2011 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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 HARDROCK 100 FINISH & RESULTS +
AN ABRUPT END TO OUR RACE WEEKEND

  SUNDAY, JULY 10

 
"The cut-off time for finishing the race is 48 hours . . . The average time to finish this race 
is 41:10:15, which is longer than the cut-off time of most 100-mile (160 km) races. This is due
mostly to the high elevations, which can cause altitude sickness or edema in some runners.
 
In addition, the course covers extremely rugged terrain including scree climbs and
descents, snow packs, river crossings, and boulder fields. The race starts at 6 AM,
so runners who finish in over 40 hours see the sun set twice before finishing ."
 
~ from the race website
 
 
This was a very challenging year for the Hardrock runners, even more than usual.

The snow pack was deeper, the streams were higher and faster, and the weather was stormy off and on all weekend. Runners battled heat and cold, sun and darkness -- many for two nights -- rain, lightning, sleet, and snow.

That resulted in a lower finish rate than in years when the weather conditions were better. Only 57% of the runners finished the 18th running of the race within the 48-hour time limit. If you look at the results you'll be surprised at some of the good, even elite, runners who were unable to complete the race this year.


The hardrock (highlighted above) awaits the first finisher early on Saturday morning.

Despite the extra-challenging conditions, however, some runners excelled beyond expectations:

  • The winning time was the third fastest in race history -- despite a course change near Telluride that added two miles to the total distance.

  • One of the youngest finishers in the history of the race came in second overall.

  • The first female finisher (Diana Finkel, age 40) became the first to win the women's race four times.

  • One runner racked up his 15th Hardrock finish (Randy Isler, age 54), another his 10th (Kris Kern, age 47), milestones that are recognized with special awards.

  • Robert Andrulis, Bruce Grant, and Larry Hall each completed their 5th Hardrock. The main significance of that = they now receive automatic entries into the race as long as they qualify each year. That's big. It's especially meaningful to Robert because he was the last runner to get in off the wait list this year. That had to be stressful!

Here are a few random statistics I gleaned from the results:

  • Eighty of 140 runners who began the race finished it in under 48 hours, a finish rate of only 57%.

  • Only eight of the finishers (10%) were female; eight more women DNF'd.

  • The youngest male finisher was Dakota Jones, age 21, who came in second overall.

  • The youngest female finisher was Andrea Williams, age 30.

  • The oldest male finisher was 61-year-old Doug Salette; two other men age 60 finished.

  • The oldest female finisher was 52-year-old Tina Ure. The only other woman over 50 who finished was Diane Van Deren.

As usual there are many interesting stories to be told about this year's Hardrock Hundred. Unfortunately, we weren't at the awards ceremony this time to hear most of them. More about that later.

THE FIRST FINISHER

One runner who did quite well was 31-year-old Julien Chorier from France. He led at every aid station, which is pretty remarkable considering he's never run this race before. How he found his way alone without a pacer the first half of the race without getting lost is beyond me. This is a course that is notorious for its scant marking.

Jim and I had almost a front row seat at the finish area this year. Even when we weren't looking, every time a runner crossed the line we could hear the cheers of onlookers.

That process stretched from Saturday morning to Sunday morning. In a race with a 48-hour time limit the runners get 'way strung out.

Sunrise colors the low clouds over Silverton on Saturday morning.

There is a large shrine on the hillside on the northwest side of Silverton. The Hardrock course goes past this shrine, then winds through town for about a mile before reaching the finish at the Kendall Mountain ski lodge. Our camper was situated perfectly to see both the shrine and the street that runners came down just before the finish.

Jim returned to the camper a little bit past 6 AM on Saturday morning after his overnight ham radio shift at the lodge. Before he laid down for a nap he told me that the lead runner, Julien, was expected to finish a little after 7 AM.

