Hardrock 2017

Hardrock was probably a good lesson for me this year, because I was horribly jealous of all the runners for the whole week surrounding the race and that's not a very productive way to feel. It has been hard for me to recognize and accept that the last time I ran a 100-mile race - not simply Hardrock - was in 2012. Five years have passed in which I feel I haven't had much success in running, which obviously bums me out. But I've done some pretty cool other stuff too, and most importantly I'm still a part of the wonderful running community. I'm always reminded most strongly of that last point at Hardrock. Say what you will about the race; Hardrock is truly a family that tries to do the best it can for everyone involved.

As I did in 2015 - the last time the race went in this direction - I was in charge of parking ("The Parking Czar") at the Cunningham aid station. That's at mile nine and you'd be surprised at how many people want to get up to the aid station to see the runners come through. There are real spectators at Hardrock now, and I think that's great. To accommodate them, race organizers worked with a local jeeping company to shuttle non-crew-members up to the aid station. That meant only crews could drive to the aid, reducing overall congestion in the small valley. That job only lasted a few hours in the morning, and it was actually a great opportunity to say hello briefly to a lot of friends I haven't seen in a while, since I personally vetted nearly every car that went by. Well, I had lots of help too. But I tried to talk to everyone.

Anyway, after that was done, my other job was to support Adam Campbell in his run around the San Juans. Last summer I was at Rogers Pass in Canada with him and Nick Elson, climbing some peaks above the road, when Adam was caught in a rockfall that nearly ended his life. He broke many bones and we all got a helicopter ride off the mountain, and Adam has spent nearly all of the time since in focused recovery. To be able to run Hardrock again less than a year after such a horrible accident was an incredible accomplishment, and this fact was not lost on people. It seemed that everyone I talked to was inspired almost to the point of tears by Adam's story, and indeed when he finished the race there was not a dry eye for a half mile radius around the finish line. There has been much written on Adam's story, and Arc'teryx is working on a film about it too. But since this is my blog, I'll direct you to the article that I wrote about it on Outside Online: (OK, at this moment, it's not live, but stay tuned!)

 Here's ol' Adam at the finish line. We're all crying, so it's cool.

Here's ol' Adam at the finish line. We're all crying, so it's cool.

I'm still too injured to do any real running, but I spent lots of time at the aid stations. This is always a good time. I see all my old friends, we drink beer, tell stories, give each other shit, and occasionally cheer on the runners that go by. It's a super social scene and I love it. In some of my lower moments I have become jaded with the "scene" around ultrarunning. But that's stupid and only reflects my personal frustrations. When I let go of my self-pity, I find that I'm surrounded by a lot of really interesting, strong, and smart people. This is a good crowd to be part of, and I feel lucky to have been part of it for so long.

Nevertheless, after two days of constant socializing, I'm usually really ready for some alone time. So it was refreshing to drive up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose last Monday with Nick Elson. He came down from Squamish to pace Adam at Hardrock, then stayed some extra days to climb with me. We got to the Black Canyon on Monday evening and immediately climbed a mellow introductory route called Maiden Voyage, then camped under the brilliant stars alongside the tremendous cliff walls that continually echoed the sounds of the river thousands of feet below.

Early the next morning we shwacked into the canyon to the river and then spent some precious minutes trying to find the route. The Black Canyon is not what you would call "developed" for climbing. That's the whole point, in fact. Anyway, we got on route and I quickly found that my sense of my own abilities was inadequate there. Despite the grade being only 5.9 and that I regularly climb 5.10 at home, I spent nearly the whole day feeling insecure on holds and generally more gripped than normal. This was partly due to the different type of rock we were climbing on - slick gneiss, mostly - but I think it also had something to do with the intimidating nature of being in such an imposing feature. The Black Canyon is steep and deep, and it feels extremely committing. You do not want to have to bail off of routes in there. Those are the qualities that we were intentionally searching for by going there, but coming to terms with them was still a challenge. The good kind of challenge though.

 This is Nick Elson. He's cool. Remember that.

This is Nick Elson. He's cool. Remember that.

And fortunately, unlike the last time we climbed together (at Rogers Pass), Nick and I were not party to any disasters or tragedies. In fact, I think we were the only climbers in the canyon that day. We worked our way up the canyon walls over six hours and climbed the last few pitches in the full heat of the summer sun, which was difficult not so much because it was hot but because it made the rock almost too hot to touch. That was unexpected. But we managed to finish the route anyway and only ran out of water on the last pitch, which basically made the hike back to the truck pleasantly dry, meaning that finally drinking on the return was supremely satisfying.

I can't do nearly as much as I'd like right now. But even little adventures make a difference. You just gotta get out and try, right?