Archive for the 'Biographical' Category

2017 Trails to a Cure/Cockaponset Trail Race

After all these years, I finally made it to the Cockaponset Trail Race. Rebranded as Trails to a Cure, and with new life breathed into it by trail running friends, Charlie and Becky Iselin, this year’s race was a success. Debbie has run the classic 8-miler, in Cockaponset State Forest, several times over the years, but I had never done it.

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The race always fell on a late season triathlon, on a cyclocross race date, or it was too close to the Vermont 50. This year, I skipped the Hammerfest Triathlon, the cross races were in Massachusetts, and since I jogged the 4-miler with Dahlia, I won’t be tired for next week’s VT50.

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The Iselin’s recruited us at last month’s People’s Forest Trail Race, another even in the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series.  Cockaponset also used to be part of the New England Grand Tree Trail Running  Series, but I don’t see it on this year’s schedule.

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Debbie did the 8-miler and had a blast. One of the unique features of the race is the optional cove swim in Pattaconk Lake. This comes with only a 1/4 mile to go, and is faster than running around. There is a rope to guide you and to help pull yourself along. By this point, 7+ miles on rocky and rooty trails have made your legs tired. The water was pretty mucky, but that just adds to the excitement. The kids and I were able to get back to the cove in time to see Debbie make the crossing. The only runners we saw who opted to go around were those who were carrying their mobile phones or music players. They made a wise choice. Without a waterproof bag, there would be no way to keep your device dry. The water was deep, over your head.

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The addition of the 4-mile race helped boost the number of kids who were there. Shepard had a good run, and so did Dahlia. he took off, but I stuck with her. Both races started at the same time, and shared the same course for the first 3.7 miles or so, before splitting.

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It was warm and very muggy. It was a great day in the woods, and it was for a great cause. This event has been promoted by SNERRO, for many years. It is run to honor the late Steve Hancock, who was a devoted runner in the Mohegan Striders and was a decorated Vietnam Veteran. I saw Hancock at many races. He was always present and part of the festivities at the Chester 4 on the 4th, where every time I saw him, he was carrying an American Flag. He was also a fixture at the Manchester Road Race, and ran as a member of The Plaiders. Steve died in 2006 after a battle with cancer.

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It seemed like nearly everyone got an age group award, which is cool because many of the 4-mile awards were homemade cookies. The 8-mile awards were very nice plants. Everyone got all the handmade pizza they could eat. It was baked in an oven on site.

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Chester has always been one of my favorite towns. I love the roads and trails. I brought one of my Richard Sachs road bikes (handmade in Chester) and took a lovely 50 mile route back to Bolton.

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Congratulations to Pat Hammon, Chris Pagliuco, and Stefan Rodriguez, who finished 1, 2, 3, and were tightly bunched together. Rachael Whitbeck won the women’s race. She was followed by Debbie, and Eileen Lawrence. Top 3 in the 4-Miler were Dominc Abramo, Paul Mezick, and Shepard.

Registration numbers weren’t huge for today’s race, but I know some folks didn’t realize it was happening. I hope my blog post helps get the word out and that we get even more runners to come in 2018.

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Oh, and there are two races left in the 2017 Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series.  Next up is the grandaddy, the NipMuck Trail Marathon. The finale is the Bimbler’s Bluff 50K. Check them out!

4 Mile Race Results

8 Mile Race Results

2017 Hartford Riverfront Cyclocross

Yesterday was the Hartford Riverfront Cyclocross, which kicked off the cross season for me and many other members of Team Horst Sports. Some of the guys got started two weeks ago at the CompEdge Cross at Blunt Park, and others started last weekend at the BCA Cyclocross. Yesterday, we seven Juniors racers and nine Masters racers toe the line.

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The last time most of us raced in Hartford’s Riverside Park, was at the 2017 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships back in January. That was an amazing event. Check out my recap. The weather conditions at yesterday’s race were much different. We had a beautiful late summer day that started out cool and then warmed up with bright sunshine and puffy clouds dotting a lovely blue sky.

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The roots of the Riverfront Cross (and Nationals) go back to 2003, when our team hosted the inaugural Connecticut Riverfront Cyclocross. Horst Engineering is on the opposite side of the river from the park, and only a 1/2 mile or so, as the crow flies; so I know this venue well. It was good to shake off the cobwebs since my last cross race, in this park, nine months ago.

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If something could go wrong, it did go wrong. I was late to prep my bikes for the event and was forced to take a pit bike that had road tires on it. My primary bike, a Seven Mudhoney Pro, was in pretty good shape, after a disc brake upgrade (TRP Hy/Rd) at our team shop, Bicycles East, in nearby Glastonbury. It was also Shepard’s first cross race since Nats, and he was pumped to be joining his Team Horst Junior Squad mates in the 9-12 year old Cub Juniors race.

We got to the park with just enough time to pre-ride part of the course, but three minutes into a lap, I heard a loud “CRACK” as I was slowly turning around a hairpin. It appeared that I broke a spoke, but I know that sound, and it was louder than that. I stopped to investigate and saw two spokes dangling, but oddly, they still had their heads. That’s when I realized that my Zipp hub had a catastrophic failure. The hub flange fracture and a chunk of it was missing, which is why two spokes were dangling from the 303 rim.

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Our pre-ride was cut short. Thankfully, my teammates took care of Shepard and got him started while I returned home to fetch a spare wheel that was compatible and had knobby tires mounted on it. I made it back in time to catch the end of the Juniors race, and fortunately, the wheel and its brake rotor, fit my brake calipers OK.

I was a little out of sorts by the time my 40+ race started, but two laps in, I had settled down and was comfortably in the top 10. On the third lap, as I was making my way across the off-camber turn by the gazebo, my rear wheel locked up. This was a result of my rear tubular rolling off the rim and getting jammed between the chain stay and my wheel. Game over…sort of. I was 600 meters or so from the pit, but I shouldered my bike and ran all the way there. Most of the guys in my race passed me while I was running. It was unfortunate, but I grabbed my Seven Tsunami, with the road wheels and tires, and did my best to chase over the next four laps. I actually lost more ground, and was pulled with one lap to go.

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It was a weak start to the season, but hopefully after I get my bikes back in working order, I’ll be able to better my result. I was hoping for a good race, but it wasn’t to be. Shepard had a very good race. So did his Junior Squad teammates. Also, many of the guys on Team Horst Sports had good races, especially Mike Wonderly, who won the 50+ race.

Another reason why I’m pumped for cross season, is the growth of Horst Engineering’s Cross Spikes product line. We have great momentum to build from after Nats was in our backyard. We have several new ambassadors and other projects in the works.

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I dropped my Zipp wheel off at Bicycles East and will figure out what to ride for Wednesday’s CCAP Rocky Hill CX Training Series race. I don’t have a real cross race until a week from Wednesday at the Midnight Ride of CX. I talked about my bad day with Shepard and explained how mechanicals are part of the sport. That’s bike racing!

Race Results

2017 Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run

Debbie capped an amazing year of running at last weekend’s Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run. There are still four months to go in 2017, but even if she doesn’t start another ultra, this year will go down as one of the best in her long career. Results have become less important as the experiences have become more important. That means that she has focused on more challenging events; where finishing, remaining injury free, and recovering to do it again and again, are better than winning.

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I’ve played the role of proud trip planner, Crew Chief, Sherpa, photographer, pacer, blogger, father, and husband. When you couple her races and training runs with her roles of yoga teacher, fitness instructor, coach, Cub Scout Den leader, land trust director, community volunteer, mother, and spouse; then it adds up to a lot. She is always fit because she has a balanced regimen of core strength, yoga, stretching, running, swimming, and cycling. People are always surprised by how “little” she runs. Exercise is part of her day, but not an obsession. One overlooked factor is her mental strength. It’s as strong as you can imagine.

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In February, I joined her in finishing the St. John Trail Race. In April, I joined her again to run the Promise Land 50K. In May, she and I shared another Long Trail adventure. In June, we did a modified Mohawk Trail loop, and then she did the rugged Manitou’s Revenge Ultra (54 miles). In July, we climbed Mt. Katahdin, and then she finished the Hardrock Endurance Run. She filled in the “gaps” with additional races, including the Goodwin Forest Trail Run, five Winding Trails Summer Tri Series races, the Mt. Greylock Trail Race, the Bolton Summer XC Series, the Soapstone Assault, and the People’s Forest Trail Race. This is quite a list considering that September hasn’t arrived yet and 33% of the year still remains!

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When we planned her 2017 schedule, she didn’t aim to run 100-milers in consecutive months. Last December, during the Hardrock lottery, she was quite fortunate to get picked 7th on the “Never” wait list. Even still, that was a precarious position to be in with no guarantee that she would be one of the 45 first-time runners (out of 145 total) to start the July race in Silverton, Colorado. Her qualifier, the 2015 ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI, was good for 2016 and 2017, but if she didn’t finish Hardrock, she would need another qualifier to enter the lottery for 2018 and 2019.

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In reviewing the list of Hardrock qualifiers, the only race that fit into the calendar and not conflict with our kids’ school, our work schedules, or the fall cyclocross schedule, was Cascade Crest. The late August date was six weeks after Hardrock, which provided adequate recovery time should she get off the wait list. If she ran and finished Hardrock, she wouldn’t need to run Cascade Crest; but she needed a backup plan should she not get into Hardrock, or should she start the race, but fail to finish. Cascade Crest is also a lottery, so she was lucky to gain one of the 161 entries in the February drawing. There were more than 400 entrants, so her odds of getting in were much better than Hardrock, but she was still fortunate to be chosen.

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As the Hardrock refund deadline approached in late-May, she moved up the wait list, and then got a welcoming call from Dale Garland, the Run Director, on June 1st. Only eight “Never wait-lister’s” made it into the 2017 race, so Lucky 7 was a good spot to be. Our trip to Colorado was amazing. I was worried about post-Hardrock blues, and it took some self-motivation to get geared up for our Washington trip. Work at Horst Engineering is busy as usual, and another trip out west was a big commitment.