I started looking for Julien about half an hour before that. The only problem for me was the low-hanging, slow-moving cloud that mostly obscured my view of the shrine:

I did catch a glimpse of a runner coming down the hill, however. I assumed it was Julien so I walked a few hundred feet over to the finish line:

While I was waiting for Julien to make his way through town I spent several minutes talking with Olga Varlamova, a Russian runner who has lived in the States for several years. Olga and her husband Larry swept the course Friday from the start to Maggie Gulch.

They had an interesting/scary story to tell about a boulder that nearly wiped them out on the first ledge coming down into Cunningham aid station after all the runners had come through. It went right between them, nearly hitting Olga! Yikes.


Olga (foreground) and other spectators wait for Julien to arrive in about two minutes.

Then they got into bad lightning between Green Mountain and Stony Pass and were trying to get the last guy to move faster.

He ended up going off-course to drop down to Stony Pass Road and getting a ride there. I don't know if he went back to Cunningham Gulch to let them know he'd dropped or if he notified race officials at the finish. His last recorded time is when he left Cunningham. (That's why at least one volunteer and one radio person have to remain at each aid station at HRH until all runners have either reached the next aid station, returned to the one they left, or otherwise notified officials that they have dropped.)

Olga and Larry kept going toward Maggie Gulch to sweep the course but had to hunker down to avoid lightning, all the more dangerous because they were carrying the metal course markers they'd been picking up! They went back out Saturday to remove some of the markers near Telluride on a part of the course that wasn’t used (long story about a new property owner and the course being two miles longer this year).

WHY RACE DIRECTORS EARN THEIR GRAY HAIRS

About 7 AM, just before Julien was expected, a garbage truck rolled in to empty the trash bin right next to the finish line!

The driver initially blocked the entrance to the finish chute:

That was comical for onlookers but not for RD Dale Garland, who had yet another headache to deal with. He and the truck driver managed to turn the trash bin 90 degrees so the truck could back in and be out of the way of the lead runner.

The truck was gone when Julien came in at 7:17 AM for a time of 25:17 hours.


My initial view of Julien from the back of the hardrock
(he's the speck approaching the far end of the chute).


You can see him better when I zoom in . . .

I moved around the rock to get the next shot. I'm not as flexible as the photographer at ground level but I like the effect I got! Look at that happy smile:

It was fun to see Julien finish with such joy and kiss the hardrock, although I wasn't in a good position to get that shot:

Runners haven't officially finished the race until they kiss that rock! (Bleah.)

I don’t believe I’ve ever been at the finish line at Hardrock for the lead runner. There were about forty people watching, most with cameras or videos and some with microphones to interview him.

Julien had to be tired but he sure didn't look like he'd just run one of the toughest ultras on earth. That's quite typical of front-runners and indicative of their high level of training. I wasn’t close enough to hear what he said; I assume he speaks fluent English, since so many people were conversing with him.

I went back to the camper after Julien came in and didn't stick around to see any of the other runners finish that morning. Dakota Jones, who was second, was almost two hours behind Julien. 

After Dakota finished runners came in more steadily with less time between them. This year's "bubble" seemed to be between 37-39 hours, which was late Saturday afternoon/early evening when Jim and I were working communications nearby in the ski lodge. It was fun to hear the spectators at the finish line whoop and holler every time they saw a runner coming in. It was even more fun to see the list of finishers grow as the precise times were called up to us so we could add them to the official results.

The last official finisher didn't arrive until 5:40 AM on Sunday, almost 22˝ hours behind Julien. I believe Dale was at the finish line to greet every runner who completed the race.

For all the race results check out the Hardrock website.

FAMILY CRISIS

Jim and I were still in bed and missed the last runner come in early Sunday morning. We awoke about 7 AM to sunshine and a chilly temperature of 48 F. The high was predicted to be in the 70s again, with a 50% chance of thunderstorms.

That's typical monsoon season weather in Silverton.


Storm clouds build over Kendall Mountain about noon during my hike on Saturday.

