk, we would actually save time. As morning came and we were climbing Red Knob Pass Emily’s stomach was not doing well. We were right on my 2010 splits and I knew that I had lost at least 1 hour being lost between Dead Horse Pass and Rock Creek in 2010. I felt that if we kept pushing on, we could still finish in around 27 hours. We ran down to Dead Horse Lake and worked our way up the steep (but short) trail to the pass. At the pass, I knew that to break 27 hours we would have to move fast. We had not moved fast all night, so I was quite surprised we were still this close to a 27 hour finish.
Emily wanted me to move ahead (due to her stomach issues), but I was worried she would not be able to stay on the trail. We finally decided to part ways around Ledge Lake and I would leave arrows or 3 small rocks at any trail junction so that at least if I got off trail, we would end up at the same place. She continued to have stomach issues until Rocky See Pass. After Rock Creek, my back flared up causing excruciating sciatica in my right leg. Once at Rocky Sea Pass, even though my back and feet were killing me I thought that 26:30 might be possible. I was enjoying the final 8+ mile of running finding I could keep my back pain down by contracting the muscles of my lower back. I reached the trailhead sign at 1:14PM setting a new FKT at 26:38 and was completely wrecked. My feet hurt, my back hurt, I was starving, and I was tired. I was surprised when our friend Ron drove into the parking lost 2 minutes after I finished on a start to his own adventure. It was nice to have someone to visit with for a few minutes.
I figured Emily would be 30-40 minutes behind me since I had seen her at the bottom of Rocky Sea Pass when I was at the top. I got some dry cloths on, had a Recoverite, then grabbed the camera, a beer and tortilla chips and walked a little down the trail to wait. She showed up just about on cue and finished in 1:56 exclaiming that it was the run was harder than any 100 she had ever done. She was as wrecked as I was. She got some dry cloths on and we had the obligatory trailhead finish photo and headed home.
In cleaning out our packs, we still had heavy packs at the end (Chad – 7.5 lbs, Emily 7.3 lbs without water). We were trying to decide what to leave behind while still having what I consider are some of the essentials to be in such a remote place for so long (at most times you are 10-15 miles from a trailhead if you need rescue) and I really couldn’t think of anything except some food that could be left behind (I started with 6,400 calories and finished with 800 calories left over).
It’s awesome that I can be married to a person that I can go out and do such amazing adventures with.
If I return to the Highline Trail, it will only be to prove to myself that I can run the entire trail without having navigation issues. I know this would make it much more enjoyable both from a running perspective as well as from feeling like being a good navigator through the night.
Comparison of 2010 and 2013 Splits
Chad’s food eaten
- 10 Gels
- 2 packaged Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
- 3 Justin’s Almond Maple Butter
- 3 packages Stinger Chews
- 2 Stinger Waffles
- 4 small Snickers
- 1 small Pro Bar
- Small baggie of trail mix
- Small baggie of beef jerky
- 2 Amy’s frozen burritos
- Small baggie of chocolate covered coffee beans
- 1 5 Hour Energy
Gear I wouldn’t have left at home
- Full GPS
- Really good headlamps (BD Icon for the head ad BD Storm for the waste)
- Good rain jacket
- Light rain pants
- Warm cloth
- Spot Messenger (just in case)
- BD Ultralight Poles
Gear that worked well
- CAMP Trail Light Vest
- CW-X Revolution tights
- New Balance MT1210 shoes
- Dry Max Socks
- Hoorag head band
- Smith PivLock Sunglasses
In the past few years I have read several great blog posts about skiing the Ruby Mountains. I had also talked with Roch Horton and he said that running the Ruby Mountain Traverse was one of the greatest long distance, remote runs he had ever done. He compared the mountains to a cross between the Alps and San Juans. Since the Elk Mountain Traverse run had been canceled for 24 August, we had a free weekend. Brent and Emily were excited to go with and Brent would shuttle the car and then run in to meet us. With all of our busy work and travel schedules, we somehow managed to pull together the logistics for the weekend on we were on the road Friday after work. After a mandatory liquor store stop in Wendover, we reached the Harrison Pass Trailhead around 9PM. We camped just off the pass in a beautiful clearing had an early night anticipating an 8-9 hour run the following day.
Starting out from camp
We quickly settled into an easy pace enjoying the scenery and chatting the miles away. The scenery was amazing so we spent lots of time looking around in awe.
Emily running out of McCutcheon Creek
Chad & Emily on the pass between McCutcheon Creek and South Fork Smith Creek
We were expecting about a 10 mile section with no water. We talked about not passing up water without filling. Well, we did pass up our last water option as the next 2 springs we were planning on using to refill were dry. This meant that in the heat of the day we had 16 miles without a water fill. At about mile 9, we realized we were in trouble. We each had about 6 oz of water left and had no idea how long we would have to ration this (it turned out to be about 2 hours. We were lucky to have some shade and a good breeze or we really would have been in trouble. Brent run in to meet us at about mile 26 and was able to share some water with us, but we still had another 4 miles to go before we could fill.
Red and Brown Emily running along the ridge somewhere arounf peak 10,200′ and 10,600′.
Brent posing by Liberty Lake after a quick skinny dip
Our 8-9 hour run turned into a 10 hour and 22 minute run. We were slowed down by the lack of water and I had a knee, foot, and back issue crop up that slowed me down for the last 15 miles.
Lamoille Canyon Trailhead
Exhausted and still very dehydrated, we opted for hotel room in Elko after the run. A shower felt great. We then stuffed ourselves with a great Basque meal at Star Hotel.
None of us slept well Saturday night (due to dehydration and over eating at Star Hotel). We were up Sunday and on the road to the base of Deseret Peak for for a few hours of rock climbing. It was my first day climbing of the year and it was great to get out.
Imagine looking over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and how far down it is to the Colorado River. Imagine running down to the river and back up to the rim 8 times. After all that, imagine running an additional 60 KM (36 miles). If that isn’t enough, now imagine that the elevation of the south rim ranges from 13,000′ to over 14,000′ so each time you get to the top, the elevation is higher and air is thinner. If that’s still not enough for you, get rid of the nicely manicured Grand Canyon trails and cover this distance on technical single track and trail-less cross county sections. Now imagine doing this all without stopping. If you can wrap your head around all of this, you can almost imagine the Hardrock 100.
