2006 Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run Report by Jason Halladay



View of Virginius Pass and road down into Governor Basin.


Date:  
July 14-15th, 2006
Related Media:  
Round Trip Distance/Elevation/Time:

 
100.5 miles, ~34,000', 37 hours, 46 minutes, 04 seconds.
25th place out of 130 starters. Official Results




At 5:45am on Friday, July 14th, 2006, I checked in at the table at the Silverton High School and said I was ready. Nervous excitement consumed me. I was really here. For years I had heard about this race and initially thought it was ridiculous and certainly never expected to attempt it. Why would people want to run 100 miles and over 33,000 vertical feet in a non-stop push in under 48 hours? It didn't make sense and it certainly didn't sound possible. The distance of roughly four back-to-back marathons with a majority of the course over 11,000 feet elevation-what!? But then something happened in life over the course of almost two years and eventually the race didn't sound so absurd and it became appealing. I began running a bit more and ran my first (and only) marathon in October 2004 with no training. I managed to grunt through it but it hurt. I then ran a half marathon in early 2005 followed by my first ultra run (any run longer than a marathon), the Leadville 100 mile run in August 2005. My friend Aron had run the Hardrock in 2005 and finished/survived. With all of this in mind, I could start to imagine attempting the Hardrock 100.

So in January 2006, I had been talking about the run with my friend Bill Geist. He had already submitted his entry for the Hardrock and suggested I might as well try. Entering the Hardrock involves a lottery system of sorts. You can get more "tickets" in the lottery by various methods including running and finishing the Hardrock, volunteering as an aid station captain during a running of the Hardrock or putting in some other serious volunteering like trail work for the course. Also, one must complete a qualifying 100 mile run prior to the Hardrock so my finish at Leadville in 2005 counted. So, being slightly interested in the run and not expecting much of a chance to get in (something like 20 percent chance with one ticket like I had) I sent in my entry form along with my $185 check not really expecting to get in.

The night of Sunday, February 5th, 2006, I got online from home to check to see how the lottery went. As the list of accepted entrants loaded I said, "Oh shit!" I had gotten into the Hardrock! A worried sense of excitement came over me as I told Allison I had gotten in. Furthermore, my good friend Bill, who had persuaded me to send in my entry form was deep on the wait list so I felt a sense of guilt. I knew he really wanted to run it and I was really on the fence initially. But damn it, my name was on that list now! Time to start training!

I didn't run a lot of really long runs for training. Mostly I went for frequency over distance running 6 to 8 miles per day during the week with a longer run or hike on the weekends. I ran the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim run in April in 12 hours, 48 minutes as a 42 mile, 12,000 vertical-foot training run. In May I ran the Jemez Mountains 50 mile trail run with 11,000 vertical feet. Then in June I ran the San Juan Solstice 50 mile run with 12,000 vertical feet of gain. These monthly-spaced long runs between my daily running worked out as a good training plan for me. By the time I ran the San Juan Solstice 50 mile run I felt very good during and after the run. I had also started running regularly with very strong ultra runner in Los Alamos, David Coblentz, and was picking up advice and strategy from him. Going into the Hardrock 100, the idea of not finishing never crossed my mind. I may take all 48 hours, but I was confident I'd finish so long as nothing unexpected popped up. This confidence worried me a bit but was also very beneficial in getting me in the right mindset for the Hardrock. I was as ready as I'd be!




Our group for the run. From left to right: Matt, Mom, Dylan, Me, Allison and Bill.


Silverton to the Chapman Aid station
18.5 miles, 6610 vertical feet
4 hours, 10 minutes

"Let's Go!" But now it was time. I was surrounded by 130 very strong, qualified runners standing outside the Silverton High School at 5:55a.m. ready to start off. Starting 100 mile runs is weird. One has a huge distance to cover that's hard to fathom. Do I start off running? Might as well walk, it's a long way. OK, just do what everyone else does. As the race director, Dale Garland, shouted "Go", we all cheered and yelled as we started moving forward. I looked at my crew-my girlfriend Allison, Mom, Matt, Dylan and Bill-as I started off. I wouldn't see them again until mile 18 at the Chapman aid station. I started with two hand bottles, both filled with water. I also carried some gels in my long sleeved bike jersey pockets. Not having done this run before I didn't really have a good feel for how long it would take so my goal time was based on an arbitrary thought-don't spend two nights out! So I picked 42 hours as a goal time. If I managed that time, I would finish at midnight on Saturday. So picked a name from the 2004 list of finishers of someone who had finished the run in 42 hours-Hardrock veteran Charlie Thorn. My goal times for various aid stations were based on Charlie's splits.




