The Hardrock 100 is a [roughly] 100-mile footrace through the San Juan mountains of southwest colorado. It consists of a big loop, starting/ending in Silverton (9300') and going through Ouray (7700', the lowpoint of the course) and Telluride, but also including several 13000' passes and one 14000' peak (Handies). The average elevation is 11000' and the total gain is about 33000'. This was to be my sixth attempt, with four previous finishes and one failure. Five finishes is a big deal at Hardrock, so I was excited to go for it.
I flew early to Denver and stayed with a friend in Golden, where I acclimated by speed-hiking several non-technical 13ers and 14ers in the front range. Then I drove down to Silverton to chill out. The day before the race I ran into Kilian Jornet, the best mountain runner in the world, who was back to win the race for a fourth year in a row; he also holds the course record. I congratulated him on Everest, where he had done a couple of speed ascents this spring.
We started at 6am friday morning (july 14) and I took it easy, enjoying the incredible wildflowers and the loud sheep. At mile 22ish (for me) we were hit with some thunder hail, which was rather painful and more importantly turned the trail (such as it was) into slushy icewater. Soon I could no longer feel my feet and was getting slightly worried, but eventually (it felt longer than I'm sure it was) the storm stopped and we got below treeline to dry out. The race instructions helpfully state that the organizers believe the first fatality will be due to lightning rather than exposure or falls. Fortunately the weather wasn't bad after that.
I slowed down during the night, as always, but rallied the next day, as always. There is an awesome aid station in a small cleft at a 13000' pass, where they hike everything in. [see photo of me about to start up the final pitch just after daybreak] Here is a cool video from a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5e7pr2Z6ZU There is a waiting list just to volunteer there, and this year some of the best ultrarunners in the world (including Scott Jurek) were serving eggo waffles, syrup, and bacon... yum!
Later in the course there is a steep scree pitch to another high pass, followed by a marvelous view on the other side of an aptly-named Island Lake. But everything was beginning to blur together at that stage. I finished in 38:19, my fastest time yet (though not by much), and was very happy to be done before the second nightfall. The maximum time is 48 hours and every year some folks push it to the limit, even down to a minute under or over, which can get exciting.