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"Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the ache in your lungs and the burning 
in your legs and the voice inside you that says 'CAN'T' -- but you don't listen.
You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper 'can.' And you discover
the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are."
~ unknown
One-hundred forty ultra runners will soon be battling those voices inside themselves. How many will be able to triumph over the inevitable negative thoughts they will experience during a hundred grueling miles of mountain trails ranging in altitude between 9,000 and 14,000+ feet?

It's that time of year again -- time for the eighteenth running of the Hardrock Hundred (HRH) footrace through the San Juan Mountains.

And for at least the sixth time Jim and I are here to see friends who are running the race and offer our volunteer services to help facilitate the event. This year we will be helping with runner check-in, timing at the Cunningham aid station, and radio communications throughout the weekend at race headquarters.


Although runners have been gathering in Silverton for the last two or three weeks to acclimate and familiarize themselves with the course, the official pre-race events began today with the first opportunity for runners to check in, the annual potlick (HRH-speak for "potluck") lunch, and a lengthy trail briefing:

Due to renovation work being done at the high school gym that has traditionally been used for the race start/finish, pre-race activities, and post-race awards ceremony, a new venue half a mile away was chosen -- the lodge at the Kendall Mountain Ski Resort.

The lodge will be supplemented by the humongous tent Rodger Wrublik brought with him from the Phoenix area that he formerly used when he directed the Across the Years footraces:

Rodger brought all his flags from ATY, too, and others have been added to
reflect all the states and countries in which the Hardrock runners live.

I don't know what additional costs were incurred, if any, for the use of this new venue but I can tell you one thing: I much prefer it to the gym!

The lodge is spacious and beautiful, the tent can hold more people comfortably for briefings and the awards ceremony, and more runners and volunteers aere able to park their vehicles and campers in the large parking area and meadow at the base of the mountain.

It will be interesting to see if the race is based here next year or HQ is back in the gym.


Yesterday was our 14th day in the Forest Service campground on South Mineral Creek Road but the host and rangers didn't start "counting" until a couple of days after that.

We've ascertained that the Forest Service is indeed serious about enforcing the two-week camping rule throughout Colorado, not just in the Columbine District. To avoid a $75 fine per day we knew we'd have to move this week -- despite the fact that most campers went home on Tuesday and the campground is as empty as it was when we arrived.

Rules are rules, even if they appear to us to be stupid.

The new finish line

Our ham radio friends Roy and Laura were camped at South Mineral Creek even longer than we were so all four of us have been researching our options for a different camping area.

We've had our fingers crossed that we could gain permission to park our RVs near race headquarters during the race since we'll be working communications for all sorts of hours over a span of four or five days. The communications director (Shauna) and her husband (Steve) always park their camper close to HQ during the race. They and some other communications volunteers are close to the lodge now, since the room we'll use for communications is upstairs in that building. There's a lot more room for us at the ski resort than near the gym.

What could be more convenient and encourage Jim, Roy, Laura, and me to work the most hours if we and the other "hams" are near our work station at HQ?? There's plenty of room in the nearby meadow not only for volunteers, but also for any runners who want to park campers there.

The precedent has been set. During the 4th of July holiday the city of Silverton allows visitors to camp for a fee along the Animas River and in the large meadow at the base of Kendall Mountain.

We are willing to pay a fee to be close to race HQ, although we prefer to park for free since we plan to volunteer several days of our time for an event that pads city coffers.

Oops -- the Hardrock rock broke in transit to this location (it was repaired
before the race). Finishers kiss the rock instead of crossing a finish line.

We drove into town early yesterday morning to see if either the race director (Dale) or volunteer director (Lois) was at the lodge. It was locked but we saw some volunteers, including our friend Gerry Roach, working on the Hardrock rock at the finish line.

Gerry and his wife Jennifer got permission from Dale yesterday to park their camper in the adjacent field for the duration of the event. To their knowledge, runners and volunteers are allowed to park there this year.

Jim talks with Jennifer and Gerry, who are busy getting their drop bags packed for the race.

That was all we needed to hear, although we confirmed Gerry's information later with Shauna and Dale.

It took us only an hour to pack up the camper, hitch it to the truck, stop at the visitor center in town to get more fresh water, find a grassy spot far enough from the Roaches that we wouldn't bother them, and get set up again.

I love it here! Cody enjoys rolling around in the lush grass and we like the meadow even better than the dispersed campground on South Mineral Creek Road.

