Hardrock 100 is a small key race for a select few. However, in its history, Hardrock has always become a highly anticipated race that often plays out like a great boxing match reminiscent of the days of Jake La Motta or Casius Clay.
I am pretty sure you remember the Hardrock draw all those months ago. Name after name was drawn from the hat and for once we had a line-up that was not only going to illuminate the high altitude mountains of Silverton but also potentially (despite its size) was possibly going to be ‘the’ race of the year!
That’s a bold statement considering we have already seen the Hernando and Jornet smack down in La Palma, the Krar master class at WSER, a return to form of Anton Krupicka at Lavaredo and the Skyrunning World Championships in Chamonix. Oh yes, Hardrock 100 has whetted the appetite of every ultra running aficionado worldwide, but why?
With no disrespect to every other participant in the race, the draw and inclusion of Kilian Jornet has transformed the 2014 edition into arguably the most highly anticipated edition of the race ever. You see, Kilian has ‘that’ list, and that list is almost full. It’s ticked off, ruled out, almost complete but one race has eluded him. A race that he would have run years ago had the lottery been kind. As it happens, the luck of the drawer has finally come through and KJ will get his chance. Hardrock 100 is not just any race though and although we are all eagerly awaiting a legendary performance, it’s no foregone conclusion that Kilian will dominate this race. It’s a course that must be learnt, respected and absorbed. Kilian will come to the race probably with the least running ever in preparation for a 100-mile race. Walking off ski’s and on to the Transvulcania La Palma course was almost a textbook start to Kilian’s running season. However, after a repeat win at Zegama-Aizkorri he threw in a curve ball and departed for Alaska for another successful ‘Summit’ record. Just days later in Chamonix, Kilian wins the Skyrunning World Championships VK and SKY races and then hops on a plane for Colorado with just 7-days to go before the main event. KJ’s preparation is far removed from his competitors but after all, we are talking about Kilian Jornet and I for one would not want to bet against him! Word is that Frosty will be pacing sections of the race and I would assume, Kilian will have additional help from Ricky Gates? However, at this stage I don’t know who that will be. Kilian’s’ race may well come apart if he goes for the course record, pushes out at the front alone and then makes a navigation error. It’s easily done and many repeat Hardrock runners have gone on record to say that the race has several key moments that can make or break a successful Hardrock, so, Kilian will need to be wary of this. In contrast, if Kilian just wants to win the race, a likely scenario will be that he keeps himself in contention at the front of the race, probably keeping close to Dakota Jones and then making a break in the latter stages. It’s anyone’s guess and I for one can’t wait to see how this plays out. It is going to be epic!
Dakota Jones has been 2nd and 3rd at Hardrock in previous years. Without doubt, Dakota knows the course and will be fired up for this years race, particularly after a below par Transvulcania La Palma. It would be fair to say that in any other year, Dakota would be a hot favourite for the win but the competition at Hardrock this year is stellar. So, Dakota becomes just another hot contender in a remarkable field. However, I do believe that Dakota hasn’t run his best race yet on this course and therefore his odds for victory are high.
Seb Chaigneau has been on the course for a few weeks now and has covered every inch of it with Hardrock ever present, Joe Grant. Seb ran an incredible race in 2013 setting the 2nd fastest time with 24:25. Paced by Scott Jurek, Seb will repeat the 2013 winning formula and hopefully everything will align once again. 2014 has not been a good year so far with DNF’s at UTMF and Transgrancanaria, but Seb has a great outlook on running and an ability to re-build and re focus.
Did I say this race was stacked? 2011 Hardrock champion, Julien Chorier is returning and he will bring meticulous preparation and planning to the mix. Julien’s 2013 Ronda dels Cims performance was a stunning master class of grinding it out for hour-on-hour with 100% focus. Just an element of that commitment and Julien will push all the other contenders to the line and don’t be surprised if he passes them. His 2013 6th place at TNFUTMB doesn’t quite do Julien’s talent justice, I remember post race he just said he was constantly fighting the sleep demons. A solid Transgrancanaria in 2014 where he placed 2nd to Ryan Sandes adds a confidence boost to the impressive Frenchman’s palmares.
Timothy Olson rounds out the ‘hot’ contenders for the win and considering WSER happened just days ago, Timmy’s absence puts his Hardrock expectations in perspective. I have to say that I am just a little worried (in the nicest way) by Timmy’s eagerness to train. He has an immense ability to nail preparation and peak for 1-race as his 2012 and 2013 WSER performances confirm. But, and this is a big but, I have almost seen his love for running impact on great performances in some key races. I think I witnessed this in La Palma this year. Timmy just loves the trails out there, loves the mountains and that enthusiasm saw ‘big’ training days pretty much all the way to the main event which made Timmy, in my opinion, look just a little flat and tired during the race! I may be wrong. I hope Timmy pulls off the reigns, allows some recovery before Hardrock and should he toe the line with a taper similar to the examples set at WSER we are in for one major showdown. One thing is for sure, the longer the race goes on, the better Timmy will get.
