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"HARDROCK HUNDRED AS IT HAPPENED (The 1996 Saga)"
Running hard, vapor swirling from my wet clothes in the 30 degree air, I saw the semi coming towards me on the highway. Being squashed by a Mack truck at this point in the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run seemed less painful than the all out sprint I had mounted to attempt a sub 48:00 finish with 1.5 miles left in the race. The truck moved over slightly on the empty HWY 550 as I continued slapping one sodden blistered foot in front of the other and wondered, how did this happen?
Well, I’m here to tell you how it happened. If you’ve got the time I’ve got 100 miles worth of story. Hardrock is the one that took me five years to finish. The inaugural event in ‘92 was my first DNF (did not finish) in a 100 mile race. I had completed sixteen 100 mile races prior to abdominal surgery in the Fall of ‘91, and Hardrock was supposed to be a comeback not a five year challenge! I went to bed at mile 92 aid station, Cunningham Gulch and was back the next year to try again. Counter clockwise proved the more difficult course direction, and I stepped back from the threshold in Telluride at 75 miles during the ‘93 version. As the “Confirmed Countess of Cunningham Gulch” I dropped again in ‘94 at the 92 mile aid station.
What would possess me to still think I could finish this course? Probably the fact that, as Gene pointed out, I had run a personal best time for 100 miles in January of ‘95, finishing Bloody Basin in 23:28. The two major problems in the past defeats had been blisters and sleep depravation. So what made me think I could fix those problems? I carried a complete blister kit from start to finish this year which contained second skin, compeed, elasticon tape, scissors, bag balm, and a dry pair of socks. Sleep depravation was inevitable, but I had Mt. Dew, Gu, and caffadrine to thwart the effects. I was armed and dangerous, if not to the other competitors, certainly to myself!
The race cancellation in ‘95 due to excess snow pack was probably a blessing, as the Spring of ‘96 brought a change in my training schedule. Lambauer Travel was sold in January and after 5 years of full time work there, I moved to Havalark Travel in a 3/5 position, which cut into my finances but allowed for a mid week training addition. Extra weekly miles plus a weekly Weight Watchers meeting helped to improve my physical condition.
Prior to the start this year I also improved my chances by staying in Silverton for a week, sleeping at 9,000’ elevation. The spirit of Silverton has improved noticeably in the past five years, since the locals have embraced tourism as a source of survival rather than a pain in the butt. Highly recommended are the local artists, watercolorist Michael “Andy” Darr, fiber and clay artist Ruth Ann Caitland of Silverton Artworks, and the charming Miners Union Theatre group production. Must see tours include the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour in Cunningham Gulch, the San Juan County Historical Society Museum in Silverton, and the new tour of the Mayflower Mill just North of town.
Five days before the start I organized a hike of the last trail section, to get some of the spouses out on the course. We fielded 19 race entrants and 4 brave additions. The weather was perfect for our course from Kamm Traverse aid station sight to the Mineral Creek crossing or Silverton. Bringing up the rear of the party, Nick and Scarlett Williams, Randy and Bobby Davidson, and Stu Gleman stayed with me for a leisurely stroll enjoying the flowers and view. We gathered afterwards for pizza and beverages at my rental house the “Miners Mansion” a fourth generation original home in Silverton on the end of 13th street one block off the race course.
Monday before the race I joined the Senelly family, racer Richard, pacer Marco, and Monarch Berna for a hike from Grouse Gulch. Mark Spangler and his pacer Nigel Finny rounded out our group for a hike to the saddle on Handies where race day we would happily drop our packs to make the summit side trip to 14,048’. We were chased on our return to the van by black clouds, thunder and rain. The afternoon in Silverton was stormy, and by Tuesday we had a full day of rain and cool weather.
Wednesday brought sunshine and a chance to take my pacer P J Salmonson to the Hot Springs in Ouray. Arriving in Durango from Honolulu PJ was dressed for Anchorage with all her race gear as carry on, as in “carry on her body”. The pleasure of soaking up sunshine and warm water was a pure delight followed by serious shopping through the best that Ouray has to offer.