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Seattle was a lure, because I wanted to visit Boeing. We don’t do direct business with them, but they are our largest indirect customer because our two largest customers are major suppliers. We have hundreds of parts on every Boeing aircraft. We were last in Washington 14 years ago, for the 2003 White River 50 Mile Endurance Run. That race was a few years before I started my blog, so there is no race report, but scan the finisher list for that year’s USATF 50 Mile Trail Championship. It includes some of the iconic names in ultrarunning from the last 15 years. As Debbie heads into her 20th year of ultrarunning, it’s fitting that we returned to the state where she ran her first 50-mile race that wasn’t the Vermont 50 Mile Run. Cascade Crest dates back to 1999, and is considered to be one of the classic 100-milers.

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She rested for a few weeks after we returned from Colorado, and then she eased back into running and mountain biking. Her longest run between the two 100’s was a 2.5 hour jaunt a couple of weeks before the race. After such a big buildup to Hardrock, there wasn’t any more fitness to be gained for Cascade Crest. The mountainous races both include a lot of climbing, but they are different in many other ways. The high point of Hardrock was 14,048 feet, the low point was 7,680 feet, the average elevation was 11,019 feet, and there was 66,100 feet of total elevation change. At Cascade Crest, the high point was 5,840 feet, the low point was 2,140 feet, and there was an estimated 52,000 feet of elevation change. The big difference was the altitude. There was a lot more high altitude hiking at Hardrock on rough terrain. Another difference was that Hardrock had a lot more moisture, both in the air and on the trails. At Hardrock, we had to deal with a lot of snow and a lot of snow melt. Cascade was warmer, and as dry as it gets.

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The approximately 26,000 feet of climbing is even more than the standard Cascade Crest course. Unfortunately, the Jolly Mountain Fire, 11 miles northwest of Cle Elum, forced a course change two days prior to the race. Race Director Rich White (who like me, comes from Vernon, Connecticut), and the race committee were forced to adjust. Heavy smoke filled the air throughout the week. The fire was too close to the northern half of the loop, so rather than cancelling, the race was run as an out and back on the first half of the course between Easton and Hyak. That 51-mile section is more rugged than the northern section. A loop course is always preferable, but an out and back is better than no race at all.

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The dry and dusty conditions were made worse by the smoke that hung low and obscured the spectacular views. The smoke did add a layer of texture to many of my photos, and the bad air quality was another challenge that the runners were forced to deal with. The proximity of Snoqualmie and Wenatchee National Forests to urban Seattle, and with Interstate 90 cutting through the mountains, this a very busy recreation area.

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In Debbie’s own words, “I tried hard.” She started with a smart and conservative pace, held it for quite a while, slowed a bit, and then was able to push a bit at the end. She finished the 102 mile course in 28 hours and 37 minutes, which is a long time, but much shorter than the 41 hours and 1 minute that it took to run Hardrock. Veteran Cascade runners took up to two hours longer than prior races on the standard course. Before the course change, she figured it would take between 25 and 30 hours, but she would have preferred being closer to 25. Given that the course was more difficult, she was happy with the result, finishing 42nd out of 161 starters. There were 109 finishers, and she was the 12th woman. Despite the course change, the 33 hour time cut remained.

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When she hit mile 79.9 after daybreak, she was poised to make a charge, but the last 22.1 miles were brutal, taking more than six hours to complete. The big charge didn’t materialize, but she did steadily make up several spots as the heat, hills, rocks, and other conditions conspired to slow other runners even more. This was the first major race in six years that we weren’t joined by Danny Roy, and we missed him. The Livingston’s were able to do the “Hardrock/Cascade Slam,” but two big trips in two months was too much for him given his relocation from northern California to Boston. We were grateful to have his help at Hardrock, but were forced to find crew replacements for Cascade Crest.

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Sean Greaney, a fellow Shenipsit Striders clubmate, moved to Seattle earlier this year. He and his girlfriend, Sarah Geneser, joined our crew and they were a huge help. Our team also included Marcellina Tylee, and her husband, Lou Tylee. They live in Seattle and love the outdoors. Like Debbie, Marcellina is coached by Al Lyman from Pursuit Fitness. The Tylee’s are seasoned runners, triathletes, hikers, campers, and outdoorspeople. They also know this part of Washington very well, and travel here for adventure all of the time.

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Sean and Sarah are also amazing outdoorspeople and they are experienced with crewing. In June, Sean ran his second Western States Endurance Run. He completed the famous 100-miler in 2016 and 2017 and has many other ultras on his resume. At Western States, he suffered an injury (tendonitis) that forced him to wear a walking boot for a few months after the race. He is on the mend and was well enough to pace Debbie for 10.8 miles between Stampede Pass (69.1 miles) and Tacoma Pass (79.9 miles). Sean has also been helping Steve LaBranche, another Shenipsit Strider, who is doing the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. He was with him at Western States, he crewed for him at the Leadville Trail 100 Run, and will be helping at the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run. All four of my crew mates were fantastic with Shepard and Dahlia, who were also a big help. It’s been years since I’ve had to change a diaper at an ultra, but they still need to be fed, entertained, and separated when conflicts arise.

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We rented a house in Hyak, which turned out to be a perfect base camp. We arrived in Easton on Friday afternoon, after spending the previous two nights in Seattle. The small A-frame reminded Debbie of the A-frame that she grew up in, and where her parents still live. This rental is a popular destination in winter when the Cascades are covered in deep snow. For us, the proximity to the course (a five-minute drive to the Hyak Aid Station) was fortuitous. Cascade Crest has a very “chill” vibe compared to Hardrock and some other 100-mile races. It’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from all of the “pomp and circumstance” at this week’s UTMB. There were no pre-race events or festivities. The focus was exclusively on the race, and that was nice in its own way.

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The 9:00 A.M. start on Saturday morning is another unique feature. That is late compared with most Saturday/Sunday 100-milers. Debbie has done Friday starts at 6:00 A.M., 3:00 P.M., and 6:00 P.M. Typically, a Saturday start is at 5:00 A.M. or 6:00 A.M. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, but the Cascade approach allows you to ease into the day. It even provides enough time for people, like Sean and Sarah, to drive from Seattle, and still make the 8:15 A.M. pre-race meeting. The volunteers were wonderful and welcoming, the aid stations were fantastic, and stocked with everything that a runner would need. There were many vegan options, including several hot soup choices.

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At the start, we saw some old New England friends. Vermont native but longtime Montanan, Nikki Kimball, was there to crew for a friend. Debbie and Nikki go way back. They met when Debbie was a Springfield College summer intern at the New Life Hiking Spa in Killington. The two developed their love of trails at the same time, running  together in the Green Mountains. They traveled to, and ran their first ultramarathon at the 1999 Vermont 50. Nikki won that race and launched a career that is ultrarunning “Hall of Fame” worthy. Debbie was fourth in that race, and her legs were so hammered, that Nikki had to drive her home when she couldn’t depress the clutch of her car.

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The 1999 VT50 happens to be the same race where I met Debbie for the first time, so despite not seeing Nikki as often, we have always had a strong connection with her. She was a bridesmaid at our wedding in 2001, and I helped her aunt crew for her when she won UTMB 10 years ago. That same race was Debbie’s first attempt at a 100-miler, and is one of only two ultras that she hasn’t finished. Her first attempt at the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run in 2013, ended in similar fashion, with profuse vomiting. Debbie was able to help Nikki in 2012, when she broke the supported female Long Trail End-to-End FKT. Debbie makes a cameo appearance in Finding Traction, the award-winning film about that adventure. We watched the DVD with the kids, but you can stream it on Amazon Prime.

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It was also great to reconnect with Jennifer Shultis, who is a Cascade Crest veteran. She also hails from New England, but moved to the Seattle area several years ago. In the early-2000’s Jen was a “fierce rival” on the New England adventure racing circuit, back when Debbie and I used to do a lot of two and three-person event. Seeing Jen always makes me smile!

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The runners started under a cloudless, but smoky sky. The haze surely affected their breathing during the race. I don’t know what was worse, the smoke or the dust. It has been an extraordinarily dry summer in the Cascades, and the forest roads were in rough shape. After watching the start, Sean and Sarah departed for a day-hike. They climbed Mount Catherine, a 5,052 foot bump that I did on Thursday morning. The mountain offers amazing 360 degree views, which include the monstrous Mount Rainier 50 or so miles to the south.

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Marcellina and Lou joined the kids and me at the first two aid stations, Tacoma Pass and Stampede Pass. The drives to Tacoma, and then back to Stampede, were dusty and challenging, but nothing like the white-knuckle long drives to some of the Hardrock aid stations in the San Juan Mountains.  These early aid stations were crowded and entertaining. We had good fun interacting with the other crews and cheering loudly for the runners as they passed through on the Pacific Crest Trail. Debbie started slowly, but was in good spirits when we saw her the first time at 22.1 miles. She got neutral aid at the early stations, including Goat Peak, Cole Butte, and Blowout Mountain, but she was still happy to see us at Tacoma Pass.

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When we saw her again at 32 miles at Stampede Pass, her spirits remained high. She was in for a long day ahead, but she reported that she was running smoothly without stomach or foot issues. She took her UltrAspire Lumen 600 waist light and a headlamp, plus a lightweight windproof jacket. She needed the lights and jacket for the Snoqualmie Tunnel, another unique feature of this race. Even in daylight, the 2.3-mile former rail tunnel requires lights because it is pitch black inside. It can also be quite cold. After Stampede Pass, it was a tough 19 miles without crew support, but she and the other runners had ample neutral support at the Meadow Mountain and Olallie Meadows aid stations.

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Debbie ran off. Marcellina, Lou, the kids, and I parted company with a plan to regroup at the Hyak Aid Station some five hours later. I drove the kids back to the house where we met up with Sean and Sarah. They had a great hike, but were also sun-baked, dusty, and grimy. We had some “happy hour” appetizers while taking turns in the single shower. Once we were all clean, we went to dinner at Commonwealth, next to Dru Brew in the neighboring town of Snoqualmie Pass. It was only five minutes up the road. When we arrived on Friday, I picked up a mini-growler at the brewery, so I already knew that the beer was good. Sean and I were planning to run, so we skipped the dinner drinks. The place was jammed, and it took about 90 minutes to get our food. We kept checking our watches, knowing that we were cutting it close. We didn’t want to take a chance at missing Debbie at this critical aid station. It would be another 19 miles without crew once she got there, and we wanted to make sure she had enough warm clothes to run through the night. It was also important to make sure that her lights were working well and that she had backup.

