2007 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
 
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next
 

  THE HARDROCK HUNDRED, DAY 1:
THE VIEW FROM CUNNINGHAM & GROUSE  

FRIDAY, JULY 13

 
"This manual is an attempt to provide Hardrock Hundred aid station volunteers with
information to help in preparing for and surviving the run . . . One of our biggest hopes is
that you will all have a fun experience and want to come back and help next year."
 
- from the 2007 Hardrock Hundred Volunteer Manual 
 

 

The race management team is serious when they say they want their volunteers to have fun and come back again next year. Many of the 200+ volunteers here are veterans. I don't know if working only three years for this race makes Jim and me veteran HRH volunteers or not, but we do mostly have fun doing this and we will be back. Two more times and we'll be eligible for our five-year pins.

This year at the Cunningham aid station was easier in some ways than last, but it was more intense and we didn't get to interact with the runners as much. Being the first aid station versus the last is so different it's hard to compare the experiences.

  • The main advantage of being the last aid station in 2006 was a more relaxed pace in which we could give more personal attention to each runner. The downside was being open nearly 24 hours, which was very tiring.
  • The main advantage of being the first aid station this year was getting done earlier and having the rest of  Friday and Saturday free to do as we wanted. But it was hectic while we were open and 134 runners passed through in only ninety-three minutes (between 7:59 and 9:32 AM). 

Both years we had to get out to Cunningham very early to prepare for our first runners -- this year on the first morning of the race, last year on the second morning. The trick this year was beating all the crews out there! I've mentioned previously the concerns we had about crew parking and access to the aid station. Jim and I already determined that crew vehicles needed to remain in the road and not in the little campground where the tent is located. There is barely room there for the non-race people who are camped in the area and our volunteer vehicles.

This is a view looking back toward the aid station after all the runners had come through this morning, showing where the crews parked:

Jim had two other solutions to runner/crew traffic in the aid station:

  • dispense water from the back of our truck across from the aid station (AS) tent to relieve congestion at the tent,
  • and keep crews out of the immediate tent area (just beyond the drop bags). He also had a large container of water there for crews to fill their runners' bottles if they didn't get it from volunteers inside the aid station.

That worked well for the runners and volunteers and we got positive feedback from race officials and other observers at the scene.

The next photo shows Jim at the "boundary line" with our friends Joann Beine, Karen Pate, and Pat Homelveig after most of the crowd had left:

Only one crew person gave Jim any grief about not being able to get to the tent. He allowed crew members in to get fluids or drop bags as long as they returned back to "their" space and waited for their runner to come through. Most people seemed to understand how chaotic it would be if crews were allowed in the tent area with so many runners coming through at once. A few non-compliant folks sneaked around the tent or campers and waited for their runners at the creek. What can you do? Our solutions were certainly no more rigid than those at Western States or Leadville.

This was the sequence: Runners came down Little Giant Peak, crossed Cunningham Creek, passed the first set of communications folks (timers), got fluids and foods dispensed by our volunteers, were handed their drop bags if they didn't have crews (and our folks helped them with whatever they needed, including Jim, an EMT, taping one woman's knee that was cut to the bone!), passed through the second set of timers, then met their crews between the AS and the road. We think it was about as efficient as the first aid station can get.

GOOD MORNING, SUNSHINE!

I imagine everyone involved with the race was happy to get up Friday morning and see a clear sky after a day and a half of rain. When I went out to feed the dogs about 4:15 AM, the sky in our canyon was clear and I could see a million stars. Yes!! Some clouds came in by the time we left for town, but we never did get into any rain all day where we were. Some runners had rain and hail in the afternoon, though.

Our first order of business was to "acquire" two large garbage cans in town, one for the aid station and one to place up the road where the runners would pass before starting the climb up Green Mountain. We returned them in the afternoon (aid station captains have to be resourceful at Hardrock). Then we picked up our buddy Joe Lugiano at his hotel and drove out to Cunningham Gulch before the 6 AM race start. Jim asked all our volunteers to get there by 6, and most did.