Thursday was race preparation day, with fanny pack, wardrobe, drop bag, and crew bag decisions to implement. Miss Scarlett, aka Sharon Williams, Nick’s official “ass kicker” offered to take PJ along in the official van with my crew bag, and get her to Telluride where she would jump in for the final 28 miles. So I had a drop bag for only one aid station, consisting of Mt. Dew only at Sherman, mile 31.
Friday morning weather was good and the start was welcome. Arkies and psuedoArkies like me, joined to call the HOGS. Dale Garland gave a few last minute announcements before commencing the race, so I knew we had started late, but the actual time didn’t seem as important as just getting the thing underway at last. Since the age of 45, my arms have not been long enough for me to read my digital watch. I recently purchased a watch that I could read, for scuba diving, but it had broken and was sent for repairs a couple weeks before the Hardrock. I borrowed a watch from Gene, which I set to chime on the hour, giving me a relative time frame, as well as the reminder to take my electrolyte tablets every two hours.
Leaving the Kendall Mt hut we were immediately on single track trail, and the mood of the runners was joyous, if slightly manic. Richard Senelly and I chatted and jockeyed for position for a couple of miles enjoying the teasing conversation which accompanies an overload of energy. When the climb to Little Giant turned into dirt road the field began to spread out, and I found myself moving well uphill, and could hear Nick, Dianne and Jimmy right behind me on each switchback. As we came through the first fields of wild flowers the four of us were together, and had already lost sight of Lou Peyton. The newlyweds, Jimmy Sweatt and Dianne Bell were committed to stay together, at least for Hardrock. Nick took photos as we crested the climb and traversed to Little Giant Basin 13,000’ where the steep 1.5 mile downhill commenced. I always recall in this spot the day I hiked here with Nancy and Rick Hamilton in ‘91 and saw a Ptarmigan. Known as the “miners chicken” these noisy birds are big, slow, and don’t fly well or often. They could be hunted with a simple sling shot and made a welcome meal.
Still 1000‘ above the gulch, we could see and hear the aid station at Cunningham. Al Kroeger, three time Hardrock finisher joined Nick and me as we scrambled over the rocks and downed trees on the switchbacks leading to the lower elevation. Scarlett and PJ were hollering a welcome as we waded Cunningham creek and checked in. I had carried three bottles from the start, and would do so the rest of the race. Two were filled with Mt. Dew which had been frozen, defizzed, and could be mixed with water to extend and dilute the jet fuel. I refilled two bottles with Dew, and the third with water. It was about 9:15 am, 9.2 miles, right on schedule and the weather was gorgeous. We could see runners ahead of us heading down the Cunningham Gulch dirt road, and they included Ray Scannel and his buddy Mike Soupios. I crammed two salami sandwiches in my fanny pack, thanked the crew, and hit the road. Spurred on by Ray’s crew, I ran the road and was able to catch him by the sharp right turn onto 737 up Stoney Gulch.
The dirt road climb up to Buffalo Boy Mine, center fold for this years race T shirt, was steady but not taxing. I was enjoying what had to be a combination of good training and satisfactory acclimatization. Talking to Ray during a race would ordinarily require both speed and talent. Today it was possible because Ray had spent his speed and talent quota at Western States 12 days prior, and was at Hardrock to enjoy the company of his childhood friend Mike. As they moved along in front of me near the deserted mine building, Kawika Spaulding came along, offered me a Lucky Strike, and went on by. Kawika is so strong he can go out slowly, and still find the strength and speed to pick up the pace toward the finish whenever necessary.
Nearing the new trail section over the ridge at 13,060’ , I could see dark clouds moving in, and donned my windbreaker as it began to sprinkle. I was surprised to pass Chris Ralph at this point in the race and would have liked to talk with her for a while, but my “no waiting” policy was still being strongly enforced. Alone, I enjoyed the downhill jog over faint animal trails, and open ground toward the mine road and aid station at Maggie’s Gulch, mile 16.6.
The rain had let up but the dark clouds were still threatening as I looked ahead toward the Continental Divide. Maggie’s Gulch aid station was running out of water, so I grabbed a cup of coke, and moved past. My “drink from any source policy” went into effect at a rivulet down the road, where I filled two bottles.
