Thursday, July 17, 2008

Awesome Awesome Awesome

Hardrock 100 - 92nd- 46:45. SUPER HAPPY! I am a true hardrocker now having finished the course in both CCW and CW directions. Yep thats nearly 47 straight hours of movement. No nap, only stopped for 20-30 minutes at a few aid stations. Thats a LONG time to be out, and surprisingly it was not that bad. I was not overly tired/sleepy at all.

Silverton is a very special place and it felt like a big reunion to see so many falks who I have run with, been teamates with, and enjoyed their company at races before. Many folks welcomed me back to the race where I had a disappointing DNF in 2005 when I came in fresh off a stress fracture. As well as the race I really began to seriously make a name for myself in ultrarunning by my 36:18 in 2000.

2008 had been a great year for me in terms of life, happiness, and steady consistant running. After 4 poor years of haphazard running and injury, I now had 24 consistent months of training behind me and felt not only fit, but confident in my ability to finish and enjoy ultras again. I had run 10 good ones in 2008 alone. My year began with two 50k's in Jan, followed by two 40 milers in Feb, and 50 milers in March, April, and May with a 100k coming just 34 days before the Hardrock start in June. Due to my schooling and travel that 63 miler was my last run greater than 10 miles, but I knew it would be enough.

Since the race is difficult to get into (lottery) and alternates directions. And since this years run would be going the direction I had not run yet but wanted to......and our lives were still pretty uncomplicated...... I knew if I got in this year I had to go. I was 22nd on the waitlist initially and slowly moved up. When I moved to 9th on the list I bought plane tickets. One week later Dale Garland the RD called me to say I was in. Yes!

In 2000 I prepared by doing multiple snowshoe races in the winter followed by countless hill repeats and training in massachusetts and New Hampshire with superstar Sue Johnston and pal Steve Pero. I then finished 19th in my first 100 at the MMT 100 in May and managed to do a 39 miler in June along with repeats of 3,000ft climb "the Priest" in the Shenandoahs after moving to VA. I was working at UPS and in the best shape of my life. It wasn't easy, but despite arriving in Silverton on Monday of race week I ran well.

In 2008 I spent all of May and June running the flat bike path in Chicago and going to school. I managed the Ice Age 50 and KM 100k, but did no other long runs and no hills other than 2 stairs sessions were I climbed 1500ft. I was READY ! ha! Not!

Much of ultrarunning is confidence and a sense of knowing what you are going to think/decide before you get there. In previous 100 miler attempts (I think this was 27 or 28 for me) I have only dropped in those races where I was unsure if I could make it while standing on the start line. For this years Hardrock, I expected to finish. Not fast, but finish. I hoped for a 38hr run beating the 2nd sun set, but was not up to that task and figured that out on the first 2 climbs.

Anne and I started our quest on Wednesday morning (July 9th) flying from Richmond out to Denver. There around 10Am we picked up the rental car after a 47 minute wait in line (ugh) then began driving west on I-70. Beautiful mountains a=everywhere and we took our time crossing the state. by evening we were both feeling tired, dehydrated and had headaches, so we got a motel in Montrose, Co.

Thursday morning we made the drive south to Silverton passing thru the amazing Ouray and into the heart of the beautiful San Juan Mountians arriving into race headquarters about 30 minutes before check in closed. I had my vitals taken and medical bracelet put on. READY TO ROLL!

Aid Station / Distance/ Time/ Minutes in Aid (#)
KT- 11.5- 3:46 (3)
Chapmans-18.9-6:36 (10)
Telluride- 27.8-10:18(13)
Krogers- 32.8-13:27(6)
Gvernors- 36.0-14:32(6)
Ouray- 43.9-16:35(16)
Engineer- 51.5-21:33(10)
Grouse- 58.4-24:09(31)
Sherman- 71.8-31:04(23)
Pole Creek80.9-35:35(7)
Maggie- 85.2-37:31(9)
Finish- 46:45 (2:35 in aid stations)

My race started out at dawn on friday with 139 other crazies. I ran with a camera and snapped pics as I went trying to always maintain a moderate effort level, never breathing too hard. Which at an average elevation of over 11,000ft is not easy. Headaches came all the first day each time I ascended over 12k, but by the 2nd day were not an issue. The lack of 02 just kept me from running anything with an up slope and kept me climbing slowly. Often I was like those guys you see on TV on Everest....walking a few paces then pausing to breath, repeat.