I have been applying to get into Hardrock for 5 years. This year the lottery gods finally looked down on me and granted me the opportunity to run Hardrock. At various times over the past few years, I have run 60-70 miles of the Hardrock course. I knew the race was hard, but no amount of pre-running short sections of the course could have prepared me for how hard the race actually was. To tie all these sections of trail together with massive climbs, steep decants, technical and rocky trails, cross country running, river crossings, and extended periods of time over 13,000′ takes a toll on the body that for me was previously unimaginable and even now is difficult to explain. Any combination of 3 or 4 of these items has little impact on me, but when you put them all together over 100+ miles and 30+ hours, the additive impact pushes the most well-trained athlete to their utmost limits.
Panorama of Silverton
I laid out my 3 race goals in my previous post. I knew I had to have good day to finish in 32 hours. I also had calculated splits for a 30, 34, and 36 hour finish. The 36 hour finish meant I had struggled to overcome lots of demons during the run. For 30 hours, I knew I would have to have the race of my life. Toeing the line on Friday morning, I felt great, I felt healthy, I felt motivated, and I was ready to give Hardrock everything I had. Little did I know that Hardrock would throw more at me than I ever imagined. Assuming I would survive Hardrock, I had 3 additional post-race goals
- A beer at the finish line
- Mexican food and a margarita once I could stomach some food
- A cocktail at the Montanya bar (Montanya is a rum distilled in Crested Butte)
Thursday night our race house went to bed early. I was in bed shortly before 9, but little did I know I would see the clock strike midnight and still be awake. This was not confidence building since I knew the alarm would be ringing at 4:15AM. I woke at 4:15 feeling rested and excited. I had my usual pre-race breakfast of coffee and oatmeal and we were out the door to starting line. It had rained for several hours during the night so it was a cool, cloudy, and wet morning. The Silverton Gym was bustling with activity as racers checked in and prepared for the adventure ahead. The Hardrock lottery makes the race unique and each year the top 1-4 racers on the wait list show up on Friday morning still with a chance to get in as it is not uncommon for someone to not show up race morning. This year, friends Ryan McDermott and Matt Hart both had their fingers crossed in hopes of being able to race that morning. They had left their drop bags on Thursday and were geared up and ready. Unfortunately the lottery gods did not look down on them as all 140 racers were signed in by 5:47.
The race started with the National Anthem followed by a great run through town (all 3 blocks) onto the single track (iRunFar Starting Line Video). The pack settled into a comfortable pace for the 3,840′ climb up Little Giant. 9.3 miles after the start were were at the first aid station at Cunningham Gulch. I was feeling great and had reached the AS in 2:17, 3 minutes ahead of my goal. I was greeted by my great crew and pacers (Emily and Walter) along with other friends helping out (Matt, Krissy, Mindy Seth, Aimee, Robert, and more). I swapped running packs and kept moving through the AS.
Game face at Cunningham
It would be 33 miles and 9 hours before I would see my crew again. The race stayed consistent with long climbs followed by steep, technical descents into aid stations. This would continue for the entire race. As Roch Horton says, the race in the counter clockwise direction (the race changes directions each year) is a series of ramps and dives (ramps going up, dives going down). I continued to run a smart race pushing the climbs at a steady pace, controlling the steep descents so as not to blow my quads, then pushing the pace up on the lower grade descents. This remained a good strategy for my entire race.
The trail from Cunningham to Grouse Gulch where I would see my crew again would have 5 major climbs over 13,000′ including 14,068′ Handies Peak. The climb to Handies starts at Sherman and climbs 5,285′ in just over 6 miles. This climb would be one of my first lows of the race and also the first of 5 thunderstorms that would be encountered during the race. By the time I reached the summit of Handies, I was feeling very worked and was extremely happy to see Fred Marmsater’s smiling face and words of encouragement. I would have the luck of getting Fred’s encouragement again at Virginius and then Grant Swamp Pass. Each descending step off of Handies made me feel better, but it did nothing for my stomach which was now suffering the effects of exertion and altitude.
Running into Grouse Gulch with my poles stashed ‘skimo style’
It was great to run into Grouse Gulch and see my crew and so many other friends (Missy, Basit, Megan, as well as all those who were at Cunningham). I sat down for about 5 minutes at Grouse Gulch, ate some real food (as opposed to gels, chews, etc.), then took off with Walter Edwards as my pacer for the next 30 miles (until Telluride). I was feeling good at Grouse. I was getting tired, I felt like I had run 42 miles and climbed 14,608′. I was also having nutrition issues. Race food was not working. I was able to eat some aid station food and gels, but bars, chews, etc. were not sitting well in my stomach. Walter and I left Grouse Gulch at 5:19 and I was 21 minutes ahead of my goal pace. I just had to remain calm and stay focused on my race plan and getting my stomach back. Walter and I had a 3 mile and 2,300′ climb up to Engineer Pass. We would encounter the second thunder storm in this section. By this time in the race a tempo had materialized where I would catch Darcy Africa on the climbs we would climb together a while, then I would move ahead. Darcy would catch me on the descents, I would stay with her for a while, then she would pull away. I knew that with a 9 mile descent from Engineer Pass to Ouray, I would not likely see her again after we parted ways at the pass. The descent into Ouray was long, gradual, and amazingly beautiful. We had the third thunderstorm in this section about 30 minutes out of Ouray. We enjoyed this decent and stuck with my race plan of not pushing too hard and blowing my quads. We had a goal of reaching Ouray without headlamps. We made this goal, but it was definitely dark when we ran into the Ouray aid station. Walter and I were in and out of Ouray after some food and dry cloths. It was pouring rain in Ouray and a hard decision of how many cloths we needed to leave with as we were starting an 11.3 mile and 5,500′ climb from the lowest point of the race to the second highest point of the race – Virginius Pass. There is 1 aid station 3.3 miles before Virginius and Watler and I were very worried before this aid station as we had gone well over 5 miles and not seen a single course marking. I knew the course stayed on the road, but being tired and dark, I was convincing myself we were off course. We were less than 10 minutes from turning around and going back to Ouray and dropping from the race when we finally saw the aid station a few hundred meters ahead of us. What a relief that was!
The climb up Virginius is famous in Hardrock lore and rightly so. The last 30 minutes of the climb felt nearly vertical and you could see the aid station lights at the top and it never seemed to be getting any closer. Words can’t describe how difficult the last section of this climb is, a person just needs to experience themselves after having already run 68 miles and climbed 23,000′. By the end of this long and grinding climb I was destroyed. I was thrilled to see the smiling face of Roch at Virginius and was so wasted that I didn’t even realize that my friend David Hayes, who was helping there, was standing next to me the entire time. Roch spent 3 minutes and put Humpty Dumpty back together. After a pierogi and a couple cups of soup, Watler and I were on our way 5 miles and 4,400′ down to Telluride. I was anxiously awaiting the warmer and thicker air of the lower elevation. We encountered the 4th thunderstorm on Virginius, but luckily it was only a small storm. This is by far the greatest aid station of any race. It is perched on a tiny ledge with climbing porta-ledges used for chairs and a table. The 4-6 volunteers are up there all night in often horrific weather wearing full down suits for warmth and helmets to protect against any potential rocks that could possibly break loose and in case they slip. To me, these volunteers are the Heroes of Hardrock.