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The temperature had dropped noticeably, but it was warmer than the night before. We drove to the aid station and found a good spot to set-up Debbie’s stuff. This was a large aid station with multiple tents and a major first aid station. Walking through, we noticed a lot of runner “carnage.” Some folks were on cots. Others were slumped in chairs. I saw several runners getting their feet worked on. 51 miles on rugged trails had taken its toll on the field.

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Our son pulled out book number seven in the Harry Potter series, and was content to read with a flashlight. Our daughter was exhausted and fell asleep in a folding chair. The rest of us chatted, but it wasn’t long before I heard a familiar voice calling out as she gave her bib number to the volunteers. The big beam of her waist light cut through the darkness. I can spot Debbie from a mile away!

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It was 9:43 P.M. when she arrived. It had taken her 12 hours and 43 minutes to cover the first half of the race. Once again, she said she was feeling good and reported no gut issues, cramping, or foot problems. She did have a bloody elbow because of a fall on the “ropes” section of the course that brings you down from the PCT to the John Wayne (Rail) Trail that goes through the tunnel. This is a very steep section that is off-trail and more like a bushwhack. It had lots of loose rocks. She was lowering herself with the ropes, but the rope was not taught in the opposite direction and she ended up falling onto the rocks. Since it was fresh, the cut looked worse than it was, but Marcellina and Sean cleaned it out and bandaged it for her. We restocked her UltrAspire Zygos hydration vest while she ate some solid food. Shepard was very helpful, running back and forth to the food table, fetching whatever Debbie requested.

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Her headlamp wasn’t working well, but her waist light battery life was great, so I gave her a handheld flashlight for backup. She didn’t stay long, said her goodbyes, and headed back to the tunnel. I escorted her a little way up the trail and made sure she had what she needed. She kept her Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles with her the entire race, but had them strapped on her pack for this section of the course. We packed up all the aid station gear, and once again, parted company with Marcellina and Lou. They remained at the aid station and eventually slept in their GMC Suburban for a few hours. Sean, Sarah, and I took the kids back to the house. We washed up again and put the kids to bed. The plan was for Sarah to stay with them and then transport them to the finish line on Sunday. Sean and I discussed when we should be back at the Stampede Pass Aid Station. Debbie had done very well on the last section of course and arrived in Hyak nearly 20 minutes ahead of our own predictions. With that in mind, we decided to get to Stampede by 3:30 A.M. It was a 25-minute drive.

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I set my alarm for 2:30 A.M. and then laid down on the couch to rest a bit. Sean rested in one of the beds, but we were both up three hours later. He said that he slept soundly. I was a bit more restless. I kept mentally calculating the time estimates. There was a manual “live tracking” system on the race website, but it had a huge lag and lots of missing data. It was also difficult to navigate. Frustratingly, they didn’t have a column for “place,” which made finding Debbie’s name maddeningly difficult every time you checked. Compounding the tech glitches was very poor mobile phone coverage and no Internet/network at the house. I relied on old school techniques to estimate her splits.

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Sean and I were on the road around 3:00 A.M. and made the uneventful drive back to Stampede. There were a lot fewer people there this time. We parked and found a spot to settle in. At the aid station, we met up with Susanne Olson, who was crewing and pacing for another New England friend, Garry Harrington. Garry was also at Hardrock this year, but was a DNF for the second time. He attempted Hardrock five years ago, but it took him four more lottery tries to get back in as an “Else” runner.  Garry needed a Cascade finish to requalify for the Hardrock lottery this December. With that in mind, he went out very conservatively. Even still, he was hot on Debbie’s heels. All day long, he had been moving up in the field and each time we saw him, he proclaimed that he was getting stronger. He was still suffering like everyone, but maybe less than most.

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Marcellina and Lou arrived to round out our crew. They were real troopers, making it to multiple aid stations, regardless of the time of day. She was super enthused to be supporting Debbie, which made us all a little peppier. I’m glad we got there when we did, because Debbie arrived 15 minutes later. Our math was accurate. She was feeling a little worse than the last time we saw her, but it was 3:36 A.M. and she had gone 69.1 miles. Finally, she requested a shoe and sock change. She sat down and we helped her switch her Altra Lone Peak 3.0 shoes and Darn Tough socks to fresh pairs of the same models. We restocked her pack. Her light was fine and it was only two hours until daylight anyway. Sean was pumped to join her for the next section. They took off up the trail. I followed them for a few hundred meters and then said goodbye.

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As I returned, Garry arrived, and he was looking good. Marcellina and I helped Susanne tend to him. We couldn’t find his drop bag, but he was able to get neutral support. She originally planned to pace him from there to the finish, but he was running so fast. Even in the darkness, the next section was very  runnable, so she wisely decided to wait another 10 miles before joining him. With that, I gained a companion for the drive to Tacoma Pass. Marcellina and Lou opted to go to the finish in Easton, rather than make the drive back to Tacoma. They wanted to see the leaders, who were only a few hours away from being done. Susanne and I had a good time on our 40-minute drive. It was nice to have a companion. It was funny that at 4:00 A.M., we were “talking shop.” She works for Markem-Imaje, a division of Dover Corporation, in Keene, New Hampshire, where Garry is from. Horst Engineering has done business with multiple Dover divisions, including Waukesha Bearing and Sargent Aerospace. She is training for her first 100, the TARC Ghost Train 100 Miler in Brookline, New Hampshire.

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We talked about kids, college, the economy, and running. It was fun. We figured that it would take 2.5 to 3 hours for Deb, Sean, and Garry to run this section, so even after we arrived at Tacoma, we had time to chat. We had a great parking spot, within view of the aid station and the trail, so we could remain in the vehicle. It was chilly, but not uncomfortably cold. Debbie had remained in her tank top until nighttime. Afterwards, she donned her jacket and regulated her temperature by zipping/unzipping. When she reached Tacoma, she stowed it in her pack for the rest of the race. At Tacoma, I was already dressed to run, and prepared my gear and Debbie’s gear for her arrival. Once that was done, I made breakfast for Susanne and me. We had peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I joked that the only thing we were missing was a toaster.

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Sunrise was obscured by the trees, but still beautiful. I assumed that the view higher up where Debbie and Sean came from was spectacular. Throughout the night, we noticed that the stars were amazing. As the sun came up, Susanne and I got out of the truck and hung out with a few other folks waiting for runners. Around the time I expected Debbie to arrive, I went up the trail to take some photos. Garry got there first, but he said she wasn’t far behind. I expected him to make the pass. He was looking good when we saw him at Tacoma. A minute or two later, I spotted Debbie and Sean. She was still in a good mood, which was fantastic. She didn’t suffer any terrible lows at Hardrock, and she was having a good race here too. I made sure that Sean had the truck keys, not wanting a repeat of my prior key episodes at Hardrock when I thought I lost them and had to chase down Debbie and Danny a mile up the trail to fetch a spare set from his pack. This time, I only had one key, so I was careful to place it on the front tire and not risk locking it inside the vehicle. It had taken her just under three hours to go between Tacoma and Stampede.

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Before Sean returned to the house, he ended up hanging around the aid station and talking to an old acquaintance who he met at another ultra. Debbie and I left before Garry, but he and Susanne caught up to us within 10 minutes. The section between the two previous passes was relatively smooth, and rolling. However, from this point on, it was going to be a relentless series of climbs and descents, starting with a very big climb of more than four miles in length. By the time we started, the sun was up, so we ditched our lights and donned our sunglasses.

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It was already a gorgeous day, and soon became a hot one with the temperature reaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Debbie’s pace slowed noticeably on the steeper sections of the climb, and she started to fade. This became the theme for the next six hours. She only had one steady tempo, or “gear” to hike in. That first big climb after leaving Tacoma wound through some of the most beautiful forest I had ever seen. Huge evergreen trees stood straight as an arrow. As the sun got higher in the sky, it came shining through the canopy. At one point, we caught up to another runner. His name was Jeramie Mcdonough. He was out of it when we first met up with him. He was literally asleep on his feet, while still moving forward. His eyes were half shut, and he knew it! He had driven from Salt Lake City the day before the race and gotten very little sleep on Friday night. Amazingly, he recovered, and a few hours later, he was zooming ahead again. He finished a few hours in front of Debbie, so he had a great final 15 miles.

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She was OK, on the the rare flat section, and she was really good on the runnable downhills. Unfortunately, a lot of the downhills were loose rock and sandy dirt, which made footing difficult. That kept her from opening up her stride and forced her to hike down some the steep single track. When you are going uphill at 1 to 2 miles per hour and then only able to manage three to four miles an hour on the downhills, you can’t make up any time. She continued to make up time by quickly moving through the remaining aid stations, including Blowout Mountain, Cole Butte, and Goat Peak. One climb was on an exposed dirt road through heavily logged forest. It went on forever and had dozens of switchbacks. The sun was high in the sky and it baked us. Over the course of 28+ hours, the one hour on that road was when she struggled the most. Even after we reached the aid station, the trail continued to pitch up, turning to single track for the final section.

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Some of the toughest downhill came at the end as we plunged back down to Easton, the low point on the course. At each of the last three aid stations, she left before me. I helped her first, and then stayed a few minutes longer to refill my UltrAspire Epic hydration pack, chat with the volunteers, take photos, and ingest some food. Each time, it only took five minutes to catch back up to her. She was moving slowly but steadily on very tired legs. At the last aid station, one of the volunteers talked me into taking a popsicle. Debbie didn’t want one, and I didn’t really want one either. For a moment, I figured I would give it to my daughter. I must have been delusional because we were still a long way from the finish. I put it in the front of my vest/pack, but by the time we got to the finish, it had turned into a liquid sack. I had to toss it, and made sure I didn’t mention it to Dahlia.

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We passed a few more of the male runners, with their pacers, on the last section. The closest runner to her was Diarmuid Truax, who ended up three minutes behind her. At the finish, I got a great shot of his filthy feet. I later learned when we bumped into him on the airport car rental center shuttle bus, that he regretted not taking a photo himself. I was able to text him mine and he was thrilled. On the descent into Easton, we also passed by Glenn Tachiyama, a local runner and photographer. I have always admired Glenn’s work. He is frequently published in Ultrarunning Magazine and other running periodicals. Glenn and I snapped photos at the exact moment that Debbie was passing by a large pointy rock. I didn’t see him, but in my image, you can make out his white Seven Hills Running Shop shirt where he was literally hiding in the bushes. Earlier this week, I liked his photo of her on Facebook, left a comment, and confirmed that was exactly what he was doing.

