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Final Round of Hardrock 100 Reflections

Before we close the door on the 2012 Hardrock 100 (results summary and more), a few members of our tribe were kind enough to share a few memories and even a full experience report from their 100+ mile journey. You will also acquire some insider information on the future of this event by one of the decision makers himself. Will Hardrock become a national or world championship of some kind or will it keep its low-key vibe for the foreseeable future?

The final destination. (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)



Steve Pero

After the start of the vertigo that took me out of the run, I struggled up to Kroger’s Canteen on the slippery scree. Our plan was to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of when we announced at that same aid station that we had just decided to get married, which was back in 2001. This was the 10th anniversary because 2002 was cancelled due to fire.

The final pitch to Kroeger's Canteen (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)

We got up to the aid station and after sitting, I was having difficulty even sitting up straight, but went over and asked Deb if she’d marry me again, which she accepted 😉 The story continues as we (I) struggled down the scree switchbacks with Deb and Drew’s help to get me down safely. Drew had to stay with me until Ouray aid, which was the next one, but we convinced Deb to get on down and sit for a bit and get fueled for the rest of the journey and Drew would try to catch her and pace her in. It’s a long 7+ miles down to Ouray along a good road, but I had to stop on occasion to settle down the spins, so it was taking forever. A car drove up the road and offered a ride, which I took, but Drew didn’t because he wanted to run the whole run. So I got my ride into Ouray and told Deb that Drew was on his way, but she was to go on and start hiking up to Engineer aid station with Drew in pursuit. After fueling himself, Drew moved on to catch up to Deb, but it took over four hours and past the aid station before Drew was able to catch her…Deb was on a mission.


Another point of interest was the next day I went out to see them at the last aid station, Cunningham. It was 1:00 am when Drew came staggering down the sheep trail with a skirt made of a garbage bag to keep warm in the storms they encountered up above. I only saw him and asked “Where’s Deb?” to which he responded that she was right behind him. He didn’t realize that she had fallen so far behind him, she was around a 1/4 mile back and I finally did see her light come down the trail. I escorted her into the aid station and after sitting she looked at Drew and said “A lot of help you are!” in her usual joking style. The tent went silent…and I said “They’re brother and sister.” Laughter followed. 😉

Deb Pero with pacer and brother, Drew Meyer (left), after finishing the Hardrock 100. Btw, Deb was the last bad-ass over the pass (EB interview with Deb - (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)

Blake Wood

Hardrock has been the highlight of my family’s summer since my adult daughters were in elementary school. I sometimes wonder why I still do it. In fact, after feeling so crummy following the Jemez 50 miler in May, I seriously considered not running Hardrock this year. But I’m glad I didn’t withdraw. It was beautiful. I got to see many good friends that I only see in Silverton. And I got to experience the feeling again that I’m accomplishing something impossible.

This was a special year for me. For many years, I’ve had runners I coach at Los Alamos High School come pace me at Hardrock. This year, the first of those runners entered and finished the run himself. I’ve run with Loren Wohletz since he was a little kid – he’s a fine runner and a close friend. Although he’s really a peer of my daughter, that gets all mixed up and I tend to think of him as my peer. He won’t be the last – there are at least a half dozen other of my former runners now pacing someone at Hardrock, several of whom I expect to apply next year. It was very sweet to get to run for several hours with Loren, even though he beat me in the end – he made me proud!

Blake and Loren in the early miles of Hardrock. (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)

There’s no denying that I’m getting slower. If you do any run like this more than once, there will be up years and down years, fast years and slow years. It can be easy to believe that you’re still as fast as you ever were. Now, being 17 for 17, stretching back to 1994 at Hardrock, the trends are becoming clear through the year-to-year jitter: I seem to be slowing down about two hours every five years, on average. That’s a bit sobering, but on the other hand, it suggests I still have at least 20 years before I can no longer make the cutoffs. That sounds like a ridiculously long time – who knows what they’ll be doing in 20 years? But it’s been nearly that long since I first headed out on those trails from Silverton.

Nevertheless, it is clear that ultrarunning, at least at the front, is quickly becoming a young runner’s game. I was 35 when I ran my first Hardrock. I was 40 when I won it in what was then course record time. This year 13 runners went under that time, the winner by nearly five and a half hours. Wow!

Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood

As one of the organizers of the run, I’m more cognizant than most of what goes into planning and executing an event such as Hardrock. 140 runners toe the line. We have about four times that many volunteers. It amazes me that so many people would dedicate so much of their time and effort to this, but I’ve been doing it myself for many years, so I guess I should be able to appreciate the rewards involved. And I’m reminded every year that we have a responsibility to try to keep it the kind of event that will attract four volunteers for each runner.

Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood

We had 800 apply for those 140 starting slots this year. Next year it will probably hit a thousand. There is great pressure to make Hardrock into something new and different. I’ve had people suggest to me that we should have a $1M budget, rather than $60k. Or that we could easily make Hardrock the Mountain Running Championship of the World by guaranteeing entry to elite runners. However, that wouldn’t be the same event. I think it is healthy for the sport that there ARE events that fill that niche. But I also believe that not every run must aspire to become bigger and richer and more competitive. Next year will be our 20th running of Hardrock, and all of us on the Board of Directors and the Run Committee will work to ensure that it still has a “family gathering” feel to it, and is still the type of event that will inspire four volunteers to contribute a hard weekend (or for some, months) of work for every runner on the starting line.

Scott Eppelman

Sharing time on the trail with Kirk Apt and Blake Wood. Both are great guys, and after this year’s race have a combined 33 finishes between them. They are #1 and #2 respectively in most Hardrock finishes and possess serious course wisdom.

How about those aid station views? (Photo: Blake Wood)

Seeing two or three runners who looked awful around mid-race rally and finish looking much better.

Seeing my family at two aid stations.

Loren Wohletz (Full Report)

I was introduced to Hardrock while in high school, by one of my coaches, Blake Wood. I came to pace him one year from Grouse to Ouray. That night I fell in love with Hardrock. I came to pace, crew, or work an aid station every year I could since, only missing a few. I knew I would run it one day when I could dedicate enough time and energy to qualifying. After finishing college at UNM where I ran xc and track as a walk on I finally decided to actually do an ultra. I did some local races, then qualified at Bear 100 and luckily got in high on the wait list my first try! I was high enough that I was almost certain I was going to run, so I trained like I was. Got the call in May and was in Silverton the Monday before the race.

Loren (left) and fellow running buddies. (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)

It was strange to be there to race instead of work an aid station or something. The course seemed so much harder when facing it for real instead of pacing or crewing. But I was as ready as I’d ever be, and ready to just get going. I was psyching myself out and tried to distract myself with anything so I wasn’t mentally tired before it even started. Though feeling a little more tired than I would’ve liked I made it to the gym with time to spare, which flew by so fast that I was scurrying to the start with seconds to spare. I started out in the very back which was good, because it forced me to go out slow as planned. I knew how much people can lose by going out too fast. I kept the effort very easy, talking to new and old friends until I caught up to a group moving at a pace that seemed good for me.

Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood

Fortunately my good friends Blake and Ken Gordon were in that group and I got to hang with them for a bit. We weren’t concerend about staying together early on so we all changed positions in the group due to various stops or rolling with the down hills. I had my camera and was taking tons of pics, a pacing strategy I learned from Blake. Stop early and often. I really wanted to finish strong so this was fine with me. I don’t know what place I was at this point and for the first time in my running career, didn’t really care. I was feeling good and having a great time with other racers. One of the biggest feelings from the race was the camaraderie. I had felt it before working aid stations and watching people race it over the years, but it felt so much stronger in the race. Like all my years at HR were coming together. Running has given me so much and this really was driving that fact home.

I ate too fast at KT, and paid with a slow climb up Grant-Swamp because my stomach was a bit sour. It calmed down with the easy pace and only GUs for a while. The butt slide off the pass was exciting. I definitely chose one of the more slick routes down, landed on my bottom a few times but came a way pretty much unscathed. I hit my right hand pretty hard on a rock, “I run with my feet not my hands” I told myself and kept moving.