Walter and I were conservative on our descent to Telluride and by this time I was definitely suffering the effects of a long day and night and was just plain old tired. Never before during a 100 mile race have I wanted to sleep, but that is all I really wanted to do. I knew I had to stay the plan and the plan was to spend 15 minutes at Telluride. Eat, drink, take care of any niggles, clean up a little, and get ready for a new day. Since it was essentially morning (it was 2:30AM), I had oatmeal and coffee, changed socks and insoles, wiped off my body, lubed a few areas that were rubbing, and had Walter pass the pacing baton to Emily who would take me the final 28 miles and 10,500′ to the finish line.
The climb out of Telluride was a 6.3 mile, 4,500′ climb. Emily had specifically went to Telluride on Monday to run this section with Dave and Suzanne so she would know what to expect. We made our first error about 1 mile out of town when we thought we had gone too far and turned around and spent close to 10 minutes looking for the critical right turn before realizing that we were not as far along as we had thought. We got back on route and settled in for the slog up to Oscar’s Pass. This was the 8th major climb and the 7th time over 13,000′ and I was in a deeper and darker place than I had ever been. The extremely steep climbs had slowed me to what I felt was a pace that would surely set me back from reaching my goal, but instead it kept me right on track (I guess it was supposed to hurt that bad at that point and that I was supposed to be going that slow). Emily kept me motivated on the climb and I just kept doing everything I could to keep climbing up higher and higher. At the top of Oscar’s I got cold for the first time. I was at the point of exhaustion where my body had no energy to regulate its temperature and when the cold breeze hit me, I went from forward progress to a dead halt shivering. Emily quickly helped me get my coat on and motivated me off the pass as quickly as possible. The descent down Oscar’s is littered with baby head rocks preventing any type of running and in the dark with exhausted legs it felt more like a drunken stumble than any type of running. Soon we were once again down below 11,000′, the sun had risen, our headlamps were turned off, and I was back to being a semi-functional human. When we hit the gradual road into Chapman I was actually feeling great and we were cranking along at a 7:30 min/mile pace, right past the left hand turn to the Chapman Aid Station. We had seen a marker on the left, but the markers around the corner were blocked by a car as we ran past. It was 0.8 miles and ~900′ down the road when were realized our mistake and had to climb out of the hole we had ran ourselves into. This was mentally the lowest point of the race. I had worked hard to keep ahead of my goal splits, we had just passed a person putting me in 13th place (one of my unofficial goals is to always try to finish in the top 10%). It really took me 2-3 hours to get my head back after this mistake. Between this ‘detour’ and the mental slowdown afterwards, this cost at least 40 minutes of time. Amazingly, when we finally climbed back up to Chapman AS, we had arrived 6 minutes faster than plan (which would have been 46 minutes faster than plan) and I was 45 minutes ahead of my 32 hour goal pace. At this point, I was only focused on a 32 hour finish and maintaining 13th place. I didn’t have any idea that I could possibly finish in 31 hours or less (it turns out that Emily was working towards this goal the entire time, but this was unbenounced to me). We spent a couple minutes at the Chapman AS as the only food I could eat at this time was coke and soup. For the second time, I left the AS with a bottle of coke and a bottle of Hammer Sustained Energy knowing that this would be all I would be able to comfortably put in my stomach until the KT AS (7 miles and 3,000′ of climbing later).
The climb from Chapman to Grant Swamp pass is another famed climb due to how steep and loose it is. We had run to Grant Swamp Pass earlier in the week in order to know what to expect and for Brett to show us the ‘easy’ way up. Easy is a relative term at Hardrock, what that really means is that it is like the hardest climb of other races. The climb up Grant Swamp Pass was literally a scramble requiring hands and feet to claw your way up through the loose rock and dirt. Fred was once again present on Grant Swamp and provided some much needed motivation for the final claw up and the great glissade and run down the other side.
Climbing to Grant Swamp Pass – typical Hardrock Terrain
The ridiculously steep final pitch of Grant Swamp Pass at mile 84
We had a great run down Grant Swamp. I was not running fast at this point, but I was able to run steady and consistent on the descents and that was the most important part. We arrived at the KT AS at 9:08AM (27:08 of moving time) and I was now 1:01 ahead of my pace. I still did not realize that I was far enough ahead of my 32 hour goal to actually be able to finish in 31 hours. We stopped at KT only long enough for me to have a bowl of soup. When Emily asked if I wanted pumpkin pie, I quickly said ‘no’, then realized that since nothing else worked, I may as well try pie. It went down OK and I had 2 pieces, then left with another bottle of Coke. I do not drink any soda in regular life and have not done so for close to 15 years. Looking back at the race, it makes me sick to my stomach to think that I drank at least 80oz of Coke throughout the race, but since that and a bowl of soup every 2-3 hours were basically my only calories, I didn’t had a lot of other options.
We left KT with 1 big climb left – 2,500′ in a little over 3 miles. I had not seen this section of the course which turned out to be demoralizing. We reached Cataract-Porcupine Pass and I was excited to be at the top only to look up and see that we had to climb another 500′ to the top of the ridge. This was my breaking point and the only time of the race (or any race for that matter) that I whined like a baby (or so Emily claims). When I saw the route went straight up to the ridge with no trail and no switchbacks I leaned over my poles and said, ‘I don’t want to go up there’. Emily told me I had no choice and lead the way. It was only a couple minutes later that we could hear cheering on the ridge. Not knowing who it was still motivated me to keep putting 1 foot in front of the other at a whopping 40-50 min/mile pace. As we got closer, we realized this was our friends Missy Gossney and Basit Mustafa who had planed to hang out on the ridge during their morning run and cheer on runners. They were surprised to see us as well. Their happy smiles, cheery voices, humor, and words of encouragement were exactly what I needed. I was pulled from the depths of hell and brought back to life. They ran with us for a few hundred meters and Basit got a great photo as the 5th thunderstorm was approaching.