Everyone still looks fresh! That's me in the orange.


After a couple of blocks in Silverton, we ran north along highway 550 for a bit before crossing to the west side of the highway and a wet crossing of Mineral Creek. But this year the water level was relatively low and the water didn't really bother me. I tried to stay near the front of the pack to start the race because I knew it would be single-file going up Bear Creek drainage and I figured if I'd ever be close to the front, it would be at the start. Ha. About 40 minutes into the run I got stung by a bee on the inside of my left calve. Ouch! I stopped for a minute as it was surprisingly painful. Back on the trail again I could barely make out the front runner, Karl Meltzer, still. It would be a long time before I saw him again at the awards ceremony on Sunday. The trail and scenery going into the Bear Creek was great. Nice, soft dirt single track surrounded by nice, green vegetation. It was a good day for mountain running.

Not only that, I was feeling very good. In fact, I was having a blast! Surrounded by over a hundred like-minded, finely tuned running athletes in an amazing mountain scenery with the prospect of seeing my family and friends every 10-20 miles for the next two days-how could I go wrong!?

The weather was clear which was good but it was also going to be hot. After going up and over the 12,600 foot-level between Lime Creek and Cataract Gulch we began to descend steeply into Cataract Gulch and then over towards the Porcupine Creek drainage. The going was mostly on faint sheep trails between decent trails but was a little bit swampy in places. All of this was above treeline so the views were awesome. On the descent I came up on a runner. I ran behind him for a bit and then we started talking. His name was Rob from Grand Junction, CO. He had been in the Hardrock twice before this. I asked him how far we were from the KT aid station and he pointed it out. We weren't too far away which was good because I was running low on water in my two hand bottles. It was much warmer than I had expected. We dropped into basin and had a muddy and wet crossing at the South Fork of Mineral Creek at 10,600 feet before reaching the road that led down to the KT aid station only a ╝ mile away. I passed quickly through the KT aid station after the volunteers filled my hand bottles up, one with Succeed! and one with water. I ate some chips and took a cookie for the road.

We now traversed the hillside on the KT traverse en route to lower Ice Lakes Basin and the Grant-Swamp Pass at 12,920'. I had never been in the Ice Lakes Basin but had heard a lot of great things about it so I was excited to see a bit of it at least. By this time I came up upon two other runners, Sue Johnston and Rob Youngren. I stayed behind them until we reached the intersection with the main Ice Lakes Basin trail. It was steep up to that trail so going was fairly slow. Once on the main Ice Lakes Basin trail we made decent time plodding up. We only followed this trail for a short distance before taking a right on faint trail up towards Grant-Swamp Pass. In this section a familiar voice said "Hello" from behind. It was Tom Garrison from Ojo Caliente, NM. I stayed with him as we passed about four other runners before we topped out on top of Grant-Swamp Pass. At the Joel Zucker Memorial plaque at the pass Tom paused and added a rock to the pile at the base of the memorial. I followed suite-it just seemed right.

From the top of the pass we tackled a steep and very loose "scree slope ski" descent into Swamp Canyon. Apparently this is often a snow-covered slope but not this year. Tom absolutely flew down this loose scree! I'm a pretty good descender but I was losing sight of Tom in a hurry. Across the valley to the north I could see the steep and hard looking ascent up to Oscar's Pass that we'd soon have to make. I couldn't wait. Ha. After the scree, I stopped to empty my shoes and carried on down through forest to the Chapman aid station at around 11:10am. My crew of 5 were there anxiously awaiting my arrival and promptly showed me to my seat. I'm sure others have made this same analogy but I felt like a NASCAR racer in the pits. Bill and Allison worked my shoes and socks off, Mom and Matt and Dylan tended to refilling my bottles and I changed into a sleeveless shirt as Allison sprayed sunscreen on my face and arms. This was awesome! It was clear and hot and I knew I needed plenty of fluids for the next leg into Telluride. With this in mind, I shouldered my hydration vest with 40 oz. of Gookinaid in it and asked my crew to fill one hand bottle with water and one with Perpetuem. My friend Sean Cunniff was the Chapman aid station captain and his crew had made grilled cheese sandwiches on wheat bread. I took half a sandwich as I started off towards Oscar's Pass.




