Friday, 3 July 2009

Bloomin Spectacular

The Continental divide and one of the easiest parts of the course

Unlike Jake and Elwood (Blues) I was not on a mission from God, nor did I have a full pack of cigarettes. I was wearing dark glasses, however, and I did need to cover around 930 miles to get from Reno to Silverton. Backing up a little - after pacing Eric to his excellent first 100 mile finish and 3rd place age group award at Western States I had managed scant sleep and then stood for hours in ridiculous heat for the awards ceremony. Driving East up to Tahoe was OK with Jez for company back to his car but then it got tough and I realised the only thing to do was head for a cheap place to crash - Reno.

The following morning, armed with 3lbs cherries, 2 large lattes, half of a 4 cheese pizza and a gallon of carrot juice I hit the road. (small aside here in case you think I may have sprouted floppy ears - US gallons are smaller than UK ones on account of a US pint being 16oz rather than our 22oz. This means you get smaller pints of beer but also that petrol is not quite as cheap as you might think and fuel economy on cars is not quite as bad as you might think in US cars).

The driving was mostly easy - on cruise control on quiet freeways - and occasionally spectacular as you crest a rise and see an immense stark white landscape covering the whole horizon. Bonneville salt flats is one of those "wow" moments the first time you see it. With a 7am start, a couple of stops for "rests" (US euphemism for a poo), coffee and provisions for the trail I arrived at 11,100ft Red Mountain pass at 11.00pm.

Time to saddle up and hit the Hardrock course then. No Alpine start but 11am saw me heading out of Silverton and skirting the beaver ponds on an anti-clockwise circuit; feet wet within 5 minutes and destined to stay that way. To cut a long story short the recce of the past 3 days involved a night out at remote Pole Creek, a night in Ouray with former race winner, Rick Trujillo and author of Colorado 14ers, Gerry Roach, a couple of strategic hitched rides up the jeep roads to Engineer and Governor and about 70 miles of running with 23,000ft of ascent. On one hand, completing the equivalent of the Bob Graham round at altitude with a pack around 10 days before the race seems stupid; on the other it gave me great confidence in my acclimatisation, fitness and knee-descending ability. Thanks to Martin Beale I now regularly check my ascent rate on the altimeter and was pleased to be averaging around 13-14m/minute at 13,000ft. Without pack and with another week at elevation this will equate to around 17m/minute or comfortably over 3000ft/hour in the race.

The view from Handies Peak at over 14,000ft - not much like WS100 then!

For those unfamiliar with Hardrock 100, it is unlike any other 100 miler in the USA. Over 90 of its miles are above the high point of Western States; around 80 of its miles include terrain steeper and or tougher than anything States has to offer and it is a "race" where weather can play a decisive role - in 1997 Mark and I got snowed on crossing Handies Peak and the prospect of having to sit out thunderstorms is real. Check for info and some great course pictures.

Colorado's spectacular flowers - just coming to their best

Today is a rest day where my main objective is to consume calories (I made a good start with a cooked breakfast and short stack) and catch up. I feel that I have another sub 30hour or so Hardrock within me and that is so much better than I expected a couple of months ago. I know, though, that this is not really a race against the other competitors - it's a personal quest to meet the challenges of the course on the day in the most efficient way possible. I am determined not to make the mistake of running someone elses race again like I did in 2007.


Jez Bragg said...

Hi Mark
Mission acomplished - well done. I have to say I didn't envy your drive too much. I defintely think the confidence you've gained will outweigh any tiredness. Enjoy your taper....

Morgan Williams said...


I wish you all the best with this latest Hardrock journey.

Was speaking with Helene D (now W) this week and she sends best wishes also.

Hope we'll see you at the BG Dinner on 10 October.