Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hardrock Race Report 2012 Part One

I am sitting in the bleachers at the Silverton Gym, watching the festivities around me. On one hand, it's a bit surreal; I am running in the HR 2012.  On the other hand, it's a typical ultra.  Fit people wandering around, some sitting quietly, others laughing and talking.

In the *very* short bathroom line for the ladies, one runner says "half the female field is in here!"  (Only 17 females started HR).

About five minutes to go, I hug Slim and go  outside.

It's an ultra.  No real defined starting line.  In fact, I glance at my watch, two minutes to go, we're all still gaggled around.

But Dale is climbing up on The Rock, and we count down to zero, and we are off right on time.

I walk out of town, in the very back, with ten or so others.

We come to the famous river crossing in the first mile or so.  NOW it seems like Hardrock.  Photographers are out, the small groups of supporters/crew are on the sides of the Million Dollar Highway; Dave Horton smiles and wishes me well.

South Mineral Creek is very low, but the rope is there.  I cross the creek, water only to maybe mid-calves, and then we runners are off!

The first 11 miles is nice, a warm up.  We're all fresh. I'm in the back of the pack with famous people, like the Peros (Deb and Steve) and Hans Dieter.  We come along on various people hiking, taking pictures, and Hans and Steve are hailed and greeted.

We climb the Kamm Traverse.  I can see the South Mineral Wells Campground, and even our site where we camped out last week.  It's strangely comfortable to see familiar sites.

Grant Swamp Pass to Chapman AS

I am relieved to get through KT Aid Station. I did not time out.  I had been a bit worried about being so slow that I would be eliminated first from the HR course.
I did have with me a pace card and cut offs for the 48 hour pace.  I did not have any times memorized and nor was I looking at my watch.
I was running/walking/hiking/climbing at my pace.  Having never been on the course before, I found it impossible to guestimate any sort of times between AS. I had resolved to go at my pace, and hope it was going to be fast enough to make the cut offs at HR.

I have heard that Grant Swamp Pass is a bear. And indeed, it is.  On our way to the summit, it's almost impossible to ascend.  I pull on my gloves.  Now I am using both my hands and feet to literally crawl up the slope, almost on all fours.

I hear Steve yell for Drew to grab a stone, and I know we are almost at the top! I grab a stone and tuck it into to arm warm sleeves, now well around my wrists, and summit.  I place my stone on the cairn at the Joel Zucker memorial, and take a quick look around.

NOW I have to descend Grant Swamp!  This is my first scree field to encounter. Dobies has told me to stay out of the middle, as it's almost devoid of scree. I start down the right hand side, and kick rocks on Hans Dieter below. (Sorry Hans!!)  After much yelling at me, I try the left hand side.  In fact, if left alone, I think I could have descended much quicker.

For anyone not familiar with scree,it's just loose rock, mainly shale. And when I say loose rock, that means you take a step, and you might sink down a foot, and the mountain slides with you, downhill.  I watched one HR veteran literally ski down the hill on his feet, in about 10 seconds.
It took me a long time, trying to maintain 4 or 5 points (two hands, two feet, sometimes my ass) on the ground.

Here is a short video from Matt Hart, taken in June  before the race:

By the time I hit the big rocks at the bottom, our little line of runners was gone.  I knew there were 3 or so runners behind me, but now our little band was all spread out.  The next aid station is Chapman, on a nice wooded downhill trail, with lots and lots of bacon!

It starts to rain as I arrive.  Scott and Jim arrive right after me, and Scott takes the chair that I decline.  Food is great here, big pieces of bacon, tator tots, and soup! I even get a "to go" baggie of tots and bacon.

There is a rumble of thunder as I slurp soup under the tent, but we are way down at 10,000 feet, well under the tree line.  I decide I will start the climb to Oscar's Pass, as I still have a huge climb. If the weather gets worse, I can always wait the storm out in the trees.

Note on the weather:  storms come up daily and frequently in the mountains,  usually starting in the late morning and early afternoon.  One of the reasons HR has a 48 hour cut off is runner safety; in case you need to spend a few hours hunkered down, trying to outwait a storm.  Storms refer to lightning, hail, sideways rain/hail, or all of the above.

It did start to hail on me, on this long climb.  I just slung my rain jacket over my head and draped it over my shoulders, over the pack, rather than wearing it.  It was still pretty warm and I did not want to over heat on the long climb up Oscar's Pass.

Steve Pero  had mentioned this was his least favorite climb of the race, so I was curious to see exactly what that meant.  Well, it's a long climb. A real long climb.

Oscar Pass, photo by Blake Wood
Partway up, there is a sign that says, "no mechanized vehicles" past this point..and the sign was put up in 1961.  Now, I can't imagine someone driving something back in the fifties up this far.  But there apparently is/was a mine up here.

We climb up to about 13,000 feet.  The trail is just nasty rough rocks...that goes on and on UP AND UP.  I resolve to never complain about Signal Knob rocks again.  I contemplate becoming a 1/2 marathon runner..

Jim, a HR veteran, passes me, and  gives me encouragement that we are almost at the top.  And soon, we are!  We hug and he tells me it's a 7 mile downhill to the town of Telluride.

It Takes All Day to go to Telluride

I don't remember (until later) that this is where the re-route occurred for both the 2011 and 2012 HR race due to some property dispute.  All I remember is, it seemed to take forever to get to the town of Telluride.

I'm also worried (unduly) about cut offs, but I won't dip into my pocket and check the times.  It is what it is.  I am going at my pace, and that will have to work for me.  Or it won't.

Man, it takes a long time to get to Telluride.
 You go around a curve, and you can see it!! Town below!! But you are still way up there..and town is way down there...

Despite my worry about cut offs, I did have to stop on the road to take a picture of Bridal Veil Falls...this is not my picture, I am hoping my SD Chip surfaces at some point, as I did carry the camera on the run!

I get to the bike path. Great! I'm almost there..right?  It goes on and on. I finally reach the Aid Station, well over the time when I thought I would make it to the Aid Station.

But I am still really good with cut offs to Ouray, so I am heartened!

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