Climbing the trail East, I ate a half sandwich and looked back to see Mr. Nick trying to catch up. We could hear thunder, but the clouds seemed to pass overhead gently, giving us protection from the sun. Just as Nick caught up, we both were surprised to catch Kawika hunkered in a patch of tall willows, disposable camera in hand, taking our picture, while taking care of business! Talent, pure and simple at 12,530’ Continental Divide the pee could go either way, East or West to the sea.
The stretch between the Divide and Pole Creek aid station is good steady dirt trail running, and Nick moved along with me at a “dog trot”. We were within sight of a dozen runners at the 22.4 mile check point, but failed to notice the herd of Elk Kawika saw. Pole Creek had soup and stuff, but I felt well supplied, and continued another couple miles before refilling water bottles at a creek crossing. Ate the rest of my sandwiches and continued to hit on the big GU gun I carried the whole race. The large food tubes from REI hold about six to eight packs of GU, and I attach the tube with a buckled strap on the outside of my fanny pack, like a gunslinger. My crew had the next tube of chocolate Gu ready at Grouse Gulch, and a third at Telluride.
I caught several people as we moved along the La Garita Stock Driveway. Some of the stock was not looking well. Pam Reed from Tucson had won the Pueblo Nuevo 100 in February, and was running with her husband Jim at Hardrock. Pam was not having a great day, and certainly was in no mood to chat. I had been lost in Pueblo Nuevo along with most other entrants, but had finished, 45 minutes over the cut off, for an unofficial time of 30:45. Would have liked to heard Pam’s story, but this was no time to ask.
As we passed, Jim Reed asked Nick why he used his ski-pole-stick, and if he thought it helped. Nick replied positively that he wasn’t as sure footed as I am and the stick was helpful for stability over uneven ground. In the lead about two strides later I tripped on an Elk hoof divot and went face first in the dirt.
Nick faded a bit and I was with Al again at 12,910’, Cataract Lake, passed Mike, and headed down the good trail toward Sherman aid station. I thought this would be a strong section for me, as I had run it very quickly in ‘92. This time, I became light headed, and had trouble keeping the pace upbeat, crossed the big creek up high, and just tried to keep moving. Still, I passed three guys, and was really pleased when Nick caught back up just before the log bridge over Cottonwood Creek into the 31.7 mile check point.
The folding chairs were full. My drop bag held only Mt. Dew which I poured in two bottles and donated the balance to the aid station. The palatial restroom facility was handy, and the soup looked good. I walked out with a bottle full of chicken and ramen noodle soup and was joined by Nick within a mile. We had left a large group of runners behind. It seemed the Hardrock was beginning to claim victims. Our own arrival time had been about 3:55 pm, and we were happy with the progress so far.
Almost 2.5 miles of dirt road up hill out of Sherman seemed a little warm, and very dry. I refilled bottles from the big creek before our turn up Boulder Gulch. The climb was steep, but I handled it steadily without difficulty, and was within shouting distance of Nick. Ray and Mike passed us again, while we passed Mike Evans and Ed Demoney as we got in sight of Boulder Gulch Lake. Nick and I passed the disposable camera back and forth to record the spectacular scene.
A small snow field at 13,400’ quit just short of the saddle, so we were on shale over the top and along the traverse to Handies Peak. The view of runners ahead of us going up and coming down the summit trail was really exciting. We dropped our packs at the saddle as Julie Westland-Litus completed her roundtrip of Handies. She joked with me saying I was “The climbing monster” today, high praise from a three time finisher on her way to a fourth!
The sun had gone over the ridges and the light was beginning to fad when we reached the top at 14,048’. The punch used to verify your climb was passed around, and I used it on my fishing license, as my race number was pinned to my pack. We also signed a note pad provided, for our name and time.
The downhill slide went quickly and easily, getting us back to our packs and on our way promptly. I had carried a mini mag flashlight from the start and within a mile needed it. I polished off my last salami sandwich half, and watched the flash lights ahead moving over the 13,202’ saddle into American Basin. We passed Don Thompson, and then a couple of runners in the dark that went unrecognized. One was sitting trailside and said his stomach was really upset. I offered him a hit of GU if he promised not to pass me later. He took a squeeze and thanked me.