Very soon thereafter, the crews began arriving. I was too busy in the tent all morning to notice how many vehicles lined the road, but periodically I could see the crowd of people beyond the orange tape we strung up to mark boundaries:

Since it was raining when we took all the equipment and supplies out to the tent yesterday afternoon, I waited until this morning to do any organizing. We cleaned and set up the three tables we borrowed from Rodger Wrublik first, then Joe made the Succeed in two large containers. Chris Gerber camped near the tent last night and was up early to help set up the water jugs and pitchers on the back of our truck. He also loaned us a badly-needed fourth table, third stove, and cooking utensils. Mike Rutledge and Steve Stull also brought stoves and cooking equipment to heat up the soups, red beans and rice, and hamburger for warm burritos.

This is Mike Rutledge, one of the cooks who was also an invaluable volunteer last year:

As other volunteers arrived we got the drop bags in numerical order and started organizing the food items.

We waited until about half an hour before the first runners were expected around 8 AM to make sandwiches (turkey, roast beef), spread cream cheese on bagels, cut up the fruit (watermelon, oranges, bananas, strawberries), heat up the soup and burrito fillings, and put out salty and sweet snacks. One advantage of the first aid station is fresh food that hasn't been sitting out for hours!

 

Above: Joe, Jim, Paul Ralyea in front, Chris, Mike, and Steve in the back

Above, L-R: Trilby Gordon, Mike, Chris, Paul, Steve

We were as ready as we could be by 7:45 AM. Now all we had to do was wait for the runners to start coming in!

WHO WILL BE THE FIRST??

Pretty soon someone spotted a runner near the "top" of the waterfall, which is nowhere near Dive-Little Giant Pass but it's the first place we can see the runners and they can see the aid station. I absolutely LOVE this shot of many of our volunteers lined up in front of the tent looking toward the mountain in great anticipation:

Above, L-RLynn DiFiore, Scott Brockmeier, Gary Rieder, David and Trilby Gordon, Joe Lugiano, Chris Gerber, Jim O'Neil, Mike Rutledge, and Steve Stull

I figured that was my best chance to get the WHOLE group together for a pose because we'd soon be scattered out helping the runners. We got a compliant bystander to take our photo:

Above, front row: Lynn DiFiore, Lianne Jollon, Brent, Chris Gerber. Back row: Paul Ralyea, Gary Rieder, David and Trilby Gordon, Scott Brockmeier, Joe Lugiano, Mike Rutledge, Steve Stull, Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil

And what a great group of volunteers they were! Everyone pitched in to get everything set up and to assist the runners efficiently and with good humor as they came in one at a time or ten at a time. Thanks so much, folks!

We also had an experienced and competent communications team led by Jim and Carol Lewin, who were with us the entire time last year (over 24 hours). They were just as excited as the rest of us when they saw the first runners coming down the mountain:

Above, L-R: Jim Lewin, Blake Wood's wife (Rebecca Clark), and Susie and Dan Ammann

We had six radio folks helping us check runners in and out -- Jim and Carol Lewin, the Ammanns, Bill Bear, and Chris DePuy. They did a great job.

Thanks to the efficient communications teams all over the course and at headquarters (the gym in Silverton), runners' times in and out of each aid station were posted to the internet within about thirty minutes of their arrival/departure so people around the world could see almost in real time how each runner was doing. [It was announced at the awards breakfast that the web site got 66,000 hits during the race, 19,000 more than last year! It was great to be able to check up on our friends as the race progressed.]

Meanwhile, we were wondering who would be the first runner to come through. Would it be Karl Meltzer, who won this race last year and has won several other mountainous courses in recent years? Would it be Scott Jurek, who has numerous Western States wins and more recent American records at Badwater and the Spartathalon in Greece?

It was Scott, but only by a minute or two:

And despite a sprained ankle he acquired in a pick-up soccer game on Monday, Scott went on to not only win the race this year, but to also set a new record of 26:08 hours! More about that on Sunday. (I'm about a week behind writing the race entries, so I'll let you know some of the results "early.")

The next runner, Ricky Denesik (below), came in about four minutes later, followed closely by Karl Meltzer and Mark Hartell.

Those four runners stayed pretty close together through at least the first four aid stations (Sherman at 29.2 miles). Mark ended up dropping at Governor's (65 miles). Ricky came in ninth in 31:58 and Karl was second in 28:59. A lot can happen over one hundred miles.

Runners came in faster and faster. Soon we couldn't stand around waiting for them -- they were there and we stayed very busy for the next hour and a half.