Hardrock is no joke and the one word description Rob Youngren stated to discribe it is right on the money: DANGEROUS. Why someone has not fallen to their death their I don't know. Right off the bat I was reminded of why I held this race up as special. After crossing a river via rope at mile 2 we began the first climb up into Putnam Basin. I had fallen in with a group of folks who I knew to run around 40+ hr in previous Hardrocks. Fellow VHTRC folks Mike Dobies and Billy Losey began pulling away and 68 and 72 year old superstars Hans Deiter Weisshaar and John DeWalt were behind me. I was okay and moving well. I reached the first aid station after a long long time (3:46) and realized this was going to take just about forever to cover all 100 miles. Much unlike The Amazing 23 year old Kyle Skaggs would go on to run exactly twice as fast as me finishing in 23:23!! this destroys the old course record, and will never be touched by anyone other than Kyle.

On the 2nd big climb I had a good time with 2002 Grand Slam classmate Roger Ackerman cresting the top only to be greated by a real life mountain goat! Faced with the euphoria of summiting this huge climb, seeing the memorial to the late Joel Zucker, greeting the mtn goat, then facing the fear of the rediculous desent down the scree feild was nearly too much for me. Then good buddy Steve Pero comes running up behind me bounding from one sliding landing to the next on the 40% grade descent. I was pretty much overcome in a moment my eyes filled with tears and I had all I could do to remain upright. This is what I came to Hardrock for. This is what I live for.

I got myself together picked up the pace running hard on the downhill toward Chapman Aid station and caught Steve and Super RD Joe Prusaitis. We moved thru a beautiful Aspen groove and then landed in the aid station for some much needed fuel and fluids. Now with the noon sun high in the sky it was hot. damn hot. luckily a few po sickles and refill of my bottles had me moving all be it slowly up the huge climb to Oscars pass. This took forever!!! And I seriously doubted weather I was in over my head. I had already made one big mistake. I did not leave a drop bag at Chapmans as I thought I would make it to 27 mile Telluride quick enough. Not so now I had no Clif shot blocks, and no bottle filled with sugar. I was OUT of energy and fading near the top. Luckily Billy Simpson climbing well on his surgically repair ankle shared a gel with me. I made the summit and began eating some snow as Joe topped out. Luckily the run down the other side was only 4,000 feet and would only take us a couple hours!!!!

For fuel I had set out 5 drop bags that contained clean socks, warm clothes, lights, and equally divided: 12 packs of shot blocks (2400cals, and one 4lbs bag of sugar = 6818cals) I ended up eating all the shot blocks and about 4500 cals of the sugar. Plus stuff off the tables at the aid stations. And yet often I was pretty hungry! My heartrate on the climbs stayed above 150...sometimes literally for hours. It would be awesome to know exactly how much work was actually done, and calories burned. By the way the race is retardedly long. like at least 8-12 miles longer than 100. Gauruntee it.

Once I hooked up with Steve we stayed together into Telluride running well but keeping eachother from going too hard. Steve has had lots of trouble red lining at Hardrock and losing his stomach. But not in 2008! We got into Telluride feeling great and after a big eating stop I began the 4,400ft climb up to Virginia's pass. It would take us 3 hours and 9 minutes to do this 5 miles, but man the glissading snow slides off the mountain were well worth it! With 1/3rd of the race done in less 14 hours we hoped for continued good luck. Another 5,000ft decending brought us into Ouray and the darkness. With the first days running done I still felt pretty good but that was about to change.