Coming into the Chapman aid station. Photo by Chris Gerber.


Chapman to Telluride
9.3 miles, 3,100 vertical feet
2 hours, 50 minutes

"The Heat is On." The air was hot and still as I began ascending the road up towards Oscar's Pass. This area faces south so it was roasting! I munched on the grilled cheese sandwich and ate from a small baggie of Fritos during the initial ascent. The bugs and heat were out and this section wasn't super enjoyable. The upward progress continued on, though, and after numerous steep switchbacks on an old jeep road, I reached the top of Oscar's Pass. I took a moment to stop and eat some Cliff Blocks here before jogging slowly down the other side and traversing a small snowfield to reach the Wasatch trail. Heading down the Wasatch trail was very scenic and enjoyable. I ran behind a couple of guys for much of the descent. As we got lower and approached treeline, I was alone and for the first time on the run began to second-guess myself. I hadn't seen a course marker for a while and began to wonder if I was still on course. I didn't know this area at all and didn't remember the course description at all. I came across the intersection of the Wasatch trail and the Telluride Bear Creek road which was unmarked as well. It sounded familiar but once the doubt had entered my mind, it was solid. I stopped to wait and make sure more runners were coming the same way as me. After about 5 minutes I could see another runner coming down the Wasatch trail and making the turn my way. I carried on. This Telluride Bear Creek road was very runable and I kept a good pace all the way into Telluride.

In Telluride, my mother and Matt were waiting to take photos as I entered the aid station at the park at 2:06 pm and Allison, Dylan and Bill were waiting by a chair they setup for me to sit in. While they filled my hydration bladder with 40oz of Gookinaid, one hand bottle with water and one hand bottle with Perpetuem, I sat down and ate some watermelon and a popsicle. The aid station had ice available so they put ice in my hydration bladder and hand bottles. It was hot and it was going to be a hot afternoon going over Virginius Pass. My crew also handed me my iPod and headphones and I was psyched to have the music for the next leg of the run from Telluride to Ouray. After 14 minutes in the aid station, I was on my way again.

Telluride to Ouray
16.1 miles, 4,390 vertical feet
4 hours, 32 minutes

"Kill Caustic" On my way out of town I began talking with another runner named Jason. Jason Poole, I believe. This was his first Hardrock too. We complained about the heat as we ascended up through a driveway and onto the Imogene Pass road. Jason had ate a lot and was going a bit slower to let the food digest so I moved on by myself. It was hot! Another south facing slope meant heavy heat for us. I talked with another runner I came up on but I have forgotten his name. We chatted briefly and I moved ahead of him on the now good, ascending road. At this point I felt fully alone and felt it was time to turn on the iPod. For the next few hours going up and over Virginius Pass and down into Ouray I had the tempo pushing noise of AFI and A New Found Glory to keep me motivated and I really liked this! The music was a big boost and I probably expended a bit too much extra energy with the fist pumps and head shaking as I made my way to Ouray. One song in particular, "Kill Caustic" by AFI, really gave me a good boost a couple of times during this leg.

As we ascended Virginius Pass the clouds rolled in and really made a big difference in the temperature. I felt quite good on this climb and was making good time on the runners in front of me. My altimeter watch showed I was ascending at about 30 feet per minute for much of this climb. After going up and over Mendota Saddle I came up on two runners and talked with one of them. His name was Randy Isler. I had never heard his name but he was from New Mexico as well and this was his tenth running of the Hardrock-awesome. The heat was taking a toll on him, as it was most of us, but he showed great perseverance and motored on up to Virginius Pass. We arrived at Virginius at about 4:30pm and I only spent a few minutes there. The awesome volunteers offered soup and many other goodies which appeared to be a lot of work to carry it all up there!

