Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Trip 2016: Everything is Ultra (Part 3, HARDROCK from the start to Ouray)

Continued from Part 2.

As the sun set on Thursday night, tensions ran high. We still hadn't figured out where we were camping, and Hardrock was starting in a matter of hours.  We checked a few campgrounds between Durango and Silverton, and...surprise, surprise...they were full.  Just before I reached full on panic mode, Rob found an out of the way dirt road where we could pull off and park the RV overnight (did you know, you can camp for free in most National Forests, including the one we were driving through). It was a beautiful place to sleep. Problem solved.

We woke up bright (actually dark) and early the next morning and drove into Silverton. I was picturing a scene of mass chaos, like the start of the Chicago Marathon, but in reality, we parked about 2 blocks away from the start line and saw not only Rob's friends, but also a bunch of famous people, just milling about as they waited for the race to begin. It was way more low-key than I had envisioned, and no more crowded than the photo below.

Almost go time.

Rob and Will stayed right by the start line, but I headed down the road a bit to get photos of the runners after they rounded a corner.  Nick Clark took an early lead.

I can't help but wonder what he's thinking here. Whatever it is, it's in a British accent.

I wasn't even looking at where I was pointing the camera, I was just scanning the crowd of people as they streamed by.

It kind of threw me that Nick Clark came by first and I didn't see Kilian anywhere. I'd thought Kilian would be up front. I wondered if he had started the race after all.  It was only later when I went through my  photos that I finally found him. He was kind of incognito in that trucker hat and jacket, several rows back from the front runners!

Blurry photo of Rob's friend Ryan (in the red shirt)!

After the throngs of runners (okay, there were only around 200 people in the race) went by, I finally looked over and realized who I had been standing next to that whole time.  It was John, from The Barkley Marathons documentary!! John is Will's ultimate hero.  Will can recite every statistic pertaining to John that occurred during that race.  I am normally terrible around famous people, and this moment was no exception.  I tried to sputter out to John how much Will admires him, and how Will wants to run The Barkley someday.  I asked John if he could stay right there for a minute and I ran over and got Will so I could take a picture of them together.  Instead of asking for any advice on how to get into or run The Barkley, Will told him, "Today is July 15th. My birthday is less than a month away, on August 12th."

Thank you, John.

Photo op completed, we headed back to talk to Rob's friends at the start line.  "So, Rob, do you want to pace Ryan from Ouray to Grouse?" Katie (Ryan's girlfriend) asked.  Pacing someone at Hardrock is like the ultrarunner equivalent of graduating college with highest honors.  Katie explained that Ouray (mile 44) was the first place where you could have a pacer.  Ryan had a pacer lined up starting only at Grouse (mile 58) to the end. He wasn't expecting anyone to jump in with him at Ouray, but if Rob could do it, it might be a nice surprise.

The thing is, if you get asked to pace someone at Hardrock, you do it. For Rob, I knew this would be an amazing experience.  I absolutely wanted him to pace, as much for himself as for Ryan.  But the logistics of the situation caused my panic levels to rise.  In order for this to happen, I knew it would probably mean that I would have to drive the RV from Ouray back to Silverton (or else be stranded there). I had no idea what that mountain pass was like, all I knew was that I had only driven the RV twice--on perfectly flat, wide roads with absolutely no traffic.

"We have to find a way," I said to Rob.  In typical Rob fashion, he shrugged, and said, "We'll see."  We headed back to the van and began the drive to Telluride--where there was an aid station some 28 miles into the race.

The only way to get to Telluride from Silverton is through Ouray, so I saw that mountain pass I would have to drive if Rob was running with Ryan (instead of driving) back from Ouray later in the day.

The pass was terrifying. Steep gradient, at least 100 hairpin turns, road construction, and a lot of traffic (because it is literally the only way to get between many of these mountain towns). Rob never tells me I can't do things, but even he was uncomfortable driving this road.  "This requires a fairly advanced level of RV driving," he said.  In other words, more than experience than the two very short trips on flat roads I had taken.

Nevertheless, Rob didn't seem worried (does he ever worry?), so I tried not to let my concern about what would happen ruin the rest of the day.  We had some time in Telluride before the runners arrived, so we took the (free!) gondola up into the ski areas and looked around.

Rob told me if I wanted to run, I'd probably have time for a couple of miles. I was wearing cargo shorts and didn't have my watch with me, but you never pass up an opportunity to run.  I don't know how far I went, but it was uphill at over 10,000 feet of elevation, so it wasn't easy. The views were breathtaking, if I'd had any breath left to take.

Afterwards, we took the gondola back down to town.

Telluride. I did not throw up on the gondola, probably because Will was holding my hand.

We walked to the aid station in the town park a little bit before the front runners arrived.

(L-R) Kilian, Xavier, and Schlarb, arrived together. Schlarb was behind the other two by a little bit when they left.

Joe Grant leaves Telluride.

Jeff Browning.

Timothy Olson.

Nick Clark!

