Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hardrock Race Report 2012 Part 2

The Road out of Telluride

I get lost in Telluride.  I carefully follow the orange ribbons out of the AS, turn right, and come to the main street intersection in town. I look forward, left, right.  I do not see any ribbons.  I look some more.

I cross the street, look for ribbons.  I whip out my printed course description for this section, it doesn't reference the town.  I am very frustrated.

A Telluride Marshall vehicle pulls up.  I tell him I am in "the Race" and does he know where I need to go?
He points down the road: "That's the only way out of town.."  I am shaking my head, manage to thank him and now RUN back to the Aid Station, at least it's only a few minutes back.

I was pretty upset when I got back to the AS, another runner commented on it, so I hope I was not really rude.  My friends, who came through Telluride much earlier, were surprised at my problem.  "There was a person directing us.."  Well, not for the back of the pack, there was not. And yes, it was because I was a rookie.  Anyone else would have known where to go.

A very nice man walked me out of town-all I had to do was go forward, crossing the street, and up one more block there was orange ribbon-which I could not see from the corner.  I thanked him, and started on my climb up to Virginius.

Kroger's Canteen

Now I am climbing, on my way to the most coolest Aid Station in the Ultra World-Kroger's Canteen
From the Manual:  " VIRGINIUS PASS-KROGERS CANTEEN. Pass #4. Cornice, Acrophobia, Exposure. Chuck Kroger and Kathy Greene started this aid station in 1992 and since then dedicated crews from Telluride backpack supplies into here for a minimal aid station. Chuck became a regular participant/finisher of the Hardrock before succumbing to pancreatic cancer in December 2007."

This is a little, small bench, at 13,000 feet.  The volunteers climb in with their supplies and spend all day there.

But first  I have to get there.  I'm really trying to move a bit quicker, as it is starting to move on toward the evening, and I would REALLY like to get down off Virginius before nightfall.

Okay, I am also there! I summit, and don't see..anybody!  Where's the Aid Station?  And WHY does the trail go downhill...over there?

I am only at Mendota Saddle!  I am not there yet!  Argh!  I make sure I spot a marker as I again move forward..yep, still on the course, and not to Kroger's yet.  It's about one mile to the real summit.  The AS is kind of hidden behind rocks, but I get a cheer as I finally appear!

The guys instruct me to take a seat next to Andrew (I think that is his name) another runner, tucked under a tarp, and they swiftly serve me a cup of soup.  It is so cool to be up here, but I only stay five minutes, and the guys give me instructions on how to get down.

So, see the top of that ridge?  We have to go DOWN all this.  Now, in the dark.

The guys tell me there is a switchback trail right in front of me for the first pitch, then tell me to stay right of the snowbank for the second pitch.  I don't remember what they recommended for the rest.

Many times this area is a total snowfield, and I can see where a snowfield would make it much easier to go down.

Headlamp on, I go down this loose screee on what I think is the trail.  I am pretty much petrified.  I've got both hands on the ground and both feet.  Occassionally I add my ass to the ground too.  I keep telling myself "take your time, take your time"  you can't finish the race if you are dead.

I get to the second pitch.  Ok, just going slow.  I get to one part, where I can see a runner's headlamp way do I get THERE?  Am I on a trail?  It's almost vertical now.  Am I on the trail/course, or am I heading for the edge of a cliff?  I honestly can't tell, but I don't want to have to climb back up a cliff.

Once I get to somewhat flat ground, I am just stoked!  Now that I have lived through that descent, all is good in my world!

We hiked and drove this section, so I knew what to expect for the road section.  I got through Governor's Baisin AS, and then got down the very long road, the road to Ouray.  