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It wasn’t long after that, and we were back in Easton. We navigated through a final section of ATV trail (complete with ATV’s), then on to some gravel roads, before once again running on the John Wayne (Rail) Trail. The last section was a one mile stretch. Debbie kept asking me to look back. She wasn’t running for a high place, but it is still demoralizing to get passed in the final minutes of 100-miler. I gather that is what happened to the two leading men. After leading for most of the race, Matthew Urbanski was passed by Lindsay Hamoudi not far from the finish. I am anxious to hear how that went. Matthew ran 20 hours 11 minutes and 25 seconds. Lindsay ran 20 hours 8 minute and 9 seconds. That’s close. Ben Koss was third, but nearly two hours behind.

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On the women’s side, Kaytlin Gerbin and Ashley Nordell had a race-long battle. At one point, both of them were in the top three or four overall. Kaytlin came out on top, finishing 5th overall in 22 hours 22 minutes and 45 seconds. Ashley was two spots behind her in 23 hours 20 minutes and 59 seconds. Jess Mullen was third in 24 hours 42 minutes and 37 seconds. Garry ended up gaining 41 minutes on Debbie in those final 22 miles. He had a great race and got his Hardrock qualifier. Rob Lalus, one other New England friend, who now lives in the Pacific Northwest, also had a good race. This was his 6th time, and he said it was by far, the hardest.

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Debbie now has two Hardrock qualifiers, but that doesn’t do her any good. You can’t “bank” them for the future. I’m sure she will enter the lottery again, but she is uncertain if she would run. If she gets in, she has to. At least, that’s my opinion. Right now, she says she wants to dial back the ultras and dial up XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon as a change of pace. That is also something we can do together. She had fun at last year’s XTERRA French River Triathlon, and is keen to do more.

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The only race on her calendar right now is the Vermont 50. We go every year. The only time we missed since 1999 was 2015 when she did UTMF in Japan. The big difference is that she is registered as a mountain biker. We dropped her bike off at the shop today. It’s 15 years old and needs a little updating.

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Cascade Crest was a great race. The volunteers were fantastic. The start/finish is at the fire station in Easton. They pulled out the trucks and used the interior as a staging area that was in the shade. After the race, we hung out for a few hours, eating, chatting, and resting. A bucket was provided to each runner so they could soak and wash their feet. That was a really nice touch.

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Our crew was having such a good time. We didn’t want to say our goodbyes. We extended our time together by driving over to Lake Easton State Park to take a dip. The kids swam and played on the beach. When we had enough of the cold water, we finally parted company, with Sean, Sarah, Marcellina, and Lou returning to Seattle. Debbie, the kids, and I had one more night at the house. We returned there, washed up, and made a pizza. That was also exciting. Somehow, she ignited the peppers and onions when she was warming them in the microwave. That created a bit of a stir when I had to extinguish the six-inch flames.

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Just in case you didn’t know, we love adventure.

Live Results

Prior Years Results

 

2017 People’s Forest Trail Race

Today, Debbie, Shepard, and I ran the People’s Forest Trail Race in Barkhamsted. It was race number six in the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series and race number 12 in the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series. It was the first time we’ve been to this race since 2011, and the first time that I ran it since 2008. I didn’t come close to the sub-56 minute time I ran that year, but I was still happy to be in the woods.

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A few weeks back, I was out this way for a Horst Engineering Senior Leadership Team offsite meeting. We rented a lodge on the Farmington River, just down the street from People’s Forest State Park.  People’s is a beautiful park. Even though Greystone Racing only charged $8 entry fee, I was bummed about the $9 fee that the State of Connecticut DEEP charged to enter a barren and waterlogged park. You can bet that they knew there would be an influx of runners that they could “tax” for the day. I wouldn’t have a problem if the fees stayed with the DEEP for reinvestment in the parks and trails, but the way our state is run, I’m sure that the money will go to some general fund that is squandered.

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Anyway, back to running. Today dawned very wet. It poured the entire drive from Bolton to Barkhamsted, and the humidity was 100% at the race start, but amazingly, the precipitation stopped during the race. It would probably have been better if it rained. The rocky and rooty trails were mucky, slippery, and slimy.

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Unfortunately, Debbie and Shepard made a bad wrong turn. The course markings were quite weak. That’s too bad. There are a lot of trail junctions, intersections, and forest road crossings on this course. They used chalk to mark the turns (instead of ribbons or flags), and it was washed away in many spots. They missed a turn on a big descent. Two other runners were with them. Debbie knows the course, but even for a veteran, it is still confusing. The four of them ended up at a road crossing that she didn’t recognize, and they had to hike back up the hill. It cost Debbie and Shepard 25 minutes.

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She said that he was running strongly, but after the wrong turn, he was really bummed out. She decided to stick with him and they finished together, but well off the pace. It was good learning for him. Dahlia hung out at the van. She is deep into the Harry Potter books, and is happy to just read, read, read.

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I felt OK, but I haven’t had any short race speed in 2017. I was five minutes slower than 2008, which isn’t much of a comparison. My beard has a lot more grey in it and the trails were super-slick. I did get my heart rate up to 194 in the final sprint (I lost to another runner by one second), which is a level I haven’t seen at all this year. Maybe this “speed work” will help me turn the corner with my running fitness.

We hung out a bit and washed off in the river. It was fun to see some of our Shenipsit Striders and other running friends. Shep said he is “done with this race” but I doubt that. He will be back in the future to give it another go.

Race Results (link will be updated when results are live, but this is the Greystone Racing results page should they show up before I return to this post)

2017 Soapstone Assault

We love the Soapstone Assault. We love the Shenipsit Striders. Today was our annual race up and around Soapstone Mountain in Somers, Connecticut. In recent years, the race has doubled as our running club’s summer picnic.

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The Assault is a five-mile trail running race in Shenipsit State Forest with six trips up (five trips down) the mountain. The final ascent is up the infamous Killer Hill. All you have to do is search my blog for more history on the Assault and how it is scored using the Dispea Race system.

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The gist of it is the system is if you are older or younger, you get a head start; and women get a head start over men. It is age and gender graded, so the first person across the line, regardless of age or gender, is declared the winner. The way we run it, it’s an honor system thing. Everyone gets a letter on their bib number that represents your group. The timer calls out the letter and you start with that group.

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Debbie, Shepard, and I ran. Dahlia hung out at the water station. I thought I had Debbie beat, but I made a stupid wrong turn around the four-mile mark, or rather, I missed the second to last turn up the hill, and added a little extra time (Strava shows 2.5 minutes) to my race. I never caught up with her, though she did pass me coming down the Quarry Trail while I was heading up. She was faster on the downs and I was faster on the ups, but ceding time to her is a sure way to lose in our life-long Livingston Family Trail Running Series. I dug out my classic early-1980’s singlet and shorts. The next time I wear that kit, will be on a future Halloween. Five miles in that get-up was enough, but brought back memories for me, and generated some laughs from others. The set came out of a bin of vintage Striders supplies that we had in our basement.

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Shep had a rough day, but he persevered and finished, which we told him is good for his experience. Every race can’t be a great race, and most are just for fun. Nothing is more fun than a local race on some of your favorite trails, even if you should know the course, but still convince yourself to not turn when you come to a busy trail intersection.

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Stefan Rodriguez, who took the wrong with me, caught up to Debbie, passed her, and took the overall win. Debbie followed him. I was third. Jason Kudron was fourth, after he led most of the race, but apparently, he made the same wrong turn that Stefan and I did, but went even farther down the wrong trail before turning back. I couldn’t stick with Stefan after we turned back, but I was happy to just cruise it in after mentally checking out. Unfortunately, a lot of people behind us also took the wrong turn. It should have been marked, and has been in prior years, but wasn’t marked today. Ugh.

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This year’s special timed competition at the summit included several tasks. You had to do 19 Burpees, then thread a needle, and then tie a knot in the thread. The winner earned a plate of home-baked cookies. Debbie took the prize (for the second year in a row) in 2 minutes and 9 seconds. Most people had no problem with the Burpees, but threading the needle was hard. I chose to sit and watch. I never sew, and that is more often than I do Burpees.

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Even better than the race was the post-race picnic. We invited club members and anyone else who wanted to hang out to join us in the picnic grove just below the summit. We had an awesome pot-luck meal and cookout. It was a beautiful day and it was a lot of fun to catch up with everyone. The Shenipsit Striders have been represented at some amazing races in 2017. Two weekends ago, on the same day, our members were represented at  the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon in Iceland, Hardrock Endurance Run in Colorado, and the Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run in Vermont. That’s covering some ground! Everyone was happy to race closer to home today.

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We were the last ones at the picnic when old friend, Jeff Woods, came running down the hill. He didn’t realize it was the day of the Assault, and had just run over from his house to get in some training miles. He worked hard to convince Debbie to join him at an upcoming adventure race in Vermont. She and Jeff are AR teammates going back to the early-2000’s. His invitations are always compelling, so she has to think about this one, especially with the Cascade Crest 100 Mile Endurance Run only a month away.

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Our club will host the final Bolton Summer XC Series Race this coming Wednesday, and then the next major club event is 10 weeks away at the NipMuck Trail Marathon. This will be the 34th running of the classic! The Assault and NipMuck are both part of the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Trail Running Series. The next series race is Saturday at the scenic People’s Forest Trail Run.

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Race Results (timer was started with the first runner and doesn’t represent actual time)

2017 Hardrock Endurance Run

She kissed the rock.

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That outcome was an amazing accomplishment for Debbie after 19 years of ultra marathon trail running, and more than 80 ultras around the world. The result was a huge relief to me. I’ve been her Crew Chief and biggest supporter at nearly all those events. Even after a running career filled with victories and other top placings, just finishing the 2017 Hardrock Endurance Run is her most grueling achievement yet. That says a lot about the significance of this “run.”

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It would have been a huge disappointment to train so hard, get off the wait list, travel all that way, deal with all the hype, suffer so much; and then not get to the finish line to kiss the Hardrock. There were so many variables to worry about; including the altitude, lightning, rain, snow, elevation, trail conditions, route finding, darkness, her health, her fitness, her nutrition plan, and the fact that the difficult course through the San Juan mountains is one of the most rugged imaginable.

