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Re: [hr100] Hardrock Race Report

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  • Megan Baker
    Thanks for sharing.  A true inspiration!    Megan Baker Cunningham Aid Station Captain  ... From: Nick Coury To:
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 4, 2008
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      Thanks for sharing.  A true inspiration! 
      Megan Baker
      Cunningham Aid Station Captain 

      ----- Original Message ----
      From: Nick Coury <calculusrunner@...>
      To: ultra@...; hr100@yahoogroups.com; phxultrarunning@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Monday, August 4, 2008 12:40:13 PM
      Subject: [hr100] Hardrock Race Report

      http://www.dotphoto .com/go.asp? l=calculusrunner &P=&AID=5424890& CID=0&T=1& E=Y

      2008 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run*
      *Race Report
      By Nick Coury

      Back in January, I sent in my application for Hardrock along with my older
      brother Jamil. I signed up almost on a whim, knowing little about the race
      and not having any prior desire to run it. I guess that kind of
      characterizes most of my ultra career, however, as thats what happened when
      I ran Angeles Crest in 2007. Jamil thought Angeles Crest might be a race he
      wanted to do, so I said "OK" and sent in the application several months
      before I realized what I had committed to. I went out moderately fast
      there, was hobbling by mile 50 and gutted out the last 25 on pure adrenaline
      to cross the finish line with Jamil in 23:49, earning the 24 hour buckle and
      a chance to apply for Hardrock. When the lottery results for Hardrock were
      released, I was 44th on the wait list (Jamil was 181). I listened to some
      of the talk on the Hardrock email list, and I was confident I would have to
      be really lucky to get in. In past years, the last runner to get in has
      been about 39 to 42 or so on the wait list, but I decided to act as if I was
      going to get in anyways. After all, what better way to spend a summer than
      in the San Juans?

      The three months prior to arriving in Silverton I had been averaging less
      than 30 miles a week, largely due to a 2 month bout with peroneal tendonitis
      on my right leg. I completed Zane Grey 50 miler and did one run up in
      Flagstaff, but about 60% of my mileage was on the flat streets and canals of
      the Phoenix area. Largely because of this, Jamil and I drove up to
      Silverton two weeks early to acclimate and train on the course. We helped
      with course markings and trail work, and did some runs on our own. When all
      was said and done, I put in 120 miles of running and hiking in the San Juans
      in 11 days, with 3 full days of rest before the race.

      Up until this point, I was still reasonably far back on the wait list. As
      of that Sunday I was 16th. By the official check in, there were 4 other
      runners ahead of me to fill spots. But on Thursday at 11 AM when
      registration closed, Dale Garland got up and announced that there were three
      openings, and I was the first one! This year was an anomaly for the wait
      list, and by the race start the next person in line was 112 on the wait
      list. I finished packing my drop bags, strolled around for another couple
      hours, then went to bed about 7 PM. At about 11 PM, I actually fell
      asleep. I awoke at 4 AM to my alarm going off, and quickly shut off the
      other two I had as backups. I ate a reasonably sized breakfast, got dressed
      and ready, and walked down the street to the gym around 5:20. I checked in
      and greeted my fellow Arizona runners along with many of the friends I'd
      made before lining up for the start at 6 AM.

      Coming into this race, I didn't feel I had the base to put up my best
      performance. After acclimating very well, spending a lot of time on the
      course, and doing a 10 mile 3.5 hour run with Jamil, Kyle Skaggs, and James
      Varner, my confidence was noticeably higher. But I was still unfamiliar
      with the course, knew I would lose time to others because I wasn't
      comfortable running hills, and was doubtful how I would handle sleepiness
      for so long. I set a fantasy goal for myself between 34 and 36 hours, but
      really just wanted to finish before the second night in around 40 hours.
      Everyone seemed to advise me to stay conservative, and "start slow, then get
      slower". I'd been thinking a lot about what barriers we have to faster
      times in ultras, and I'd come to the conclusion that its the body
      deterioration that occurs in the second half of a race when we crawl that
      really gets us. Because of all of this, I came up with a very specific plan
      for my run:

      1. In everything I do, every step I take on the run, minimize the stresses
      on my body.
      2. Hike all the uphills as quickly as I can without getting too tired.
      3. Walk every single flat.
      4. Run the downhills by putting all my energy into being smooth and
      efficient, and let the slope dictate my speed.

