Sunday, July 19, 2015

I've got friends in high places- Hardrock 2015

Two weeks before The Hardrock 100 mile Endurance Run I was looking at about a 40% chance of starting the race. I was hobbled. I had done something to my hip which made it so I couldn't run. I had been training on Mount Rainier, running up and down glaciers and ice fields at altitude and I must have overdone something, pinched, pulled, protracted, popped, i dunno, but I finished running feeling great, sat in a hot car for the three hour drive home and Voila! I was hobbled. I tried to ignore it by running on it which caused my left hip to get out of alignment and caused a muscle pull in the hamstring. I went for a massage. That helped for officially one day which I used to do a 4,000 foot climb up Mount Snoqualmie. The next day proved my bull headedness was not the answer, perhaps rest was. I rested for the next week but had to do a lot of heavy lifting at work which kept the core strong but the stuck hip stuck. I went to a chiropractor. Snap, Pop. 3 sessions, snap, pop. The hip stayed stuck but the Chiro did let me know the hip was causing my right leg to be half an inch shorter than the left. I finally got the plane to Denver to visit my parents, acclimate and try to recover from the injury.

I am my best doctor.

I knew the hip was bound by very tight muscles which must have "doinked" over a thingamagig and become all gunked up. My goal was to undoink the gunked hip. My parents have a pool in their apartment place. I couldn't run but, by god I could swim. I swim like a cat. I went and swam like a cat for almost two hours combined with some pool running and some leg flailing. I may have looked like I was being attacked by electric eels in the pool. Post swim, I went to the hot tub and started stretching.

I am my best physical therapist.

Stretch, quiver, sweat, doink! What was that? That undoinking? Am I ungunked? I tried to not get my hopes up and went to sleep dreaming of running again. The next morning the hip felt normal. The left hip felt better, the muscle pull was still there but I loaded up a pack and headed to 13,000feet and started hiking. 4 hours later I hit a stretch of dirt road on the way back to the car and was running. Actual full leg running. It had been close to four weeks since I had full mobility. I was ecstatic. My starting % shot up to 70. The next day I bagged 14,000 ft Mt. Bierstadt and felt fit, hungry, excited and like I needed to cram for the test.

The next day, Jane and the kids flew in and vacation mode prevailed. It was lovely.
We spent time with my parents then drove the southern route from Denver to Silverton stopping for a night in Alamosa after visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Next day we got groceries in Durango and drove up to my happy place, Silverton, Colorado. One paved street. The center of the Ultra running world for one week a year.

We checked into our rooms above the Bent Elbow Saloon and immediately started seeing ultra running friends. This sport collects the nicest people I have ever known. Put them in a beautiful place with a lack of oxygen and a lot of excitement and you get some amazing conversations. Hardrock is truly like a family or high school reunion. Everywhere you go there is someone else to catch up with. Even newbies are invited into the fold. You can tell them by the huge eyes and shaking hands.

One training run up Virginius Pass to suss out the snowy route. One day spent in the Ouray Hot Springs with the kids. One day spent checking in and packing drop bags and I was ready. Still the emotions run the gamut. It is very similar to going into battle I would imagine, only this is optional. I would find myself questioning my sanity over and over.

I am my worst editor. Is this going on too long?

Anyhoo. My race plan was to finish come hell or highwater. The course was promising both. The reports said the course was still under a lot of snow and the creeks were running high and fast. I decided I would do this year's race without pacers or crew. My last two races had been in Europe both sans crew or pacers. They had both been suffer fests which I finished mainly because there were no friendly faces or warm cars into which to crawl. I wanted to finish, I knew I could finish Hardrock but I wanted to do it within my own energy. I didn't want to think about my pacers, my crew, my time. Was someone waiting? Should I run faster because they are worried? Should I be happier, stronger, chattier for my pacer? No. I would do it alone and get it done. I even dissuaded Jane and the kids from coming to Ouray (mile, halfwayish) as I didn't want to think about anyone else but me me me me.

6:00Am Mountain Standard Time. The great bustle of energy broke as 152 runners shuffled past the Hardrock in front of the Silverton High School Gym. There were a lot of famous names and not so famous names shouting and whooping and running down the dirt streets out of town. Me amongst them feeling absolutely giddy to have bucked my odds and gotten to the start. I ran and chatted with friends up the first climb, we then started spreading out as the race wore on. I felt alright, I felt tight, not well acclimated and cautious. I was tepid but happy. The views are indescribable. It is really hard to not stop and gape at the scenery.

The race goes up, down, up down, over 13 passes and mountains over 12,000 feet. The tallest is Handies Peak at 14,000. I felt like my legs were in great shape climbing Handies but my intake of oxygen was not sufficient. I was lagging and wouldn't eat and wasn't drinking enough. I knew it but my addled mind wouldn't let me fix it. I just wanted off the mountain. I finally peaked as the second snow storm blew in and pelted me with ice and wind. The lightning stayed away and eventually I was heading down to lower altitude and the Grouse Gulch Aid Station. My friends Annie Murphy and Shawn Meisner were at the aid station and totally crewed me. Got me water, food, and friendship. I left the aid station when I started to feel like I might puke. I left the aid station feeling cared for. I headed up Engineer Pass as the light started to wane. My goal was to get past the Bear Creek Cliffs before dark because they are scary enough in the light. I ran hard down Engineer and through Bear Creek. I stopped and donned my headlamp for the last 2 miles into Ouray.

When I got into Ouray. I wended my way in the dark to the aid station where I was met again by impromptu  crew. Annie was there, as well as Jack, another Washington friend waiting for his runner James. They helped me out and the aid station captain knew I was coming and had made me a Ruben Sandwich because the last two years I had requested one and he remembered. I had a jar of coffee, a sock change and left with a fist full of Ruben feeling really well cared for.