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Check out my Preview blog post for more background on the run. She never set foot on the course until the morning of the race. Running this beast “on sight” isn’t recommended, but it’s just how it worked out. Going back (regardless of the direction) would be a huge advantage the second time around. We learned so much that can be applied in the future, now that she and our crew have gone through the experience, and truly know what we are up against.

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Going back isn’t guaranteed, but knowing her, she would like another crack at it now that she has that first finish under her belt. Hardrock is a run that rewards experience, requires patience, and favors veteran runners. She was fortunate just to be on the start line, and she made the most of her opportunity by completing one of the world’s most prestigious mountain runs. She finished this monument in 41 hours, 01 minute, and 58 seconds. The stats on Hardrock are astounding. This year, the race was run in the counter-clockwise direction.

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Prior to this year’s event, the Run Committee shared some great info: 

  • Total Distance: 100.5 miles
  • Total Climb and Descent: 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent
  • Average elevation: 11,019 feet above sea level
  • Low Point: Town of Ouray: 7,680 feet above sea level
  • High Point: Handies Peak: 14,048 feet above sea level
  • Amount of course on paved surface: 0.17 mile
  • Cutoff Time: 48 hours
  • Runners entered: 145
    • # of male: 123
    • # of female: 22
  • Oldest entrant: 70 years old
  • Youngest Entrants: 26 years old
  • Average Age of entrant: 46 years old
    • 6 runners over age of 60
  • Runners with most Hardrock Finishes:
    • Kirk Apt: 22 finishes
    • Blake Wood: 20 finishes
    • Betsy Kalmeyer: 18 finishes
  • Total # of Hardrock finishes among 2017 starters: 432
  • # of potential first time Hardrock finishers in 2017: 51
  • Number of States Represented: 29
  • Foreign Countries Represented: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain
  • Fastest times:
    • Male-Kilian Jornet, 22 hours, 41 minutes 33 seconds (2014 clockwise)
    • Female-Diana Finkel, 27 hours, 18 minutes, 24 seconds (2009 counter-clockwise)
  • % of entered runners (all time) who have finished Hardrock: 63%
  • Total Number of Hardrock finishes (through 2016): 1701
  • Different people who have finished (through 2016): 700
  • Average finishing Time: 39 Hours 52 Minutes 39 Seconds
  • # of 2017 volunteers: 450+

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Debbie’s legs did the running, and walking, but finishing Hardrock was a team effort. She got tons of support and felt the great vibes from friends all over the world. Our teammates on Team Horst Sports and the Shenipsit Striders, are some of her biggest fans. Those friends and family weighed in via email, text, and social media. They sent their well wishes, and congratulations. Throughout the course of this two-day adventure, I shared the feedback from a legion of followers with her.

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As for the crew, I can’t say enough about how great they were. We were joined by our children, Shepard (10) and Dahlia (7), who have been living the ultra lifestyle since they were born. Believe, me, they remind us frequently about their sacrifices. Take this episode as an example. After the race on Sunday, a woman introduced herself.

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She saw Debbie arrive at the Grouse Gulch Aid Station. It had been nearly 12 hours since we last saw her at the Cunningham Gulch Aid Station. A lot happened in that time. We drove a long way, we ate breakfast, we visited a mining museum, the kids drank hot chocolate, we played ball, we went to the playground, we snacked, we hung around, we napped, we snacked some more, we had lunch, we drove some more, we snacked again, we hiked, and then we made dinner. It was a typical ultra where you have to hurry up and wait!

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Anyway, Debbie arrived at Grouse and Danny and I were assessing her needs, checking in with her, and sorting her gear. It had been a long time since we saw her. She was anxious to change her shoes, change her clothes, and fuel up. I never heard what Dahlia said, but this woman told us that in the middle of all of this aid station chaos, she stated, “Mommy, I HAVEN’T eaten a thing ALL DAY LONG.” In print, you can’t read how sassy this apparently sounded. This woman said that hearing this was the highlight of her day. That brings a huge smile to my face. Running an ultramarathon isn’t for the faint of heart. Neither is crewing one…even if you have the boundless energy of a seven-year old.

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If you asked our kids what they think of all this and how they feel, neither would give up the adventures that they have had. I live it, so it is hard for me to be objective, but the education they have gotten can’t be measured. To them, it is just normal that Mom runs these distances and smiles about it. From the early days, crewing while carrying them in a sling, to Hardrock, where they contributed more than ever, I have been amazed with their enthusiasm and support.

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We know that many athletes leave their kids behind when they head to the mountains, and that is their prerogative. After all, the mountains can be a place of solace. However, we have always taken the opposite approach by including the family in our adventures. I know that the added responsibilities (I have to keep them clothed, warm, entertained, safe, and fed too) and Debbie’s worry about their welfare, have occasionally compromised her performance, but we would never miss the opportunity to share these adventures with them. That is consistent with the Hardrock “family values” that are touted.

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Another key member of our crew is my cousin, Danny Roy, who is Debbie’s “go to” pacer. He has assisted us at most of her big races over the last six years, and was clutch at Hardrock too. He drove 1,000 miles (each way) from Folsom, California, to be part of our San Juan Mountains adventure. Danny has selflessly given his time to support Debbie and deserves major kudos. He has several marathons and ultramarathons on his own resume, and has years of running success ahead in his career. He has described this relationship with her as a mentor/mentee. He is like a young Jedi training for when the roles are reversed.

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Rounding out our crew were two ultra-rookies, but you would never have known it. Their outdoor adventure experience is even greater than ours, and they had the advantage of being local residents. Amy Relnick was one of Debbie’s roomates at Springfield College, back in the mid-1990’s. Like Debbie, she is a NOLS graduate and outdoor educator. It was so good to reconnect with her.

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Ironically, the last time we saw her in person, was in Seattle, back in 2003, during a trip that included the White River 50 Mile Endurance Run. She and her partner, John Hulburd, were a huge help, particularly with the kids. The original plan was for the children to sleep in the vehicle (a Ford Edge) at an aid station while Danny and I traded pacing duties, but the timing worked out that I was able to deliver the kids to Amy and John at their home in Ridgway, so that they could spend the night in a bed.

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There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this event. The entire week was fantastic. Camp Hardrock kicked off on Tuesday and continued through the awards ceremony on Monday. We couldn’t participate in everything. It would have been too tiring. We were based in Durango for the first part of the week, but were able to move to the Grand Imperial hotel in Silverton for the night before the race, and the night after the race. For the first part of Camp Hardrock, we traveled back and forth from Durango.

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Race registration started on Wednesday and the pre-race meeting was on Thursday. After the meeting, the Hardblock Run was held for kids 10 and under. They raced around they block in a torrential downpour, that was an omen for the harsh race conditions the runners would face over the course of the long weekend. Our kids had an absolute blast. Kilian Jornet, Jason Schlarb, and Anna Frost were great sports, while playing the traditional role of the prior year’s winners, and leading the kids around the block in the heavy rain.

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Starting on race day (Friday), Danny and I were up from 4:00 A.M. until midnight on Saturday after Debbie finished. He ran with her from Grouse Gulch (42.2 miles) to Ouray (56.6 miles), and then handed the pacing duties to me. I ran with her from Ouray (56.6 miles) to Chapman Gulch (82.1 miles), and then he took over again, joining her from Chapman Gulch (82.1 miles) to the finish in Silverton (100.5 miles). His total pacing mileage was 32.7 miles and mine was 25.5 miles. My Strava track shows more than 9,300 feet of elevation for that stretch of the course.

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“Ran” is a term that is worthy of discussion. People ask how much running there is in Hardrock. Well, there is a lot, but there is also a lot of hiking, especially on the uphills. For Debbie, there were multiple climbs that lasted between five and six hours, with most of that speed hiking. That’s crazy. The top finishers are powering their way up these hills. She really struggled with this aspect of the run, especially at the elevations above 12,000 feet. She was having trouble breathing and moving very deliberately (slowly).

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Hardrock is one of the most challenging ultras to crew. I often describe crewing a hundred-miler as a combination of a “scavenger hunt” and “Cannonball Run.” The single loop course crosses some of the most difficult mountain terrain in the country. The paved roads, including the infamous Million Dollar Highway, are some of the most challenging and dangerous to drive, and the dirt/unimproved roads that traverse the high mountain passes are even more treacherous. Many were impassable with our rental vehicle, leaving long gaps between crewing opportunities.

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My Hardrock preparation could have been better, but I was so busy in the lead up to the race, that I really didn’t have time to study the maps and other documentation until we arrived in Colorado. Logistics are a big part of running ultramarathons. Thankfully, the Runners Manual included excellent directions, which helped with navigation. Communication in the San Juan Mountains is very difficult. It doesn’t matter what mobile phone service you have. Reception is only available in Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride, and even there, it was spotty. The moment you leave these village centers, you lose connection, which makes it even harder on the crews.

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Each runner wore a beacon, which transmitted real-time location via GPS. The MAProgress website showed their exact location, but we could only access it when in town. I think that friends and family back home had a better idea of how the runners were doing, than we did. Having a full-sized monitor was also an advantage because accessing the tracking on my iPhone 6S was a challenge. Still, it was better than nothing. When we were back in Silverton after the first few aid stations, I logged in with my MacBook and this was better.

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In addition to the live tracking, results were posted to OpenSplitTime, but there was often a lag of up to two hours after a runner passed through an aid station. I found that when we did have a mobile connection, that the live GPS tracking was the better tool to measure Debbie’s progress. We were only able to see her at the start, at five aid stations (highlighted in red on the table below) and then at the finish, and this is why it made sense for us to alter our plan and have a pacer with her from the minimum starting point at 42.2 miles.

Station
Miles
Segment
Climb
Descent
Leader
48Hr Pace
Access
Crew
Cunningham
9.3
9.3
3840
-2770
700
800
Auto
Yes
Maggie
15.4
6.1
3160
-1700
830
930
4WD
No
Pole Creek
19.7
4.3
960
-1340
915
1015
Hike
No
Sherman
28.8
9.1
1390
-3210
1100
1200
Auto/4WD
Yes
Burrows
32.6
3.8
950
0
1130
1215
Auto
No
Grouse
42.2
9.6
4308
-4188
1415
1515
Auto
Yes
Engineer
48.7
6.5
2310
-1220
1545
1645
Hike
No
Ouray
56.6
7.9
455
-4575
1645
1745
Auto
Yes
Governor
64.5
7.9
3148
-48
1815
1915
Auto
No
Kroger’s
67.8
3.3
2320
0
1915
2015
Hike
No
Telluride
72.8
5
40
-4390
2015
2115
Auto
Yes
Chapman
82.1
9.3
4500
-3090
2215
2315
Auto/4WD
Hike in Only
KT
89.1
7
2920
-2450
230
330
4WD
No
Putnam
94.7
5.6
2425
-1455
330
430
320
Hike
Silverton
100.5
5.8
324
-2614
430
530
Hike
No

Click here for a link to the complete table of aid stations and more details.