In Ouray, Anne met me with warmer clothes, better lights and a milk shake and cup of pasta. After filling up and heading out of there I began what would be multiple hours worth of GI trouble. In many ultras I have gone into preiods of uncrolled diarhea. It could be from being dehydrated (which I am sure I was) or a reaction to salt tablets (S caps previously or NUUN tabs now) that contain sodium bicarbinate= a known GI tract irritant to some, or something else. Whatever it is from. It sucks. 6 pit stops over the next 8 miles (and 5,000ft climb) made me miserable. So much walking and not feeling like taking anything in did not help me feel too peppy.

Steve and Joe moved on ahead and I slowly climbed in the dark. Once I got above 12,000 feet again it was freezing cold walking across snow fields and melting 33 deg water filled marshes. Each stream crossing stung with pain. When things go bad in a race, EVERYTHING seems to go bad. The engineer stations was out. out of food, out of purified water, out. it sucked. I had been looking forward to it for literally hours, then nothing. I continued to fill my water bottle with mtn run off and out of streams so that was not an issue, but I really coulda used some calories, or coke or anything.
After finally begining the descent to Grouse gulch I seemed to be over the diarhea, but man was I moving slow. I really had no energy to run and walked the long downhill road just waiting for sun rise. Scott B and Liz Walker came up behind me as the sunrise allowed us to turn off our lights. 24 hours in and I now faced the biggest mountain of the course: 14,048ft Handies peak.

In Grouse aid station I took my time. unloaded some heavy things from my pack (yaktracks I had not used yet, lights, jackets. But I had to keep warm clothes and rain gear and one hand held light because it was now clear that I would not make it to the 91 mile aid station where I put my 2nd set of lights before dark. ugh.

With the sun up and some scrambled eggs and a tortilla in my gut along with 4 cups of coke I began to climb in the 2nd days sunlight feeling okay. I caught a few folks back who had passed me up and managed to climb strong up into the snow fields. Here I stopped to put on sun screan as the 13,000 sun is rediculously intense. (I didn't get enough on for Friday and am now peeling on my neck and forehead!) Near the summit I hooked up with Paul Gross and his pace Ryan. We would stay together on and off much of the next 20 hours.

Once off the steep downhill I began having stomach trouble. I took a tylenol on the lcimb just prior to summititng thinking the pain releif would allow my quads to handle the big descent. but the uncoated pill on my empty stomach tore up the lining making me nausueous. I spent the next few hours sipping nothing but water hoping against hope it would turn around. Once we reached the dirt road the sun was blazing and I smartly dipped my shirt in some snow melt water and redonned it. Ever so slowly we made it to the aid station 72 miles in 31 hours. Not exactly fast!

I knew here that I would either be able to handle some coke and a bit of food and I'd continue strongly or I'd throw up and it might truly be over. 2 tums and 2 glasses of coke later I was nibbling some cake frosting and walking out of the aid station feeling ready to climb another 4,000ft mtn.

I climbed well and felt strong again taking in pretzles and two shot blocks in an alternating pattern every 15 minutes. Soon I was above the tree line once more and roaming in some of the most "out there" parts of the Hardrock course. Pole Creek loomed. This is an aid station packed in many miles by saintly aid station volunteers. Amazing stuff this race. Once here I once again knew I would finish and began running much more on the flats and small downs despite being above 12,000ft. I had no headache and was doing well catching some folks in front of me. The climbs and grassy hills prior to maggie guch were a challenge and I wondered if I would ever get away from the mud. Soon I was making the big decent to the aid station knowing I only had 15 more miles to go.