Ouray-Hot Hot Hot

As I descended, to the lowest point on the course, it was growing increasing more warm and humid.  Humid?  This is Colorado, it's not supposed to be humid! 
I get to Ouray, and take care of business.  I dump my AS bag out on a picnic table, a little to the AS workers dismay-I'm supposed to be in a chair, or in the tent, with better light.
Oh well, my stuff is here now.  I change socks, get some bandaids, and then duct tape my toe. I eat and drink some Coke.  I talk to Brian McNeil, who is dropping due to an injury.
Okay, I decide it's time to go.  It's so warm here!

I am with Larry and his pacer, Heather, but I have to let them pass me. I'm not climbing well, (I'm so hot) and I have to stop for a bathroom break.  I'm already thirsty, why didn't I drink more water at the AS instead of Coke?

I finally get to the tunnel, at 550, the Million Dollar Highway, and now I am on familiar ground again. We climbed this section the other day before the race. The pics below are from that day.

About as close to the edge as I was going to get.

  See the drop off?  Yes, it's a long ways down.

But now it's after midnight. I'm alone. I'm pretty tired, and  I'm hot and thirsty.  But I don't want to drink the contents of my water bladder down too soon.
 Wow, this precarious section of trail seems to go on for a long time.  I'm moving very slowly. I've picked up my trekking poles in Ouray and they are helpful.  But I am very careful and slow here.  This section was much quicker in the daylight when we were fresh!

I know we are going to hit a trail sign with a marker on how far it is to Engineer. I'm afraid it's going to say 4.5 miles.  I want it to say 2 miles, but that doesn't seem to be the right number in my head.  I'm tired and I want to cry.  I need to eat, but nothing seems good.  I chomp into my Payday bar. Did I mention I was tired? A line of a song comes to mind:  "You can't stay here."  There is no choice.  I could go back to Ouray, OR I can move forward. That's the choice. I can't stay here and whine.

I climb and climb, slow and slow. Now it's getting light out.  So much for worrying about getting across the Engineer's Pass in the dark with my brand new $$ Fenix light.  Now all I am concerned about is finding the Engineer AS.  I am getting punch drunk.  I need a nap.  My energy level is pretty much red-lining zero.

They are unexpectedly, at tree level.  And while I am hot, standing there, I start to get chilled with the early morning wind.  I eat two cups of soup.  Handfuls of chips, but still not many calories.  I am very dispirited to hear I have a 1.5 mile climb up to the road, then a 5.5 mile downhill.  How will I get up that climb?

I leave the Engineer AS.  Now the wind is hitting me.  I stop to pull on the tights that I quibbled over carrying.  I took off my rain jacket and donned my wool top, and then put on my rain jacket, tobaggon, and gloves over my fingerless gloves, it was that cold.

This is where the lack of sleeping really hit me.  I was staggering up the mountain.  I finally got to a point where the sun was hitting the ground on the mountain, and I laid down, among the flowers, for a nap.

I made it six minutes, before I jerked away, shaking.  It was too cold to stay here. "You can't stay here."   So I hobbled uphill.    Slower and slower.  All I wanted to do was lay down, just for a nap.  But it was too cold.

I have to go UP THERE?? I can see little tiny runner figures up there. I'm brain dead at this point. You can't stay here. You must go to Grouse Gulch.  But you need a nap, Kimba.  You can't go on without some rest.

Finally, I get to the road. There is no respite. The wind is worse here. I now have the hood to my rain jacket up, and zipped up to my nose.  I'm moving down the road. I have to, I'm already very chilled, I need to keep moving.  There's no resting here.

I'm finally moving down out of elevation.  I've got 5.5 miles to go.  What was the cut off time? 10.50.  I've got plenty of time. But I need to nap.  I can't function.  I'm barely moving down the road (it seems), tripping over rocks.

I try, on three or four occasions, to find a rock in the sunlight and curl up and sleep on.  But I either have to pee or get dizzy. I can't get comfortable.

And time is bleeding away.  I know I have Grouse Gulch, and then Handies (the 14'er) to climb.  But can I do this in the time allowed?  I have to nap. I cannot climb Handies and not time out without a nap.  But can I get to GG AS and still nap?

