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1453Hardrock 100 report

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  • Matt Mahoney
    Jul 16, 2007
      Hardrock 100 results are listed at http://www.run100s.com/HR/ with split times
      at http://www.hardrock100.com/index.asp

      Last year I ran the Leadville 5K in 22:20. This year in 22:28. Last year I
      ran the Leadville marathon in 5:45:00. This year in 5:45:50. Last year I
      missed the 48 hour cutoff at the Hardrock 100 by 6 minutes. So I would need a
      little luck to finish this year. The race started on Friday the 13th. It
      ended in a mad sprint 120 yards short of the hardrock, the 5 ton boulder that
      you kiss to mark the finish line, where the clock read 48:00:28.

      Hardrock is 100 miles across rocky jeep roads, trails, open tundra and snow,
      sometimes as steep as 45 degrees. Most of the course is between 10,000 and
      13,000 feet elevation. There is 33,000 feet of climb, equivalent to 4 Pikes
      Peak marathons. There are 12 aid stations, averaging about 4 hours apart.

      The course is stunning for its beauty and ruggedness. From the first climb
      over Dives-Little Giant you get an aerial view of the aid station 1/2 mile
      below, in the shadows of the enormous wall that will be the second of 11 major
      climbs. The scenery is vast alpine wilderness, wildflowers of every color,
      where the only sounds are chirping birds, babbling brooks, and the labored
      breathing of competitors trudging up the staircase steep trails, 300 floors
      up, where the air has only 60% to 70% as much oxygen as at sea level. Step,
      breathe, step, breathe.

      Pole Creek, a vast uninhabited alpine valley at 12,000 ft, 10 miles long and 2
      miles wide, muddy trail, dark clouds, thunder, runners stung by pea sized
      hail, huddled under a tarp at an aid station packed in for miles by volunteers
      on horseback.

      I was slow traversing 14,048 ft Handies Peak, but met my goal of summitting
      before dark. Fluid accumulating in my lungs reduced my rate of ascent from
      2000 ft/hr to 1500 ft/hr. Caffeine helped open my lungs, but it is also a
      diuretic. I was urinating every 20 minutes all night. Even with temperatures
      below freezing and drinking untreated stream water, I knew I wasn't replacing
      the fluids.

      The vertical mile of descent into Ouray traversed canyon walls hundreds of
      feet high on a shelf 4 feet wide. It was 4 AM. My flashlight beam
      disappeared into an abyss on my left. Later we crossed 20 feet above the
      roaring Uncompahgre river on a 4 foot wide bridge with no railing. One runner
      met a bear coming the other way.

      I had hoped to reach Ouray by 3 AM but it took until sunrise. I gagged on
      food. I just wanted to sit until the 8:30 AM cutoff expired, but I must go
      on. The next 7 miles of gradual uphill to the next aid station was on good
      dirt road, but took as long as a marathon. At the aid station I asked about
      cutoff time, secretly hoping it had expired. No luck, I was still 2 hours
      under. I would have to cross Virginius Pass. The last 500 vertical feet was
      on snow, reaching a 45 degree slope at the top. They put in a fixed rope to
      make it easier.

      As I ate more food I started feeling better and focused on finishing. There
      were 3 more big climbs to 13,000 feet: Oscar's Pass, Grant-Swamp and Putnam.
      Oscar's descends a "jeep road", but I don't think anything less than a tank
      could drive down these rocks at a 40% grade. Imagine running down a pile of
      concrete blocks. Grant-Swamp finished with a 300 foot vertical ascent on
      scree (loose dirt and gravel) at the angle of repose. It would take less than
      a minute to butt-slide down, but going up was 20 minutes of torture. All your
      effort went into pushing the dirt downhill. Step up, slide back. I did this
      in the dark.

      I can deal with one night without sleep, but the second night is when I start
      to go insane. I was climbing a mountain I couldn't see. My world was
      following the reflective metal markers every 100 yards that it took 2 weeks
      for volunteers to place. I forgot why I was here. Voices told me the markers
      were here so people could go fishing. I had to sleep to get rid of the
      hallucinations. I would sit on a log for a minute, put my head down and
      instantly have crazy dreams. Random images and words. I would wake up, in
      the woods, in the dark. Climb 5 minutes. Crazy thoughts intrude. Take
      another nap. After several naps my thoughts became clear again. After hours
      of climbing, there were no more trees, just tundra, then after hours more I
      summitted the invisible mountain.

      I had less than 3 hours to get to Silverton, and it was almost all downhill.
      I ran hard, but stumbled over the rocks. At South Mineral Creek, just over 2
      miles to go, I had 26 minutes. The river was 100 feet wide and 2 feet deep.
      There was a rope across. I had to hold on with both hands to avoid being
      swept away. It was just light enough to put away my flashlight.

      I reached the Shrine Road with 10 minutes left. Just a few blocks to go, I
      thought. It was uphill, so I took walking breaks. But it was longer than I
      thought. I reached the shrine of Jesus overlooking Silverton with just under
      3 minutes. I ran down the rocky grass hillside faster than I ever thought I
      could, then two blocks down on dirt road, then a left, then just two more
      blocks to the finish, just as hard as I could go...

      -- Matt Mahoney, matmahoney@...
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