We had a group of six to eight runners all moving through American Basin, but it was impossible to know who was who. The GU energized guy ran by me saying thanks very much, and didn’t seem inclined to keep his promise.
We could see the lights of the Grouse Gulch aid station and could hear the cheers as runners arrived. I had estimated our arrival time as 10:30 PM, so at 10:25 PJ and Scarlett were jazzed to hear Nick and I “Oink Oink” in true HURT style. The Hawaiian Ultra Running Team communication of “Oinking” means, “I’m here, I’m OK, how are you?” An “Oink” in return is good news. We heard PJ’s hog call and checked in the 42 mile aid station as Ray and Mike Soupios left. Several runners would miss the cut off here, including Dianne Bell, Jimmy Sweatt, and Lou Peyton.
Nick had planned to change to tights here as it was dark and could get cold. I told him my plan, and that I still wasn’t waiting, so he went with my vote. I wore a soft cool max men’s medium singlet as underwear. I slightly modified the armholes, but they still were just inches above my waist. The tail of the singlet was below the crotch on me. My shorts were bicycle length split crotch style made by Zanika, so the singlet cushioned both waist band, and the panty liner portion of the shorts, as well as wicking sweat and salts away from my skin. The split shorts meant I never needed to pull down the pants for any reason. With this underall combination, and a little bag balm at the start, I was able to finish two days of running without a single spot of chafe. Cooler weather was handled with layering. I carried a pair of rain pants and light rain jacket start to finish, and added cool max T shirts or a vest as needed. The plastic garbage bag, for emergency use was of course always in my pack.
So we left Grouse Gulch in windpants, and light jackets, eating dinner. I took more Mt. Dew, ate a sandwich, and added 2 fresh mini mag flash lights to the pack. Each light had a spare bulb in the hub, and I carried extra Energizer AA batteries. John DeWalt was near us on much of the climb, but his theatrics are hard to decipher. John would be sitting roadside moaning, then go by us without a word, then be sitting again. We both figured correctly that this is just his M.O, and he was on his way to his standard finish.
The steady long dirt road climb to Engineer Pass 12,910’ quietly keeps you at elevation a very long time, and I have found it hard to avoid altitude nausea. As per usual, it over came me in the last mile of climb. I had taken my bihourly electrolyte tab, and was immediately gagging and doing the dry heave two step. The episode lasted about 200 yards, and I backed off the intake for about 20 minutes. The climb seems to take forever, but we had no problem staying on course, though I heard later that Mark Spangler made a wrong turn here somewhere and missed the Ouray cut-off.
Over the top we could finally see the Engineer Aid Station tents below. A party of about six runners caught us and went over the edge in the dark together. Al was with them, and we talked with him as we all made our way cross-country over the dirt and tufts of tough ground cover clinging to this treeless tundra. The aid station took our numbers, and in the light I recognized Martin Miller in the little crowd. Nick and I didn’t hesitate at the tents. We moved down hill to the deep creek crossing marking the beginning of the Bear Creek trail to Ouray. Martin joined us, and Mr. Nick took the lead. When Martin lost contact, we would call back encouragement, but we didn’t wait. Nick and I had waited here for a seriously faltering runner in ‘92, and both regretted it deeply.
I was very pleased to be wide awake, and running well as we reached the HWY 550 end of the trail. It seems the Mt. Dew and GU caffeine sources were quite adequate.
We had lost touch with Martin, and crossed the Umcompaghre river with one flash light visible in front of us. The river was about crotch deep and provided a welcome opportunity to rinse the “Dew” from my shorts. A rope strung across the river is very helpful here, as the riverbottom is covered with unstable large river rock.
