In July 2013, I crewed and paced for Betsy Nye at The Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run. The experience was intense and it has taken me some time to process and write about it. This post is one of four separate reflections on the experience. Click here for the other posts.
Prepare to Be Blown Away
Last month I had the opportunity to pace and crew my good friend Betsy Nye at the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run in the amazing San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It was my first experience with The Hardrock, and I was, as promised, blown away.
I wasn’t expecting to be blown away. I lived in Colorado for some years as a young adult, and while I love the mountains there, I have come to really love the Sierra Nevadas and Tahoe weather year-round. Yet there is an intensity, or severity, to the San Juans that is mind-boggling.
Let’s go back to Tahoe, where the adventure begins…
It was late spring when Betsy and I went for a run up Negro Canyon on the Donner Lake Rim Trail. At the top, she mentioned that we would be headed “cross country” over to a dirt road. And this was the first time I saw the glimmer, the sly grin, and then heard the words out of her mouth, “Hardrock Training!” I would come to love these words and know that something crazy steep or ridiculously technical was about to follow.
And so I followed Betsy on (and sometimes off) the trails around the Tahoe Basin for much of the spring and summer and we had a great time training together. I also learned a lot from her when she crewed and paced for me at my first 100k (click here to read my Gold Rush 100k race report.)
I knew very little about Hardrock, except that it is very difficult, kinda scary, and that Betsy happens to be exceptionally good at completing it. Most of what I understood about the run was from what I had read on Gretchen’s blog about pacing Betsy and then running it herself the following year.
When Betsy asked me to come to Colorado, I was immediately in. I made arrangements to take the kids to Camp Grandma (thanks Mom and Dad!!!) and I started studying. I poured over the Hardrock Hundred website, reviewed the daunting course profile, and memorized aid stations names. I also studied Betsy’s past performances as provided by the race website.
Meanwhile, Betsy recruited two additional pacers to round out our little team. Angela is from Truckee and is reportedly the only one of Betsy’s pacers to repeat the experience. Betsy also found Rhonda, who lives in Colorado, just a mile off the Hardrock course. Rhonda was the second woman finisher last year and has paced Hardrock on several occasions.
I made arrangements to stay in Ouray, where friends generously offered the use of their apartment. The run starts and finishes in Silverton, which is 25 miles from Ouray or a 45-minute drive up Red Mountain Pass on the famed “Million Dollar Highway.” (Click here to read the Wikipedia page about the road.) It worked out beautifully to stay in Ouray, which is at the lowest elevation of the course, though I ended up driving that road about a half dozen times in three days. I saw deer, huge marmots, and even a bear during those drives.
The dramatic views in Ouray enchanted me! I had been to both Silverton and Ouray many years ago, but I must admit that I did not remember Ouray at all. I think we spent the night in Silverton all those years ago, and that town was quite as I recalled it. Luckily, I would have the opportunity to become better acquainted with Ouray…
My section to pace Betsy would be ending in Ouray, and she had asked me to become familiar with the course into town, as the street intersections in the towns can be confusing. Separately, Rhonda also suggested that I preview the section from Bear Creek into town, as those connecting trails are a confusing jumble.
Thus, when Angela arrived in Ouray the day before the race start (which is on a Friday), we drove to the Bear Creek trailhead and made our way on the course down into town and then back up again. The course passes through Box Canyon City Park and we stopped for some photos. It happened to be Angela’s birthday! I’m glad I got to see the Box Canyon in the daylight – and all I could think about was getting back to Ouray with my hubby and kids.