Dropping down Virginius Pass to the north was steep and loose but offered a sweet view of Mount Sneffels and Teakettle Mountain. As an aside, Mount Sneffels was the first Colorado 14er I had ever climbed back in 1996 so the view brought back fond memories. I went a bit out of my way to glissade some snow to my left to avoid the loose rock directly below the pass. It was a short, but productive shoe-ski. Below that was more loose, steep rock leading down to the Virginius Mine. Here I passed another runner as he dumped rocks out of his shoes. I was back on good road and felt like running down some more. I came up on a runner and began talking with him. He was Neil Taylor and it turned out he and his wife run the Barr Camp on Pikes Peak. I slowed my pace a bit to chat with Neil all the way down to the Governor Basin aid station. A short distance before reaching Governors, Randy met up with us and all three of us entered the station together around 5:15pm. I didn't feel I needed much food but the aid station crew offered up some Macaroni and Cheese and that sounded quite tasty so I took them up on it. After downing some Mac and Cheese, watermelon and chips, I left the aid station behind Neil and Randy. I could feel a bowel movement coming on as I ran down the very runable road towards Ouray. As luck would have it, there are numerous porta-potties along this road so I made a quick stop. Sometime during this bathroom break, Jason Poole ran by.

Feeling at least two pounds lighter, I continued running down the road and eventually caught up with Randy and Neil and passed by them again. Passing them got me thinking--I was going so much faster than my anticipated times that I was sure I would blow up at some point during the second half of this run. But at the moment, I felt good so I rationalized that I might as well go for it while I felt decently strong. I soon caught up with Jason Poole again and we walked for a bit. At that time Randy and Neil caught up with us and all four of walked and jogged into Ouray together arriving at the aid station around 6:45pm. I saw Dylan first as he took pictures of us running into the aid station. I then saw the rest of my crew ready for my arrival with a chair and my duffel bag all laid out in the grass. I was stoked to see them all and was definitely happy to be picking up Bill as my pacer for the next 57 miles! I believe I ate some more Macaroni and Cheese here and snacked on some other food. I drank an energy drink called "Lost" or something like that. I also downed some flat Coke. Here I packed a rain jacket, headlamp, gloves and hat in my hydration vest as well as getting 40oz of Gookinaid in the water bladder. My wonderful crew again filled my hand bottles up with Perpetuem and water. I was all set. After 16 minutes in the aid station Bill and I left en route for the Engineer aid station some 8 miles and 4,500 vertical feet away. This leg has the most vertical gain of any leg of the course. I was still feeling good.




Me, Neil Taylor, Jason Poole and Randy Isler coming into the Ouray aid station.


Ouray to Grouse Gulch
14.4 miles, 5785 vertical feet
5 hours, 57 minutes

"The Ascending Decline" We walked out of Ouray with Neil past the location of the famous Ouray Ice Park as our food settled and we got ready to run a bit. On the road by the Ice Park we were able to run a bit on the flatter sections. We passed a dead deer in the middle of the road with no obvious signs of trauma that appeared recently deceased. Maybe it fell off the small drop above the road or maybe a mountain lion was nearby. We moved faster. We crossed the wooden bridge over the Uncompaghre River and the climbed steeply up the hillside. We then passed by the dam and found the trail up to the tunnel and crossed highway 550 on the trail on top of the tunnel. A lot of climbing on shale rock trail here up along a precipitous drop to our right took us into the trees as darkness fell on the San Juans. We broke out the headlamps and moved on. I know from experience that I'm not a huge fan of all-night hiking and running and while I wasn't thrilled about the night out, I suspect Bill was dreading it even more-he'd have to put up with my tired whining and complaining all night. I slowed down as it got darker and cooler but was perked up but the smell of campfire smoke. I knew we must be close to the Engineer aid station. Two volunteers were on the trail just a short distance below the aid station and they pointed us in the right direction. We thanked them for being out here at night for this run but they insisted on thanking us for running this race else they wouldn't be out here. We explained that we wouldn't be out here if they weren't out here so it was really them that needed to be thanked. We were all thankful!

At the aid station at 10:33p.m., Bill immediately recognized the familiar face of the woman signing us in. After a few seconds I remembered we had met her in November 2005 on a rock climbing trip at Indian Creek, Utah and her name was Becky. Small world! The inviting fire consumed my attention and I took a seat by the fire. A woman tending to the fire recognized me from the Leadville 100 run last year. It was Sandy Powell from NM! Again, the term "Small World" came to mind. We chatted briefly as I warmed up by the fire and Bill graciously delivered flat Coke and soup to me. He was earning his stripes tonight as my pacer! The aid station crew filled my hand bottles up with water and Succeed but I still had Gookinaid in my bladder so I didn't fiddle with that. This campfire was so pleasant I didn't want to leave. But alas, we still had 48 miles to go to the finish and I had to get going.