By the time we had climbed the short steep trail, and followed the big water pipe to the Camp Bird Road, the dawn had turned to day. Ouray Aid station, course low point at 7,680’, was about 6:00 am, while we had hoped for 5:30, it would do, “Oink Oink”. My stomach was sour from the earlier nausea, so I had PJ cook breakfast. We had found some single serving cartons of instant oatmeal with cranberry and orange added. I had packed a bottle of milk for this morning feast. While the cereal cooked, Nick and I changed shirts, used the restrooms, and grabbed daytime hats, shades, etc. I left the aid station carrying the cup O cereal, and found the milk and oatmeal settled by stomach nicely. We threw out the trash before we left town, and were in good spirits heading for Virginius.
Lee Schmidt was just coming onto Camp Bird Road from the river crossing and asked the distance to Ouray, mile 57.5. Only replying to him did we realize he wouldn’t make the cut off of 6:30, and that we had been rather close for comfort. Nick and I talked it over, and agreed we were doing all we could, and whatever happened, we would just have to deal with the outcome. Kawika came from behind and walked a mile or two with us before moving ahead. Stan Wagon came jogging toward us on his way to get the crew vehicle for his runner Fred Pilon, who had dropped at Governor basin.
The 7.2 miles to Governor basin aid station from Ouray is 99% uphill, and 24 hrs into Hardrock, there is no way I’m going to run there. So, our 9:00 am arrival wasn’t a surprise, and with 15 minutes to the aid station cut-off, the workers there didn’t think we had a chance to make the cut-off at Virginius Pass by the 11:15 am time limit. Nick and I conferred. My right foot was losing skin on the sole and heel due to the constant wet conditions. I had carried the foot repair kit since the start. He said “Scarlett and PJ are in Telluride, we might as well head that direction, so fix your foot”.
I peeled off my gaiter, sock, shoe, and a bit of skin. I applied a 3” x 4” piece of second skin to the ball of my foot, and added a compeed patch at the heel. I covered both with a 4’ wide piece of Elasticon from toes to heel and up the back to shoe level. I replaced the wet sock with a dry Wigwam, Ultamax cross trainer and jammed the Adidas Response Trail plus O’Brien gaiter back on. Meanwhile I sipped soup and Nick talked to Jim Reed who had just come in behind us. Jim ran through the aid station, turned around, and dropped out. Said he wanted credit for the distance to Governor’s rather than settling for Ouray.
We headed out with a fatalistic outlook. The climb went well, and I reloaded bottles at another shin deep creek crossing a mile post dry sock application. The final approach to Virginius Pass 13,100’ was in our faces as another runner and pacer came up behind us. So much for the predictions of doom. We made the cut-off with 15 minutes to spare. The last 100 feet we were cheered upward by the great aid station workers on the 10’ x 10’ pass. Without snow, the slope is quicksand scree and requires both hands and lots of energy to make forward motion.
Our welcome included hot chicken soup and a couple of minutes to enjoy the best broth on the course. Mr. Nick and I headed out happily holding last place in our firm grasp as we edged over the Mendota Ridge, 12,560’, We picked up a slower downhill runner as we rapidly walked, slipped, stumbled, and jogged the painfully steep dirt road into Telluride. The final 100’ section to the city street was a classic Hardrock course addition. The metal flag on a wire pointed over the side of an embankment and vertically shortcut over a dirt slide only slightly disguised as a trail.
Telluride at 73.2 miles was enjoying softball games, a music festival of some kind, and hardly noticed the passing of the Hardrock Hundred through its city park. The park facility was very welcome though, as I checked in at 12:45 PM and freshened up a bit before donning a clean shirt and restocking food sources. Pj was dressed and ready to pace, while Scarlett and Berna Senelly prepared to drive to Chapman for the last crew point. PJ gave me a great sandwich with bacon, avocado, and the works. I ate half as we checked out of the aid station and headed for the Bear Creek Trailhead. The news included Al Kroeger dropping out with blisters, John Cappis had succumbed to a home and hot shower in Telluride, Richard Senelly had spent an hour there and left with his son Marco pacing, Steve Tilley’s son was taking him to a hospital after he dropped with dehydration, Diane Ridgway was said to have been lost on Handies Peak but was holding second place woman, and that David Horton was running with Rick Trujillo in the lead. Charlie Thorn was at the aid station, camera at the ready, spreading news and good cheer.
