As races go, the Hardrock 100 has anticipation and attention way beyond its relatively diminutive size – less than 150 runners will toe the line in 2017! However, as those who have run the race confirm, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and the Hardrock 100 route is something to embrace. If proof were needed, Kilian Jornet has run and won the race three times and he will be back again in 2017. For Kilian, the course is tough, beautiful, offers a challenge but maybe more importantly, it’s low-key. He can turn up, walk around, race and have little of the media and fan frenzy he would get in Europe, irrespective of the size of the race. Kilian’s Salomon teammate Anna Frost also confirms that this area of the USA is something pretty darn special – so much so she currently calls Durango her home.
It’s a high altitude race, with much of the race taking place above 3000m and the high point coming around 4200m. In total, the runners climb and over 10.000m whilst covering 100 challenging miles.
Last year, Anna Frost topped the ladies podium and Jason Schlarb and Kilian Jornet were the joint male winners, all three therefore are guaranteed an entry for 2017 and all three have confirmed participation but Anna Frost is still unsure if she will toe the line – more on that later.
It’s a constant frustration for me that we never see a fully stacked field at Hardrock. Don’t get me wrong, there is always plenty of class up at the front but it often feels that the winner will come from a small and select group of 4 or 5 runners. I think we all know that so many top elite runners would love to toe the line but the Hardrock lottery is against them – I guess it does add some charm and anticipation to the race.
I don’t think we will see Kilian Jornet hold hands this year but I do anticipate he will spend much of the race in the company of 1 or 2 runners until beyond the midway point – it’s a big day out for Kilian in an awesome place and he enjoys the company. Of course, he may be enticed by setting a super fast time? If he does, then we can expect him to hit the front alone maybe somewhere around half-way, if not, he may take the race by the horns in the final quarter. Whatever he decides, Kilian will win barring an accident.
Jason Schlarb has dined out on crossing the line at the 2016 Hardrock for one year and who can blame him. He has done something that so few can do, keep up with the Catalan. Earlier this year Jason raced The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with a solid run and then he recently placed just inside the top-10 at Transvulcania. For the last month or so he’s been in the San Juans preparing and it’s fair to assume he will be ready for battle.
Iker Karrera is an interesting addition to the 2017 line-up and after being a ‘one-to-watch’ at so many races in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, I can’t help but feel Iker’s been a little awol for the last 18-months and that leaves a question mark. Iker on his day is one of the best there is, especially at long distance races with loads of vert – he won Tor des Geants in 2013 for example. If he has the form that provided him with 2nd at UTMB in 2014 then we have an interesting race on our hands.
Karl Meltzer has won Hardrock five times and he’s back. He will be the first to admit he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with Kilian but Speedgoat is a fox. He appears to have recovered well post his Appalachian Trail FKT and he’s been sensible by not rushing things. He won Zane Grey 50 which prompted me and Speedgoat to confirm, ‘there is life in the old dog yet!’ If he’s feeling good, he has the long game to put on a great race and few can keep up with Speedgoat’s hiking pace – an essential skill for Hardrock. The AT HERE
Mike Foote is another mystery for this years race. Not that I or you have to question who he is, the question is more about his form? Ever since he did his FKT project with Mike Wolfe, Foote seems to have raced a little on the back burner. Having said that, mountain races are his thing and he has a long list of impressive results at UTMB and he has been 2nd at Hardrock. He will start slow and then move up making up places and time in the final third.
Nick Pedatella was 4th at Hardrock in 2012 but I know little of his current form. Experience alone and a top-5 performance in the past makes him someone to make a note of.
Adam Campbell was 3rd at Hardrock in 2015 and 2014. As many of you will know, Adam was wiped out of 2016 with a near death accident. Read HERE. No pressure on Adam in 2017 and I’ll make no guesses or predictions, to see Adam toe the line will be a wonderful sight and one that he and many of us thought would not happen. Read HERE
Mr Hardrock, Joe Grant, is back again! The lottery gods love Joe and Joe loves Hardrock. He placed 2nd in 2012 and in many respects, that podium place set Joe up for the runner who he is today. I say runner, but I feel Joe goes beyond the tag of ultra-runner and I see him more of an adventurer. He’s taken on some huge challenges over the years, examples coming with the Iditarod, his Colorado 14ers FKT and expeditions via bike. Pretty sure Joe will treat Hardrock as another awesome adventure in the mountains and if things go well, we can see him in or around the top-5.
Other names to watch to be in and around the top-10 are: Mike Wardian, Coury brothers (Jamil and Nick), Grant Guise and Scott Jaime.
Anna Frost has won the race the last 2-years and who would want to bet against her? Frosty when in form is unstoppable and when she is not in form, she can often dig deeper than any other runner I know. I was with Frosty in Costa Rica (Read HERE) and spending much time chatting – I was well aware that she was switching into a new phase of her life. At Zegama-Aizkorri she participated but was way off the top-10 and at Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira she dropped. All things considered, I think Frosty’s prep for this years Hardrock is behind where she would like it to be and therefore she has three choices: 1. She will run because she loves the course and wants to irrespective of placing. 2. She will think that she can win it and be mentally prepared for the pain that will be required or 3. She’s over it and can’t get herself set up for the physical and mental challenge it will bring. Of course, the only descent thing to do was ask Frosty… “I’m doing Hardrock! It’s been a mental and physical battle this year but one I am winning right now. Definitely not on competitive form but I am doing HR because I love it! ….I’ll get it done! It deserves that.” So. it looks like it’s no1.
Caroline Chaverot is probably putting the fear of god in the ladies’ competition. In 2016 this French lady was unstoppable and for me was the stand out runner, male or female, in 2016. The depth of here ability incredible, her range (long or short) her skill (fast or mountainous) was unmatched. 2017 kicked off with a rough patch and an early withdrawal from Transgrancanaria, what followed was some quiet time away and then boom, she was back with victory at Maxi-Race Annecy and most recently, Lavaredo. Her victory at UTMB last year sets her up perfectly for Hardrock and I think she will win the race.
Nathalie Mauclair, also from France, can’t be ruled out of the podium places but her recent form seems a little below recent years. She was 2nd at Marathon des Sables earlier this year. Her record at Diagonale des Fous, champion in 2013 and 2014, is the best indicator of success in the San Juans.
The wild card goes to local girl, Hannah Green who has been training her butt off and is super strong and young. She may lack experience but has heart and if she can hold on and manage herself she could do it and be up on the podium. (Hot tip from Frosty)
Three time winner Darcy Piceu (formerly Africa) gave Frosty a battle in 2015 with a really strong run – Frosty triumphed with a late surge. Missing the race last year, it’s fair to assume that Darcy will be fired up for a great run. She has the experience, no question, not sure she has the speed of an in form Frost, Chaverot or Mauclair.
Darla Askew is the last prime contender for a win and podium – she’s placed 2nd before and that is backed up with two 3rd places.
Ones to watch – Jamie Frink, Betsy Kalmeyer, Tina Ure and Rachel Bucklin.