      With this in mind, the race began. I started at the back of the front pack,
      as we quickly passed the Shrine of the Mines statue and continued downhill
      to the Nute Chute. This section is flat and slightly uphill for just over a
      mile, and everyone suddenly passed me as I walked and they ran. By the
      first crossing at Mineral Creek, I was at the back of the second pack. As
      we climbed Bear Creek, I quickly passed several people in front of me, and
      was soon at the back of the first pack again. Talking with Kelly Korevec,
      we saw what looked like a pack of Llamas across the valley by some campers.
      I more or less settled into a place until the first aid station, KT, where I
      believe I was in 16th place. I grabbed some fruit and water and was off.
      After a shallow climb up the Kamm Traverse, a river crossing and some more
      climbing, I was soon on top of Grant Swamp Pass overlooking Island Lake. I
      put my rock on Joel's memorial and passed a couple people as I ran and
      standing glissaded down the snowy valley. I came into the Chapman aid
      station where I had a resupply of bars and gels, and an Ensure. I had
      started the race in some 8 oz New Balance 790s (the same shoes Kyle wore)
      and stopped to take some small rocks out, when I noticed the back tread on
      one of them was almost completely off. I decided to just leave it and
      quickly took off. I felt like I was going too fast at this point based on
      my place, but I also felt comfortable with my effort level and decided to
      keep doing what I was doing.

      The next section is perhaps the steepest going up to Oscar's Pass. I caught
      Brian Fischer and chatted with him for a while, then soon passed him.
      Perhaps it was my strategy of sidestepping to keep my Achilles from
      stretching too far, or the training on "The Elevator" with James and Kyle,
      but I seemed to go up these steeper climbs with relative ease and it helped
      me keep a decent place despite walking the flats. I got to the top to see
      John Cappis and his big smile snapping off pictures. From here I descended
      down into Telluride with Brian right behind me for a large part of the
      descent. I came into the aid station to find Jamil, my friend Cullen, and
      many other friendly faces. I ate a grilled cheese, got my fuel and
      electrolyte tabs, cut the dangling grip off my shoe, and was off again up
      towards Virginius in 12th place. The climb up to Kroeger's Canteen was
      rather uneventful, although the last section is not for the faint of heart
      with the sketchy scree slopes you have to scramble up. I attempted to save
      my energy as I knew I would need it for the 11 mile descent into Ouray. I
      arrived at the aid station, had a cup of delicious warm soup, and was off
      again. Going down the next section was a blast as it has the steepest snow
      slopes of the course, great fun if you have the energy! Once I got to the
      road, I kept telling myself to stick to my strategy, which seemed to be
      working so far. I grabbed some more food at the Governor Basin aid station,
      then continued down the downhill. Walking all of the flats and letting the
      downhills carry me at their own speed, I continued to make good time and
      passed another person. I arrived at Ouray to change shirts, grab my night
      gear and a jacket, and refuel. My brother still helped crew me before
      meeting me at Grouse to pace me. I had planned to change shoes to a more
      cushioned pair, but felt good in the 790s so I had Jamil bring them with him
      for later. I still felt great, and it was almost half way through the run!

      I passed Kevin Schilling who was having some stomach problems and Wouter
      Hamelinck not long after, and kept a steady pace all the way to the
      Engineer's aid station at mile 50. Not long after leaving, it got dark
      enough that I pulled out my headlamp. Soon a trail of light specks appeared
      behind me, and I knew I had half a dozen runners right on my tail. This
      wasn't a huge concern competition wise, but the section from Engineer Road
      Pass down to Grouse is a road section with many forks and no markers per
      Charlie Thorn's philosophy. I had neglected to check out this section or
      even read the course description, so I somewhat slowed down to make sure the
      trail of lights continued to go the way I was (and hope I hadn't led them
      off course!) I knew there was one particular section Charlie had mentioned
      where a wrong turn was possible that still led to the aid station, but in a
      roundabout way. I knew the whole time I was going to make that turn, but
      wasn't sure where it was. I began seeing the light of the aid station
      several miles out and gained hope, but sure enough I made the wrong turn and
      knew it right away. because of the dark, though, I wasn't sure where the
      right path could be and decided the detour was worth it to keep moving.
      Looking at Google Maps afterward, it is a slightly awkward turn in the dark
      when you don't know it, and it adds about 3/4 mile to the course. I think
      someone may have followed me, but I came out of the detour right behind
      Betsy Kalmeyer happy to be coming into the aid station. Jamil was waiting
      after arriving only minutes before due to a couple mishaps (maybe the detour
      was ok afterall?) I changed into my 9.4 oz New Balance 800s just in time as
      the tread on the other 790 had also about come off, grabbed some food and my
      resupply, and we left.