The final pitch on Grand-Swamp Pass (Photo: Blake Wood)

Leaving Chapman I hiked all of Oscars with Ken G. I was feeling great but still holding way back because I knew the feeling wouldn’t last long. I was right but that wouldn’t come for a while. I made it to Telluride with only a bit of hail and rain and no close lightning yet! That or I’ve already blocked it from memory. I love watching lightning from a safe place, but hate it when it is right on me (as I’m sure most do). The climb to Virginus was good, this time Blake and Megan Finnesy provided excellent company.

It is always good to see Roch and his crew, but sad that there was no snow to slide on. My left foot had been acting up and the steep descents didn’t help. I kept loosening my shoe which seemed to help. (tendon issue I’ve dealt with before, not too serious) The road to Ouray is never ending, I took lots of walk breaks because a long descent can trash you, but you won’t know it till hours later. Ouray was great, in before sun set and picked up my girl friend (Laura) as a pacer. She had never been to an ultra and was worried about pacing, especially since she was “out of shape” and recently had a cold. I assured her it would feel like a crawl and she’d be fine. I felt pretty good the whole time, only getting a little cold at engineer pass. It was cool to see her experiencing this for the first time. It reminded me of my first time and how blown away I was. At one point she kinda lost her cool, but a joke about me pacing her fixed it and we were back at it. Over the years I’ve been so lucky to have racers allow me to accompany them and share this amazing experience, so I wanted to return the favor. I invited a bunch of friends from Albuquerque, most of whom, had never been to Hardrock or even the San Juans, or even an Ultra before! It was so cool to share this journey with them, and see how it inspired them. At Grouse they were all there and excited to help at 2:00 in the morning!

Ouray (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)

Crew Support! (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)

This is also where Hardrock started to live up to its name. Minutes out of Grouse I started feeling pretty bad. I had no desire to eat. We slowly marched up into the darkness. Jason my new pacer, and most experienced with ultras (finished Leadville in sub 25 in his first race of any type ever!) was good about keeping me eating even if it was less than planned it was more than nothing. And slowly we made our way to the Grouse-American Saddle which was so cool and heart breaking at the same time. Ahead we could see lights way below and then snaking way above. All that work to get so high, only to loose it and do it over again! I was fine on downhills moving at a good pace and starting to feel a bit better. The climb was endless and slow but we kept at it. At least we weren’t off course like one poor soul we saw wondering up on the wrong ridge. He made it back on course but what a bummer! The sun began to lighten the east sky which made for a beautiful summit, but I was excited to get out of the wind and high altitude that was starting to bother me. The descent to burrows felt great and went by fairly quickly, at one point we ran into some hikers that had a Springer Spaniel puppy with them. It reminded me of my dogs at home. It was a good omen, I took a picture of it with the confused hikers and kept rolling. They must of thought I was crazy, to run up, mumble something, take a picture, and run off. Of course the road to Sherman was a nuisance, run-able, when you don’t want to run anymore. But it went by quicker than I remember from pacing it years ago.

Sherman is always a great aid station, but I couldn’t really enjoy it. I was having a tough time focusing. I spent my longest break here. I did manage to get fresh shorts and some Vaseline to some unmentionable but needed areas. I remember entertaining the idea of a Brazilian wax before my next ultra so certain chores were easier. Oh the conversations on trails! (wet wipes are amazing out there)

Sherman Aid Station - How can we help you? (Photo: Blake Wood)

We Started out from Sherman relatively re- energized but I started to slide into a pit of despair on the climb. My thoughts were getting muddled, I kept mistaking where I was supposed to head. “Is it that saddle or that one?” they all looked the same. I was starting to slow pretty bad and Jason took the lead. I automatically started staying with him and soon enough we were moving pretty good, running a lot of the way from the divide to pole creek. We got into a good rhythm and barely paused at the pole aid station, it felt great to be making up lots of ground. It also helped to see Blake, because I thought I’d never see him after Sherman. He seemed so much stronger back there. But I guess that’s the rollercoaster of Ultra’s.