Time bleeds away as I walk down the road. I'm still weighing my decision in my head, drop or time out? Back and forth, back and forth. I cry a bit. I'm so tired.  I just want to sleep. But this is Hardrock.  But there is no way I can get over Handies and not time out.  I'm so pissed at myself for quitting. But I am out of time.  Maybe I could just stay out on the course and just...time out.

No. If you are going to quit, then quit. Don't pussy out and then come up with the lie "well, I just timed out, what can you do..."   Did I mention I am so sleep deprived?  I can't function straight. I'm tripping on rocks. When did I eat last?  On the climb to Engineer Pass?

Now I can see the AS below.  But now it's 10 am! And the AS is nowhere near!  I start to walk faster. I'm not sure if I have made up my mind, as I keep checking my watch, as this frigging road goes on forerver.  I don't seem to be any closer.  Now it's 1015. Then 1020.   Any sort of time margin for a nap is going straight out the window, as now I seem more concerned about tackling Handies. 

And now, look at the clouds over the drainage toward Handies.  What about those, Kimba?  You got time for a nap AND to sit out/evaluate those storm clouds?

I'm so dead. I can't even think straight at this point.

And this is where the dune buggies and jeep caravans went by.. Thanks all, let me just stand here, with my back to you, and bleed more minutes off my little clock.. I was pretty irritated when I got to the Grouse Gulch AS.

"I'm dropping"   I announce..and start crying.

I instantly get the sympathy (which I do not want, but that's just my curmudgeonly self, which my NEO TC peeps understand)  " good job, 65 miles, you did great"..  


Well, aftermath is probably best left for a future post.  I wasn't hurt or injured.  I did some pretty basic Ultrarunning mistakes:  I got into a calorie deficit; then had hydration issues; which along with a course kicking my ass, just drained me of my will to continue.  I would put the sleep deprivation up there as my main obstacle to rationally think forward to continue.  I should have slept; I should have ate more, at the AS, and I should have carried more calories in my pack to eat.

I have to say I've been bitten by Hardrock.  It's the most difficult thing I have ever attempted.  But now I have some knowledge, of what I have gotten into. I know what to work on now, and know some of the course.

I may enter the 2013 lottery, but I already promised not to run it.  So that leaves 2014 and later dates open..and 2014 would be another clockwise direction again..


  1. awesome write up..and again great job :)

  2. An amazing report. You remember so much. I think my brain would have been fried. Just having the ability to get to that start line, let alone step across it is so amazing to me. You are always a source of such education and inspiration! Congratulations!

  3. Good job Kimba, haven't met you yet but I can tell you're one amazing runner.

    I'll soon do a race that you did; we'll see how my time compares to yours - my prediction is that you're a stronger runner than me. But that's why runners like you are appreciated. You're tough, thorough, loquacious in sharing experiences and tips, unassuming and humble. I so dislike arrogent runners that don't hold a candle to many of the greats. Those types don't make newbies like me feel welcomed.

    Keep it up, I'm sure with a crew - as many likely had - you would have done well and finished.

  4. kim, this was a fascinating read, and you are very inspiring. i do hope you return to HR!

  5. Thanks Anonymous, although I wish I knew who you were! I am a strong runner, I don't know about being humble.
    I try to write honest race reports, for anyone who wants to read them and for myself.
    Crew and pacer-yes, I think,if I get another chance at HR, I will want a crew and pacer for the 2nd half of the race.
    After standing on the sidelines for the 2nd half of the race, I can see very well that's where the true race began.

  6. Wow, it's been inspiring to read about your preparations for HR and then your adventure with it. Good luck with the rest of this year and with your plans to return!

  7. Wonderful race report. Hard Rock sounds like an amazing and beastly course. It's happened to all of us -- we think we are staying up with food/drink and somehow we miscalculate. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and can't wait to see the rest of your photos. We are all proud of you Kimba!


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