1999 Hardrock 100

by Matt Mahoney

Here are some pictures of the Hardrock 100 mile run held July 9-11, 1999 in Silverton, Colorado.

We're only 2 miles into the race and already we get our feet wet. Here we are crossing Mineral Creek, where a rope was conveniently placed so we wouldn't be swept away in the ice cold rapids.

The next 98 miles aren't any easier. Hardrock has 11 mountain passes that climb from an average of 10,000 to 13,000 feet each, for 33,000 feet of climb and 33,000 feet of descent.

Here is the second of these passes, ascending the north side of Grant-Swamp Pass at about the 12,500 foot level. Don't slip! It's a long way down.

At last, the top. The plaque honors Joel Zucker, who died from a cerebral hemmorhage two days after finishing his third Hardrock race in 1998, always within a few minutes of the 48 hour cutoff.

If you thought the climb was bad, from here we follow the ridgeline to the scree slope down to the left. That's the orange streak that slopes down at a 45 degree angle from the saddle. Believe me, there isn't a better way down. It was here that Jim Dill, a double and triple Ironman finisher, broke his hip and two fingers in 1997 when he tumbled out of control on a snow-covered portion of the slope.

The climbs get progressively more difficult from here until we reach the fourth one, Virginius Pass, at 33 miles (below), where you must descend a vertical snow cornice over a rope. Here, the runner ahead of me steps over the edge...

By the time the end of the 165 foot rope slips through your fingers (a couple of seconds), you are butt-sliding down a 45 degree snowfield with another 500 feet to go. After reaching the bottom of the first of three pitches, I took this picture of a runner behind me (tiny black speck near the top) starting down the wall of snow.

Those runners fortunate enough to reach Camp Bird Road (below, left) before nightfall are treated to spectacular views of the canyon below as they descend into Ouray, the lowest point in the course, at 7700 ft. From Ouray is the biggest climb of the race, over a vertical mile to Engineer Pass at 13,000 ft. The trail is cut into the side of a 500 foot high canyon wall, 4 feet wide on loose slate with no railing. Here is what it looked like when I climbed it in the middle of the night (below, right).


Fortunately I only stumbled 3 times, none of them fatal. I'd like to show you pictures of the second day and night, but I ran out of film. Suffice it to say that I finished in 42:39, 43'rd place out of 109 starters and 55 official finishers (plus 5 over the 48 hour cutoff). My time included a 3 minute nap at the Pole Creek aid station (about 80 miles) where I stopped to recover from hyponatremia (sodium deficiency) and get checked for high altitude pulmonary edema. My running partner during the first night, Nico Solomon, was not so fortunate. He was airlifted out with kidney failure. He seemed OK when I left him behind on 14,048 ft. Handies Peak that morning.

My first two attempts at this race were not so successful. In 1997 I crossed Virginius Pass at night and got lost during the descent. This was a bad place to get lost. By the time I reached the Governor's Basin aid station at the top of Camp Bird Road along with four other lost runners, it was an hour after the cutoff.

In 1998 when the race was held in the reverse direction (it changes each year), I again got lost, about 8 miles from the finish, and had an unofficial time of 51:38. The start was 6:00 AM Friday and I finished at 9:38 AM Sunday. I slept for 15 minutes on the first night and had no sleep on the second night. I finished with Fred Vance, who went on four days later to finish the Badwater 139 mile run from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney in temperatures up to 125 deg. F.

Training for Hardrock

My training began in 1996 by hiking a good portion of the course, just to see what I was getting into. This also doubled as altitude acclimation for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon and Leadville 100, all three of which I ran within an 8 day period. Here are some of the people I trained with.

Back row, left to right: me (Matt Mahoney), Carolyn Erdman, Dave Cooper, Brick Robbins. Front row: Lane Cooper, Howie Breinan. Lane (age 8) later paced me for about 25 miles at Leadville.

Over the next two years, I learned that Hardrock requires much harder training and a long period of altitude acclimation, unlike "ordinary" 100 milers like Leadville or Western States. Especially for someone like me who lives in Florida without hills, rocks, snow, or altitude. I already had a good base from 14 years of triathlons and running, and 9 years of running ultras. My normal routine was 15-20 miles/week running, 70-90 biking, 10-15 walking, and weights twice a week (usually 1-2 sets of 5-10 reps to failure, split routine, upper/lower body). During the 6 months before Hardrock, I increased my running to 25 miles/week, including the following:

I drove to Colorado (which takes less time than running the race) starting June 8, allowing a month of altitude acclimation as follows:

My secret foot-toughening technique - training near Engineer Pass.

See the Hardrock home page for more information and pictures.