After 17 minutes in the aid station, Bill pried me from the campfire circle and we carried on up the slope towards the red blinking light marking the top of the climb and the road down into Grouse Gulch. This climb felt steep and didn't appear to really be a trail. We just followed the beam of our headlamps reflecting off the course markers. Bill carried an additional hand flashlight which put out some good light. After plodding upwards for quite sometime, we reached the Engineer Pass road at the red blinking light. It was breezy and cool up there so we stopped to put on our jackets, beanies and gloves before starting our trotting descent towards Grouse Gulch. The moon was now rising and looked a dark orange color. Very beautiful. We'd have a fairly bright moon to illuminate our course for the rest of the night. I felt a good mental boost knowing that we had a few miles of downhill to Grouse Gulch. We could see the lights of a few runners ahead of us as we jogged this nice road down towards the Grouse Gulch aid station. I stopped along the descent to empty my shoes of small rocks. As we neared the aid station we passed a couple of runners, one was Randy Isler, just before arriving at the Grouse Gulch aid station at 1:00am.

The aid station was abuzz with activity, people and lights. This was impressive. My crew was there to greet me and again do everything they could for me. I still felt quite good but was starting to feel the effects of the long mileage and more than anything, the darkness. Bill and I sat down to eat some beef brisket and macaroni and cheese offered up from the aid station crew. Although it was relatively warm, I changed into pants with zip-off legs for the night shift. The extra warmth felt good. I drank some flat Coca-Cola before again shouldering my hydration vest with 40oz of Gookinaid and taking one hand bottle of Perpetuem. I chatted briefly with a couple of friends who were at the aid station. Sean Cunniff and Tom Stockton were both waiting for their runners so they could start pacing them. After 21 minutes in the aid station, Bill and I departed heading for what I knew would be the most difficult part of the run for me-ascending Handies Peak (14,048') in the wee hours of the morning.

Grouse Gulch to Sherman
13.4 miles, 4188' vertical feet
5 hours, 42 minutes

"14er Sunrise" Leaving Grouse Gulch we had to backtrack a short bit on the road before catching an old jeep road that headed towards the true Grouse Gulch. Guided by the light of our headlamps we plodded up this jeep road before leaving it for a good single-track path heading into the upper basin. The moon was now fully illuminating the landscape. We could see a couple lights ahead of us and decided to switch off our headlamps and hike by the light of the moon. I was beginning to feel very slow as we hiked up this trail but my watch told me we were still ascending at about 24-30 vertical feet per minute which is respectable. I think my fatigue was beginning to affect my thoughts. As we neared the top of the Grouse Gulch-American Basin pass, we could see a light coming up fast from behind us and I suggested we turn on our headlamps so as to not scare this person when he came upon us.

At the top of the pass, we could clearly see Handies Peak across the basin and I wasn't thrilled about having to descend so much down into American Basin before heading back up towards the summit. A number of lights worked their way up towards the summit. I insisted we take a break so we found shelter from the slight breeze behind a rock outcropping and sat down for a bit. At this point, the fast light from behind us passed by and it was Randy Isler again. I commended him for his amazing uphill strength as we watched him descend down into American Basin. Again, Bill had to coax me from my comfortable sitting position and we started the descent into American Basin ourselves.

The trail down was steep but fairly decent. I was concerned about it being marshy but it wasn't really wet and we quickly found ourselves reaching the junction with the true American Basin trail that leads to the summit of Handies Peak. This was great trail but I didn't have the energy to run any of it. We hiked across the sections of trail that Bill and I, along with 28 other volunteers, had worked on and improved just a week prior with the CFI. We passed by Sloan Lake and then crossed a big talus slope, with good trail still, to the tundra trail that leads to the summit. At this point I was really feeling the dark, the mileage and the elevation and was complaining incessantly to Bill about having to ascend this peak at this stage in the race. These complaints were undoubtedly fueled by the fatigue I was feeling as I normally love being in the mountains and especially climbing 14ers. I would take a few steps, pause, complain, and repeat. Pacers get to see a completely different side of their runners during times like these. Bill was very encouraging and supportive and we eventually reached the summit of Handies Peak around 4:30am.