      Although I was still feeling great at this point, I was wary about the cold
      and snow, and I definitely took this next section slower and more carefully
      than any other. It was good to have Jamil with me to keep conversation or
      just hike with, and that in itself helped keep me energized. He always kept
      behind me and didn't try to advise me on pace yet still helped keep up on
      how I was doing and helped find markers. We slowly made our way up to
      American Basin, and then worked our way through the snow up to Handies. I
      was starting to fade and so we both popped a NoDoz somewhere around this
      point, and it really did the job. We arrived at the top at about 2 AM.
      Even though the trail down from Handies is downhill, I felt my frozen feet
      would be hurt too much to run without the sensory feedback, so we mostly
      walked down, especially on the snowy and wet places. About half way down,
      Olga Varlamova comes running past us with Mike Burke right behind her,
      looking like a zombie being pulled on a leash at this point yet still
      keeping a blazing pace. Not long after this, I decided if the old
      Bushwhacker can run this part, then so should I. Jamil ever on my heel, we
      kick up the pace and soon passed Mike again and ran all the way down to
      Burrows Park. The next section is a relatively flat/slightly rolling 3 mile
      road section, and I walked almost the entire thing. Down a short trail and
      we arrived at the Sherman aid station to find James Varner, bundled up in a
      blanket. He hadn't been able to hold down any calories since Grouse and
      ended up dropping out later when it didn't get any better. I was starting
      to have some stomach problems of my own, as I learned the stomach can only
      handle so many Tigers Milk bars. I filled my bottles with a sports drink
      for the first time all race to try and get calories in that way. Jamil and
      I also both had an incredible breakfast burrito which also helped. I
      switched into my beat up 7 oz Adizero LT DCs for the last 30 miles, and we

      The Sherman to Pole Creek section was the one section that really concerned
      me because it was largely in the dark and I hadn't seen a lick of it.
      Luckily we made our way up it with minimal difficulty, moving up the sides
      of Cataract Gulch and facing slippery river crossings many times. We
      partially leveled out at the Cataract Lake area, and suddenly the miles
      seemed to drag on as we thought we were a mile away when we were maybe more
      like 4. We each took another NoDoz not long before finally coming to the
      river junctions right before the aid station. My stomach was still quite
      queasy and the only thing that seemed to help it was some coffee cake like
      substance, so I continued with the sports drink and was soon on my way. I
      had seen the last 20 miles of the course and knew it well, and realized I
      probably had a good chance of making it under 33 hours. I felt strong and
      was growing stronger with the light and the realization that I was in 8th
      place, and I decided it was time to start pushing the pace and start
      catching people. Soon after leaving the aid station, we saw two guys ahead
      of us. I was amazed we had caught someone so quickly, but as soon as I
      rounded another corner, there was only one person! We quickly passed Phil
      Kiddoo, who was looking in pretty poor shape. Quite a bit ahead we saw a
      bright colored spot, and wondered if it really was the 6th place runner. I
      wondered if the runner was trying to run from us. I started to jog some of
      the easier flats at this point knowing it was time to push the pace, but I
      still walked half of them, especially if I felt anything wrong. Finally on
      the climb up over Maggie Pole Pass, we passed Glenn Mackie who looked to be
      exhausted as well at this point. Another quick drop and we were at the
      Maggie station. I was now in 6th place, and I was feeling fantastic. I set
      my heart on getting 5th place, and as soon as I got to the Maggie aid
      station I asked how far the next person was. They said two people had come
      through close to each other, one 1:20 ahead and the next 1:30 ahead. My
      heart sunk a little as I knew that anyone ahead would probably still be
      pushing a solid pace, but I also knew that the next section was may favorite
      section, and I would push hard through it without any reason at all.

      The climb up over Buffalo Boy Ridge is steep and took a while to get up, and
      I also took it slower going down to Stony Pass Road as my knees were
      starting to feel beat up. I climbed over Green Mountain also at an easy
      pace. Earlier during course markings, several Hardrockers had done this
      section from Cunningham back towards Maggies, but we had to turn back from a
      storm. I had no rain gear and it really started to pick up, so I found
      myself running from the storm. I flew down from Green Mountain faster than
      a mountain goat, and consequently it became my favorite section. So
      likewise, I threw myself head over heel down this section and flew into the
      Cunningham aid station. I immediately asked where the next runner was, and
      was told she (Diana Finkle) left 30 minutes before. I was amazed and in
      disbelief (rightfully so) that we had caught 50 minutes on her (note that
      she was actually 50 minutes ahead, but I didn't know that). Up to this
      point Jamil and I had both worn Nathan Elite 2V Plus waistpacks. We
      immediately dropped them, and took only a single bottle. At this point I
      was practically feeling brand new (especially with all the adrenaline), and
      apparently it was noticeable. One of the aid station volunteers suddenly
      said, "Wait, are you the runner? I thought he was because you looked so
      fresh!" With this I finished eating and grabbing gels and we started out.

