Around the first of the year, I was out running in the snow with my friends Chris and Kari when the conversation turned to goals for the year. I didn’t have much to contribute at first, but as I continued to run and think on it, an old, mostly forgotten dream of mine came to the surface. The Rockhard Hardrock 2 Hundred, the Double Hardrock, the Full Peter Bakwin – whatever you call it, I decided it was the right time to finally give it a go.
It all started back in 2006 when I first got into ultrarunning. Peter Bakwin made an attempt at the double and was successful, the only person to ever make it so far. Reading his account both fascinated and terrified me. But after I successfully finished Hardrock in 2012 and 2013, I began to lose at least some of the more irrational fear I had of Hardrock, and started to think about a double in the back of my mind.
July came quickly, and I loaded up the camper on the Friday before the race and drove down to Red Mountain Pass. I found a great place to camp for the weekend, right at 11,000 feet.
I spent the weekend doing trail work with other racers, at Horsethief Canyon on Saturday and Oscar’s Pass on Sunday. On Monday, I moved the camper into town and hiked to Hematite Lake with several friends, then on Tuesday went to the Old Hundred Mine with my friend Lynn. Before I knew it, it was almost time to go. It was nearly impossible to sleep. I kept thinking over the logistics, looking for something I had surely missed. I even got back out of bed two or three times to make notes so I wouldn’t forget something in the morning. After five fairly lousy hours of sleep, I got myself out of bed and started getting ready. Lynn gave me a ride to the start line, and, at 5am on Wednesday, I started out on the first lap going counter-clockwise.
After a bit, I started hitting junctions in the trail, and was fairly disturbed to see that a lot of them were not marked. In fact, I lost 10 minutes or so taking a wrong turn just over an hour in. I finally figured out that I was having problems because the course was marked for the other direction, and I was just going to have to navigate more carefully.
I hit Cunningham at 8:35am feeling good. I took a refill from my crew and started out on the big climb over Green Mountain. I hit Maggie at 11:31am still feeling good, and flew through Pole Creek at 12:48. It was getting hot, but there were no storms in sight so I wasn’t complaining. Soon, I had made the climb into Cataract Gulch and started on the decent to Sherman.
I hit Sherman at 3:35pm and reloaded my food and VFuel drink mix from Lynn, and then started the walk up the road to Burrows Park. Along the way, I kept hearing strange noises up the hill to my right but didn’t see anything. At first I thought it was some grouse in the trees, but eventually I saw them – a herd of sheep spread out on the hill with three little ones at one end.
I hit Burrows Park at 4:44 still feeling good and started the climb up Handies, sumitting right at 7pm. I was feeling great cruising down the trail when I missed the turn towards Grouse and kept running down the trail, losing 25 minutes and 500 feet of elevation in the process. Getting back on track, I climbed back out of American Basin and, after losing the trail one more time on the way down, hit Grouse at 9:27 still feeling great. I picked up my new friend and pacer Ian McNairn, and we made quick work of the climb up Engineer, hitting the top at 11:51 and the aid station at 12:26. We had a great time cruising down toward Ouray, even seeing a Porcupine in the forest. At 3:05 we were in Ouray, where I reloaded and headed back out with Lynn as my pacer.
The snow on the steep climb up to Virginius was really hard and slick. I made it up OK with the microspikes I’d borrowed, but Lynn was having a rough time with only Yaktracks. She finally climbed the rock on the left side, and then we both used the rope to make the pass at 8:34am, still feeling great.
Telluride came just after 10am, and Miguel took over pacing duties for the rest of the way in. Chapman aid at 3:15pm, Grant Swamp pass at 5:35pm, KT at 6:49 – I was feeling great and moving fast. Putnam aid a little after 10pm, Mineral Creek crossing at 11:19pm, and then finally the finish line at midnight! Even getting lost for an hour and a half, and intentionally taking it easy, I still managed to pull off a 27 minute PR, and I still felt great. I started to think maybe I had a chance of actually pulling this off. It was really great to see Peter and Steph at the finish waiting for me to come in.