Paul Ralyea, in the blue shirt above, right foreground, found himself in the unfortunate position of being the first runner on the wait list yesterday afternoon. I think he was originally about 40th. Nine runners ahead of him on the list were added yesterday when four people decided not to run and the Forest Service allowed five more in to total 134 starters. No one failed to show up this morning, as has happened previously, so Paul didn't get to run. Both he and Scott Brockmeier, who was second to not get in, generously gave their time to help us at the aid station. Thanks, guys!

The first woman to come through our aid station (8:16 AM) was Emily Baer, below. She ended up second female and 8th overall in 31:41 hours. Peter Bakwin later wrote to the internet ultra list that Emily breast-fed her baby at several of the aid stations! At the awards ceremony on Sunday RD Dale Garland quipped that Emily's the one that arranged the soccer match on Monday.

Krissy Moehl, below, came in a few minutes after Emily. I almost missed her because I was busy behind the table.

In her first Hardrock, Krissy also set a new course record and was an amazing THIRD OVERALL in a fast time of 29:24. We're very proud of her accomplishment. I have a special fondness for Krissy because she believed in this old(er) lady enough to give Jim and me a discount on Montrail shoes for my AT Adventure Run two years ago, a sponsorship we still have. Thank you, Krissy, and a huge congratulations on your fantastic run at Hardrock!

We've known Betsy Kalmeyer, below, for a long time. She's finished Hardrock nine times now and has been first female five times. This year she was fourth female with a time of 36:14. Betsy has the fastest women's time on the Colorado Trail (nine days, I believe), so we've had some conversations about that subject. That's volunteer Chris Gerber on the right, seeing if another runner needs help with fluids:

One of the nicest and most generous ultra runners you could ever meet is Tyler Curiel, MD, shown in the colorful tights below. Love the sense of humor! (I'm guessing those are some of the tights Eric Clifton makes.) Tyler's also wearing Mardi Gras beads in remembrance of the devastation in New Orleans. He helped evacuate patients from the hospital where he worked during the flood. Tyler finished his eighth HRH this year in 19th place in a fine time of 33:18.

In the photo below, Diane Van Deren is walking toward the food tent while other runners are assisted by the volunteers who are manning the water truck (OUR truck). Diane finished in 42:20.

Below, Paul assists our buddy Dennis Aslett with his water bladder. Dennis finished the race in 43:21:

Three runners choose from among the many food selections, below. John Powell, who ate with us last evening at the spaghetti dinner, is on the left. Unfortunately, he didn't finish the race this time but I'm sure he'll be back to try again. Randy Gerhke, in the middle, finished in 42:35 and Dennis Drey, on the right, finished 39th in a quick 37:19.

Jim spent several days doing trail work with Robert Andrulis, with the cup below. We first met Robert at Big Horn last month. In that race, he dropped at 66 miles a little after Jim did. Robert was on the wait list for Hardrock until yesterday afternoon, He was one of the nine runners who got in just hours before the race began. Talk about tension! It was his first Hardrock, and he finished with fifty-six  minutes to spare (47:04). Good job, Robert!

 

ABOVE AND BEYOND

The last runner came through our aid station at 9:32 AM. By then, the sun was just beginning to reach out tent (see photo above, where it's still in the shade at 9:05). I finally had a chance to walk to the topless toilet a quarter mile down the road (Forest Service potty with four walls but no roof!). It was the first time I noticed how many puddles the runners and crews had to avoid on the road out of the aid station, below. I'm just grateful it wasn't still raining this morning.

When the radio crew verified all the runners had come through, Jim dismissed most of the volunteers. Some were planning to work at other aid stations. A skeleton crew remained behind to re-pack  leftover food and dismantle the aid station. Most of the food items and supplies were to go to the Grouse aid station, which would open around 3 PM and remain open until after midnight. We put those items in the truck and left others that were headed back to Silverton in the tent.

An excellent policy at Hardrock is for all aid stations to remain open until the last runner has reached the next aid station. On this course, that can take several hours but it is necessary because of the remoteness. If a runner decides to turn around and go back to the last aid station because of an injury, for example, there is no way he or she can reach anyone for help. Radio personnel must remain until everyone is accounted for, and so must at least one other volunteer -- the AS captain or a designee who can make decisions.