A thunder storm had developed quickly in the usual Colorado afternoon pattern and we could hear the booms as it began to sprinkle. The civilized Bear Creek Road leaving town is heavily used, and day hikers coming down cheered us on as Nick, PJ and I continued toward Oscar Pass. PJ was so excited to finally be on the course, she was enthralled with the towering peaks surrounding the Wasatch Trail as we cut between the cliffs over a small suspended wooden foot bridge, and passed Nellie Mine.
The climb to Oscar Pass from Telluride is long and never gives a glimpse of the goal, but rather throws one tempting pass after another at you, teasing the runner and then always giving you one more climb. The weather cleared in time for safe passage through waist high fields of wild flowers in every color and form. My favorites are the blue Columbines. Pj took over photographer duty, while Nick lead the way, and she couldn’t get enough of the flowers. She even stalked a marmot for a close up. She announced at one point her favorite flower was the “concubines” too. I could not resist razzing her about that one for the next couple of miles. Snow fields still covered areas even in this the driest of conditions. The final bowl provided Nick with a chance to glassade on his butt toward the summit trail. We took about 3 1/2 hrs to reach the 13,120’ pass.
From the pass we looked across to Swamp Canyon and I pointed out the impressive size of Grant Swamp Pass, our next goal. Nick remembers the last time he climbed it in ‘92, while Nancy Hamilton collapsed and was rescued by aid station members from Chapman Gulch. I have never been past Telluride in this direction, so I have no preconceived notion other than a healthy respect for the degree of difficulty.
On the boulder strewn steep dirt switchbacks down to the aid station, I needed to make a decision. Both my feet were understandably bruised, and both felt equally blistered, but the right was less painful. Should I take the time to repair them both or just the left. Did I have the time to do either? I still couldn’t read my watch. I conferred with Nick who said he wanted to get over Grant Swamp Pass before dark at any cost, so was not planning to “fix” anything. I thought it over, and decided the pain had not changed much since Telluride, so it was either live with it and keep moving, or drop out and live with the DNF. I picked up the pace.
There was Charlie Thorn again, smiling and taking pictures. The Chapman Gulch aid station folks at mile 82.3 were very welcoming, probably because our arrival signaled their departure! Richard Senelly had spent another hour in a family conference. Marco and Berna were encouraging him to join us for the second night assault. Richard took up the gauntlet amidst cheers and a flurry of packing. We grabbed clothes, more food, and flash lights again. We would not see our crews until Sunday in Silverton, so we better not forget anything. Marco walked amongst us passing out cokes and feeding us each bites from a hamburger. At 18 years of age he had just concurred Oscar Pass pacing his Dad, and the emotion of his experience was contagious. The four of us thanked everybody and headed out waving good bye to Scarlett, Berna and Marco.
Richard was rested, bright and cheery, while Nick was beginning to show the effects of a virus that had plagued him all Spring. The goal was to get over Grant Swamp Pass before dark, 3.3 miles 2,500’ of climb, the majority of which occurred in the last .3 miles. The approach traverse went well and with Richard in the lead PJ and I turned toward the vertical scree wall, just as Nick sat down on a rock. Nick had come to a decision, and announced his retreat. He’d been here before, knew what the energy requirement was going to be, and figured the wise choice was a return to Chapman Gulch. We didn’t argue, just wished him a safe journey back, and pushed ahead.
Grant Swamp Pass requires a blind leap of faith when the course is run clock wise, but in this direction the scree is like vertical quagmire. Richard was above us and making 10 yard spurts of progress. We dug in on toes and fingers trying to make more upward moves than downward slides. The sun had set and the slope face was becoming harder to read. I reached for the darker depressions in the dirt as they were damp areas other racers had used. The dry spots were harder rock surface where the scree slid away more rapidly. We pushed rapidly reaching high for six to ten steps before panting to catch our breath at 12,900’.
Moonlight. PJ dug out her mini mag flashlight and attached it to her headband holder. I just kept moving toward the goal. Pj let out a holler of triumph as we crested the upper lip of the pass, still on all fours. When she stood up and could see no where to go, the surprise in her voice was very funny. The pass is only a dozen feet wide, and the South side from this angle looks as steep as the North side we had just struggled to climb. The good news is that it is not as difficult, and with some instruction on “elevator rock slide technique” PJ was moving well if not always on her feet, as we headed for Island Lake.