I was very happy knowing that from here on out, all other passes on the course would be lower than this. I had reached the highpoint of the course. I saw down briefly on the summit but a cool breeze was blowing so we didn't stay too long. This was my third time on the summit of Handies Peak so I didn't even bother with looking for the summit register to sign. We began to descend the north ridge of Handies as the sky to the east began to glow orange and red. It was beautiful to be up so high as the sun was beginning to rise. And I couldn't wait for the sun to come back up-I was eagerly awaiting the mental boost it would give me. (And I'm sure Bill was excited for that too so that I'd stop whining as much!) Descending the northern slope of Handies was steep and loose and not particularly sweet. We met up with a group of about 10 backpackers heading to the summit to view the sunrise. I wondered if they knew about this run taking place on this day or were they surprised to see numerous runners with headlamps going over the summit of Handies?!

We descended to the east into Grizzly Gulch and came up on good trail again. Bill and I were able to run much of this down to the Burrows Park area where we ran into Randy Isler again filling his bottles with the stashed water jugs just under the bridge over the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Bill and I both utilized the pit toilet found at this junction and briefly talked with some hikers that were leaving to climb 14ers Redcloud and Sunshine. We were able to run a fair amount of the Cinnamon Pass road towards the Sherman aid station but encountered more slight uphill sections on that road than I had remembered! Eventually we caught sight of the Sherman townsite area and followed the informal trail down a steep hill to the Sherman road. Signs in the road leading to Sherman aid station advertised "Breakfast Burritos" and that sounded mighty nice at the moment. We trotted into the Sherman aid station at 7:03am with our crew, again, anxiously awaiting our arrival.

The Sherman aid station was the least crowded aid station we had been to yet-a testament to the long miles to this point really stretching out the runners. The aid station captain, Annette, heartily welcomed us. Bill and I had met Annette the previous week at the Handies Peak trail work party. Her positive attitude and encouragement were much appreciated. Mom and Matt assisted me with my clothing needs while Dylan scored me a breakfast burrito and Allison worked on getting my hydration vest and bottles refilled. Bill also ate some breakfast burrito but neither he nor I could finish an entire breakfast burrito. Bill used the outhouse here and commented on how "homey" the bathroom felt with a table offering toilet paper, hand washing materials and a vase of flowers! I changed shoes and socks here for the last time. I put my hat and sunglasses back on as well. My hydration vest was filled again with 40oz Gookinaid and I took one hand bottle of water and one hand bottle of Perpetuem. After 20 minutes at the aid station, we headed up the Cataract Gulch trail looking forward to another day of running and hiking.

Sherman to Pole Creek
9.1 miles, 3210 vertical feet
3 hours, 52 minutes

"It's pretty butů" Leaving the aid station and ascending immediately on the good trail I felt decent but thought of the vertical gain we'd have to ascend to the Pole Creek aid station. I chided myself for thinking too hard about the inevitable difficulties and tried to just focus on the "now". Bill and I talked as we leisurely hiked up the trail. This section was not marked at all because the trail was obviously and it wasn't necessary. As we neared treeline Randy Isler came up behind us and passed us again. Man, that guy has strong ascending skills! Another runner and his pacer passed by us just after treeline. At the top of the basin the trail goes into a broad, wide grassy meadow that was slightly marshy in a number of places. For the first time in the run, we felt very alone. We could barely see Randy well in front of us and couldn't see anyone behind us for quite some distance. We crossed over the Cataract-Pole divide and could see down into the Pole Creek Basin. "Where was that damn aid station?" I said to myself. I was sure we had gone at least nine miles from the Sherman aid station! But alas we still had a few more miles to go before reaching the Pole Creek aid station. This area, with a couple of small lakes and tons of lush green vegetation, was very beautiful but I didn't have time or energy to fully appreciate it.

For much of the course to this point, I had previously either hiked or driven the areas. This area, Pole Creek basin, I had never seen before and that fact added to the feeling of isolation I was experiencing. We did some cross-country hiking and running down into the Pole Creek drainage before reaching a good trail and passing by Randy Isler again. We ran much of the trail down to the Pole Creek aid station but we were discouraged to see the little rising hill up to the aid station! We arrived at the Pole Creek aid station at 11:15am. The small group of volunteers was very helpful in refilling our bottles and getting food to us. I ate some soup and then some watermelon before taking off my shoes to wring out my socks. Randy entered the aid station during this time and we all three left the station at 11:15am.