After a quick meal, a shower, 2:45 of sleep, and another quick meal, I hit the start line at 5am for lap two. I missed the turn to the Mineral Creek crossing, losing 33 minutes right off the bat. By the time I made the creek crossing, everyone was there waiting for the front runners, looking very confused when I came slowly through at 6:16am. A short 7 minutes later, I heard the crowd roar as the front runners came down onto the highway. I had a great time chatting with the runners as they went by, and after 2 or 3 hours I had settled in to where I wasn’t passing or getting passed very frequently.
The rest of the day went fairly well, though I was getting tired and slow on the big climbs. A little caffeine took care of the problem each time though, and I was feeling pretty optimistic. Hit Telluride at 4:43pm, Virginius at 7:27pm, and Governor Basin around 8:30pm. My right ankle was starting to hurt a bit, and after two or three miles on the road into Ouray I just decided to take it easy and walk it in.
I got into Ouray around 10:40 and took a good long break (11 min), chatting with Jessie, Steph Ehret and Stepanie Hinds and finally getting to meet my pacer for the next leg, Kyle.
I took a 15 minute nap off the side of the trail before we hit the Bear Creek Trail, and we hiked fairly well through the night while getting to know each other and talking about various adventures, hitting Engineer aid at 3:12am and cresting the pass at 4:20am. This is where things started going bad – by 5am I was falling asleep on my feet, and it was freezing cold so I couldn’t see how I could stop. Kyle had me sit on the side of the road with my knees to my chest, then he covered my legs with his spare windbreaker and sat behind me for 15 minutes holding me upright and keeping me warm while I snored! After my nap, I was able to stay awake again and kept hiking down the road to Grouse, arriving there just after 6:30am.
After a caffeine pill and some Red Bull, I was feeling much better and Jessie and I started up the climb up toward American Basin and Handies. On the last bit of the climb to the summit where it gets really steep, my right ankle started acting up and I had to walk on it sideways to make it to the top at 10:05am. It was still bothering me as I went down the steep downhill towards Burrows Park, and worse yet I was falling asleep again. I had a couple of naps and finally made it to Burrows at 12:10pm, where I was greeted by a cute girl with a hula hoop and then a huge celebration at the aid station itself! I left feeling a bit better, but soon was struggling to stay awake again while I was walking down the road to Sherman.
Arriving at Sherman at 1:27pm, I took a 30 minute nap in the back of Steve’s truck, but woke up feeling just as bad (worse?) than before. I grudgingly put my gear back on and trudged up the trail with Steve for another hour and fifteen minutes, but just couldn’t stay awake and was moving way too slowly to make it. Reluctantly, I turned around and made my way back to Sherman and conceded defeat after travelling nearly 175 miles of the 200 mile goal.
I can’t say I’m not disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it, but I’m still proud to have made it farther than anyone else since Peter. This was my first attempt at anything over 100 miles/2 days, and I learned a lot that will help the next time. Next time I’ll need to run at least one hundred mile length as training – my max length this year was the Quadrock 50, and I’m pretty sure my ankle would have been no problem if I had done just one longer run. I’ll need to be a bit faster, and spend more time on the course before to make sure I don’t waste time missing turns on the course so I can sleep longer in between laps. Lastly, I’ll need to take the time at Ouray on the 3rd night to get a decent 2-3 hour block of sleep, in a sleeping bag with earplugs in.
My fueling went perfectly – I drank nothing except Black Cherry Cola VFuel Endurance Drink Mix the entire time (about 200 calories/hr average), and ate a little beef or chicken every couple of hours. I had zero stomach issues, and good consistent energy the entire time, and only lost a couple of pounds over 4 days of Hardrock! Yeah VFuel!
Thanks so much for all the support and encouragement! I had incredible pacers, crew, well wishers, and lots of people out there on the course who were just plain excited that someone was crazy enough to give this thing a whirl! Your help and encouragement meant a great deal to me, and I couldn’t have made it that far without all of you!
Here are all the pics I took the 10 days I spent down there. Enjoy!