I hiked the next 7 mile section while chowing down on a big, greasy Ruben. Heaven. My batteries were reset and I started feeling good. Ouray is the lowest altitude spot of the race. Along my way up Camp Bird Road I found a runner crumpled on the side of the road in the dark. "Are you alright?". It was Jamil Coury taking a nap on the side of the road. He was fine, got up and hiked with me for about three miles then, disappeared in the dark for another nap. The next lights I came across were on the heads of Kevin Davis and Jenny Pierce. I met Kevin last year at Hardrock. Kevin lives in Livingston, Montana as does my brother Lee. They are friends. I was stoked to see Kevin and his pacer Jenny as I wanted to catch up with him and chat. We stuck together and chatted up to the aid station.

Governer's Basin Aid Station. Me: Do you have any soup. Them: Potato or Chicken? Me: Ooooh, potato! Them: Here you go. Me: Oh, my, god this is the best potato soup, mmmm, can I have more? Them: Here you go. Me: Tell whoever makes this potato soup it is the best ever. I then walk ten feet away from the aid station and puke it all up rather loudly.

Puke and rally. Up to Virginus Basin in a freezing sleet storm. By now I was embedded with Kevin and Jenny. We are three and we are having a pretty darn good time suffering up the snow chutes to Kroger's Canteen and the company of our mutual friend Roch Horton. The smiles are genuine, the Perogies are delicious and stay down and we move off the cliff to the leeward side of the storm.
The descent into Telluride was just plain fun. The storm was past, the night was deep and dark and the company was excellent.

Annie was ready as my unofficial crew chief at Telluride. Her husband Jeason was just ahead of me and she would wait to see me through the aid stations pulling double duty. Kevin was switching pacers and Jenny was stopping at Telluride. She sheepishly asked if I wanted to have her continue on with me as my pacer as she would love to see more of the course. I said, "Sure!" I didn't want to break up the party. So Me, Jenny, Kevin and his new pacer Adam headed up out of Telluride. It ends up Adam used to live next to my sister in Bozeman... yeah. This night was getting magical. We hiked strong. We had energy and conversation and many eyes to find the trail. We started passing people on the climb up to the Wasatch Basin. As we caught folks they knew who I was as they were my friends. We would offer a seat on the Suffer Bus. When we caught Jeason he joined our party for a while. We hit the snow covered Wasatch Basin and the trail was unmarked and the day was dawning. We were lost but it was beautiful. We spread out across the valley and tried finding the trail. Eventually we worked our way up then out of the valley losing about 30 minutes to route finding. Down Oscar's Pass and Kevin and Adam were flying. I was in a lull and Jenny was taking some amazing pictures. We got to the Chapman aid station in high spirits.

Then I started to feel it. The strength in my legs was still there. I had been expecting it to fade but they were still solid. Two more major climbs. I can crush this. I know where I am, I know what is ahead. I started to push the climbs. Jenny and I started to gap Kevin and Adam. I felt bad because they were such great company but I could smell the barn even though it was a long way away. I thought I might gap Jenny but she was really strong and kept pace. We got to the climb up Grant's Swamp and it was as steep as ever.
It was fun to share it with someone who had never seen it before. Jenny was impressed by the stupid steep pitch. We crested, put a rock on the memorials and bombed past Island Lake, another runner and his pacer then on to the KT aid station. It was here I started to bend and sag in 2013.

I am my best psychoanalyst.

Everything past the KT aid station in 2013 was a nightmare. Bent, unable to breath, confused, driven by madness and fear. Being passed over and over watching a great race unravel. This year it was the polar opposite. I felt good. My mind was steel and my legs were churning. We started up the Putnam Basin climb as the lightning and Thunder hit. I figured we still had time for the storm to pass before we would be totally exposed above timberline. We saw a flash of orange ahead. It was Joe Grant pacing Brian Powell of fame. We slipped past them and I pushed the next climb hard to show I wasn't going to falter and be retaken. We made the tree line post storm and it was another combination of hard running and scenery which demanded your attention for it's beauty. Huge open meadows with views that go on for ever. This section was well marked which took us up and over to the Putnam aid station. 5.5miles to go. "Forget the soup we are out of here!" I was flying and Jenny was keeping up with me every step. We bombed down the basin, past a porcupine and eventually made the Mineral Creek River Crossing. On the other side was my beaming family. My heart was as happy as it gets. Hugs, kisses and then we bolted across the highway for the last 2.5 to the finish. This is where I got my stick in 2013. Not this year. We ran, hard. We hauled serious ass. there was no one behind me to fear. I had no good reason to push that hard for the finish except for personal pride. Leave it all out there. I pushed, we pushed. We hit the Shrine Of The Mine and I think my smile carried me the rest of the way. One block to go and my son Theo appeared to run me in. We held hands and he ran me to the rock, that rock. I stopped, I bowed, I kissed the bastard on the snout. I felt great! Third finish and I wasn't on the ground. I was upright and handing out high fives like they were on sale. My time was 30:57:13. I hadn't been looking at my watch. I was so glad to have pushed to come in under 31 hours.

The statistics. My first Hardrock finish was 2010 in the clockwise direction, my time was 30:57:15
I beat that time by 2 seconds this year in the counter clockwise direction.

The moral of the story: If you are open for friendship, it will find you.
I went into the race expecting to be alone and found myself surrounded by company the whole time. I love this community, this race and will forever cherish the bonding I had with my new Montana family which just so happens to be friends with my real Montana family.
All pictures in this blog race report were taken by Jenny Pierce who has a great eye for scenery.
Kevin Davis destroyed his past Hardrock PR. Finished 18th place in 31:39.

No comments:

Post a Comment