Wednesday, July 23, 2014
I dropped at Mile 58 (Grouse Gulch) around 3am (21 hours after starting).
There were lots of "epic" stories from this year's Hardrock. Dakota summarized a lot of the more talked-about ones here, and I am positive that there were just as many stories to tell from the back of the pack as well. Of course, Kilian's dominance and course record still has everyone buzzing. However, the more times I take on this course, the more impressed I become with those who can endure through the second day and beyond. There is the story of Amanda Grimes pushing with all she had left from Cunningham to the finish, beating the 48-hour cutoff by just 10 minutes. Seeing her at the finish line completely spent but with a huge smile on her face reminds me of how special any Hardrock finish is.
So for me, there was rain, hail, lightning, flooding, and vomiting, but that really isn't a "story" at Hardrock, it is expected. These mountains and this course provide a challenge like no other and that, along with the unsurpassed beauty surrounding you, is definitely what makes this event so alluring.
By the third significant climb, Oscar's Pass, I am already struggling to the point of considering a drop at Telluride (Mile 28). That is not a good sign for a 100-miler, but not that uncommon for Hardrock. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the weather on Oscar's doesn't allow me to rest up there. A couple of zaps of lightning has me running as fast as I can down the flowing river, presumably the trail, into the Wasatch Basin and Telluride below.
Completely soaked, I see my crew for the first time in Telluride and I am able to drink and eat a little. This gives me the strength to push on, but again I would soon fall apart on the climb to Mendota Saddle and Virginius Pass. Just before coming into view of the awesome volunteers on Virginius, I duck behind a rock hoping to empty my stomach. It would have been very disappointing to puke at Kroger's Canteen, the best aid station on Earth. I sit at Kroger's taking some chicken soup from Roch and his terrific crew, while thinking in my head that I am now dropping in Ouray. Just then, Kirk Apt takes a seat next to me and I feel ashamed to even having those thoughts in my head. This was Kirk's 20th visit to Kroger's Canteen, on his way to his 20th Hardrock finish! So again, I push on. I actually run quite well into Ouray and have hopes of turning things around.
I again see my crew and ask Kristel if she is willing to pace me. I feel as though I need her more now even if she can't pace me all the way to the finish (which I know she would have done anyway). I get down a little bit of food and head out with Kristel with still quite a bit of daylight left, which is encouraging. What is not encouraging is how much I am instantly struggling to climb out of Ouray.
The climb up Bear Creek Trail towards Engineer Pass is a struggle. I keep replaying in my head where I fell apart on this same stretch two years ago and these memories do not help. And then it is just like a self-fulfilling prophecy and I fall apart again. Kristel gets to witness some nice puking action, which unfortunately doesn't make my stomach feel any better. We somehow manage to get to Engineer aid station in pouring rain and I curl up in a sleeping bag under the Tyvek cover protecting everyone from the intense storm.
After sensing a slight drop in the intensity of the rain hitting Tyvek roof, I know it is time to get out of there. Kristel and I grind our way over the pass and now I have to succumb to walking all the way down the jeep road to Grouse Gulch. A couple of attempts to muster up some semblance of running only leads to inevitable dry heaves.
Just like two years ago, I am rolling into Grouse Gulch around 3 in the morning, knowing that I can just stay there for hours if I need to. I know there is no need to drop out upon arrival like in 2012. Take as much time as you need to get feeling better. You think I would have learned my lesson last time, but I didn't. I instantly find the aid station captain and tell him to remove my wrist band and add me to the drop list. This course, this direction, has beaten me again.
It is extremely tough to be in Silverton while you know you should still be out on the course. I don't know why I struggled so much more this year than last, but it was obvious that I just wasn't ready this time. You then try to tell yourself it is just a "race". Get over it. Well, I probably won't ever get completely over it until I finish this thing again. Maybe I will get another chance soon, but I also feel that so many others deserve a chance before me.
My frustration led me to run the Crawford 100 the next weekend (report to come). This course was no joke and, despite wanting to quit there as well, I pushed on to maybe my best 100 mile finish ever. It definitely helped my confidence, but now I wonder why I couldn't do the same at Hardrock. I am definitely still learning.
Thanks to my crew (Regina, Sam, and Kristel). Thanks to all my friends I saw out there on Hardrock weekend. Thanks Kristel for enduring the longest 15 miles ever with me out on the course. And finally, congrats to all 100 of you finishers this year! For good or bad, Hardrock is in my blood. It is different than all other "races" and I know I will be back.