The awards breakfast was scheduled for 9 AM in Rodger's big white tent, which we dubbed "Little DIA" because it resembles the roofline at Denver's airport. I walked over about 8 AM to see if anybody needed any help.

I couldn’t find the RD or volunteer coordinator but I helped Deb Pero take some race posters into the lodge for Heidi to sell with the other race merchandise that was still available. The finishers always receive posters of the art work chosen each year as part of their awards; remaining posters are sold to make money for the race.

I didn't get a photo of Deb's poster, but it's a copy of the same beautiful oil painting she created for the race that was also screen-printed on the back of the volunteer shirts:

Deb's paintings have been selected several times for the race posters and volunteer shirts. They are definitely keepsakes.

I hung around inside for several minutes talking to Heidi while I waited for the awards ceremony to begin. My phone rang. I saw that it was from my brother Bill but I didn't answer. He left a message. I figured I'd listen to the message after the awards ceremony and call him back then.

When I didn't answer, Bill called Jim and left a similar message on his phone. Jim was returning some wooden barricades to the city lot where he got them before the race. Jim sensed something was wrong because Bill doesn't usually call his number. He listened to Bill's message and called me immediately. I did answer that time. Jim said Bill wanted us to call ASAP and that his voice “didn’t sound normal.”

Uh, oh. Not good.

I listened to my own brief message to call my brother back ASAP and knew the worst had happened or was about to happen. I've never heard his voice wavering like that before.


Saturday morning clouds obscure the shrine on the mountainside.

I called Bill.  He answered and quickly told me that Marge, his wife of 45 years, died at the hospital early this morning, quite unexpectedly. I think everyone in our family knew this would happen at some point, but not right now. I was very surprised.

Marge has been battling an advanced case of ovarian cancer for almost two years. The cancer had spread so fast when it was first discovered that it's a miracle she lived after her initial surgery. With aggressive chemotherapy for well over a year she had been feeling much better the last seven or eight months. She was living a more normal life and able to travel again to visit relatives around the eastern U.S.

Unfortunately, a recent CT scan showed the cancer had metastasized even after treatment with six different kinds of chemo. Yesterday she suddenly felt so bad that Bill called an ambulance to transport her to the hospital. Another scan showed her intestines were nearly destroyed. She died about 10 minutes after being admitted to the ICU. Bill and their daughter who lives the closest were with her when she died and able to say good-bye to her. It gave them some comfort that Marge was conscious until death and in pain for only one day.

Jim and I weren't expecting this so soon and it hit us hard. Marge has been an important part of my life for 46 years, since I was a teenager. I consider her to be much more than a sister-in-law. She's my sister. Although Bill didn't know yet when the funeral would be, Jim and I knew we had to go to Ohio to be with him, his two daughters and their families, and our other relatives who are grieving Marge's death.

Needless to say, Jim and I skipped the Hardrock awards breakfast. We spent all day preparing for our trip to Ohio. We had several decisions to make, and fast.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

We considered all sorts of scenarios and ultimately decided we'd leave the camper in Silverton and drive to Ohio in our truck with Cody. 

We didn't even consider flying. It's too much of a hassle since 9-11 and we'd have to find someone to watch Cody for a week. I was willing to go alone in either our truck or a rental car, leaving Jim and Cody in the camper somewhere in Colorado. Jim wouldn't hear of that. Marge was as much of a sister to him as she was to me and his bum knee doesn't hurt enough to prevent him from driving.

We knew we had to get to Ohio as fast as possible, in case the funeral was on Tuesday. That meant leaving the camper somewhere out West so we could drive 70-80 MPH. But where?

The Air Force Academy would be good, since Colorado Springs was on our way east and where we'd be staying when we got back. But they don't have RV storage on base and our two -week reservation doesn't begin until July 18. The full-hookup sites are booked the weekend of the 16th. We checked into other potential storage areas there and considered all sorts of other options, including parking the camper on Jack Saunders’ property in Leadville (that was OK with Jack).

