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.
Hardrock and the Berry Rain Coat
I bought the berry-colored rain coat about a year and a half ago from a local ski retailer. It is a simple water-proof shell by Marmot featuring a hood, pockets, and underarm vents. I like the color – fuchsia – though I prefer to think of it as berry-colored.
Before my Hardrock experience last month, I had probably worn said coat fewer than ten times, though it has been in my suitcase at least a dozen times, “just in case.” The hood sustained a tear on one of those occasions in my suitcase, but I was able to seamlessly repair it with (bright pink!) duct tape.
It turns out that the berry coat is too just too bulky and warm for Nordic skiing in Tahoe. For both skiing and running in Tahoe, I have always been able to manage with my signature, ten-year-old, yellow Patagonia windbreaker, which is not even slightly waterproof. In any case, I worry that my friends at the Nordic ski center won’t recognize me without my yellow jacket!
Betsy told me on numerous occasions that any weather can (and does) happen during the Hardrock Hundred. When I bought a new Salomon Advanced Skin hydration pack, she warned me that everything inside would be soaking wet at Hardrock. Thankfully, I headed her warning and packed (almost) everything in super-neato waterproof baggies, compliments of my gear-head hubby (click here to learn about aLOKSAK water-proof bags).
Back to this rain coat situation… I was worried about the bulkiness of my berry rain coat and stopped at the Patagonia outlet store in Reno to check out other options. Incidentally, we had been experiencing a rare couple of chilly and rainy June days in Tahoe, so I had actually been wearing the berry coat and had it with me in the car. I discovered that really waterproof coats are bulky by nature, but I did happen upon a lovely Patagonia model that had nice vents, no hood, and it seemed about 15% lighter than my berry coat.
I owned this lovely Patagonia Light Flyer jacket for about an hour. I purchased it and set it down in the back of the car – right next to my berry coat. I then drove my niece to the airport in Reno, but something nagged at me the entire time. The lovely new coat was incrementally better than my “value-oriented” berry coat in nearly every way. The thing is, I already owned the berry coat, and clearly don’t use it very often. Would I use this new coat more often because it’s that much better? Or maybe I just don’t need it.
I envisioned Patagonia founder and owner Yvon Chouinard in worn and tattered overalls, urging me, “Don’t Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It.” If you have not read his essay regarding “the economy of abundance,” please click here to do so now. I returned the jacket on my way home from the airport for a full refund.
Now, it turns out that “just in case” did happen right before my pacing duties commenced at Hardrock. I had spent the afternoon ready to go at the Grouse Gulch aid station. The weather had been lovely, if a little hot, all day. I was wearing shorts, but I had my yellow windbreaker packed, as well as a long-sleeved wool shirt, gloves and a hat.
Angela would be pacing Betsy much later in the run – she was there at Grouse to help crew and also to drive the rental van back to Ouray. We had all of Betsy’s drop-bag gear neatly laid out in the back of the minivan, and I was quite delighted with our setup. But then it started… the first drops of rain all day. I thought it would come and go, the way that Colorado afternoon rains often do. But the rain didn’t stop.
There we were with everything in the back of the minivan, and our runner just wanted to be dry in the aid station tent. I had put on my long-sleeved wool shirt and I had loaned Angela the berry coat. It rained harder. I was pissed that the rain screwed up our crewing setup, but I had to focus on the fact that I was about to pace Betsy up Engineer Pass in the rain and into the night.
Right before we left the aid station, I looked over at Angela, “Gimme the coat.” And that’s how I came to wear the berry coat up Engineer Pass in the dumping rain.
Even though the rain eventually stopped and it warmed considerably as we descended into Ouray, I didn’t take the coat off until I was done pacing in Ouray. I didn’t want to take the time, and I wouldn’t have had a place to store it, in any case.
The pockets (oh, how thankful I was for those pockets!) were filled with spent GU packets, wet gloves, and spare flash light batteries. And it turns out that the hood was worth the added bulk.