Pole Creek to Maggie Gulch
4.3 miles, 1,340' vertical feet
1 hour, 25 minutes

"Holy Sheep!" The trail out of Pole Creek is part of the Continental Divide trail and was quite runable. It was fairly flat but was of a gentle uphill grade. On the trail we crossed many muddy gullies and marshy areas before entering a large meadow. From the meadow the trail headed uphill towards the Maggie-Pole pass. It began to thunder and rain lightly as we began the ascent up this hill. The rain wasn't too bad but the thunder had me a bit worried about going over the Maggie-Pole pass. Thankfully it was a brief storm and the rain and thunder stopped as we topped out and began the descent down towards the Maggie aid station. This descent was on steep, wet grass so we had to be careful and keep our speed in check. As we got closer to the aid station I could see a lot of white dots on the hill side above the aid station. These dots were hundreds of sheep grazing! We reached the Maggie aid station at 12:55pm as a couple of other runners vacated the station. Randy entered the aid station only a few minutes after us and left quite quickly. Bill and I ate a sandwich and I ate some soup along with some flat coke. I believe I also ate some Cheez-it crackers. I asked to have my hand bottles filled up with water and Succeed. My hydration vest still had some Gookinaid in it. We left the Maggie aid station at 1:09pm.

Maggie Gulch to Cunningham Gulch
6.1 miles, 1700 vertical feet
2 hours, 42 minutes

"Breaking down" I wasn't excited about the big climb up Buffalo Boy Ridge but, alas, it had to be done. Going up this section felt painfully slow for me and fatigue was hitting me hard. At one point I think I laid down on the hillside and could have immediately fallen asleep for a nap if Bill hadn't been there. He encouraged me to get up and we carried on up the hillside. We could see a good rain storm taking place to the east and hoped it wouldn't hit us. But, loud claps of thunder welcomed us as we crested the Buffalo Boy Ridge and the rain came in. We put on our rain jackets as we tried to scamper quickly across the ridge to the descent trail down to Stony Pass. The rain was driving hard from the east and the cold water droplets stung my face and legs. We were happy to find the descent trail to the west to get out of driving rain.

The descent was slick with the new rain. I hadn't studied the map or route description well enough before the run and was looking down towards Stony Pass trying to see the Cunningham aid station. When we reached Stony Pass, there was a vehicle parked at the pass. The driver told us we were still a basin away from Cunningham and pointed to the course markers across the road leading towards Cunningham. It was here that I began to mentally break down a bit. Because of the fatigue, I felt that Bill and I were well at the back of the pack and that we'd barely finish in time. I also began to think about how selfish my running this race was. I was out here doing something that had no significance for anyone else but myself while my family and Allison sat around for hours waiting for me. I felt an extreme sense of guilt at this point and immediately wanted to quit. I had enough energy and strength to finish but I felt I was wasting their time doing this. One of my biggest reasons I love to hike and run is because it's an individual sport. Self reliance is key. And now, here I was with four people waiting on me hand and foot and I wasn't sure they were getting anything out of the experience. To top it all off, the rain was making the steep descent on grass into Cunningham very difficult.

We carefully and slowly descended the steep slope down towards Cunningham. I could see my crew's vehicle down at the parking lot and was anxious to get down there and tell them I was quitting so that we could all go home and get about our normal schedules. I heard Allison yell my name from below and I perked up. I just wanted to be down at that road! We traversed above the cliffs above the Cunningham aid station and eventually turned down a vegetated slope down to the road. My brother, Dylan, had walked up a ways from the aid station and was first to greet us. He said, "Alright! You're almost done!" to which my reply was, "Man, I was done about 20 miles ago. I think I'm going to drop out here." I next saw Allison and she walked with me the last short distance to the aid station as I explained my feelings of guilt and desire to quit now so that no one had to "waste anymore of their time". Thankfully, Allison would have none of it, though, and insisted I continue and finish the race. We her reassurance that I wasn't wasting anyone's time and that everyone was here because they wanted to be here, I felt a big boost and was anxious to finish the race. We sat down at the Cunningham aid station at 3:43pm.




Finishing the steep, wet grassy descent into the Cunningham aid station.