Running across Putnam-Cataract Ridge – Mile 93. Photo by Basit Mustafa
We reached Putnam AS at 11:29AM and I was 1:05 ahead of my 32 hour goal. It was at this time that I realized for the first time that I could go under 31 hours if I could find a new level of the pain cave. A quick cup of soup and a refill of coke in my bottle and we were out of the AS. As we left, we heard cheering behind us and assumed we were being chased down. Emily took the lead and I did all I could to stay on her feet. Shortly out of the AS, the thunderstorm hit which turned out to be more hail than rain. The 4 miles from the AS to the road had several very rocky sections which were now extremely slippery from the rain. We kept a solid pace through the rocky sections and steep sections, then would put the hammer down (as much as possibly at mile 98+) on the gradual descents and flats. The AS staff said it would take 1.5 hours to get to the finish and we knew we only had 1:20 to get there in goal time (needed 5 minutes of leeway in case my watch time was a few minutes off). For how I had felt for the previous 50 miles, I never could have dreamed I would have run the last 5.8 miles. We reached Mineral Creek crossing where I promptly fell completely in when my foot rolled off a rock on the second step (this actually felt amazing and refreshing even if it was cold and raining), then we were off again to cross the highway for the final climb and 2 miles into Silverton.
Crossing Mineral Creek at Mile 98 (after I fell in)
We power hiked the hill up from the highway, then ran the rest of the course including 2 short hills. We were soon looking down at Silverton, then a right turn at the Shrine of Christ down the hill into town and the Silverton Gym and finish line were in sight. I continued to push and made the right turn towards the finish line coral to not see a single person. Seth Hales suddenly appeared to get a picture, but after the hardest race of my life, it was very anti-climatic to have 1 person there to see me kiss The Hardrock (in contrast later in the afternoon, there were over 50 people cheering on finishers).
The clock stops when you kiss The Hardrock
I have had a tough last 11 months since Leadman with recovering from those injuries, having a bad BST Marathon and Pocatello 50 and never feeling 100%. I felt like I needed a good race at Hardrock to regain some ultra running confidence, but not having had a good race in so long, made it difficult to feel like I could put together a good run. In the final 2 weeks before Hardrock I felt better than I have felt in 11 months. After arriving in Silverton, I was finally mentally ready for Hardrock. I felt Hardrock was my race, I am not a great runner, but I am a great climber so I have always felt that the Hardrock course would suit my running style. As it turned out a lot of things fell into place (weather, race plans, having a good day, etc) and I was able to have an extraordinary Hardrock race. Two days after the race, I am still trying to fully comprehend the magnitude of the race, the challenges it throws at a runner, my ability to put all the pieces together for a great race, and much more. It is just too much to put into words.
Spending a week running and racing through the San Juan Mountains and having the privilege to enjoy the amazing terrain and beautiful mountains was an amazing experience that I can’t wait to do again. I need to give a huge thanks to Walter and Emily my pacers and crew as well as all the other friends who helped me at the aid stations (especially Geoff at Sherman). I could not have done this without all their help and encouragement.
The San Juan Mountains in their fully beauty and bloom
What worked for me
- New Balance MT1210 Leadville shoes
- Drymax socks
- CW-X compression tights
- BD Ultra Distance Poles
- BD Icon headlamp – this thing is awesome at night
- Ultraspire Kinetic Pack
- First Endurance EFS Gel
- First Endurance EFS Powder
- Stinger Waffles
- Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy
- Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes
- Hammer Nutrition Endurance Aminos
- First Endurance Optygen
What didn’t work for me
- Most solid food
After 5 years of trying to get into Hardrock 100, this year was finally my year. I was #2 on the First Timers Wait List which meant that I got in during the first round of drops (it is not uncommon to be 40th on the waiting list and still get in even though there are only 140 slots). The unfortunate part was that I was not planning to race this year. After Leadman last year, I was burned out and really wanted a break from racing. My plan was to focus on adventure runs throughout the summer as I have several runs on my bucket list that I haven’t gotten around to the past few years due to racing too much. I had mixed emotions about being #2 on the wait list. Part of me was excited, but part of me really want to keep the break from racing that I had been looking forward to. I had brief thoughts of not taking my slot when I was called, but decided it could be another 5 years before I got in so I had to take the opportunity. With a crazy busy spring, it had been challenging to get my head around Hardrock and this is not a race to be taken lightly. With over 33,000′ of climbing, 10 major climbs all going above 12,000′, going over 13,000′ seven times, and over 14,000′ once, it is intimidating to say the least. Hardrock is one of the hardest 100 mile races in the world due to the elevation, long climbs, technical terrain, and overall ascent. Here is a quick glimpse at the Hardrock course profile that also includes the ascent, descent, and distance between each aid station.
Hardrock 100 Profile and Distances
After getting home from London on July 28th, I had a couple days of training, a busy week of work, and packing for Silverton. Somehow we got everything done and left Salt Lake on Friday afternoon. We had a house reserved in Silverton Sunday through Sunday so we were planning on camping Friday and Saturday nights. After close to 3 weeks at low elevation in Europe, I had been very concerned about being acclimatized. My run last Saturday did little to build my confidence as I struggled at 10,000′ in the Uintas. I started taking First Endurance Optygen on July 1 to help with the acclimatization.
We camped above Red Mountain Pass at just over 11,300′ on Friday night to get jump on some acclimatization. We woke up Saturday morning and had a great run/hike to 13,321′ Mt Trico. I was thrilled to feel great above 13K. I am sure the extra week helped, but I think the Optygen was a huge benefit as well.
Summit of Trico Peak – 13,321′
Glissading down from the summit of Trico Peak
After our morning run, we went Silverton to meet Matt Hart and run some of the Hardrock course. We had a great run from Cunningham Gulch over Stoney Pass to Maggie Gulch and down the road to our car. Check out Matt’s short video of the great run. With the low snow this year, the wild flowers are out early and in full force. The meadows are absolutely beautiful.
Wild flowers at their best
Emily running from Cunningham Gulch to Maggie Gulch
Matt, Emily, and Chad on Stoney Pass
On Sunday, Emily and Brett Gosney ran from Silverton to Grant Swamp Pass, then down to South Mineral Fork where I would park the car and then meet them on the trail near Grant Swamp. It was great to see this section as it allowed me to look into Chapman to see the technical scramble up the other side of Grant Swamp Pass and across to Oscar’s pass which is a huge descent (Oscar’s is 3,090′ in less than 1.5 miles).
Brett on Grant Swamp Pass
Emily and Chad above Island Lake
We checked into our house we rented on Sunday and got settled into our ‘home’ for the next week. It was good to get out of the back of the truck and get settled and be able to start relaxing for the race.