Loren working his way to Maggie Gulch (Photo: courtesy Blake Wood)

I was really tired heading to Maggie, but kept pushing and reaching deeper than I’d ever imagined I could. On the last climb up to Maggie I though I was going to pass out, and told Jason that if I did, to just put my feet up and I’d come around. He calmly told me I was fine and I just believed him. Even though I felt worse than I’d ever felt in a race I was still passing people which was motivating but unbelievable at the time. As we started to get close to Maggie I heard cheers. My whole crew had hiked into Maggie with my drop bags! I couldn’t believe it. I felt so glad to see them. One more aid station and then I’d be finishing Hardrock! At that point all the emotions came flooding out. I had decided that long breaks at aid stations were when I’d feel bad, so no more than five minutes at the last two stations. Just get it done! I kept back tears in the aid station but balled like a baby for a minute on my way out. It wasn’t because I was sad or injured, just so much emotion. It felt good to get it out and just keep chipping away at the climb that seemed so daunting from across the valley but was really one of the shortest climbs in the race. My best friend from high school was doing this short section to Cunningham with me and that was very cool. I obviously didn’t need to switch pacers this much but I wanted to include everyone I could and I’m glad Brad could be there for this. It was one of the hardest parts for me, I’d just pushed for so long and didn’t want to give up any spots. So we just kept pushing.

Loren with friend and pacer, Brad. (Photo: Blake Wood)

I started dry heaving on the second descent to Cunningham, and no matter what I did nothing would come out. I’d eat a GU and drink several gulps to try and get something out hoping that would make the nausea pass, but nothing would come out! I decided that meant I was still taking calories in. And for the second time in the race, reminded myself “I run with my legs…not my (fill in the blank)” and just started running while dry heaving. It was a funny sight: me just making all these sounds while running down the trail. I was going slow but still moving. A quick pause in the aid station and my room mate and good friend Jesse Armijo left for the last nine miles. The climb had been on my mind for a while. I had trouble pacing this section in the past (at the time I’d been up far longer and eating far less, rookie pacer mistake). How would I do it now?!? Of course one step at a time but I still wanted to complain. The climb was so slow and I stopped several times with Jesse prodding me to just keep moving. Once we were about 12,300 feet, the light rain that had followed us most the climb turned into a hurricane. A close lightning strike had us spread out and moving fast. I just wanted to get out of there, practically sprinting up and over the pass and flying down to the road. Where it was just raining hard. No more lightning, thank God. Now, Jesse is a 2:17 marathoner and I thought it might be a mistake to have him pace me on this section. And my fears were confirmed, when he kept inching away from me and I’d have to tell him to slow down. Every step hurt and I just wanted to walk in. but as the altitude dropped my spirits climbed. And I ran almost the whole descent. Going out slow had really paid off, at the end of Bear I could barely shuffle/walk down hill. My mantra for this section was, for some reason, “I can’t.” maybe a little reverse psychology? But even when I thought I couldn’t run, I just kept running. After crossing the last big stream and getting on the last few rolling miles to town, Jesse and I were flying! I kept gagging and pushing the pace. I wanted to leave it all on the course and I sure was. It was raining very hard but it was fun, just splashing through puddles at a pace reminiscent of my xc days. Lots of thoughts passing through my head. Finally seeing Kendal Mnt. Ski Area relaxed me, I was just going to enjoy the trot through town. No need to push, I was finishing before sunset, a minor goal of mine, and feeling relatively good. I caught up to Chris Gerber with 50 meters to go and thought better of blowing by and jogged in with him. I was so happy to finish and see all my friends there. So many more in addition to my crew were there, the Hardrock family.

The Finish! (Photo: Courtesy Blake Wood)

I felt so cared for and blessed to be doing something that so few in the world get to experience. I cried again on the rock. All that effort, and finally, the goal attained. So sweet. It has taken me a while to start wrapping my head around this experience and it will take awhile longer. I am enjoying a long break, and every time a memory pops in my head I smile, even at the painful or embarrassing ones. It was like nothing else I have experienced before, and beyond anything I expected, which is one of many reasons we will continue to do things like this.

A special thanks to our TALON tribe for sharing such a range of Hardrock reflections with us. And big thanks to Blake for sharing all the great pics.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

2 Responses to “Final Round of Hardrock 100 Reflections”

  1. on 10 Aug 2012 at 1:11 pm Steven

    Great postscript to an amazing event! Thanks!

  2. on 13 Aug 2012 at 10:39 am David Hanenburg

    A fun read indeed. Thanks for sharing Steven.