by Glenn Mackie
8 July 2005
I finally returned home last night after the long drive back from Silverton, CO and the Hardrock 100. I’d like to thank all the NTTR members I met during the race who gave so much encouragement.
These are some of my experiences from the run…
First, I got up to Silverton 10 days before the race to acclimate and cover part of the course. I can’t emphasize how important this period is. You can probably be under trained and finish the course, but if you’re not well acclimated, it’s nearly impossible. Even some runners who had come up early to altitude DNF’d from symptoms of AMS and pulmonary edema.
The sections of the course I ran before the race were mostly at the end, between Grant-Swamp Pass and the finish. The course went in the CCW direction this year. This last 15 miles of the course had some of the most confusing navigation and since I wasn’t using a pacer for the race, learning these sections became a priority.
At the South Mineral Creek Campground where I was staying the first week, I met up with another runner, Tim Laney, and we teamed up to explore parts of the course. He’s from England and one of the greatest guys you’ll ever meet. Tim’s a much faster runner than myself (he finished the race in 5th place), and he caused me to get out and cover more of the course than I normally would have.
In addition to the last 15 miles of the course, I also climbed Handies Peak, participated in the course marking of Virginius Peak, and walked all the transitions in and out of the towns of Silverton, Ouray and Telluride.
I didn’t look at much of the first ½ of the course and only skimmed through the written descriptions in the runner’s manual, looking only at the elevation profile and mileage. I figured that I’d be running in a group and would be following someone’s heels through most of this. This is exactly what happened.
On race day, I woke up at 5:00 AM, one hour before the start, went to the race start to check in, then went back to my hotel to get ready. If you don’t check in again on race day, they’ll give your spot away.
For the first 20-30 miles or so of an ultra, I try to relax, let my mind rest, and just follow the herd. This is what I did and really don’t have any memorable experiences (other than great scenery and some short conversations) until arriving at Sherman at mile 28.7.
The “short-cut” out of the Sherman Aid Station through private land to the Cinnamon Pass Road was a wake-up call for me. This ½ mile section was on a very steep grade through trees and loose rock in the hottest part of the day. It seemed like 10 miles and I was breathing heavily even though, at 9,700’, this was one of the lowest sections of the course.
Once up on the Road, it was about 3 miles to the trail turnoff to Handies Peak. This was a dusty walk, with jeeps, ATV’s and motorcycles speeding next to you. Once on the trail, it was up, up, up to Handies (14, 048’), the highest point on the course.
A week earlier, I had run down from the summit of Handies to Grouse Gulch in 1 hour 4 mins. It would take me 1 hour 35mins during the race and I was still feeling good at this point. At Grouse, I changed packs, gear, ate and drank in under 3 minutes. My total aid station time up to this point in the race after 5 aid stations (44 miles) was about 8 minutes. Aid station volunteers were great, but were always trying to get me to sit down and hang around. I’d thank them and try to get out as soon as possible.
My rushed aid station transitions and no crew would catch up to me, however. I left Grouse Gulch forgetting my rain pants and jacket, as thunderstorms and nighttime were approaching.
About 3 miles on the road out of Grouse, as the sun started to set behind a mountain ridge, it began to rain. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to Grouse, so I pressed on to Engineer Pass. Luckily, the rain didn’t last long, but I worried about not having this critical gear for the next half of the course. Mother Nature was to give me a break this race, however, and I would never again need them.
As darkness set in at the Engineer Aid Station, I was passed by Tyler Curiel, but met up with Blake Wood, who I would run with off and on for almost 40 miles. I had met Blake earlier in the week on a trail outside of Silverton. Blake’s a great guy whose running style I can best describe as ‘methodical’. I could quickly see why he’s been so successful for so long in this sport.
As night was falling, it was now time to see if my flashlight was up to the task of illuminating the course markers. Hardrock doesn’t use glowsticks like other races, but instead uses reflective stickers on aluminum tags mounted on 2 foot aluminum sticks. My 14 LED green light worked very well and the course marking tags lit up green and bright as glowsticks. Night navigation was never a problem.
It was in this section between Engineer and Ouray, however, that my race began to fall apart. My stomach turned ‘sour’ and while I never got sick, I could hardly run or consume anything. This would last for the next 35 miles and caused me to fall hours off the pace times I’d planned. It was also during this part that my quads began to give up. Because of personal and work commitments in the 6 weeks prior to the race, I had almost no training. That, and lack of nutrition, was now being brought to bear and for the rest of the race, I’d have to fast-walk most of the downhills.
I’ll fast forward through the part of the race from Ouray, the long grind up Camp Bird Road to Governor’s Basin, to the last pitch on Virginius Pass (67.6 miles). It was just after 4:00 AM when I was on this sketchy section alone. I was trying to kick-steps in the steep ice with my running shoes, but nothing was gripping. I had brought a plastic tent stake to use as a quasi ice-axe, which helped. I was sure glad to finally make it to the Virginius Pass “Cantina”, then cruise the long downhill into Telluride.
After climbing Oscar’s Pass and arriving at the Chapman Gulch aid station (82 miles) I had hardly eaten anything in the last 15 hours. I managed to get down part of a turkey sandwich and some mac’n’cheese. The day was starting to heat up and I drank plenty of water.
One thing about hydration. I think I managed to stay well hydrated throughout the race, despite a patch of stomach problems (which I suspect were due to chugging sport drink at Grouse Gulch and Engineer). I used the new Ultimate Direction squirt bottles and every time my throat got dried out, which was every 3-5 minutes, I’d drink a small amount of plain water. I also took 1 or 2 Endurolytes per hour. My pee never turned dark throughout the race and I now seem to be recovering more quickly from this race than others where I wasn’t as well hydrated.
The next climb over Grant-Swamp was another steep, icy grind and I was glad to reach the top and see the Joel Zucker memorial and Island Lake below. On the way to KT, I think I got passed by 3 or 4 runners on the downhill. This was pretty much the case on every downhill since my quads wore out on the descent to Ouray, but I’d end up passing many of these runners while doing fast aid station transitions later on.
Since I’d covered the last 15 miles of the course the week earlier from Grant-Swamp to the finish, I was now very confident and enjoyed this final part. Also, my earlier stomach problems began to abate. I spotted a lost runner on Porcupine Ridge and signaled him back on course. A strange thing about runners when they get lost late in a race – they’re often in denial when shown the way back on course as if they don’t believe you.
Once down at the last aid station at Putnam Basin (94.8 miles), I tried to get out as soon as possible. Even though my quads were shot, I was going to try and run the downhill to the finish. Since my original pace chart plan was scrapped, my new goal was to get into Silverton and finish before dark at about 9:00 PM. This gave me about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get down the last 5.6 miles.
Having run this section a week earlier paid off and I could really move. When I got down to the Mineral Creek the water was high but felt great. I paused for a moment since the cold water felt great on my tired legs.
It was now about 7:30 PM with 2 miles to go and I was ahead of my plan to arrive before nightfall. My new goal was to arrive before 8:00 PM. After passing the Shrine of the Mines above Silverton, I had 15 minutes to go and ran the last section. I kissed the rock at 7:58 PM with a time of 37:58:21.
I thought Hardrock was a very well produced race and the race organizers and aid station volunteers were second to none. If anyone is thinking about doing this race next year and has questions, send me an email.