Escaping Winter: Part 4 – The build up to Hardrock

Continued from Part 3.

On Monday, after a good nights sleep, we had a hearty breakfast with scrambled eggs, cheese and prosciutto on toast with good coffee. We chatted to another runner who was heading out from Cunningham to see some of the course and we got to meet his trail dog too, she was very lively and seemed to be playing hide and seek.

We headed back to Silverton as we both had massages booked with a lady called Megan. She lives in a place called Lafayette near Boulder and had travelled here to help get runners ready for Hardrock. I was booked in for 10am and Roger headed off to start the laundry, fuel up and get ice for the esky. The massage was great, she worked out some really tough knots in my glutes, calves and quads, it was just what I needed.

Rog took my place on the table and I headed off to wait for the dryer with our laundry. I felt like I was floating. After doing the laundry and enjoying a Blueberry Smoothie I went back to the car to read my book and wait for Roger, I may have also bought a ‘Coloradical’ t-shirt and some bicycle-shaped earrings along the way.

I read my book in the car for a while until Rog came out and then we headed for lunch. We chilled out for most of the day chatting to other runners and headed up to Cunningham Gulch to camp for our last night in the van. We had Cheese Enchilada Ranchero (dehydrated) for dinner and it was actually quite tasty. We also saw the most amazing pink sunset over the hills as we drifted off to sleep.

Tuesday we had a bit of a sleep-in and when we got up we chatted to a group of runners who were doing the ‘soft rock’. Soft rock is when you do the Hardrock course but spread over 3-5 days, so a much slower pace. These guys had decided to do the double which meant they would run the course in one direction then turn around and run it back the other way, that way on their second lap they would get to see the runners during the race too.

Before going to sleep the previous night I had decided that I would run the section from Cunningham Gulch to Silverton, the section I would be pacing for Roger during the race. So I geared up and got myself ready to do the 9 mile (approx. 14km) trail section over Little Giant. The sun was shining and there were hardly any clouds in the sky, it was going to be a good day.

I waved goodbye to Roger and headed over the creek to start the trail. I wasn’t looking forward to having wet feet from the start but my Speedgoats and Injinji socks actually dried up pretty quickly. The first section was a long hike that got steeper and steeper up over Little Giant and I had great views back down towards Cunningham.

 

I kept climbing and it was so nice to be out in the mountains enjoying the sunshine, I didn’t see another soul until I dropped back down in the valley over the other side and saw a couple of ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicle) near an abandoned mine. There were old mines everywhere in this district and most trails were originally formed by the miners and settlers who lived in this area many, many years ago.

The trail went down a long jeep road for quite a distance and their were a few turns and bends that were not marked. Lucky I had borrowed Roger’s Garmin and he had the course loaded into it so I could make sure I didn’t get lost. I also had the ‘Trail Run Project’ App in my phone which also had the course on it, as back up for if the watch didn’t work. Roger had also warned me that there was a sign warning people about a Moose and her babies, they can be quite aggressive, so my strategy was to be loud so that  wouldn’t creep up in them and hopefully they would run away before I got near them. I’ll admit I was a little nervous doing this run by myself and maybe that’s why I ran it quite quickly, but I did relax and enjoy it very much.

It took me just under 3 hours to run this section which meant I arrived in Silverton just in time for lunch. I was quite pleased to have done it in that time because we had estimated about 4+ hours to complete. Maybe I was getting used to the altitude and my climbing was getting better, either way I’ll take it. My foot and knee had both been holding up well too so this made me very happy.

Roger had checked us into the Prospector Motel and I met him as I was walking down the main street towards the Coffee Bear. He was stoked with my time too and so we celebrated with ice cold Frappe’s. I headed for a shower and then we had lunch.

On the way back from lunch we noticed that they had started to put together the start/finish chute with flags and the famous ‘Hardrock’, so we headed over to take a look. I got a few photos and we met a lovely couple from New York, Britney and Ryan, Britney was doing the race for the first time too.

