The reality of the ‘Rock is about to hit home for kiwi Grant Guise, who has landed in Colorado and spending some time in the, ahem, ‘hill’ that make up the backbone of his Hardrock 100 Endurance Run challenge that lays ahead…
Unsurprisingly, my excitement was outweighed by my sadness and anxiety of leaving Jane and the kids for a month. It is an odd feeling – getting picked two years in a row for the Hardrock 100mile Endurance Run means I am one of the luckiest ultra-runners on the planet, and boarding my plane for a month away, most of that time spend in the Colorado High Country I should be ecstatic, but in that moment, it is mostly sadness. Of course, it is self-imposed, and shit- I AM GOING TO HARDROCK! I let a little excitement creep in……
But this trip is not all wild flowers and marmots, no, there is some work to be done first. I land in Salt Lake City and head towards Logan. Logan is the start of another classic America 100miler, the Bear 100 (tagline: “This Ain’t For Goldilocks!”) and its also where the headquarters of Altra Running are. Kevin Robinson, the international sales manager (and one of my HR100 pacers) is away at a trade show in Germany, so I get to hang with one of Altra’s founders, Brain Beakstead, who just finished 7th at the Zion 50milers the weekend before. It’s a wild place to be for a gear geek like myself. I get shown Altra’s new appeal line and the upcoming new shoes. I meet the whole team behind Altra, from designers to sales and everyone in between and even get to test some prototype shoes on my evening run.
The next day with a few hours to kill before meeting an old friend for dinner, I head up Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside of SLC and manage to get up Mt Superior. At round 3500m, its nice easy re-introduction to altitude.
The next day there is no denying the excitement as I fly into Durango. The one and only Anna Frost meets me at the airport and we head to VanGo Durango to pickup my transport and accommodation for the next 26 days, a 1993 VW EuroVan, nicknamed “Vanna White”. Straight away I can tell we are going to get on great! Poptop, couch and table are just some of the features. She is truly a home away from home and has me dreaming of how I might be able to tweak my own van this summer.
After picking up supplies I start the long drive towards Lake City, with the plan of camping a few nights at Burrows Park. Burrows in right on the Hardrock course- last year it was the first aid station we came to after Handies Peak and where I creped past Bryon Powell as he was sitting in a chair with stomach issues.
I headed away from Handies the next morning, walking and jogging along amazing high alpine single track, towards Redcould and Sunshine Peaks. Both being over 14,000 feet (4250m) I was working hard and sucking wind- but this is why I was here- too suck! Last year I had 2 weeks in Silverton pre Hardrock and it wasn’t enough to fully acclimatize. I am not sure 3 weeks will be enough neither, but it is better than 3!
The next day I went up the Grizzly Gulch trail, towards Handies Peak. At 14,048 it is the high point of the Hardrock 100 and as such has a somewhat mythic status. Many claim it as the hardest part of the face and I think especially in the clock-wise direction that I did last year it is a significant hurdle. But this year it comes much early- making it over Handies and costing it in is not really doable…..
It was great to again be up on Handies and see trails and views I didn’t get to see in daylight during last years race.
I then headed into Lake City and meet up with Frosty, Baz and the Durango crew that were over for the San Juan Solstice 50miler. I got to hang with Frosty and Hardrock legend Roch Horton, as well as a nice jog along the Colorado Trail, up around 12,000 ft.
After a few days camping by myself, the social race scene of the SJS50 was great fun, but early Sunday I was in Vanna White and heading towards the Collegiate Peaks and Sawatch Range for some big mountains! But I’ll tell you about that next time….
Maybe this should be “Gear Van”…. Certainly this past week the coolest bit of “gear” to come my way is Vanna White – my little VW EuroVan. Ryan and the team at VanGo Durango have a great little business model going on. The campervan scene is very different here compared to the one in NZ. Just finding a camper was a missions, but O think I struck gold with VanGO. Unlike the usual rental car experience has much more of a “boutique” feel. Add in how easy it is to car camp in Colorado and it is making for an epic road trip/mountain running experience.
I was lucky enough to have a package waiting for me in Durango from DryMax Socks and have been giving the new Trail Running, Lite and Lite-Meash CREW length socks are hammering since arriving. I’ve been super impressed with the new Lite-Mesh Crew, epically in the Sublime colour way.