We have stronger phone and MiFi signals, free WiFi (if Jim drives over to the lodge), more hours of sunshine in this open space than in the deep, narrow gulch along South Mineral Creek (we don't have to run the generator as much here), more panoramic mountain views, NO DUST, a scenic marsh pond and trails to explore, and close proximity to race HQ, the laundry we use at A & B, the propane dealer, and everything else in town -- not to mention, we're about 300 feet from race HQ:

View from our new campsite of the ski lodge and race tent

Too bad we can't stay here the rest of the summer!

In the afternoon yesterday two other couples who will be working communications all weekend moved in near us. Bob and his wife parked about 50 feet away, although it looks like they are right next to us in two of these photos. Roy and Laura parked their motorhome about 100 feet past us.



I've dubbed us "The Three Hams."

Since I took these photos a few more volunteers and runners have come in with their RVs to park here for the weekend. There is room for plenty more. [Later, for some reason, Dale blocked the meadow area off so no one else could come in. A few found a "back door" and came in anyway. I don't understand why more people can't park in here.]

Now that we are settled in our new site, we can focus on helping with the race.


Since neither Jim nor I can run right now we haven't been going out on the daily trail marking treks like we have previously to socialize with our running friends. Yesterday's potlick at the little city park was our first chance to see about twenty of the runners and their crews who showed up to share items they brought for lunch.

It's unfortunate that the only part of the day that was overcast, windy, and unpleasant was during the potlick! I took the photo above from the gazebo used for the event. Most of the other photos in this entry, the majority of which are from Wednesday, show more sunny skies.


L-R, facing camera:  Robert Andrulis, Gerry and Jennifer Roach; Kristina Irvin in background

For the potlick I prepared a scooped out watermelon "boat" filled with cantaloupe and watermelon balls, red and green grapes, and blueberries. I've taken that to the potlick several times before and it's always been a hit. It's very colorful and tasty.

Even though fewer people than usual showed up this year for lunch there was a nice selection of food. We hung around for a couple hours talking with folks before going back to the lodge area to see what was going on there.


Runner check-in was held yesterday (Wednesday) from noon to 4 PM and this morning from 8-11 AM. The well-stocked Hardrock store was set up in an adjacent area of the ski lodge.

I took these pictures inside the lodge yesterday morning while both areas were being set up:


What a sunny, handsome place to display the merchandise!

Some years we've helped our friend Heidi Schutt, below, with setting up the merchandise. This year we got there too late to help. She already had everything well under control:

We also talked to Heidi about the double knee replacement surgery she had four years ago. Although having both knees operated on at the same time was grueling she recovered well and can do as much hiking and cycling as she wants. People like Heidi give us hope that we'll be able to continue being active after we have total knee replacements, although we don't expect to do any or much running.

Dale Garland, the race director, and Rebecca Clark, who is in charge of registration, were busy in another part of the lodge preparing for runners to check in:

L-R: Mark and Margaret Heaphy, Dale Garland

Blake Wood (dark shirt, facing camera) and Rebecca Clark (seated)

Rebecca had enough volunteers for check-in yesterday. I helped this morning when Margaret Heaphy wasn’t available. More about that later.

Jim and I went back to the lodge after the potlick yesterday to see who was around and snapped these pictures:

Steve Pero, L. front, gets his pre-race medical check.

Heidi (seated) stayed busy selling race merchandise all weekend.

It was good to see a bunch of race volunteers and runners yesterday and today! Now we're more psyched about the race. We wish we could have helped with trail marking again this year because that’s a great way to socialize with some of the runners and see parts of the course we wouldn't normally be able to access.


Another job Jim and I have assisted with previously is organizing aid station supplies. That task is ably supervised by volunteer coordinator Lois McKenzie with the assistance of Nina the last few years. Nina is also a huge help at the Jemez races in Los Alamos.

Because this operation takes up a lot of space, it was staged at a separate location this year. Jim and I drove over to the AmVets building yesterday afternoon to see if Lois and Nina needed any help:

Jim, Lois (white shirt), Nina (blue shirt), and another volunteer organize aid station supplies

Nope; they and their crew of volunteers already had things well under control. Not only do they have more room to spread things out than ever before, they also have a kitchen to make the soup and other hot items for which Hardrock is known and loved.

We weren't in town when a nasty thunderstorm hit on Tuesday afternoon but Nina and Lois told us all about the excitement they had when lightning hit the AmVets building and sparks were flying all over the kitchen while they were cooking!