We asked our good friend Lynn DiFiore, an engineer with the Forest Service who came from Monte Vista to help us, to stay at the aid station while we drove our supplies over to Grouse. In retrospect, I should have stayed and let Jim and Joe go to Grouse by themselves. It was nice to see that aid station, but it took us so long that it was too late for Lynn to get in the run she had planned up to Dives-Little Giant Pass and back. A storm was approaching and it wouldn't have been safe for her to go up to 13,000 feet. She might have gotten up and back OK if she had been able to start at 10 AM but not at 12:30. [I think we made it up to her the next day, however -- see Saturday's entry.] 

Thanks so much, Lynn. Next year, I'll go up there with you!

INTERESTING TRIP TO GROUSE

If someone had told me that I'd see 2,000 sheep and two mating llamas this morning, I'd have laughed in their face.

When I went up the road to the bathroom, I could hear what sounded like music the other direction down the road. Jim, Joe, and I were more than surprised when we left for Grouse to see five large trucks a quarter of a mile past the aid station spewing out hundreds and hundreds of SHEEP!

What the heck??? They were already spread out in the grass below the rocks on the same side of the road.as our aid station and most of them had their heads in the grass, eating.

 

We were surprised and fascinated. We stopped and asked what was going on. One of the guys said they were releasing 2,000 sheep to graze in the mountains until September, when they'd round up as many of them as they could find. Some "cowboys" were herding the sheep, but I don't know if they stay out there with them all summer or not.

My immediate though was, "Wow! Good thing all the runners went through our aid station before the sheep got there!" Lynn and the radio folks were a bit surprised, to say the least, when some of the sheep wandered through the campground a few minutes later! One of our friends said they've seen sheep previously on the course during the race. Interesting.

About five miles later, we went by the little llama ranch on County Road 2 (see last photo in the June 26 entry) and doggone if two of the llamas weren't mating! None of us had ever seen that before, so like school kids we watched for a couple minutes.

It was about a ten-mile drive to the Grouse aid station on bumpy dirt roads but it took us about forty-five minutes to get there with all these distractions. We passed by an old mine in the  ghost town of Eureka and took photos out the windshield:

That reminded us more of Native American cliff dwellings than a mine.

We also got behind a jeep tour that was going slower on the Alpine Loop than we wanted to go:

Then there was the interesting waterfall:

Crews follow this road to both Grouse and Sherman aid stations.

Finally we reached the Grouse aid station about 11:30 and unloaded everything they would take. Some items we had to return to the school because they already had enough. Grouse had a tropical theme this year with tiki torches and leis:

I later learned this team has been together many years and it's a popular stop for runners after coming down from Handies Peak. It was probably an especially welcome respite this year because some of the runners got into rain and hail before reaching Grouse.

This beautiful creek was ten feet away from the tent. If you look closely, you can see watermelons cooling off in the water. We did that with our plastic five-gallon containers of soup last year to keep them fresh all day and night.

Aid stations at Hardrock that are near creeks also purify water from them for the runners if they run out. We had plenty of "city" water this year and last at Cunningham, however.

We returned to Cunningham and packed up the remaining goods and tore down the tent. I helped, but had to stop to take this picture of Jim (red shirt), Jim Lewin (gold jacket), Joe (bent over), and Lynn dismantling the tent. It came down a LOT faster than it went up!

The remaining items went several places. Food and supplies that Grouse refused went back into the gym for other aid stations to pick over. Drop bags were placed outside the gym. The tent, tables, and Gatorade containers went back to the Wrubliks at the Wyman Hotel. The chairs were returned to the Rescue Squad. The trash cans were replaced in the secret locations from which we borrowed them.

Our job at Cunningham was done!

Well, not quite. It took Jim and me a while to complete our inventory of what we asked for, what we got, how much we used, and where the rest ended up. We were quite detailed because the AS coordinator requested details to help in planning next year. And Jim needs to send thank-you's to the volunteers.

Jim, Joe, Lynn, and I had a nice lunch at Handlebars, then headed "home." Lynn pitched her tent near our camper at South Mineral Creek so we could spend some quality time together in the evening and make plans for a special trek the next morning. We sat in our camper and watched as the website was updated periodically with runners' locations and times and quickly realized that Scott Jurek was probably going to break the course record. It was fun to see where our friends were on the course.

We went to sleep tired and happy, glad our main work was done. In the morning we were going to have some fun watching the runners in person, on the course. Stay tuned.

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

Previous       Next

2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-