I didn’t expect to see Richard again, as he was much stronger than I was, and moving a lot faster. His light though, was not far down the ridge, and I could see two other flashlight beams ahead of him. He yelled encouragement as we closed the gap and joined him for triple the trail finding ability. The course markers are metal flags with reflective tape on thin 30” tall wire sticks. If your flashlight beam hits the flag portion just right they light up like an airport runway. If your flashlight dies, or the flag is laying on the ground, you are out of luck.
Sometimes it took three of us standing in one spot searching the horizon with the lights to find the next flag. It became much tougher as we entered Kamm Traverse transition from the Ice Lake Trail. The landscape was littered with down trees to climb, mud holes hidden in the dark, unlikely twists, and unkind turns. It cost us precious time and we vocalized our displeasure between shouting “mud” warnings. It was satisfying to hear later that Ullie Kamm struggled through this spot and complained too!
Finally on the traverse out in the open with Richard leading and PJ following, we dog trotted toward the Kamm Traverse aid station at mile 89.1. I began to doze, tripped, and fell off the trail. Laughing, in the dirt hanging onto the trunk of a shrub, I paddled thin air with my left leg where it hung over the edge of the trail. The course had regained my attention.
We arrived at the aid station about midnight, and accepted welcome beverages as well as encouragement. I took a Caffadrine time release capsule and gathered myself for the final hump in the course. My memory of the hike we took the previous Sunday on this section was very pleasant. We had walked from this point to the Mineral Creek crossing in 4:30. Of course, that was in daylight, and we hadn’t spent 42 hours getting to the starting point.
PJ thought the knee deep crossing of Porcupine Creek was pretty rude, but the climbs to follow were harder for me than I recalled. I dozed for about half a mile before the drugs kicked in and we spent some energy course finding. An episode of dry heaves over-took me totally by surprise and caused a bigger scare than warranted. Within a few minutes I took the lead through a tricky section, and was back in charge of my destiny.
We topped Porcupine-Cataract Saddle and I kept telling PJ the last climb was in sight, in the dark of course, she believed me when I said it was no big deal compared to what we had already done. I wish I had been more accurate.
I lead across the little snow field that had entertained Bobby Davidson so much during our hike, and recalling her laughter, I was oblivious of the ice forming on the edge of the snow. One step, and I was on my can. What a yo yo. Unknown to us was the fact that the temp had dipped to 30 in Silverton, and was certainly below freezing up high. Richard was getting chilly in his shorts, so I gave him my emergency plastic garbage bag, and he accepted it without consideration for the decline in his wardrobe appearance.
Richard took off up the steady slope on the shoulder of Bear Mountain to 12,600’. PJ struggled with altitude induced dizziness, and a general weakening. My flashlight bulb burnt out and I sat to replace it so that I would not risk using the back up flashlight as my only source. I was hit again with urgent nausea that I fought angrily as I recommenced forward motion, cursing, and spitting between dry heaves.
Richard called out from the top, and encouraged PJ to join me in a joyous downhill trot toward Putnam-Lime Creek Saddle. The Hawaiians had not been on this final stretch of the course, so I took over the lead, offering tour guide commentary as we trotted toward the last aid station. The Putnam Basin Aid Station crew was overjoyed to see us at 4:00 am. The cut off was 4:30, and they told us we were bringing up the rear, but were on target. I knew the mileage was 95.1, but asked anyway what the distance to the finish was. The reply was 10K. Richard said “10K, two hours, no problem”. My reaction was shock and panic. I had actually forgotten to factor in the distance of Hardrock at 101.3 miles, and was very concerned two hours would not be enough for me. I thanked the aid people, declined their suggestion to sit awhile, and hit the trail running. I led through a dense forested downhill with downed trees, roots and rocks to climb. When we hit the traverse Bear Creek Trail that leads four miles out of the gulch, I told Richard to pass and haul ass. He did, and his flashlight beam quickly disappeared from our view.