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Here were Debbie’s actual splits:

Split
Mile
Time of Day
Elapsed Time
Segment Time
In Aid
Start
0
Fri 6:00AM
0m
–:–
Cunningham In / Out
9.3
Fri 8:41AM / Fri 8:43AM
2h41m / 2h43m
2h41m
2m
Maggie In / Out
15.4
Fri 11:06AM / Fri 11:08AM
5h06m / 5h08m
2h23m
2m
Pole Creek In / Out
19.7
Fri 12:23PM / Fri 12:25PM
6h23m / 6h25m
1h15m
2m
Sherman In / Out
28.8
Fri 3:04PM / Fri 3:15PM
9h04m / 9h15m
2h39m
11m
Burrows In / Out
32.6
Fri 4:25PM / Fri 4:31PM
10h25m / 10h31m
1h10m
6m
Grouse In / Out
42.2
Fri 8:32PM / Fri 8:49PM
14h32m / 14h49m
4h01m
17m
Engineer In / Out
48.7
Fri 11:44PM / Fri 11:44PM
17h44m / 17h44m
2h55m
0m
Ouray In / Out
56.6
Sat 2:14AM / Sat 2:32AM
20h14m / 20h32m
2h30m
18m
Governor In / Out
64.5
Sat 5:40AM / Sat 5:50AM
23h40m / 23h50m
3h08m
10m
Kroger In / Out
67.8
Sat 7:39AM / Sat 7:48AM
25h39m / 25h48m
1h49m
9m
Telluride In / Out
72.8
Sat 9:04AM / Sat 9:16AM
27h04m / 27h16m
1h16m
12m
Chapman In / Out
82.1
Sat 1:59PM / Sat 2:09PM
31h59m / 32h09m
4h43m
10m
Kamm Traverse In / Out
89.1
Sat 5:46PM / Sat 5:57PM
35h46m / 35h57m
3h37m
11m
Putnam In / Out
94.7
Sat 9:13PM / Sat 9:15PM
39h13m / 39h15m
3h16m
2m
Finish
100.5
Sat 11:01PM
41h01m58s
01h46m30s
1h52m

It’s really neat to see the amount of time spent in aid stations. Some runners spent less than 40 minutes total. They tended to be the faster runners and veteran runners. Debbie’s total of an hour and 52 minutes seems like a lot, but was less than many other runners. Some people took short naps, particularly if they were not feeling well. In her case, her longest stop was for 18 minutes, which was not enough time to nap. That stop involved a complete a shoe change, refueling, and a bathroom break.

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Over the last 24 years, Hardrock has developed legendary status. Only 145 lucky runners (including 53 first timers) earned the right to start this year’s race. Before last week, only 700 unique runners had finished Hardrock over the course of its history. Given the size and growth of the ultrarunning community, that is an elite group. I wrote about Hardrock’s history, qualification requirements, and lottery in my Pre-Hardrock blog post. Out of those 145, there were 126 finishers.

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The 86.9% finisher rate was far above the 63% historical average, and the highest in history. That speaks to the quality of this year’s field, which was touted as one of the strongest ever. Hardrock was on the same weekend as two other races that Debbie has done before, the Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, and the Vermont 100 Endurance Run. We had friends in Nevada and in Vermont. Both are great races. TRT100 is at higher elevation, and has a lot of climbing, though nothing like Hardrock. VT100 is much flatter and uses many horse paths and dirt roads, so it is a much easier 100 miler (if that can be said). It was a busy weekend for ultrarunning.

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At Hardrock, Kilian Jornet won the men’s race for the fourth year in a row, finishing in 24:32, after a battle with Mike Foote, Joe Grant, Gabe Joyes, Nick Coury, and Iker Carerra. Check out Jornet’s splits. He was slowed by a dislocated shoulder. Like I said, it was great to see him lead the kids in the Hardblock Run. Between Wednesday and Saturday, every time I saw him, he was smiling, laughing, or chatting with other runners, volunteers, and crew.

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Kilian seems to be a very affable guy, who has amazing talent, and serious drive. Obviously, a lot has been written about him since his Mount Everest exploits back in May. He already had serious credentials before that expedition and before he won Hardrock for the fourth year in a row. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just search the Internet. His 2016 co-winner, Jason Schlarb, had a rough day after suffering from a stomach bug. It was still nice to meet him and I’m sure he will be back in the future to tackle Hardrock again.

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Caroline Chaverot won the women’s race in 28:31. She was followed by three-time winner, Darcy Piceu, Nathalie Mauclair, two-time winner Anna Frost, and Becky Bates. Chaverot was very aggressive, running the first part of the race with the men’s leaders. She eventually made a wrong turn, and had some falls, but she had built up enough of a lead to hold on for the win. It’s great to see that she pushed on. iRunFar had great Hardrock coverage, so check it out to learn more about the race winners and the story behind their runs. Jamil Coury has a funny and informative video at Run Steep Get High. It’s rated PG, but our kids loved it. Everyone, including the fastest runners, faced challenges. That’s why Hardrock has the reputation of being unrelenting.

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At the award ceremony on Sunday morning, Run Director Dale Garland said that each runner demonstrated the “grit and perseverance” of the Hardrock miners, whom the race is named for.

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The last two finishers came in at 5:49 A.M. in the morning, kissing the rock after more than 47 hours 49 minutes. Jornet was one of the runners who was there to greet Liz Bauer and Robert Andrulis, along with the other runners who finished in the “golden hour,” that magical final hour of the race between 5:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. on Sunday, before the 48 hour cutoff.

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Debbie, Danny, the kids, and I stayed at the Grand Imperial Hotel, a mere block from the finish line, and we listened as the final runners arrived to the applause of the crowd that assembled. It was reminiscent of the 2009 Ironman Lake Placid and the 2010 Ironman World Championships, when our hotel rooms were equally as close to the finish line. We could hear the final athletes arriving just before the midnight deadline. This time, I was lying on the floor in my sleeping bag and I had goosebumps. If I had an ounce of energy left, I would have walked down to be part of the celebration, but I was wiped out and had to listen from the room.

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Debbie’s race was an awesome experience. She, Danny, the kids and I were all at the start in Silverton. She had to sign in between 5:00 A.M. and 5:45 A.M. It was a two-minute walk from our hotel. Silverton was buzzing. The anticipation at this ultra was like none I’ve experienced before. On the walk over, I met a runner who was sitting at #2 on the Else Wait List. Past runners have made it into the field on race morning, minutes before the start, so it wasn’t a crazy idea for him to travel to Silverton. A last-minute drop out is always a possibility. I think the last runner to make it into the field was two days before the start. This year, there was no last minute drama, but he said he was ready, and could run back to his hotel room and be dressed in five minutes if a slot opened up. This shows how badly runners want to run Hardrock.

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After the start, we drove to Cunningham Gulch at 9.3 miles. The runners came down the backside of Little Giant Peak. They crossed Cunningham Creek and arrived at the aid station. This was the only place where we were able to see all of the runners, which was a lot of fun. It was chilly in the gulch and the energy level was very high. Debbie was in good spirits. Everyone had to get wet crossing the creek. Only one runner removed his shoes and socks, and that was Jornet. He declared to the assembled crowd that there were other opportunities to get his feet wet, but this early in the race, he preferred to have dry feet. On the other side of the creek, he calmly toweled off and put them back on.  Debbie didn’t worry about this. She changed her shoes and socks later in the race, when we saw her.

2017_Hardrock Endurance Run-29

Two of her biggest concerns were route finding and the altitude. For her, following the course wasn’t that difficult. She said at times that there were long distances between the course markers, but she would periodically check a map that she downloaded to the Trail Run Project app on her iPhone. The app would show her location on the map and she could verify that she was on course. The altitude was the bigger challenge. Her last high mountain race was the 2015 Speedgoat Mountain Races at Snowbird in Utah, but the high point was only 11,000 feet. Hardrock was totally different. The average elevation for the full 100 miles was above 11,000 feet. The air above 13,000 feet was so thin and she really struggled to breathe efficiently. The only way to improve your performance at these elevations is to spend more time running/hiking at that altitude. Coming from Connecticut, where we live at 590 feet above sea level, I give her a lot of credit for just getting this done.

IMG_7751

 

Like I said, there was a long gap between seeing her at Cunningham and then again at Grouse Gulch. The drive to Grouse, which is part of the Alpine Loop, was crazy, and that was one of the better dirt roads in the area. The last five miles were steep, rocky, and had sharp drop offs. There were several rock slides that narrowed the road to one lane. It was a slow drive in our rental vehicle. Despite technically being an SUV, it was the kind of vehicle you would find at a soccer game, and not on a high mountain pass in Utah. I was worried about getting a flat tire, so I really “babied” it. My tire blowout experience at the 2015 ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI had me spooked. In that situation, I was alone and only had myself to worry about. I also wasn’t in danger of blocking a road that other crews had to traverse. I also didn’t have my exhausted kids in the back seat. This time, I had to take it easy and avoid disaster.

IMG_7815

She was a little behind schedule coming into Grouse, but that gave us time to have dinner in the vehicle. When we arrived, it was raining, but towards sunset, the air-dried out a bit. We knew from runners who had passed through already and from the arriving runners, that they had all been through a serious storm on Handies Peak (14,048 feet). They cross the summit, which is on the high point of the course. On the flanks of that mountain, most of the runners, including Debbie, were subjected to a fierce hail storm. The hail left little welts that are referred to “hail rash.” She had some great gear that kept her dry and warm. She wore shorts the entire race, but augmented with calf sleeves.

IMG_7833

She used Patagonia Capilene shirts, Patagonia fleece shirts, and her Outdoor Research Helium II jacket. She had carried a bonnet, a Buff, and gloves. The Buff and gloves got a lot of use. Everything was packed in her UltrAspire Zygos hydration vest. She carried at least one light all of the time, but we gave her extra lights prior to darkness. She started the race in her Altra Olympus shoes, switched to her Altra Lone Peak 3.0 shoes, and then back to her Olympus. Her first change was at Grouse Gulch. She later changed again at Telluride.

IMG_7844

The kids were tired, but they rallied when she arrived at Grouse around 8:30 P.M. Danny was ready to go, so after the 17 minute pit stop (the second longest of the race), they were on their way and ready for the overnight. The kids and I walked a little ways up the trail, before returning to the aid station to pack up all of the gear. We eventually made our way back to the vehicle, and I realized that I couldn’t find the keys. I pulled on the driver side door handle and the car didn’t open. All of a sudden, I had a crisis of confidence. I checked every pocket of my shorts, where I thought I would have stored them. Then, I got in my mind that Danny had them and forgot to give them to me. We had purposely clipped the second set in the pacer’s pack, an UltrAspire Epic, so that there would always be a set outside of the vehicle.

IMG_7884

The thought of being caught on this mountain without a ride down was awful. In a split moment, I told the kids to wait here and that I was going to run after Debbie and Danny to retrieve the keys. They had been gone more than 15 minutes, so I had a long way to go in the dark, without lights (which were locked in the car). I dropped everything I was carrying and ran after them. It took me a long time (all uphill) to catch them, but eventually I did. Thankfully, they remained on the long dirt road and hadn’t turned off on to singletrack, otherwise I would never see the course markers.

IMG_7887

I yelled for Danny when I saw lights up ahead. He was startled to hear me, but walked back. We insisted that he didn’t have the keys and said that he gave them to me. I knew he would say that, so we just pulled the spare set from the pack. I grabbed them and then ran back. I was pooped when I got back to the kids, but I had the entire run back to think about where the original set might be. As I arrived, I realized the kids were in the car. I was worried that they would be cold, sitting outside the vehicle and had wished I instructed them to walk back to the aid station. I arrived all disheveled, hot and sweaty, but they were comfortably sitting in the car, reading their books. My son said that they tried the doors and they were open. I was shaking my head, but didn’t ask any more questions. It had come to me. The keys were in a rarely used pocket (put there for safe keeping) in my Clik Elite camera pack. I can’t explain why the rear doors were open when the driver door was locked.

IMG_7897

After that episode, I just wanted to get off the mountain. It took an hour to drive 11 miles back to Silverton. The kids were cranky and the road from Grouse was even more treacherous on the way down. Eventually we made it to town. I stopped at the gym to go inside and get a network connection so I could post an Instagram update and check her location and splits. I called Amy in Ridgway and told her that I would drive the kids all the way to her house. My calculations indicated that I could get them there, get them in bed, and then return to Ouray in time to switch with Danny. The original plan called for Amy and John to meet us in Ouray, but that was when we thought Debbie would be two to three hours ahead of her current pace.

IMG_7907

The drive took around 90 minutes and by the time we got the kids in bed and settled, it was nearly midnight. My daughter was asleep when we arrived, but my son was nauseous as a result of all the twists and turns in the road. Driving the Million Dollar Highway at night was quite an experience. One thing I remember from when we arrived at their home in the hills above Ridgway, was that the stars were spectacular.

IMG_7922

Amy offered me a bed, but I opted to turn around and head straight back to Ouray. I got there a little before 1:00 A.M. The aid station was buzzing with activity. It was in a park behind the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and Fitness Center. I ate a bit and then changed into my running gear. I laid out all of Debbie’s stuff on an open patch of grass. I used the bathroom, and waited. She arrived at 2:14 A.M. Danny said that the descent via the Bear Creek Trail was slow going and dangerous in the dark. She refueled, used the bathroom, and after 18 minutes, she and I departed. Danny’s plan was to drive to Telluride and then rest there (in the vehicle) until morning.

IMG_7928

The climb out of Ouray, the low point on the course at 7,680 feet, started on Camp Bird Road; and was relentless, climbing past steep drop offs, along Canyon Creek, and past old mining camps until it reached the aid station at Governor Basin. The road climbed 3,148 feet in 7.9 miles. The climb continued on to an old mining road, consistently ascending, and eventually changing to snow-covered singletrack, until it reached Kroger’s Aid Station. The aid station was perched precariously in a notch on the rock, high up on Mendota Peak. It was 3.3 miles from Governor to Kroger’s and another 2,320 feet of ascent, for a total of 5,468 feet of nonstop climbing from Ouray. It took us 5 hours and 7 minutes to reach Kroger’s, which had spectacular views. During this part of the race, Debbie was just grinding it out, one foot in front of the other. We ended up spending a lot of time with Kirk Apt and his pacer. I wish I remembered his name. They were both wonderful. At this point in the race, Kirk was working on his record 23rd Hardrock finish. He did end up getting the job done. Debbie had been back and forth with him all day, and he was very kind and helpful to her, helping her navigate challenging spots on the course. We arrived at Kroger’s together, just after sunrise.

IMG_7931

Kroger’s was the most amazing aid station that I’ve ever seen. The last pitch up the snow field was very steep and slippery. Debbie and I were both using our Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z trekking poles. The aid station crew was an all-star cast of ultrarunners. Hardrock is known for having fantastic aid stations with “concierge” service, where one volunteer will serve each runners needs, sticking with them the entire time that they are in the station. I couldn’t name everyone at this stop (it must have been the altitude), but I definitely spotted Roch Horton, Jeff Browning, and Scott Jurek. They were all wearing climbing helmets for protection. We last saw Jeff at the 2015 UTMF, where he placed third. He recently ran the Western States Endurance Run, and had another top finish. He is known as an incredibly strong finisher. Most of his best results have come after he goes out patiently and conservatively, and then keeps running strong when others fade.

IMG_7940

As for Scott a past Hardrock champion, he needs no further introduction. We have known him for more than 15 years. We first met him at the Washington race I mentioned, the 2003 White River 50 Miler. We spent time with him again at the 2007 UTMB, and have followed his exploits over the years, running in to him from time to time at various races. In 2015, Debbie and the kids intercepted him during his Appalachian Trail FKT, as he crossed the Mass Pike in the Berkshires. They got to run a little ways with him, which was a total thrill for our family.

IMG_7955

The Kroger’s all-star crew was making waffles with “New England” maple syrup, so it was kind of funny for a couple of New Englanders to be sitting there high up in the San Juan’s, drinking tea, sipping Miso soup, and eating waffles. I could have spent all day at that spot, but it was cold, and we had to get going. We were there a total of nine minutes, before they gave us course instructions and cheered as we crossed through the notch and began the descent on the western slope that would take us into Telluride. The first part of the downhill was rocky and steep. The trail eventually paralleled Cornet Creek. The lower we got, the warmer it got and we shed some layers. We eventually entered a beautiful Aspen forest. When we got closer to town, I was able to get a mobile connection, so I messaged Danny to give him an ETA.

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Debbie was able to push the pace as the trail mellowed and she ran hard all the way to town. The view of the village was fantastic. We came across a port-a-potty, so she stopped just as we entered the village. We then wound our way down a few streets before entering the park where the aid station was located. Danny led us into the station and she got a loud ovation. We arrived at 9:04 A.M. It was great to see Amy, John, and the kids. They drove down from Ridgway to meet Danny. We spent 12 minutes in Telluride, changing her shoes, changing some clothes, and refilling her pack with supplies.

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We knew we had a big climb ahead of us. The descent from Kroger’s was 4,390 feet, but we had a 4,500 climb in front of us. The day warmed up and it was slow going as we climbed along Bear Creek, crossing it several times. This was the only part of the course where the bugs were really bad. The deer flies were biting our legs and it was annoying. It was a long stretch between aid stations. We climbed for more than six miles, cresting at more than 13,000 feet and going over Oscar’s Pass. This was slow going as the heat of the day and bright sunlight bore down on us. There was a lot of snow and we had to take it easy. Where the snow was melting, the trail was very wet, almost like a bog. I stopped to splash water on my face every time we crossed a stream.

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It was awesome when we finally reached the peak and started the descent to Chapman Gulch. Once again, Debbie was able to push hard on the downhill. At one point, I thought that she was going to drop me, but I was able to hang on. The trail had a lot of twists and turns and there were some intersections, so she check the app a few times to verify that we were on course, and we were. The trail eventually turned into an old mining road, which is nuts. I can’t believe how these miners built these roads so high in the mountains on such incredible slopes. It was 3,090 feet down to Chapan’s and we arrived at 1:59 P.M.

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Once again, it was great to see the crew. Amy and John were super helpful. Amy rubbed Debbie’s shoulder and John cleaned out a cut on Debbie’s knee. She only fell once during the race. It was early on, and she had neglected to clean it up, so John took care of it for her. The kids were excited to see Debbie. The crew had a great breakfast (including donuts) in Telluride and they all rode the gondola to a point where they had great views of their own. The bugs were biting at Chapman too. Danny was ready to run, so Debbie didn’t stay long. She had been on her feet for 31 hours and 59 minutes, but she only stayed 10 minutes before moving again.

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My legs were pretty sore, especially from the long descent, but it would be improper fora pacer to complain out their own aches and pains! This was the last time we would see Debbie before the finish. She had a long stretch in front of her, so we made sure that she had extra lights, and all the clothes and food that she needed. She and Danny would encounter other aid stations, but they weren’t accessible by crews. Chapman was only reachable on foot, so we had two walk a couple of miles to towards the town of Ophir, where the vehicles were parked.

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On the walk, we came across Jeff List, a fellow New Englander, and only one of the four total in the race. Jeff is from Massachusetts. He was coming on strong, which was good to see. Jack Pilla, from Vermont, was a little ways in front of Debbie. Garry Harrington, who hails from New Hampshire and Vermont, started the race, but unfortunately, didn’t finish. This was a nice contingent of strong northeastern runners.

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John was kind enough to drive our vehicle back to Ouray while I chilled out in the passenger seat. Amy drove the kids. We stopped for gas and then rendezvoused at the Hot Springs. We had free passes from earlier in the week when we were kicked out due to a thunderstorm. I posted an update on social media and then joined everyone in the pool. The place was packed with tourists. Apparently, Ouray put $12 million into this renovation. It is an amazing facility. We spent about and hour there and then sadly, had to part company with Amy and John. They would have loved to join us in Silverton, but the finish was a long way off and Amy had to work on Sunday. We thanked them and sad our good byes, vowing to return for more adventure.