On Monday, Emily, David Hayes, and Suzanne Lewis drove to Telluride and ran from Telluride to Oscar’s Pass and back. This is a 6.5 mile climb to the pass with 4,700′ of climbing. This is a huge climb that you start at mile 72. The last 28 miles of Hardrock is relentless with close to 11,000′ of climbing so it was great for Emily to see the sections she saw on Sunday and Monday as she will be pacing me the last 28 miles and will be able to keep me focused during that difficult time of the race. Monday was a rest day for me with a short 2 mile jog up to and around Christ of the Mines Shrine above Silverton just to keep the blood moving in my legs.
Suzanne and Emily running down from Oscar’s towards Telluride.
Tuesday is basically a rest day again with an easy 1 hour run on the first section of the course (which is really the only semi-flat section). I had a great run realizing that even though most climbs are steep, there are some gentle climbs that would be runnable in a normal race, but possibly not at Hardrock due to the effect later on in the race. Emily, Suzanne, and David went to climb Handies Peak from Grouse Gulch and had a great day climbing up high to a 14-er.
Wednesday, Emily ran from Silverton to Cunningham (9.2 miles and 3,840′ ascent). Matt and I drove to Cunningham and ran up the trail a mile to meet her on her run down from Little Giant. It once again felt good to stretch out the legs and get out some of the anxiety. After the run, it was race check-in and lots of time catching up with fellow runners.
Overwhelmed packing drop bags
Thursday I went for my standard morning, pre-race run and Emily joined me. We rarely get to run together so it was fun to do that. I ran a loop that included the last 2 miles of the course. It is always good to see the last couple miles. It was a hectic day with people in and out of the house all day, film crews there interviewing Darcy Africa (2012 Hardrock winner), finalizing drop bags, packing food and more. It has been a great week getting ready for the race. We have had a great house to stay in, great friends, great food, and lots of fun time. It is less than 10 hours until the gun goes off and everything is starting to wind down.
What will tomorrow bring? This is my first Hardrock so I really don’t know for sure. I know it will be the longest I have ever been out on a course by several hours. I have 3 goals
- Just Finish
- Finish Before the Second Sunset (Saturday night)
- Finish in 32 hours
The Hardrock course very much suits my running. Lots of climbing and steep sections and not a lot of flat fast hiking. Based on this, I think that my goal of 32 hours is very achievable, but Hardrock is its own beast and anything can happen (hunkering down for a few hours for a lightening storm, getting very lost, getting sick at 14,000′, etc, etc) so only time will tell. I plan to run a smart race and not push too hard with hopes to have lots of fuel in my tank when I get to Telluride.
If you want to follow Hardrock, here are a couple of links:
My June has been absolutely crazy. We went to Pocatello on 31 May for Pocatello 50 the following day. I had a tough race battling stomach issues that prevented me from eating for most of the race. I ended up only taking in ~1200 calories during a 50 mile race so I was literally ‘running on fumes’. We drove home from Pocatello late Saturday as I had a red eye flight to Toronto (via Atlanta) on Sunday. After a busy 2 days of client meetings, I flew back to SLC on a very early flight Wednesday (getting up at 3:30AM MT). I was home 2 nights, then we went to San Diego for Emily’s fantastic SD100 run. Another night of no sleep on Saturday as I paced her the final 50 miles and through the night and the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me (that was 4 nights with no or less than 4 hours of sleep in 8 days. I was completely exhausted on Sunday after SD100. We had a 1 hour drive from the race finish to our hotel and I had to stop half way through to nap as I could not stay awake. 2 more naps that day and 10 hours of sleep Sunday night and I was feeling good. We had a great day at Tourmaline beach on Monday where I got in a few hours of surfing, then another super early morning to catch a 6AM PT flight back to SLC for work. When I got off the plane on Tuesday morning, I had a voicemail from work saying we needed to be in London for client meetings on Thursday and Friday. I scrambled most of Wednesday to figure out travel plans. Since I already had a flight to London for meetings the 24-27 June, when I did some cost comparison, it would save $4,500 of airfare if I stayed the week. Looking at my training schedule, this was my peak week of training for Hardrock. Staying in London was not an option. I had to either fly home to train, which meant 4+ full days of travel with poor sleep in 18 days or find places to train in Europe. I didn’t have time to figure this out before leaving the US so I packed a bag of work cloths and a bag of running gear and off I sent on a 7:30AM flight on Wednesday morning getting ready for night #5 of little to no sleep in a short period of time. The meetings in London were busy and I could not get out of my head that I had no idea what I was going to do the following week to train while still having to work full time. I had a few minutes on Thursday to send out emails to friends in Andorra, Chamonix, and Gemma in the Pyrenees. Finally after work on Friday, I was able to weed through everything and start looking at transportation options. It looked like flying to Barcelona and renting a car and driving and running through the Pyrenees would be cheapest and logistically the easiest. I left London Saturday afternoon and after trains, planes, and automobiles (order changed to reflect the order I travelled), I arrived in Figueres Spain at around 9:30PM. Having no clue where to run and what was next, I sat down for dinner and started searching for options. My plans were starting to come together. I would run west of Figures in Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa on Sunday. On Monday, I would get up early and drive north and run a route that connects the village to Tapis to a ridging trail separating Spain and France. I didn’t know what was going to happen past that other than I had to be somewhere northwest where Gemma lived on Wednesday.
Inside the crater of Volca de Santa Margarida in Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica de la Garrotxa.
Sunday’s run was brutal. I needed ~25 miles and I wasn’t able to find anything that long to put together so I found 3 separate loops of ~8 miles. The weather was hateful. It was 33C (mid 90s) and very humid (around 80%). By the end of the second run I was a complete wreck. I took about 1 hour rest and hydrated as much as possible, then went back out to suffer through another 8. It was not a fast day, but I got the miles in and it was good adversity training. It is hard to run fast when you don’t know where you are or where you are going so that has been continually frustrating.
Sunday Stats: 23.05m / 3433′ climbing / 4:43
I returned to Figueres starved and ordered a feast. It was actually an accident. I ordered Duck, Octopus, and Anchovies from the tapas menu. I assumed they would be small, but I cleaned my plates.
After saying up too late catching up with work and planning Monday, I once again didn’t get enough sleep (I had not had 8 hours of sleep in a single night since the prior Sunday). After breaky, I made the beautiful drive up the winding mountain roads to the village of Tapis and set out on a hard run that was steep and technical. This was going to be an out and back hopefully to Refuge de les Salines and back. As usual, I had troubles finding the route (even with the route on my Suunto Ambit), but enjoyed the long, technical climb followed by great ridge running. It was only 19C when I started, but it quickly warmed up and I was out of water 2 miles from the end and cooked.
