Out of all the runners at this year's Hardrock I personally know two of them. Two of my friends, Joe Grant and Timothy Olson, ran this year. I met Joe by having him on my podcast and we had a very long and informative discussion on his take on the idea of self-powered adventure, among other things. If you want to hear the podcast listen to episode #13 here. Then, I met Timothy at the SoCal race Sean O'Brien, he ran the 50k, and afterwards we hung out a bit and did a short Periscope interview. We have both been busy since, but I will soon have him on the podcast I promise!
Anyways I was really rooting for both these guys and for someone I don't know personally but would love to have on the podcast one day, Jeff Browning. I'm constantly inspired by Jeff and both my dad and I are big fans. He just recently came in 3rd place at Western States (if you want to read my recap of that race check it out here!) and now ran Hardrock. Two incredibly difficult races and he did extremely well in both.
All three of these guys who I was rooting for had a memorable race, good and bad. But I'm not just going to talk about Tim, Joe, and Jeff. No. I want to talk about the race as a whole as I witnessed it on Twitter. Because, I've never been to see Hardrock but I will one day.
As the race began I was busy at home and so didn't quite get to see the start or first 30 miles, but I do know that it was a good race during that time. With Joe even pulling ahead and into 4th place. While the infamous Killian Jornet and experienced runner Jason Schlarb kept the front. Unfortunately, while coming into the mile 43 aid station at Ouray Joe had a moment of inattention, as is common for us all, but that moment coincided with his placement in a tunnel and sent his head straight for the ceiling. So hard in fact, it landed him on his back. He was foggy and a little disoriented afterwards, but he headed into Ouray and regrouped and headed out with Dominic Grossman. As they progressed Joe became more and more disoriented, eventually having to sit down for about an hour and try his hardest to recover and push on. But, alas it wasn't to be. Eventually causing Joe to sadly drop out. I hope he gets well soon and that it is nothing to serious.
Meanwhile Anna Frost, the unstoppable previous women's champion, was again championing down the trail in the lead. Even at one point in the race being 6th overall I believe.
This year's race was hot. Unusually so. It affected all and those good in the heat, like Jeff and Jason, kept on. While those who are much more used to running in the cold European mountains and skiing, i.e. Killian, the heat really got to. Jason had his family with him along this race and there's a great picture of him cooling off with the fam at one of the aid stations. But, I digress, one of the reasons, I think, that Killian and Jason stuck together was because of that very same heat. Usually, in colder years, Killian is flying ahead of everyone and this year was different, which is why I love this sport, you never ever know what is going to happen. But, they both pushed through and worked as a team the entire race, eventually coming into Silverton after 100 miles and 33,000 of elevation gain as co-champions.
Frosty, as Anna Frost is called, put on a humble persona before the race, as ultrarunners are wont to do. She told Bryon Powell of iRunFar that she is simply running the race to for enjoyment and it took a lot of questioning for her to finally say that if first place is out there and if she's feeling good, she'll take it. And she did, eventually coming into Silverton in 29 hours and 2 minutes! She really is unstoppable and an amazing inspiration, because you can really see the pure love of the sport in her style. Would love to have her on the show one day.
Anyways, back to the men's race. After Jason's and Killian's incredible, teamworked co-finish, the first one since '97, Jeff Browning came into Silverton in fourth place! This guy really is the real deal. Two infamous and infamously brutal hundred miles within a few weeks and not only that, but he has now set the record for the Western/Hardrock double. Taking 80 minutes (yes, an hour and 20 minutes) off of Nick Clark's 2011 record! But, it wasn't all roses for Jeff before these races. Dealing with aches and pains as we all do is not something you want before two daunting hundreds and not only that, but one of those aches and pains was an ankle tweak he got from working out of all things. But, since the fire Jeff has is born from experience, he was already proactively fixing his pains before Western and immediately after in prep for Hardrock. In addition, after a discussion with his family, he decided to continue on with the Western/Hardrock double, instead of simply doing one. And that simply doing one, is still running a hundred miles in the Sierras or the San Juans. But, he did it and did it astonishingly efficiently and expertly.
But, another surprise, at least for me, was held in the fact that both Bryon Powell and Megan Hicks of iRunFar.com ran Hardrock. In addition, they both placed very well, with Megan coming in 5th female in 34 hours and 26 minutes an Bryon coming in 12th male in 32 hours and 13 minutes. They are both real "Hardrockers" now too, as they have completed the course in both the clockwise and counterclockwise directions! While simultaneously running the popular ultrarunning website, iRunFar.com, and training. They are busy, but committed and I love those types of people. People who have everything going on and still manage to, well, manage it all. I really hope to have them on soon.
There were a lot of people this year who were completing their 10th, 15th, and even 20th Hardrock, which is awe inspiring, and something maybe I will be able and privileged to do one day to. Who knows! Right now though all I need to do is focus on the now, on right here, as we all do. And I think that's what Hardrock taught me this year. That the unexpected might happen, anything could happen, but that is our sport and with a present mind, a trained body, and a determined soul you can make the unbelievable happen. So go and make the unbelievable happen, take this race in your heart and your mind, and run with it. In life, in work, in running always strive for your better as these runners at Hardrock have shown that they do, that they can, that we all can!
"Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually running toward it." -Ajahn Chah