Anna Frost, the first woman, arriving around the same time as Clark

Emma Roca, second woman, getting hugs from her kids.

Rob's friend Ryan rolled in!

Aid station menu. I was wondering if the vegetable broth, and hummus or black bean burritos are vegan. Also, my one contribution to the race thus far was when this sign blew down and I went and found someone with duct tape and taped it back up.

After Ryan left Telluride aid, we talked to Rob's friend Jaime, who was crewing for a different runner.  Jaime told me that the section between Ouray and Grouse (where Rob had been asked to pace) was the only place on the Hardrock course where you could actually die.


It's been real, Telluride. Heading to Ouray.

We left Telluride and headed to the next checkpoint where we would be able to see the runners-- at Ouray.  This was where we would have to finalize the details about whether or not Rob was pacing Ryan.  Parking in Ouray was a basic cluster cuss, and we made it to the aid station about 3 minutes after front runners left with their pacers.  Garrrrrr.  Emelie was pacing Kilian. I would have loved to see them take off!

We had a long time to wait before any of the people we knew came through.  I began asking around, and before too long found Rob two possibilities of getting a ride back to Ouray from the Grouse aid station after his pacing gig with Ryan was over.  That way, Rob, Will and I would be together, and I wouldn't have to drive the van either back to Silverton or to pick him up at Grouse.

Jim Walmsley sighting at the Ouray aid station. Word had it that he was supposed to be pacing Joe Grant from here, but he got lost and/or had trouble parking, and ended up arriving after Joe had already left. (And Joe was at Ouray for a long time because he was being treated for a severe bump on his head that he'd gotten from a fall or something). Anyway, Walmsley took off by himself to find Joe.  Joe ended up dropping from the race between Ouray and Grouse (that bump on his head was a concussion), and Walmsley turned back up in Ouray.

Here's a little animalito I discovered while waiting beside this tree in Ouray.
 Once we got the logistics of pacing figured out, Rob was kind of like, holy shit, I need to get ready.  The route from Ouray to Grouse was something like 14 miles and involved a 5,000 foot climb.  In the heat of the day. But during this section, the sun would go down, and they would be running in the dark for a while.  Rob needed to pack his headlamp.  He also packed my headlamp as a back up.  He needed to pack his own food and water.  Rob was prepared.  Aside from Handies Peak (a 14-er), this was one of the hardest sections of the course.
"Rob, hold still. I'm going to pretend I'm taking a picture of you, but really, it is because Walmsley is behind you." 
Nick Clark and his crew/pacer (also named Nick).
Anna Frost arrived nearly the same time as Nick Clark. I think they had been running together.

Anna Frost and crew taking care of her feet. I did feel really bad for the famous people running this race. In the aid stations there were swarms of spectators surrounding them with iPhones and cameras, taking pictures. It made me glad that I am as slow as f*ck and nobody is bothering me while I am trying to run and take care of myself. I only took this picture because they literally stopped right next to where I was standing to re-do some blister care on Anna's feet.
Ryan came in probably around 5 in the afternoon.  We had no idea how he would be feeling, some 44 miles into the race.  We also hadn't told him that Rob would be pacing him (just in case it didn't work out, we didn't want him to get his hopes up), and we weren't even sure he would want a pacer.  Rob was prepared for whatever.  Go with Ryan on a 5,000 foot climb, or not, depending on what he wanted.

At the Ouray aid tent. Ryan is in the red shirt and blue trucker hat. Rob and Katie are getting him what he needs, after he's run 44 miles in the San Juan mountains over the last 11 hours.

Ryan was cool with having Rob jump in as a pacer.

Rob is either thinking, "This is going to be fun," or "What have I gotten myself into."
They took off running as they left Ouray aid!

My mom had been reading up on Ouray and found that it is called "the Switzerland of the rockies"... or something like that.  "Take a picture for me!" she texted.  And I'm sorry to say, with all the commotion going on, this is the best I could do.

With Rob out pacing Ryan, Will and I were suddenly on our own.  I was so proud of Will because he had been so good and never complained even though it had been a very tough day (we'd all been up since 4:45 in the morning).  He had mostly been entertaining himself by running laps around the baseball diamond in the Ouray town park.  This poor kid, he must have run about 10 miles, and it was hot.  We stayed for a while, chatting with Katie and the other members of Ryan's crew.  We estimated that it would take Ryan and Rob around 5 hours to cover the 14 difficult miles between Ouray and Grouse.  Then Katie herself would drive Rob back to Ouray, where Will and I would be waiting.  It should be around 11pm, or maybe midnight, when they returned. But then again, anything could happen in a hundred miler.

Will and I went back to the van so that I could make us dinner, and I told him we could watch a movie together on the iPad before we went to bed.  He was beyond thrilled.  We did these things, and then we hunkered down for the night.

Stay tuned for Part 4.

Thanks for reading!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW!! Ok I am already exhausted! can't wait to read part 4!!! Amazing photos !!!Did I say WOW? Hugs and luv mama