Beautiful running along the ridge where I jumped between Spain and France.
Looking at the snowcapped French Pyrenees peaks
I started and ended the run at Restaurant i Pensio Can Mach and treated myself to a huge platter of roasted wild boar and another platter of french fries when I finished the run. Then it was back to Figueres by 1PM to settle into working the US daytime hours.
Monday Stats: 16m / 4570′ climbing / 4:16
Another meal of Octopus and Anchovies accompanied with a salad for dinner on Monday.
It was time to start heading west. I had talked to Gemma on Monday and found out she lived in a small village outside of Puigcerda. Looking at the map, I decided to stay about ½ way between Figueres and Puigcerda. I leave early on Tuesday morning and arrived at an 11th century farmhouse converted to hotel that I had found on booking.com. This place was great (and cheap). I worked the rest of the afternoon, then went for an out and back run on the GR-11 trail which traverses the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean (this would be a great running trip to run this entire trail from 1 village or refuge to the next).
Great panoramic view from my run
Tuesday was an easy day: 8.25m / 1,900′ climbing / 1:33
I got up early again on Wednesday (with a little bit of a hangover thanks to a British couple staying at the hotel) and had a great run planned going east on GR-11. I was able to run from the hotel and it would be another out and back with lots of climbing. It was a wet morning, but as the sun started burning off the clouds, it was beautiful.
GR-11 Trail in the morning sun
After cooking on Sunday, I cut the sleeves off my shirt and was much more comfortable
I finished my run, then drove to Puigcerda to work from a cafe for the day until I would meet Gemma that evening. The drive to Puigcerda was amazing. A true mountain road with hundreds of switchbacks in the 40 km drive. I felt like I was in another world and loving every minute of it. After that drive, I vowed that at some point in my life, Emily and I will live in the Pyrenees for a period of time.
Gemma and I met around 6, then picked up groceries and off to her house where I would stay with her family for a few days. At the grocery store we immediately ran into Alfons Gason. Alfons raced the Powder Keg back when it was a World Cup event and knows several friends in Park City and Colorado. He immediately agreed to take us both on run on Thursday morning. He promised it would be great. We had a typical Spainish dinner that got over around 11pm and soon it was after 12 and we had to be up at 7.
Wednesday stats: 10m / 3,000′ climbing / 2:22
The route Alfons had planned would be a loop to the top of Masella ski resort and back by trails that are not normally taken. Alfons set a fast climbing pace and Gemma and I set in behind him to do the best we could to keep up.
Gemma, Alfons, and myself at the first Pass
Before reaching the top, the weather turned and we found ourselves in a snow storm. It was hard to believe that after getting cooked on Sunday and Monday, I was not freezing cold in the snow.
The approaching snow storm on awesome trails. Our destination is the peak in the background.
Awesome cross country running – this is Hardrock training!
I was working by noon and when I was done working at 8, Gemma and I met a couple people for a beer followed by another typical Spanish dinner at 10:30 PM. Dinner was amazing, Gemma’s grandma collects wild mushrooms from the mountains so we had sautéed mushrooms made into an omlette with salad, pasta, bread, and a type of wild celery that her mom collects from the mountains and is AMAZING. Before we knew it, it was 11:45 and we had to be up again at 7:15.
Thursday stats: 8.4m / 4,375′ climbing / 2:26
Morning came early. Both Gemma and I were tired. After breakfast and a couple cups of coffee, we were out the door to drive to the village of Martinet where Gemma used to teach. We had a great loop planned from Martinet to Biexec to Estana to Estana to Bastanist and back to Martinet. It would be about 12.5 miles with just over 3,000′ climbing. Gemma would do 1 loop with me, then I would do another one reverse while she did some work. The run was once again amazing with a climb to Estana, descent to Biexec, then another long climb out.
On the pass after Biexec
Gemma running down into Bastanist
Chad running down to Martinet
The run went great with only getting off track a few times. We were lucky to avoid any bad weather.
Friday Stats: 26.5m / 6,250′ climbing / 5:50
We were up at 5AM and on the road to Andorra to catch the Wasatch crew (I am including Ty as an extended Wasatch person) at the 130KM aid station at Ronda del Cims race. Ronda del Cims is probably the hardest 100m/170km race in the world. Due to snow and weather changes, the race turned into 179KM and 12,000M ascent (39,400′). It would be great to see Jared Campbell, Ben Lewis, Ty Draney, and Roch Horton as they conquered this race.
Ty, Jared, and Ben leaving Pas de les Casa
The 3 of them had been running together and were finding power in numbers on this tough course. We saw them at here, then again 8 miles later. They were looking better the second time having presumably gained some energy from the sun of the new day.
We went on our own run on a section of the course enjoying the, once again, epic views.
After our first run, Roch still had not come through so I decided to run back on the trail and catch up with him. I ran a ways past Portello Blanca and decided it was well past time to turn around and headed back to meet Gemma (I was very late at this point). The views were great, the course was super difficult, but it was fun to see. I was sorry to have missed Roch.
The descent into Pas de les Casa. They dug out the trail in the snow and roped it. There were many sections like this
The trail coming past Portello Blanca
2 Run combined stats: 11.24/ 3,470 / 3:11
Full Week Stats:
- Miles Run: 103.45
- Vertical Climbed: 26,993′
- Total Training Time: 24:22
After an exhausting day (and week), took a short afternoon siesta in order to have some energy for going out on my last night in Spain. Gemma had arranged us to meet some friends (Mireia Miró – the super fast skimo racer, Arnau Anguera – one of the Spanish Skimo Team coaches, and Txiqui Solano a cycling friend). We had drinks, the typical 11PM dinner, then off to a pub for another drink after dinner. From my standpoint it was a late night – leaving the bar at 1PM, but for Spanish standards, it was an early night.
I can’t thank Gemma and her family enough for their amazing hospitality in letting me stay at their house and putting up with a crazy American who showed up and would run all morning, work all afternoon, and then get up and do it again the next day.
I fly back to London on Sunday noon and we start working Sunday evening to get ready for client meetings next week. It has been a great week of training while still being able to get my work done. I could not have asked for anything better for a Hardrock preparation week.
I decided to run SD100 after hearing a number of my friends (Roch, Mindy, Mark, etc.) rave about their experiences. Neither Chad or I have flown to a 100 miler before but with the thoughts of a 100 mile race then a day at the beach was very enticing.