At the aid station I ate some soup and some brownies. A friend of mine, David Coblentz, was the aid station captain and he noticed my fatigue and offered me some chocolate covered espresso beans. I was grateful and ate a handful. We took a long break here, almost 30 minutes, as we prepared ourselves for the big 2,700' vertical-foot climb up Little Giant right out of the aid station. I changed socks despite the fact that we'd get our feet wet at the Cunningham Creek crossing immediately after leaving the aid station. I believe I left my hat and sunglasses with my crew. After some more encouragement, Bill and I left the aid station at 4:08pm.

Cunningham Gulch to Silverton (Finish!)
9.2 miles, 2,770 vertical feet
3 hours, 44 minutes

I was still wearing my light jacket when we left the aid station as it was still overcast but the rain had stopped. We just walked through the ankle deep Cunningham Creek and began the steep ascent up Little Giant. After about 5 minutes the sun was back out and it was hot. We stopped to take off our jackets before continuing on up. As we got higher we could see our crew outside their vehicle watching our progress. I waved. It was awesome to have experienced such wonderful encouragement from Allison, Dylan, Bill, Mom and Matt. Their encouragement and support was such a boost for me. They had taken a weekend from their life to help me achieve my goal and I couldn't thank them enough. Now, more than ever, I wanted to finish this race as a way of thanking them. I realized that the idea of dropping out of this run would have been a disappointment for not just me, but for them as well. That action truly would have been a waste of their time.

As we neared the bottom of the final climb up Little Giant, Bill had to take a bathroom break. While he was busy, I sat down in the trail and nearly fell asleep. I came to as he was heading up the trail towards me. We could see a few runners topping out and heading over the top beginning their descent into Silverton. Again, for us, progress felt slow but my watch reported 24 feet per minute of gain. Decent considering where we were at in the run. I was anxious to get over the top and start our descent. At the top of the pass we traversed for a bit across the ridge before dropping down a steep trail that turned into road quickly. The road had numerous rocks on it but was still pretty runable so we began running. As we ran downhill on the road, Bill mentioned that he believe we could finish under 38 hours if we were able to run most of the way back. We were well ahead of my anticipated finish time of 42 hours and I was encouraged by this fact. With that, we concentrated on running as much as we could. We run for a while and then walk for a bit to recover. We reached the turn to old jeep road and trail that parallels the Animas River into Silverton. This section of trail was very nice to run on as it was soft, nicely packed dirt.

We encountered a couple of mountain bikers who nicely yielded to us and we stopped to say hello. We asked how far back into Silverton it was and one of the bikers checked his bike computer and said, "exactly 1.91 miles." We were stoked to hear this news and definitely felt like we could finish under 38 hours. We ran as much of the trail as we could but had to walk in a few spots because of marshy areas or short hills. I could hear cars on the road across the Animas River and knew we were getting close. The trail then turned right and downhill onto an old road and headed right towards the Silverton Ski Hut. The deck of the hut was crowded with people who were cheering us on from afar and raising their hands in the air. Not knowing what that was all about, we cheered back and raised our hands in the air. We later learned this was a wedding party and I suspect many of the folks were inebriated. In any case, their positive cheering was a nice boost.




Bill and I trotting along the dirt road just past the Silverton Ski Hut.


As we ran into town on the dirt road we saw Dylan and Allison taking photos. They cheered us on and we told them we'd walk so that they could run back to the finish to get our picture as we finished. They ran ahead. Bill congratulated me and gave me a hug. This was an awesome gesture from the guy who had just ran 57 miles and over 24 hours with me. He pulled me through some tough mental hurdles and kept my attitude positive during the hard hours of the night and early morning.

We rounded the corner towards the Silverton High School and could hear the cheers. We ran the last block to the finish line. I walked up to the painted Hardrock and, obeying tradition, kissed the rock behind 24 other runners at 37 hours, 46 minutes and 4 seconds after starting this 100.5 mile run. It was a sweet moment!




Granite never tasted so good!


After nearly 38 hours of non-stop moving, it was an odd feeling to just stop. I had been training for months prior to the run and then constantly moving since the early morning the day before this moment and now I was done. But it was an awesome, satisfying feeling to have fulfilled a dream by completing an event I, only 2 years before, considered "ridiculous and impossible".

Having Allison, my brother, my mother and Matt as my crew was truly special. With our busy adult lives, it's increasingly difficult to take family orientated trips. Camping with them brought back great childhood memories of the many camping trips to the mountains and lakes we used to take. In the end, running this run wasn't just about me, it was about family.


Written by Jason Halladay on 06 August 2006 for TheMountainInstitute.com.