Joe Grant loves this race! It epitomizes for him what is great about our sport… long tough days in the mountains. Last year things did not go to plan but his best time of just over 25-hours is still up there in the all time best list which he set in 2012. In this field, Joe will need a great day and arguably a performance of his life to win. However, a podium place is not out of reach. Joe is a modern day adventurer who mixes up what he does in a constant pursuit to set new boundaries. His Iditarod and Alaska White performances set Joe apart from the competition and in the long run, may well give him and edge. If recovered from Lavaredo Ultra Trail, expect Anton Krupicka on pacing duty.
Jared Campbell won’t win the race but he’s been there and done it on tough courses. He’s completed Hardrock multiple times, (8 I think) and he is a 2-times finisher of Barkley. He actually won the race this year in some tough and gnarly conditions.
Ones to watch:
- Adam Campbell – Had a great run at UTMF a couple of years ago and then had some tough times. Difficult to say how Adam will go on this tough course but he does have a great pacer in Gary Robbins.
- Jeff Browning – one Hardrock finish 33:18
- Stuart Air – Stu won’t win and in reality will not be close to the podium but it’s great to see a Brit work through the ranks and be given the opportunity of a lifetime. Stu is no slouch and the longer and harder the course, the better he becomes. Hardrock will suit him down to the ground providing he has adjusted to the altitude.
- Tsyuoshi Kaburaki – needs know introduction, RD for UTMF and consistent UTMB performer.
- Nick Coury – top-10 at Hardrock in the past
- Ty Draney – Like Jared Campbell, Ty loves big days in the mountains. He’s had success at Hardrock in the past but top-10 would be a good performance.
After that stellar men’s line up, the ladies race of just 18-entrants looks far too formulaic (if a tough 100-miler can be) with two ladies leading the charge for overall victory, Diana Finkel and Darcy Piceu (Africa).
Darcy Piceu has won this race the last 2-times with 2-great performances, however, it has almost been at the faltering of Diana Finkel that has opened the gateway for Darcy to take over the lead and charge on for the finish. Darcy has already run 5-races in 2014 and come away with -4-victories and a 4th place, so, the form looks good! Having run on or around 29-hours previously, it’s fair to assume that Darcy will be looking to repeat that time this year which will set her up for another potential victory. In the past 4-years, Darcy has been Miss Consistent – 30:14 in 2010, 29:46 in 2011, 29:09 in 2012 and 29:54 last year!
Diana Finkel has been the stand out lady on the Hardrock course in recent years. In 2009, Diana ran 27:18 and that is some way quicker than Darcy and many of the men who will toe the line have run! Her most recent victory was 2011 when running 29:27 and in all honesty, 2012 and 2013 looked to be set for repeat performances but medical issues have plagued Diana’s performances. On her day, Diana will win this race, so, let’s hope the medical gods are on her side this year! Diana looks to have good form with a recent win at Jemez Mountain 50m (where Anton Krupicka won) and 3rd at Zane Grey 50.
Ones to watch:
Sarah McCloskey – 4th at Hardrock 2013 and winner of Wasatch 100 and 2nd at Bear 100-miler.
Betsy Kalmeyer – 14 Hardrock finishes and 5th last year.
Betsy Nye – 12 Hardrock finishes and 3rd last year. Best performance in 2014 was 5th at Marin Ultra Challenge 50m.
Kim Gemenez – 7th Hardrock 2013.
Liz Bauer – 9th Hardrock 2013.
Course description: (content ©hardrock 100 website)
The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is an ultramarathon of 100.5 miles in length, plus 33,992 feet of climb and 33,992 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 67,984 feet, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet. The race is held on a loop course on 4WD roads, dirt trails, and cross country in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range, USA.
The run starts and ends in Silverton, Colorado and travels through the towns of Telluride, Ouray, and the ghost town of Sherman, crossing thirteen major passes in the 12,000′ to 13,000′ range. Entrants must travel above 12,000 feet (3,700 m) of elevation a total of 13 times, with the highest point on the course being the 14,048′ summit of Handies Peak. The race has been held in early July of each year beginning in 1992, except for 1995 (too much snow) and 2002 (nearby forest fires). Each year’s race is run in the opposite direction of the previous year’s event (2008 was run in the clockwise direction, 2009 will be counter-clockwise). In order to complete the event, instead of crossing a finish line, runners are required to “kiss the Hardrock”, a picture of a ram’s head painted on a large block of stone mining debris.
This course offers a graduate level challenge for endurance runs. The course is designed to provide extreme challenges in altitude, steepness, and remoteness. Mountaineering, wilderness survival and wilderness navigation skills are as important in this event as your endurance.
Race website HERE