We also visited two campgrounds in Silverton that have space to store RVs but they didn't want us to stay in it overnight and the cost for one week was higher than most places charge for one or two months.

Then Jim had a great idea.

We drove over to Charlie Thorn’s house on Reese Street about noon to see if he was still in town. We wondered if we could leave our camper at his house since it would be empty the next week. Summer visitors to Silverton often park in front of residents' houses when they know them and have their permission. Runners usually stay at Charlie's house before the race and sometimes park their campers on his property. He's got a virtual revolving door for visitors during July.


No, this isn't Charlie's house. It's the Kendall Mountain Ski Lodge on race weekend.

Charlie wasn't home (this is his second home; he lives in Los Alamos). We did find our friends Jim Ballard and Kathie Lang there, however. They were spending one more night in Charlie's house before returning home to Oregon. Charlie left town right after the race and was driving to Nevada.

Jim B. and Kathie thought Charlie would be fine with us leaving the camper between his two adjacent houses or in front of them. (The other house is being remodeled and is vacant.) Charlie doesn’t have a cell phone so Jim wrote him an e-mail.

[We didn’t hear back from Charlie until we were 500+ miles away; fortunately he said it’s OK to leave the camper there!]


View from the ski lodge parking area to our camper on Saturday morning
when the clouds still obscured the surrounding mountains.

We remained in our camper at the base of Kendall Mountain until later in the afternoon, then moved it over to Charlie’s property. Jim attempted to back into the "driveway" between Charlie’s houses but the rear end of the camper scraped the dirt hill between the street and the sidewalk. Smaller campers can get in there but not a 36-foot 5th-wheel with several feet of trailer behind the rear tires. Rats.

So we parked on the wide street in front of Charlie's livable house and let several people know whose camper it was, why we were leaving it there, and how long we expected to be gone. We didn't want it to get vandalized or towed away.

[When we got back we found out that our ham radio friend Roy was kind enough to drive by daily to be sure the camper was OK during the six days we were gone. Roy and Laura spent a few more weeks in Silverton after the race.]


Ready to leave on Monday morning

The next two hurdles we faced were deciding on the route to take to Ohio and figuring out what to take with us. That kept us busy the rest of the afternoon.

Deciding on our route was a lot easier than what to take because we’re so used to having the camper and everything we need with us. We packed all the items we thought we’d need for a week but ended up forgetting a few things that we purchased in transit.

After supper we joined Jim B., Kathie, and Margaret and Mark Heaphy in Charlie's house for a couple of hours. It was good to have more time with them. Ballard (what we call him when the two Jims are together) could empathize with our loss because he had just heard today that a good friend of his died, too.

Jim and I got to bed in our home on wheels about 10:30 PM and had a fairly good night’s sleep. We were exhausted from everything that had happened in the last three days and knew the week ahead of us would be even more stressful with the funeral and over 3,000 miles of driving.


Overview of the east end of Silverton from the road up Kendall Mountain;
 if you have good eyes you can see the white race tent and ski lodge toward the right.

Jim has an appointment in Durango with Dr. Scott tomorrow morning for his third and last Euflexxa injection in his knee. It is critical that he get that injection; otherwise, we would have left for Ohio today. We will leave from the doctor's office for the long trip east.

This is yet another example of the need to be flexible with our schedule as we travel. That's the main reason we don't usually announce our plans in this journal in advance -- there are too many variables! Our original plan was to leave Silverton tomorrow afternoon and spend a week camping at Kenosha Pass. We were going to work the North Fork ultras west of Denver next weekend. Jim wrote to RD Janice O'Grady today to let her know we won't be able to honor that commitment. We should make it back to Colorado in time for our reservation at the Academy, however.

Next entry: a different kind of ultra -- driving 3,295 miles over a period of six days 

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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