      As we were climbing up Little Giant, we became aware of someone else making
      quick ground on us. Before we could speculate too much, he yelled out, "I'm
      not a runner!". It was Andy Holak, who quickly caught us and chatted with
      us for the rest of the climb. His wife Kim was in 3rd for the women and he
      was out for a hike. By the time we got to the top, Jamil was out of fluids
      and I dumped mine because I couldn't even stomach the sports drink anymore.
      I filled my bottle with snow to get a couple ounces of water, and we started
      the 7 mile descent. We thought it strange that we hadn't seen even a
      glimpse of Diana below, as I had been keeping a solid pace and we figured
      we'd at least be moving somewhat faster than those in front of us.
      Nonetheless, we hit the road section and began to fly. I was still letting
      the hill take me and I wasn't pushing it, but the road was steep and I
      wasn't braking either. Every turn I expected to see someone ahead and every
      turn I saw a new empty stretch. We reached the last major river crossing at
      the Arrastra Gulch Stream, and entered the forest onto singletrack again. I
      was running full stride at this point, and even started running most of the
      uphills. Jamil was out of water and getting exhausted, and I was 58 miles
      more tired, as well as dehydrated and down to my last sip of snow. I kept
      telling myself 5th place would be around the next corner, that her 30 minute
      lead was almost up and that our pace wasn't fast enough only because she was
      trying to break 31 hours. I suddenly went into a frenzy, sprinting through
      the trees, going through streams and mudpits like they weren't there,
      surging sections at what must have been 6 minute a mile pace. Jamil
      couldn't keep up and dropped back, but I kept going. After two miles of
      this charge, I became almost completely depleted, especially of water. I
      slowed to jogging and walking and Jamil caught up, and I became content with
      walking the rest of the race in. We saw Silverton through the trees
      finally, and soon after emerged from the trees to the top of the Ski Hut. A
      few steps down the slope and I nearly stopped in my tracks. I looked over
      at Jamil in disbelief, because right below us, halfway down the slope, was
      Diana! I looked over at Jamil one last time as if looking for an
      affirmation, and finally something in his confused face looked enough like
      "GO FOR IT" to me. I took off down the hill like I was in a high school
      track meet. As I crossed the bridge into town Jamil yelled at me from 20
      meters behind not to wait up for him. At this point I entered the most
      surreal moment of my life. I was clearly sprinting as hard as I could, yet
      I don't remember getting tired, and I don't remember slowing down. I saw
      Tana Wrublik clapping and cheering, followed by many others I had come to
      know and love. I was overcome with a sense of pride and amazement for the
      magnitude of what I had accomplished. I had hoped to surprise myself with
      my performance, but I was really unprepared for just what I was able to do.
      I came flying around the last corner and up to the Hardrock, kissed it, and
      was given my finisher medal by Dale Garland. My final place was 5th, in a
      time of 31:07:10.

      Looking back on the race, it was nothing of what I expected. I've always
      loved the mountains, but the San Juans are simply breathtaking on a level
      I've never experienced. It was not nearly as painful as I imagined, and I
      really attribute this to actually taking the advice to be conservative. I
      know I will never approach a long ultra the same again, because it was far
      more enjoyable to have patience at the beginning and use my speed at the
      end, rather than speeding at the beginning and suffering at the end.
      Hardrock is unique to most other hundreds because of the great amount of
      climbing and descent it has, meaning there weren't many flats to run so I
      didn't lose a whole lot of time walking them. But I do feel like the
      walking was critical to in-race recovery. Angeles Crest took me well over a
      month to recover from, but by Wednesday I did a double Hope Pass, so I guess
      my strategy works well for recovery too. I've come a long way in 6 months
      from barely knowing what Hardrock is to feeling like it is "my race". The
      San Juans are an amazing place and it was hard to leave, but I know that
      soon enough, I will be back.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Dale Garland
      I am out of the office until Aug 1.
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 4, 2008
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        I am out of the office until Aug 1.<br> <br>
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