For dinner we went to Handlebars and both had (huge) steaks, the meal also came with soup and fries and the waitress was very impressed that we both finished our plates. And because we weren’t full enough we ducked across the street and finished the day with a Smedleys Ice Cream, delicious!

We walked back to the hotel the long way to burn off some of our meal and got an early night.

Wednesday is when the nerves started to kick in for Roger, as it was the first day of registration and the expo was open for business from midday. Larry, Andy and Roger were all in line to register as soon as it opened, then they had a few questions from the medical team, were given a spot tracker and finally had their photos taken in front of the Hardrock sign.

I got talking to a runner who had done the race before and his crew had made him an awesome t-shirt, check it out.

I spent a lot of time checking out the expo and bought some more clothes, caps and a Limited Edition Hardrock UD hydration pack, you can never have too many packs, am I right?

We all headed for lunch at the Pickel Barrel and Britney and Ryan joined us when they showed up a few minutes later. It was another really good meal. After lunch, Larnie and I went to the ‘Women of Hardrock’ talk that was put on by Trail Sisters and we had an interesting discussion about the difference between Male and Female entrants, prize monies, how to get more women involved and all things running. It was more of an open discussion and anyone could contribute, which was great because we heard a lot of different opinions from all around the world. We also ran into the race director Dale Garland, a lovely gentleman and had a quick chat to him as he ran around getting everything organised.

I walked back to the hotel with Larnie and she was headed for a nap, jet lag was taking its hold and she needed the rest. Roger and I headed to the (long) course briefing held in the school hall, which turned out to be a very detailed, google maps, street view of the entire course. It was run by James who we had met earlier on the course marking days, and it was very informative. Charlie (Head of the course crew) and a few other organisers/runners gave some great tips on the different sections of the trail.

We snuck out when they got to Cunningham as we both knew that section now and we headed for dinner at Golden Block Brewery with a good friend of Roger’s, Vincent from Hoka in Annecy and Jim Walmsley (recent winner and record holder of Western States). We also met Joe Grant as we were walking into the restaurant and chatted to him about his recent Nolan’s 14, plus he gave Rog some great tips on the Hardrock course. The pizza was great and we had a lot of laughs, then headed back to the hotel. Vincent and Jim were headed for a campsite out of town that apparently Jim and his crew stay at every year, their ‘Forest Fortress’.

On Thursday we managed to catch up with Mike Wardian for breakfast, a Hoka athlete who knew Roger well. We had coffee and burritos at our favourite Coffee Bear, and also chatted with Lucy Bartholomew and Anna Frost, both who happened to come past for coffee. Lucy was heading to Ecuador a few days after the race, and then back to Colorado for some running. Frosty had organised a group to do Soft Rock after the race and would also be working at Kroger’s canteen (Virginius Pass A.S.), one of the scariest checkpoints on the Hardrock course. Being surrounded by all these elite, super fast runners was inspiring and makes me want to train smarter and harder myself.

After breakfast we headed to the grocery store with Mike to get the final items for Roger’s drop bags and on the way back we dropped into Mike’s accommodation to meet his wife and kids, however his wife was catching up on some sleep. Instead we got to meet Jeff Browning who was staying in the same house, another elite who I am lucky to have met here on our trip. We chatted about the Tour de France which was on the tv and then ducked back to our hotel to get the drop bags ready.

Just before midday we headed over to hand in the drop bags and attend the runner’s briefing. The school hall was packed with runners and crew and all of the amazing people that help put together such a big event. It was such a surreal experience being there in that hall with so many accomplished runners, some who are known and some who are unknown. It was very inspirational and I left wanting to come back and do this race myself one day. Did I just say that? Shit.

We had dinner with Andy, Larnie and Larry At Natalia’s, most of us had pasta and I also had strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Back at the room Roger and I prepared all of his race gear and nutrition, and Jill arrived just before 8pm too. Jill is our friend from Boulder who we had convinced to come and crew with me, she had crewed for Beat at this race before and has run many ultra marathons herself so it was great to have her onboard.

And now we are off to sleep as the race starts at 6am tomorrow. I’ll be updating facebook with Roger’s progress whenever we have reception, so stay tuned.

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