13 July 2011

Hardrock Follow Up Thoughts

Based  on a good friend's blog post today and my ability to think about the  events from last weekend, I'd like to provide some more insight into the  whole thing.  I may have to do this a few times over the next few weeks  or months to finely clear my mind of it.

I  went into this race fit and ready.  The fact that I only got into the  race a couple days before the start is not optimal but it's something I  anticipated.  Had I been selected from the lottery initially, I'm  certain my focus and training would've prepared me more specifically to  this race.  As it is, my training mostly focuses on constant running.   Of course, I've been doing 60-70 miles a month of fast walking along  with my running (usually walking 3 miles 5 days a week in the  mornings).  The majority (all but Hardrock) are runnable, SD100, Ice  Age, CP50, Grand Mesa 100, Leadville 100, Bear100, Chimera100… all  runnable, for the most part, and my training lends itself well to those  and I'll prove that I have some speed at one or more of them.

Hardrock  is an anomaly.  It's not like any other 100 in the US.  Huge chunks of  time can be added onto your run in an instant.  One mistake, whether you  go off course or fall in a river crossing and all of a sudden you've  lost an hour or more.  Get caught in a stiff thunderstorm and it could  force you to hunker down for a couple hours.  Develop breathing problems  and all of a sudden you are 30-40% slower than you would be with oxygen  in your lungs (took me THREE hours to complete the last segment from  Putnam to the finish…  I should've done it in 1 hour 15 mins).  There  are more opportunities for obstacles that suck huge gaps of time in  Hardrock than any other race around (save Barkley, which isn't even a  race imo).  

Here's a quote from an email I received yesterday from Dale, the race director, in response to an email I wrote to him,"Nicely done Tim!! You persevered through one of the toughest Hardrocks we have ever had!! In 20 years of directing this event, I have never seen the combination of weather, conditions and other factors come together to make a tougher run-you're finish is truly a testament to your tenacity!!."

Losing  time and being out there longer only increases the chances for problems  encountered.  Had I stayed on my 31+ hour pace (i.e. not gotten lost  before Handies peak), I would've likely avoided the major problems later.   I would've missed the storm on Engineer Pass.  I would've alleviated  much of the suffocation symptoms (that got progressively worse after 30  hours).  I would've missed the hideous storm and 3 hours wasted on  Putnam Pass.  At points I felt like Hardrock was throwing everything she  had at me trying to break me.  And she nearly did.  I've never been  pushed to that limit, awake for two straight days, unable to breathe,  daunting scale of distances and climbs to cover, extreme weather  changes, all of it.  I'd like to say I conquered all of it but in  reality I simply was humbled and somehow survived.  I can't even  pinpoint how I was able to keep pushing.  I think it came down to some  primal, raw, innate need.  There was no other choice.  Kissing that rock  was all I had in my life at that point and nothing else mattered  because it symbolized survival.  I'm fairly hard on myself and have  never admitted it publicly but have a low self-esteem.  I suppose my  fear of bolstering that image of myself by quitting was stronger than  whatever Hardrock was doing to try to break me.  I'm happy I truly did  it for myself and didn't care about others' perceptions.  I'm ashamed  that I was basically guilted into this drive to finish because of my  fear of lowering my self-perception.  It's a character flaw that has  lead to many careless and dangerous situations throughout my life,  whether through fear of fulfilling my low self-esteem or callous  disregard for my own well being.

Here's part of an email from Chris, the one who basically saved me on Putnam.  
"I  hope you made it back to civilization alight and are recovering well.  I  just wanted to tell you again how impressed I was with how you stuck in  with the race, and more importantly, how you handled yourself when  things went south out in Putnam.  I was glad to be able to be around and  able to lend a hand to you and JT, but the person that saved you was  you.  If you weren't as tough and as well-trained as you are, you never  would have pulled off a 2 hour wander in those conditions.  At that  point when we had to turn around and head back, hoping to find a flag to  get us back on track, I've never had a more sickening feeling in my  gut.  Most people, even having made it as far as you had, lose it right  there and I pretty much figured I'd killed you with that wrong turn.   That you had the guts to turn it around and keep moving at that point is  what made for a successful close to the evening. 

All  that crap aside, great work getting after the run and sticking in to  the finish.  I'll let you draw your own lessons about what Hardrock is  and what it isn't, but in my opinion, the guys like yourself, Mike  Mason, Christian Johnson, and some of the other legit racers who saw  their goals and expectations crumble but still pushed on for the finish  help define what the run is all about.  It's not Western States, and  never will be."

Solid guy with a lucid view, whom I look forward to seeing again some day.

Hardrock  has stretched my perceptions.  Runners I coach (I coach runners but I'm  not a coach.  Does that make sense?) hear it from me all the time.   Perceptions of what is difficult, possible, easy can be stretched like a  rubber band.  Pull the rubber band taught and the next time you pull it  to that distance it's easier (or seems easier).  My perceptions of  running 100 miles is much different than it was last year. And I can't  imagine a more difficult time than those 44 hours a couple days ago.   But that's my perception right now.

I'm  not one to open up my personal stuff but I'd rather folks have a  clearer understanding of who I am than to project their own  personalities when judging me.  That's why it's puzzling to me when  occasionally someone (who doesn't know me well) says I have a big ego.   That may be the furthest thing from the truth.  So, my finishing  Hardrock was more for my own internal survival mentally than anything.


  1. Definitely not a big ego, just big balls. Well done again.

  2. "Definitely not a big ego, just big balls. Well done again."

    Yea what I want to know is how you lugged those THINGS over all those passes.

  3. Very well-said. And, I am really happy for you.

    I remember our shakeout run in New Mexico a few years back and we talked a little about some of the stuff in your experience. Amazing how these things serve to define us, isn't it?

    I hope to see you in Silverton next year!


  4. Let me know when your ready for a jog and some beers broseph. Great job, sometimes we have to step over the line just to see where it lays, and your story is a special one. i know hardrock was something that changed the way i looked at racing and challenging myself. Talk to you soon!


  5. You still haven't apologized for making me miss last call at the brewery.

  6. I'm sorry Brownie. If I didn't have to keep waiting for you, we would've been done by daylight.

  7. Good stuff in here. Your thoughts, the RD's and Chris' for sure. Really lucid, as you said. This experience does pay massive dividends, in the long run. I was just calling a quick time-out on the old myth that near death experience is always life at its fullest. The breathing issue really hit home for me. Odd that you run into Ryan Burch out there and have breathing problems (later?). He had those and had to pull-out of WS100. You know I've battled asthma. It's no joke. Scary. Especially on top of the OTHER stuff you were dealing with.

  8. I often think running Ultra's is about finding oneself. You are well on your way. Congrats on your finish and survival!