I ate pasta, turkey and peanuts at the aid station and walked out all fitred up ready for the steepest climb of the course up Big Boy Ridge. Despite my stomach feeling good I nearly threw up 15 feet out of the aid station. I pitched the remaining turkey in my hand and laughed it off. With Scott and Liz chasing me we made the huge ascent in no time and began our race against the dark. Lights came out on green mtn and our search for course markers became hugely frustrating. I lost those two and really could not see any markers with my 2002 LED light. It simply didn't throw light far enough. so I waited for those behind me to catch up. It was Paul and Ryan and together we found our way over around and finally down to the last aid station.

Anne had gotten a ride to the aid station and was happy to great me just before midnight. a strong 21 minutes here putting on warmer clothes, getting a 2nd light and taking care of some chafing issues was all I needed to get the energy up for the final 3,000 ft climb. I was a tiny bit worried about the final cut off but Paul assured me we had it in the bag as he had done 46:15 in 2006 and we were on that pace now. I relaxed some once we crested the final pitch and began walking the steep and rocky final mountain. My left ankle had some severe tendonitis in it now from rubbing on my trusty Asic gel 2120's I had had on the last 40 hours. Running felt awful an dI knew I didn't need to so I walked it on down down down. 4 miles on a crappy jeep road with fist sized stones beat me up before the final muddy stream crossing trail into town.

I hooked up with Richard and we managed to negotiate our way into town despite no course markings. I guess I had had enough as this really pissed me off. I didn't even muster a run to the official Hardrock marking the finish line. merely walked up and kissed the damn thing. Pissy as I was. Soon I was inside sipping a smoothie (thanks Andrea!!) and feeling much better.

I went to the hotel for a shower and a 90minute nap and was incredibly rejuvinated afterwords. At the awards ceremony I was as happy as I ever remember being. What a run. nearly 47 hours of movement. WOW.

See you in 10 years Silverton....maybe!


Bedrock said...

Awesome. Freakin' awesome. That is a race I really want to do someday. Way to hang in there and get it done. Recover well.

Sophie Speidel said...

Ditto what Bedford said. Soooo much fun to sit here and "watch" you all on the webcast, and now to read all about it. Congrats on a courageous are ready for Gstone!


ultrastevep said...

Greg....awesome job getting it done. I knew you would, you are tough!

I couldn't think of a better person to spend most of the race with ;:-)


Bill said...

Way to go Loomdog. Good run, Great finish. I had fun spending some trail time with you in our little power train. Congrats true Hardrocker!!!

Miss Tenacity said...

You rock! Too bad I didn't know about your 2002 LEDs - I would have let you know you need a BEAM-throwing light to see the markers here.... I had the same problem in 2001 and it cost me a LOT of time and ultimately a DNF.

Oh, and, "By the way the race is retardedly long. like at least 8-12 miles longer than 100. Gauruntee it.". Nope. Sorry. It's been pretty accurately GPSed at about 100.x mi.


Smoothie Girl

I am a runner. "We are what we repeatedly do" said...

Ahh thanks all! Man it feels good even a week later. I'm looking forward to running again now (first attempt will be Sunday) and I am just so overwhelmed with how amazing the San Juans are and having completed the beast again. This is one of those runs you keep thinking about. Even if it is NOT long I will always beleive it otherwise. It makes swollowiing the fact that in certain sections while RUNNING I only managed 28 min miles. Ha!

ultraMongo said...


Congratulations on your finsh!

It was great seeing you out there and spending so much time with you and Steve (and many other folks...)

I can tell you that as good as Andrea's smoothie may have been, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, beats her finish-line hamburger ;^)

I am already looking forward to next year (and all of us out there again - you know you want too...)

Happy Trails,

Rob Youngren said...

It was great to spend some time with you and Anne this year, boy it's been since 2005 Hardrock and the old Montrail days, ahhhh. Great run Greg, as happy I am with my performance this year I'm still most proud of my two nighter at '05 Hardrock! You've laid down the gauntlet for me again! Hmmm 47 hours sometime?? Maybe when I'm going for my 5th finish!! I plan to keep going back as long as I'm physically able, this race just resonates with me! See you next year if not sooner!