I spent the whole winter skiing and really not running. At the beginning of March my longest run in the calendar year was 9 miles. The 3rd week of March a business trip took me to San Diego and I decided to extend my trip a couple days to check out the course. Roch introduced me to Scotty Mills, the race director, and gave me some great recommendations for where to run during my time out there. I decided to run the “Sunrise Loop” which is a 29 mile loop the first day. That was pretty lofty considering my low mileage so I decided to take it very easy. I was armed with maps and turn by turn directions from Scotty. I had a great day on the course even though it was a very hot day and I did run out of water in the end. I then ran with Scotty’s crew on Saturday morning. They had a 34 mile run planned on the PCT and I tried to hang on for 11 miles and then decided to turn around and head back to my car. Scotty was kind enough to give me a ton of beta about the course and the race and I left armed to plan my training.
I trained for this race differently than any other 100 miler. I don’t consider myself a fast runner or even a runner for that matter sometimes. I also set a very aggressive goal for myself. I knew that if I ran an extremely smart race and didn’t have any part of my body fall apart at all I could maybe get a under 24 hour finish. It had never been a goal of mine to get under 24 hours because I never thought it would be possible. It became my mantra “SD100 under 24”. I also determined my training schedule had to include a ton of running rolling hills and flatter terrain. I will say this was hard for me to “make” myself run so much and not climb this hills that I so love to climb, but I had a goal and I had to get ready to run, run, run as much as I possibly could.
Great Ultra Runner Motto Posted at the Starting Line
San Diego 100 Elevation Profile
Chad and I flew to San Diego on Friday morning and after a couple grocery stops got up the Laguna Mountains. It was extremely hot. During the pre-race meeting Scotty emphasized how hot it was going to be and to be very smart about keeping cool, hydrated, salt consumption, etc. Chad and I talked about this and decided that I would run hard before it got hot, scale it back during the high heat, and then we would make up whatever we could when it cooled down and during the night (my pacer extraordinaire was pacing me from 51.3 to the finish).
178 runners lined up at the start. It was already very warm – close to 80 degrees – at 7am. The first 13.8 miles are on rolling trails with 2 aid stations (which Chad got me in and out of in record time). I averaged less than 10 minute miles which kind of scared me as I don’t run that fast but I was listening to my body and knew I had to push it early before it got too hot.
Suzanne and I at the start of the race
Approximately Mile 23
After mile 13.8, it started baking. From Penny Pines on it was full on heat mitigation. I had switched to my large bottles and picked up a hand bottle so I was carrying close to 80 oz of water. All my bottles were loaded with ice and different drinks. I ran where I could and hiked the rest as I needed to keep my body from overheating. I filled my bandana with ice cubes at every aid station so that they would melt down my front and back.
The loop from Pine Creek AS back to Pine Creek AS (miles 31.3 and 36) was tremendously hot (I heard about 105 degrees). Each time at the AS I loaded up on ice cold liquid, got sponged off with ice water, and filled my bandana again. Heading out of Pine Creek AS the second time we had an 8 mile climb. I started a strong hike out and kept reminding myself that this was my forte and pushed a really hard pace the whole way up – even running where it flattened out a bit. I came into mile 44.1 and quickly changed my shoes as Chad switched out my bottles making sure there was enough ice in them to last as long as possible.
Coming into AS at mile 51.3
The trail to 51.3 was rolling and I did my best to jog quite a bit of it even though I was quite hot and knew I still had to listen to my body. I came into 51.3 about 20 minutes behind schedule. I quickly changed my sport top and t-shirt, changed out bottles, grabbed food, and Chad and I headed out.
Still super hot out at 6:30PM – I hike up my skirt most of the day to try to stay cool by increasing airflow
This is the section that I ran when I came out to train in March so it was nice to be on familiar terrain. It was also then that the sun went over the mountains and I finally got some shade. It felt absolutely amazing. It did not cool me off completely right away (I don’t know if I ever cooled off fully all night) but it was a wonderful feeling. During this section I told Chad about my time on the trail previously. It helped me to remind myself that I’d done it before.
Beautiful Lake after Stonewall AS
]From the Stonewall AS, we had a steep climb up to Stonewall Peak. I again reminded myself of my climbing abilities and we cruised to the top then ran the backside to Paso Picacho AS (64.2). After that the trail was rolling up a hill then down to mile 72.3 AS. I was warned that this is an extremely cold part of the course but I did not need any layers at that point and was still requesting ice in my water bottles. It was a real indication of how hot the core of my body had gotten.
I was feeling good and continued to jog the rolling and power hike the uphill to Sunrise 2 (mile 80.3). Chad and I were in and out right away. Chad needed a bite to eat so I started out without him knowing he would be right behind me. I kept looking back for his light and it was a close to 30 minutes before he caught me. He was surprised at my speed and how long it took him to catch me. I was feeling pretty good during that time.
I just kept rolling through the night on the trails and through the AS’s. We kept doing the math and knew I was pretty well on track for under 24 hours, but based on the split times, it could be as close as 5 minutes. I was also managing my stomach at this time and if I pushed too hard it would start going south. I knew that I was going to be on my pace for finishing if I didn’t fall apart. That was the biggest goal during that time. The temperature was great. Chad pushed me to eat little bits of real food and sip on coke hoping that would help my stomach. I knew I couldn’t run out of gas if I was going to continue this pace and finish where I wanted. We got a little bit of a reprieve on the splits when the section from Pioneer 2 to Penny Pines 2 (miles 87.5 to 91.5) took 30 minutes less than my planed splits. Instead of easing back and cruising into the finish line, the goal was revised to 23:30!
Hurting a little (or maybe a lot) at mile 96, but ready for the last push to the finish line!
At mile 96 I wanted to get a little more food in me before I made a hard push to the finish line to finish in under 23:30. I was trying to swallow some food and all at once it all came up. I told myself this is not happening, dismissed it from my brain and ran the last 4 miles. I was so happy to see the finish line. The numbers above were blurry (my eyes were full of dust and pollen from the trail) and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw 23:21 as I ran into the finish line. I was absolutely amazed at myself and abilities to finish a 100 mile trail run that fast.
Happy to be done and getting a hug from Angela, the co-RD I had run with in March
Chad got our down coats as I started shivering just minutes after crossing the finish line. The first time I was not hot in over 24 hours. We hung out at the finish for a couple hours then headed down to Alpine to have breakfast with David and Suzanne then headed to San Diego.
San Diego 100 Hardware
We were so tired we just napped and sat but the pool on Sunday afternoon (we had to stop on the drive to SD as Chad was so tired he couldn’t make it the 1 hour drive). Monday we enjoyed a nice day on the beach and Chad got in a little surfing. We had a great dinner on the ocean front watching a fabulous sunset. It was a wonderful end to a great race.