I had my own excitement Tuesday afternoon while riding my bike on South Mineral Creek Rd. I had no idea the storm was building up behind me in the east while I was riding four miles to the west. Storms usually enter the gulch from the west; I didn't even think to look behind me.

When I turned around at the trailhead to Ice Lake and saw the dark, angry clouds back toward the campground I almost had a heart attack!

There I was on a metal bike with essentially nowhere to hide. I rode like crazy, hoping to beat the rain and/or hoping Jim knew what was going on and would bring the truck to rescue me. I didn't even waste 30 seconds to take a picture of the impending doom!

View toward town from our new campsite at the base of Kendall Mtn.

I could hear thunder within a couple minutes but it didn't start raining where I was until I was a little over a mile down the road (with three more to go). That's the exact time I saw Jim come around a corner in the truck! I was very relieved. The rain had hit the campground hard and fast before it got to me. Jim knew I was going to be in  trouble, so he got into the truck as quickly as he could and headed out to meet me.

We tossed the bike into the bed of the truck and headed back to the campground. Rain was pouring down and we got thoroughly soaked walking just a few feet from the truck to our camper door.

There were already major puddles in the road when we got back to our campground. Hard rain continued for about two more hours. Fortunately, our campsite didn't get inundated but some other RVs were sitting in little ponds of water until it drained into the rocks and sand a few hours later.

I'd guess we got 2-3" of rain in the Silverton area that day. Did it help tame the dust on South Mineral Creek Road?? Not for long.


We got up early this morning because I needed to be at the ski lodge at 7:45 AM to learn my job of checking runners in.

While I was eating breakfast in the camper I noticed some movement out the window. About 75 feet away, on the little dirt “road” through the field, a MOOSE was galloping from the lodge/tent area past us and Roy’s camper!!! 

That was too cool!

Fortunately, I had the window shades open. I yelled at Jim to look, grabbed the camera, and got a butt shot of the moose as it sped past Roy’s motorhome:


The pictures aren’t great, but the story sure is! I’ve told it two dozen times today.

Although this is prime moose territory because of the ponds, grass, willows, and trees in the meadow I didn’t expect a moose to be hanging out so close to civilization. Cody was inside the camper but he got all excited because I yelled the word “moose” and he knows what that is.


This morning from about 7:45 to 11 AM I helped Rebecca Clark (Blake Woods’ wife), Janine (their married daughter), and ultra runner Mark Heaphy check in about sixty remaining runners; eighty checked in yesterday.

L-R: Rebecca, Mark, and Janine

I had a lot of fun with this job because I saw so many folks I know – runners, their crews/pacers, and other volunteers. We checked off numbers, pulled their stuffed goodie bags, gave them Drymax sox in the size they wanted, told them about the mandatory briefing at noon, drop bags due by 3, and check-in before race at 5-5:45 tomorrow morning, asked if they had their free S&R card yet, told them about the spaghetti dinner tonight ($15 at Grumpy’s in town, if they wanted to go), and answered lots of questions.

Diana Finkel, three-time female winner of the race, was one of the runners who checked in this morning:

L-R: Charlie Thorn, Blake Wood, Diana Finkel

She almost won the race outright last year but paid the price of running the fastest for 90+ miles. Somewhere in the last ten miles Jared Campbell passed her and she came in second overall. That was quite an accomplishment.

Can she pull off another female win this year -- or out-race all the men??

Although I'm very experienced with runner check-in at races this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to work packet pick-up at Hardrock. Compared to the hoards of entrants at Bighorn, Leadville, Jemez, and some other popular races, dealing with only 140 runners is a piece of cake in this regard! Rebecca’s very organized, too, which helps. I really enjoyed my job this morning.

Another cool thing about working packet pick-up today was the 11 AM deadline for runners to check in or otherwise make their intentions known to Dale re: whether they’d be running. If any of the registered runners didn't show up by then, they forfeited their spots on the starting line and opened up spaces for runners on the wait list.

There were several anxious wait-listers hanging around to see if anyone was going to drop out. We watched as the number of remaining bags dwindled in the last hour – 18, 15, 10, 7 . . .

When we got down to six with only about 15 minutes to go, we got concerned. One bag was for Robert Andrulis, who would get in if a runner who said he was dropping did indeed fail to show up (he didn’t come, so Robert got his bag this morning).

Robert's a very happy fella as he gets his medical check.

