The Hardrock 100 has been a 'dream race' since I began ultra-running four years ago, although I never saw myself becoming one of the lucky 35 drawn from the 'never started' list and being offered a spot.
So I found myself in shock having had a flood of messages and notifications from facebook whilst travelling back from a weekends running in North Wales in December 2013 - that I had been selected to run in the 2014 Hardrock!
|Breakfast of Champions|
From here I ventured south on my road trip to Leadville, Twin Lakes and finally Aspen, where I camped out for a couple of nights of running and hanging out with fellow Brit Tim Adams and girlfriend Azuisa.
|Feeling dizzy from the high altitude running|
|Maroon Bells - the most photographed place in Colorado|
|Out for a run with fellow Brit, Tim|
|Great recovery in Aspen - I managed half...|
If I can sum up my race in one word based on my experience it would be - Suffering.
I struggled with the altitude from the start and was feeling dizzy from the first ascent, however the downs and flats I felt strong, and I felt happy slogging it out on the climbs and making up for it on the other angles. I felt on track with my time goal of 30hours and felt positive about the next 24 hours.
|Still smiling;-) 15miles in heading for Grand Swamp Pass|
|Heading out and up the toughie that is Oscars Pass...|
As we got to the Engineer Pass aid station, we met up and set off with Timmy Olson and pacer, Chris Rennaker. Timmy seemed to be suffering and it was a welcome change to be moving with another few runners. A couple hundred metres before the col, 'the shit hit the fan' - clouds came in, wind picked up and lightening started cracking...very close - too close to where we were!
Pacing strategy went out of the window and survival mode kicked in as the four of us "hauled ass" over the ridge and bolted down towards Grouse aid station in search of shelter. I will add here that Jon sang (beautifully) some Disney classics as we ran from the storm, and it was a great distraction, and fun actually...Nothing beats Disney classics to cheer you up in an Ultra - I think everyone should try this...
|Heading up the impressive Engineer Pass|
|Tim, Chris and myself heading for Engineer Pass before the storm|
|Quiet before the storm...|
|Still smiling...somewhere up the 14,000ft Handies Peak (the courses highest point).|
I could talk of the suffering and pain I experienced in this second 40 miles of the race, how my bust up ankle caused 17hours of hobbling and crying, as I was simply unable to run, yet too determined to admit defeat.
It didn't go to plan. I suffered. A LOT. But in hindsight it made me aware of the depths I can go, to muster that relentless forward motion required to finish..I guess there is beauty in suffering, and what the body can go through. That vulnerable condition the mountains put you in, is what makes you want to do more and what keeps you humble. It reveals to yourself (and others) the true nature of your character and in the face of adversity, there is something alluring about what the human body can do with the mind.
No Bullshit, no hiding or pretending, a true endeavor where you are stripped down to the very essence of what the human spirit can tolorate - this is the lasting taste that you are left with to reflect on following Hardrock.
|Not far from Maggies aid station - 80+miles in and suffering|
|Looking fresh (?!) at the final col|
|last bit of climbing|
|Kissing the Hardrock - my time wouldn't stop til I did!...no tongue btw.|
|With the race director - Dale - at the finish|
It is quite remarkable of what the human mind can make the body go through when motivated. That motivation can come in many forms and sizes - for me it was simply wanting to make those closest to me proud, and a refusal to quit, despite the competition element not going to plan. I still love to run in the mountains and the experiences I gained feed more than the ego.
It is hard to articulate my experiences at Hardrock, the people made the race for me without a doubt, I even found myself thinking I could go home before the race, fully content with my trip simply from being able to hang out with such a great bunch of people. The race was a bonus.
I came to realise that, unlike many other sports, Ultra-running (particularly Hardrock) attracts very similar characters, those of whom have similar outlooks and values in other areas of life. I met some of the kindest, most genuine and loving characters at the race that I found it so easy to get along with.
I was taken in by the Hardrock family and made to feel not only welcome, but as though I belonged there. I was taken to dinner, coffee, bbqs, hot springs, out for runs where people went out of their way to ensure I felt part of the community - so to all the people that I had the pleasure to spend time with, thank you - you made my trip for me.
My time at Hardrock has been different from any other race I have experienced and I found the whole trip a very satisfying one indeed. Beautiful mountains. Lovely people and countless memories of good and selfless deeds shared through a passion for the mountains and running.
Big THANKS to all those closest to me for the sacrifices and motivation, all the kind and selfless people I met on my trip (too many to mention - you know who you are!) and my sponsors Scott Sports and GU Energy for your continue support! The Hardrock is a different breed of Mountain Running 100milers and one that stands out as the best - simply for the people.