Famous San Diego Fish Tacos
Tourmaline Surf Area
I’ve always wanted to end a 100 sitting on the beach
An amazing Monday night dinner with sunset views.
Thank you so much to Chad who supports me so much through training and racing. He ran almost 50 miles with me just one week after a 50 mile race the previous weekend. Thanks to Scotty, Mark, Mindy, and Roch for all of the course beta. Thanks to all of my wonderful running partners. Training wouldn’t be as fun without all of you.
We have a somewhat annual tradition of a running road trip to Arizona for Thanksgiving to be with family. This year we once again were able to put together a great run. Our original plan was an ~35 mile run in Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon. After sending out an invitation to a group of local runners and friends, Roch proposed a run in the Grand Canyon that he had been dreaming/scheming of for many years. We called the run the Waterfall Run or Rim to river to river to Rim (R2r2r2R). Roch promised we would not be disappointed and of course he was right.
We all arrived at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on Saturday night for a chilly night of camping before heading out the next morning. Our route would took us from the North Rim, part way down the canyon meeting up with a series of waterfalls that we followed all the way down to the Colorado River. At that point we climbed above the Colorado River, traversed above the river then dropped down and then back up from the river on trails that are used by river runners. We then followed the next set of waterfalls down and back up the canyon before joining our original descent trail and returning to the north rim. We estimated the run at 30-36 miles and between 9,500′ and 11,000′ of climbing. I knew we would be on a slow pace since I have run less than 60 miles in the 3 months since Leadman as I tried to get healed.
Nine of us (Roch, Catherine, Walter, Matt, Sarah, Evan, Clint, Emily, and Chad) left out of camp at 7:30 for a day we knew would blow our mind. The run was fabulous that included steep rocky terrain, great runnable terrain, a couple great stream crossings, incredible views of the Grand Canyon absolutely every minute of our day. We had absolutely beautiful weather with cool temperatures in the morning, warm weather by the Colorado river and then cooler temperatures coming out of the canyon as darkness set in. The waterfalls were absolutely phenomenonal! One of our highlights of our run were viewing Condors in flight. It was an amazing time with friends and running – what a great combination. We ended up with a great 31 miles run with 9,500′ of climbing. Thanks to Roch for a fabulous run! We ended the night with a great meal and hanging around the fire telling stories.
We continued our road trip for two nights in Sedona for a great trail run and road ride then onto Scottsdale where we had a great time with family, shopping, pool time, road biking, and of course we always run a double traverse of Camelback. We are excited to return to PC and ready to start skiing again and enjoy winter.
I’ve had a quiet and somewhat boring fall spending the last 10 weeks getting healthy after Leadman. Between my back/hip issue which lead to a knee issue, I have being doing virtually no running. No running was made easier with a busy October elk hunting and traveling to a friend’s wedding in Stowe, Vt. I was doing a lot of hiking, which was probably not helping my slow recovery, but it at least allowed me to get out on some trails and get some exercise.
I am finally started to feel healthy again (or at least 90-95% healthy) and have been able to start running without pain. I have a large list of adventure runs that I have compiled over the past few years and after Leadman, I was really hoping to be able to tick a few of these off. Well, that hadn’t really happened so I decided that since I was feeling pretty good, I would undertake one of these. The real run I wanted to do was Summit Park to Big Mt Pass to City Creek. This would connect some great trail of Great Western, Wasatch 100, and Wahsatch Steeplechase. This route would be about 30 miles which I knew was too much for me based on my limited running and generally being out of shape after 10 weeks of recovery so it was shortened to the best part – Big Mt Pass to City Creek. I knew going into this run that it would be ‘interesting’. In my book, this means we could encounter anything and I was fully expecting some scrambling, cross country running (no trail at all), and bushwhacking. I was only able to recruit Gemma and Chip to accompany me on this run. Emily was nice enough to volunteer to drive into SLC to pick us up at City Creek at the end of the run.
Chip, Gemma, and I left Summit Park at 8:30 ready for a 5 hour adventure. We left Big Mt Pass around 9 taking our time warming up to the top of Big Mt.
Chad, Chip, & Gemma on top of Big Mt.
From Big Mt, we could see our several miles, but we were unsure how we would traverse around Lookout Peak and gain the ridge to Black Mt. From Big Mt, we had some great running with everything we wanted, long climbs, rolling descents, mud, snow, and cross country running.
Chip & Gemma enjoying the great trail after Big Mt.
The great trail eventually lead a couple miles of intermittent snow. We were surprised by how much snow remained on the mid elevation trails. The snow was mostly supportable so it still made for good running.
Gemma showing her love of snow – possibly wishing she had her skimo setup
We weren’t expecting to see anyone else until we got past Black Mountain so we were very surprised to find 5 other people (2 groups) on top of Lookout Peak. We spent too much time chatting with these groups since Chip and I knew a couple of the people.
Great cross country running after Lookout Peak
When I planned this run, I was very clear with people that there was a trail on the USGS maps, but that I was pretty sure it had grown over and that I knew we could get from Lookout Peak to Smuggler’s Gap, but there would be an unknown amount of bushwhacking involved. I was hoping that doing this run in the fall would mean less bushwhacking since some of the growth would have died back. The bushwhacking didn’t disappoint us. We ended up with around 2 miles of bushwhacking and challenging route finding through the bush that took us close to 2 hours and trashed out legs!
Part of our epic 2 mile and close to 2 hour bushwhack between Lookout Peak and Smugglers Gap – she was not thrilled.
To avoid some of the bushwhacking, we usually found it easiest to stay on the ridge. This meant we had a few spots to scramble through which slowed down our already slow pace.
Gemma not exactly in her element with the exposure
After 5 hours, we finally made it to Smugglers Gap. I thought we would make the whole run in 5 hours and at this point, we still had around 7 miles to go. We decided to stick to our original route plan instead of bailing out into City Creek so off we went up and across the crags to Black Mt.
Black Mt – all downhill from here – almost
From Black Mt, I knew we had a steep descent ahead of us followed by great running all the way to the City Creek gate. We expected this section to only take 70 minutes, but being that this was the longest either Chip or I had run in several weeks (Chip was recovering from a hamstring injury), we were not able to descend as quickly as we would have liked. We eventually made it to the City Creek gate where Emily was patiently waiting for us with salty food and beer.
We ended up with 21 miles, 4550’ ascent, and 7,500’ descent. It took us 6:39 of which we wasted probably an hour taking pictures, enjoying the sites, and visiting at the top of Lookout Peak. It was a great run that I am thrilled to have finally taken the opportunity to do and glad to have had great companions that were patient with the unknowns.