I concentrated on the footing which consists of large shale rock plates, varying from saucer to turkey platter size. The trail was endless, but the night was not. As a solar dependent I usually greet the sunrise favorably, but this was a most unwelcome dawn. I just could not believe the goal was slipping through my hands. Any minute I expected to see the tree line I’d been looking for, or round the bend to Mineral Creek. But the trail went on, and on into infinity.
Hope was nearly gone, but the pace had not slackened and I ran through the willows on the bank of Mineral Creek in the daylight. PJ suggested I drop my pack on the highway and run for it. I grabbed the rope suspended from the creek banks and wadded into the thigh deep chill. Trying to move rapidly I staggered, slipped, lunged, and finally made the opposite bank. I hopped through the mud, up the highway embankment, and onto the tarmac, stripping clothes and pack as I went. One glance to be sure PJ made the crossing, and I was running down the pavement. I tried to read my watch, and thought it said 5:52 am., with 1.8 miles to go.
Steam rose from my wet shoes, shorts, and sweaty shirt. My breath created clouds of vapor as I pushed the road pace to a barely controlled sprint. How could this happen? I was angry with myself now and would condone no weakness. The blistered soggy feet just kept pounding and the pain remained constant. I wanted to read my watch, but I doubted my ability to read it accurately. Forget it, I thought, just do the work, and deal with the results.
Mile 100 is a left turn onto the dirt road above Silverton. Running up hill I encountered Ed Demoney in his van, calling “You did it”. Easy for him to say, I thought. I crested the hill at the Shrine of the Mine and glimpsed Richard heading cross country to the base of 14th Street. I could hear the crowd yelling for Joel Zucker at the finish across town. I muttered, whimpered, and tried to find the flags marking the connection to Silverton.
It was farther than I thought to the turnoff. Why hadn’t I walked out my back door Thursday night when they marked this section, and checked it out? I was furious with myself by now. The scramble over loose ground to the start of 14th Street was a classic Hardrock “trail” connection. Finally on the street heading Southeast I ran toward the Kendall Mt Hut and finish. I began to think it was possible. As I crossed Greene Street in the center of town the County Courthouse tower clock began to chime 6:00 am. I was to the first bridge before it tolled the sixth time. Fred Pilon was roadside yelling “you can do it”. I recalled that the race had started late, but how late? Fred began to run along side me saying complimentary things, while my labored breathing increased tempo.
I could see the finish area as we crossed the second bridge, and hear the crowd of about a dozen stalwarts. The pace increased way past redline, and I just waited for the tape to come to me. Kristina Maxfield enfolded me in a welcoming embrace and kept saying in my ear “you’ve done it, you’ve done it, you have finished”.
Dale Garland, Jim Sweatt, Dianne Bell, Lou Peyton, Scarlett Williams, Stu Gleman, Don Thompson, Ed Demoney, the Senellys, Joel Zucker, Fred Pilon and several others all added their congratulations as I stood trying to catch my breath. As they began to walk away, I finally had to ask the question. Don Thompson said he thought I had missed the cut off by 5 minutes.
I rode the few blocks home, showered, slept two hours, and got ready for the awards ceremony at 9 AM. When PJ and I walked into the school gym in Silverton at 10 AM, Dale Garland was announcing my name and finish time of 48:05:05. There was a terrific round of applause, and I was caught out in the open, off guard, and understandably vulnerable. With tears of emotion and appreciation I accepted the cheers and sat down to watch while the tangible awards were bestowed upon 42 other finishers.
As the ceremony progressed I became more aware of the tremendous admiration I felt for each of the participants in this event. I was impressed with great finish times, but also with the grace of also-rans like John Cappis, Nick Williams, Lou Peyton, and the other 45 runners who had started and not finished. I began to take pride in my finish. It began to sink in that I had finished, and that it was an accomplishment I deserved to take pride in. Scott Mills hugged me when I congratulated him, and his tears seemed a confusing combination of frustration, fatigue, sympathy, and compliment. I realized then that condolences were no longer needed, and I could savor the reward of a valiant finish in my fourth Hardrock Hundred.