THE MEN’S COURSE RECORD …
Kyle Skaggs left his indelible print on the event in 2008, when he blew away the course record by over 2 1/2 hours. Just four years previous, the race was won in 30:39 – Kyle did it more than 7 hours faster, and remains the only person to go under 24 hours.
So how did he do that?
Kyle was extremely dialed that day – he spent way less than a minute at nearly every aid station. I was there. I was supposed to pace him, but about 10 days out from the race I developed an angry neuroma in my foot, so was reduced to crewing, along with Nate and Petra McDowell.
That was the third summer in a row he lived in Silverton and trained on the course. That year he moved to Silverton on April 23rd -I remember the date, because we had been roommates since January and had been trail-bumming in northern Arizona. On that day he got fed up with the Grand Canyon’s heat, booted me from his Toyota Corolla station wagon (the “Deerslayer”) in Flagstaff, and drove off for the high country. Two and a half months of acclimation allowed him to move faster on Hardrock’s alpine course – and allowed him to keep his stomach solid at those altitudes on race day, eating nothing but gels and one PB&J.
But none of this is why Kyle crushed the course with a 23:23:30.
Instead, it was simply that Kyle went in with no preconceptions on what a reasonable pace was. He ran off of effort. And he kept his mind steady.
Running at that intensity on that kind of terrain for that long takes an unwavering, relentless attitude of indifference and non-attachment. The mental effort of the knowledge of the enormity of the task is what consumes most people, and along with everything else, Kyle managed it better than anyone else on that course ever. He never resorted to music, nor extended breaks at aid stations. He simply never allowed himself to get too high or too low. When he was already an hour ahead of course record pace only 18mi into the race, he didn’t freak out and slow down or get worried. He knew his effort was where it needed to be. When he slipped and took a head-first plunge down the snowfield off the top of the Virginius summit, he simply rode it out and was psyched to have descended that much quicker. When he came into Ouray at mile 43, 1h44 ahead of CR pace, his only comment was, “Dude, I’m just walking up every climb.” Then he grabbed an extra water bottle and proceeded to march up the vertical mile to Engineer Pass. All day his focus and demeanor never changed. Even at the finish, running in before sunrise with Nate, he simply jogged around the corner, kissed the rock, fielded a few hugs, and took a seat on Silverton’s gym floor.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS YEAR?
No disrespect to anyone in the field, but Kyle’s record won’t go down this year, if for no other reason than the course is currently 2 mi longer due to a re-route between Oscar’s Pass and Telluride. I’d absolutely love it if Dakota Jones proves me wrong. No one else has a chance.
Earlier in the year there was a fair amount of anticipation for this year’s Hardrock as the field looked to be the deepest ever assembled there. With major actors such as myself and Geoff Roes dropping out before the race has even begun, the field seems a touch more typical. With only 140 entrants it’s difficult to ever get a ton of real contenders on the start line, but the remaining field is still very solid.
Former champs and all-around Hardrock Vets Karl (“100 miles is not that far”) Meltzer and Jared (“I’m totally psyched!”) Campbell are running. (I’m writing this from a cafe in Leadville on Saturday afternoon, and Jared actually just stopped by my corner table to say hello. He is relaxed, looks fit, and is psyched to be getting down to the San Juans sooner than his usual Wednesday-before-the-race). That kind of experience cannot be ignored.
Dakota is last years runner-up, survived the lottery again, and has clearly taken his running to the next level since last year’s Hardrock. His win at the Transvulcania 83k back in May was nothing short of momentous – an American finally winning a major international mountain race against the best that Europe has to offer – but even more important is that he’s been living down in Silverton since then, training on the course, getting acclimated, exploring the range’s magnificent terrain. Dakota is without a doubt the most fit dude in the race, but the beauty of the 100mi distance – and especially Hardrock – is that logistics and your brain and the constitution of the core-level fiber of your being all matter at least as much as your cardiovascular system and the ability of your quads to handle repeated eccentric loading. Former HR podium and Montanan Mike Foote will be pacing him post-Grouse, I believe.
Irrepressible mountain enthusiast and last year’s 6th place finisher Joe Grant is en route as I type. He is likely more fit this year than last, definitely more acclimated, and I think, more serious. Last year I saw him lose 2hr straying off course (more than once) and tagging an extra summit. I’m pacing him this year from Ouray to Sherman and I’ll hate myself if I somehow let that happen on my watch. He’ll have, in my not-so-humble opinion, a competent cast of characters supporting him as well, with Anna Frost and Mike Wolfe chasing him around the course all day, along with myself and his wife, Deanne.
Nick Pedatella will definitely factor into the top-5 mix. He’s finished HR in that slot before and over the past year has proved himself to be a consummate 100mi man, especially with his run at UTMB last year. I will not be at all surprised by a podium finish from him.
And finally for the men, there is Hal Koerner. I’ve raced Hal a lot over the years and he is undoubtedly one of the most relentless, dogged competitors on the circuit. Hal-Daddy is simply tough. And I don’t write that with the usual nonchalance that comes with a cliche. In this case, it is true. Altitude however, is a bitch, especially for an Oregonian who sleeps at 2200′ (even though he was raised in Colorado). I hear he’s been sleeping in an altitude tent, however, and is already down there, breathing in the thin San Juan air. I’m at least as psyched to hang out with him the following week for the ensuing Jurker Wedding festivities.
On the distaff side of things, there are three absolutely nails competitors: Diana Finkel, Darcy Africa, and Krissy Moehl. There is no reason to not think that Diana will crush per usual, mixing it up with the top men all day long, probably flirting with a top-5 overall finish. Darcy has had some injury woes this year and is coming off of a promising course record run at the Bighorn 100 just last month. Maybe this means she’s healthy, but could also mean she’s a bit tired. Krissy comes in with a very similar mix of factors, having only three weeks ago laced a smoking 18:29 4th place finish at Western States. All three could easily finish top-10 overall.
AS FOR MYSELF …
I’m of course disappointed to not be racing, but ultimately know it’s the right decision. My fitness is not an issue – with 55 14ers and 230,000′ of vertical climbed since Memorial Day I think I’m at least as prepared as I’ve ever been for the HR course – but a piece of gristle in my lower leg is still a bit touchy and can shut things down really quickly if I run much past, say, five or six hours in one go. As inspired by Hardrock as I am – and as difficult as it is to make it past the lottery – there are still so many adventures I have planned for the second half of the year that I would hate to miss out on simply because I got greedy and re-injured myself down in the San Juans. As such, pacing will have to do for this year, and my fingers are already crossed for this fall’s 2013 lottery …
What do you think? Post your Comments!