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Once again, I had to navigate the Million Dollar Highway. I was tired, but not too tired to drive. The kids were good and we made it to Silverton before dark. We checked into the hotel and the kids relaxed and watched some TV while I cleaned out the vehicle. I reorganized all of the gear and carried what we needed to the third floor room. This is when I felt my legs were a bit wobbly. Periodically, Shepard and I tracked Debbie’s progress. We eventually packed some bags and walked over to the gym. Finishers were arriving at regular intervals, which was fun. We cheered loudly for all of them. Dahlia was exhausted, so I made a little bed for her in the bleachers.

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Via email, I had been in touch with our good friend, Buddy Teaster. Buddy crewed for Debbie at UTMB in 2007 and we have run with him many times over the years, including at the 2011 Grindstone 100. Buddy had the good fortune to run Hardrock in 2013. He told me that the last section of the course was very difficult and hard to follow, especially in the dark. I had previously relayed that info to Danny so he knew what they were up against. At one point earlier in the day, we thought that Debbie might be able to rally and break 40 hours, but that didn’t work out.

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Reminiscent of the 2012 Laurel Highlands Ultra (one of Debbie’s best results), I missed the actual moment when she crossed the finish line, or rather kissed the Hardrock. Just like 2012, I was tending to our daughter. I woke her up, sensing that Mom was coming, but she refused to move. I battled with her a little bit, but then I heard cheers outside. By the time I made it to the door, someone told me that Debbie had just finished. That bummed me out a little, but I went outside and was able to still get some photos. I wanted a video of her finish, but unless someone has footage, I don’t. Shepard got to see her cross the line, which is cool. After 41 hours of running, and more than 43 hours since we awoke, we were all happy to be done. We didn’t linger, but rather packed up and walked the block to the hotel. Debbie and the kids got the single bed, and Danny and I slept not the floor, but no one was complaining.

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I wrote about the volunteers and the aid stations. The high production of this race was amazing, and it is what you would expect from one of the top ultras in the world. However, in my opinion, it was even better than that. Everything was so well though out. By the end of the weekend, I realized that any criticism is unfounded. There just isn’t a way for the entry to be equitable. I’ll save any debate over the entry qualifications and lottery for another time. For this year, we were fortunate to be part of the Hardrock Family. Debbie is a Hardrocker now, and no one can ever take that away from her. There is no doubt that we will return in the future, whether she is a runner or not. I would be happy to return and crew again, or pace again, or just volunteer. Volunteering at Kroger’s would be a blast.

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At Sunday’s award ceremony, several great stories were shared, including the comeback story of Canadian Adam Campbell, who was injured in a mountaineering accident, but came back to finish another Hardrock. We saw other friends and met a lot of new ones too. Congratulations to all of the runners, and once again, much appreciation goes to the families, crews, pacers, and volunteers.

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Hardrock’s tagline is Wild and Tough, which is fitting. Years ago, I described Debbie to a badass mountaineer/journalist/Army Ranger friend. He was amazed when he heard about her adventures. He simply said, “She is a tough as woodpecker lips.” Indeed.

Race Results: These have some great analytics. Click on any name to get details, segments, and aid station time. 

My Photo Gallery

Other coverage:

Outside Magazine story

Denver Post story

Mountain Outpost Video Coverage

Run Steep Get High Video Coverage

****

Debbie’s Race Report 

Preview: 2017 Hardrock Endurance Run

This Friday at 6:00 A.M., the Hardrock Endurance Run starts in Silverton, Colorado. The race started in 1992 and is considered one of the most prestigious ultramarathon trail runs in the world. One of the reasons why the 2017 edition will be special is because Debbie is running it for the first time. It’s not easy to get into Hardrock. 145 runners will toe the start line, and she is part of a subset of 45 “Never” runners who have never started the race. There will be 33 “Veterans” who have run five or more times, and there will be 67 “Else” runners who have done the race less than five times, or who started by didn’t finish a previous run. I’m glossing over some of the details, but they are outlined on the detailed Lottery page of the website.

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The key point is that Hardrock is a very difficult race to obtain entry to, especially for runners who have never done it, and especially for women. There are only 22 women in this year’s race. Debbie first applied to get in after the 2011 Grindstone 100. Just getting into the lottery takes work. You have to complete one of a select number of qualifying 100 mile runs. They are all races held on rugged terrain and have significant elevation change. Running 100 miles is hard, regardless of the course, but some races are harder than others. Hardrock is among the hardest. The website is a great resource, but throughout this post, I interspersed hyperlinks to help you gain a better understanding of the race. I’ll also add commentary on this year’s edition.

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The about page offers a concise overview:

The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is an ultramarathon of 100.5 miles in length, plus 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet. The run is held on a loop course on 4WD roads, dirt trails, and cross country in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range, USA. In 2017, the run will be in the counter-clockwise direction, from July 14-16.

The run starts and ends in Silverton, Colorado and travels through the towns of Telluride, Ouray, and the ghost town of Sherman, crossing thirteen major passes in the 12,000′ to 13,000′ range. Entrants must travel above 12,000 feet (3,700 m) of elevation a total of 13 times, with the highest point on the course being the 14,048′ summit of Handies Peak. The run has been held in early July of each year beginning in 1992, except for 1995 (too much snow) and 2002 (nearby forest fires). Each year’s run is run in the opposite direction of the previous year’s event (2016 was run in the clockwise direction, 2017 will be counter-clockwise). In order to complete the event, instead of crossing a finish line, runners are required to “kiss the Hardrock”, a picture of a ram’s head painted on a large block of stone mining debris.

This course offers a graduate level challenge for endurance runs. The course is designed to provide extreme challenges in altitude, steepness, and remoteness. Mountaineering, wilderness survival and wilderness navigation skills are as important in this event as your endurance.

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Hardrock will garner a lot of media attention, so there are a number of other great resources to consult for history, storylines, and coverage. I’ll add some of the best links to this post. Some of the recent Hardrock news has swirled around the International Trail Running Association, the UTMB, and the Ultra-Trail World Tour. UTMB, which Debbie started, but did not finish in 2007, is another one of ultrarunning’s iconic races. 10 years ago, it was a lot easier, but today, runners are required to accumulate points at qualifying races around the world. Hardrock has not joined and that has made news. The race’s stance has also rekindled questions about the fairness of Hardrock’s lottery. I’ll steer clear of the politics and just admit that Hardrock is hard to get in to, and Debbie is grateful to be in this year’s event.

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So, after Grindstone, she applied for 2012, but didn’t get into Hardrock. Her qualifier was good for two years, but she also missed out in 2013. She ran another qualifier, the 2013 Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Run, but failed to finish, which to this day, along with the 2007 UTMB, are her only ultrarunning DNF’s. She returned to the TRT100 in 2014 and finished. At that time, TRT100 was still a Hardrock qualifier, so she tried the lottery twice again, but missed out in 2015 and 2016. Once again needing to extend her qualifying window, she completed the 2015 ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI. That was quite an adventure! Throughout this period of time, she was applying to the Western States Endurance Run, one of the sports other iconic races. She has paced/crewed at WS100, but never gotten in herself. Many years ago, she missed a “Golden Ticket” automatic entry to WS100 by one spot. She will keep applying with hopes of running someday, but between Western States and Hardrock, the latter was clearly her preference. The smaller field, the San Juan Mountains, and the rugged nature of the course are more appealing to her and more suited to her style of trail running.

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So, back in December when they held the lottery for this year’s race, we were thrilled when she was picked 7th on the Never wait list. 45 Never runners made it in and six others were in front of her. We did a bunch of research to determine what the odds were of her getting in to the race.We reviewed prior years’ data to determine that the 7th spot on the Never wait list made it in some years and not in others, including 2016, when only four runners made it off the wait list. It was worrisome, but we held a family meeting and decided that no matter what, we were going to Hardrock, whether she got to run it or not. She would build her training plan and our family travel plan around the race. If she didn’t get to run, we would volunteer, pace, observe, and enjoy the mountains. As a fallback plan, she applied and got in to another Hardrock qualifier, the Cascade Crest 100. That way, without a Hardrock start/finish, she could apply again for the 2018 race.

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There was no movement on the wait list until late-May. With the full refund deadline looming on June 1st, the action started. Over the course of a week, leading up to the deadline, she steadily moved up to first on the waitlist. We were worried that there might not be more dropouts until race week. We figured that after the refund deadline passed, runners wouldn’t willingly drop out; but that only an injury, illness, family matter, or some other reason out of their control would lead to a DNS. 15% attrition is about right for a typical race like this with registration so far in advance, and seven out of 45 is 15.5%.

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Then, the afternoon after the deadline had passed, on June 1st, she got a call from the Run Director Dale Garland, with an invitation to run. She didn’t hesitate to accept the entry. She left me an ecstatic voicemail. I don’t know who was happier. We have been a team since 1999 and I was pumped about crewing this event. I was equally as excited to visit southwest Colorado with our family.

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She has done more than 80 ultramarathon trail running races since her first in 1999, and there is no question that the 2017 Hardrock will be the biggest one yet. Her preparation has been solid. We have a Hypoxico Altitude Training System and have used it diligently for the last four-month in anticipation of the race. We live at 590 feet in Connecticut, so this is one step we took to acclimatize. Her big training runs included our Long Trail Adventure, our Mohawk Trail Adventure, her Manitou’s Revenge Ultra run, and our recent Katahdin Adventure. She couldn’t simulate the high altitude in training, but she definitely got in a lot of hill running/hiking on rugged terrain.

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We arrived in the San Juan’s at the end of last week. All of the Camp Hardrock events begin today in Silverton. Packet pickup is tomorrow and the pre-race briefing is on Thursday. Yesterday, we drove to Ridgway to visit friends and then they took us back to Ouray to enjoy the hot springs and see the town. We saw some of the mountains, but didn’t get on to the trails. Having our kids along on this adventure can limit some of the activity, but they are an integral part of Debbie’s crew. My cousin, Danny Roy, arrives later this week and will round out the team. He has been a “go to” pacer for Debbie at her ultras over the past five years. We still have a few days to go, but the excitement is building.

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As for Hardrock Endurance Run resources, here is a bevy of information:


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