The message from Blake Wood came through the ultra list yesterday. This one-line email likely sent a couple hundred people into immediate action, and a few hundred more (me) dreaming. It said,
On Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 12:09 PM, Blake P. Wood wrote:
The entry application for the 2010 Hardrock Hundred is now available at http://www.run100s.com/HR
Hardrock, for me, is the ultimate goal. There simply is no other race that appeals to me like Hardrock does. I find it very hard to describe the combination of challenge and setting in regards to its appeal. The setting - the rugged mountains of Southwest Colorado - for me epitomizes the concept of mountains in general to which I feel a primal attraction. I visited the area once and was immediately taken by it. The late august drive we took from Durango to Ouray through Silverton was one of the most memorable of my life. Given the opportunity, I'd love to move to the area and spend my days there. The photography I've seen suggest that the course is even more impressive than the scenery of that day's drive.
And then, there's the difficulty.
"It's not enough that you run 100 miles. This race has to add 33 thousand feet of elevation to it, too?" - Foster (coworker), looking at the printed elevation profile:
Depending on what you'd consider "monster", there are at least 8 monster climbs on that profile, probably more.
Not that I can attest from personal experience, but it seems to me that there are very few races that an ultrarunner can honestly say will actually test the limits of a homo-sapien's physical endurance. Some of the exceptions are made obvious by their 1-2% completion rates - courses that are just stupid hard, where a sadistic race director throws anything he possibly can your way, just to get you to quit. They're probably beyond the limit for most people. Others with higher completion rates still manage to push people to the limit but are not out of the realm of possibility. Races like Arrowhead or Badwater do it through environmental extremes - cold or heat. Hardrock does it by just throwing a really really hard course at you.
This video gave me a powerful look at the course's difficulty:
(if you can't see the video, please click here.)
I have long been interested in finding out where my real limit is. I've not found it yet, I feel like my DNFs all happened before my real limit (regardless of what I thought at the time.) It seems to me that Hardrock, however, will finally test exactly where the actual limit of my endurance is. That excites me.
What does it take to get into Hardrock? Well, there's a weighted lottery and waiting list, so it takes a bit of luck, at least in the first year you enter. However, before they even let you enter the lottery, you have to have proven yourself capable of finishing, and for most participants, that means completing a real mountain 100-mile race. 100 mile races like Rocky Raccoon, Umstead, and even Vermont aren't considered difficult enough, they want to see something like Angelest Crest, Wasatch, HURT, or Bear to be considered. Since I love the Grand Teton 50 so much, my plan is to return to Targhee in 2010 and try to qualify by running Grand Teton 100, which is considered adequate.
Image credits: Steve and Deb Pero. Thanks for licensing them under Creative Commons, I really appreciate being able to use them here.
New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time and can be seen at http://www.tursi.com