One man who was hung up in traffic construction somewhere had called earlier to let Dale know he was on the way but wouldn’t get there until about 11:30. That was allowed.

Dale finally called the other four registered runners to see if they were coming.

One veteran HRH runner who I will not name here told Dale he decided not to run. I think it's very inconsiderate of race staff and runners on the wait list that he didn't let Dale know before the last minute.

Two women were on their way but were hung up in traffic construction. They and another young man arrived just a few minutes before 11. The fella who had called earlier arrived after I left and was allowed to get his bag and race bib.

Runners and crews come and go from the Kendall Mtn. ski lodge.

Bottom line: only one wait-lister, Robert Andrulis, got in this morning. The others will have to wait until someone decides today or before 5:45 AM tomorrow to cancel.

[Later – a second wait-lister got in when John DeWalt decided not to run. Everyone who was expected checked in on race morning so no one else got in then. Believe it or not, occasionally a wait-lister gets in with only 15 minutes' notice before the start of the race!] 


I hung around the lodge until 11:45 to talk with folks and answer questions.

I walked back over to Rodger's big tent, which I’ve dubbed “Little DIA” because it looks like the Denver airport terminal, to hear the beginning of the mandatory briefing at noon. I've heard the information before, so I left after a few minutes.

Jim's been busy today, too.

While I was doing packet pick-up Jim, Barry (the CG host at South Mineral Creek), and three other fellas got a tent from Rodger Wrublik’s shed and took it out to Cunningham Gulch for the aid station.

That was an ordeal, from tracking down a terribly frazzled** Rodger to get the tent out of storage to erecting the thing with the wrong roof piece. (**Besides being on the race committee and preparing to run the race tomorrow, Rodger also owns the popular historic Wyman Hotel in Silverton, which is filled to capacity this week.)

Jim wasn’t about to drive all the way back in to town to get the correct tent roof and go back out to Cunningham again. The guys just made the wrong roof work.


By noon Jim and I were hungry so we had lunch in the camper instead of waiting for the volunteer briefing/luncheon in the big tent at 2 PM. (Boy, it’s nice to be only 200-300 feet away from the lodge and tent!!) All I had at the briefing was a brownie.

After volunteers got their sandwiches, chips, beverages, and desserts Dale thanked us and the medical director spoke to us about potential physical problems some of the runners will experience during the race and how to handle them at the aid stations (dehydration, nausea, hyperthermia, HAPE, HACE, etc.). Since we've heard all this several times before, the first part of the meeting was a bit tedious. 

Then we split up into two groups at either end of the tent -- communications volunteers here, aid station volunteers there.

The communications meeting was more interesting to me, especially the part about placing and maintaining the radio repeaters on remote mountain tops that are covered with more snow than normal.

L-R: Ben, Steve, Shauna (communications coordinators) and Lois McKenzie (volunteer coordinator)
wait on stage while the medical director and race director brief the volunteers.

When the briefing was over Jim and Roy talked with the San Juan ham radio group’s representative to see what they have planned for the Cunningham aid station tomorrow morning. This is the first aid station in the CCW direction and runners will be coming through in bunches over about a two-hour period of time. The communications job is very different in a CCW year than when the aid station is the last one and runners are spread out over 24 hours. (The race switches direction each year.)

The San Juan radio group has six to eight men and women who will be typing and sending “packets” (numbers/times sent to HQ via the computer) and writing down incoming runners’ times at Cunningham. Roy, Laura, Jim, and I will handle out-going runners’ times, with maybe another one of the San Juan group assisting us if there is a large bubble of mid-pack runners.


After the volunteer briefing Jim and I relaxed for a while, then drove a few blocks to the condo where John and Marcy Beard and about eight of their friends are staying. Marcy invited us to come over for a pasta spread at 5 PM. We contributed another large watermelon boat like the one we took to the potlick yesterday.

Marcy is standing next to me (in red shirt next to the window); John is in the blue shirt and hat to the right
of Jim. We're laughing because John used a timer to take the photo and had to rush to get in the picture.

There are two race entrants in the group; one of them is Marcy. The others are crewing and pacing.

We really enjoyed talking with John, Marcy, and their friends for a couple of hours. We had a long day, however, and everyone needed to prepare for the race so we bowed out by 7 PM and returned to our camper.

What a great day! We were tired but psyched about the race by bedtime.

Next entry: our perspective of the Hardrock Hundred race as communications volunteers

Happy trails,

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

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil