It is incredible how an opinion can change, twist, turn and develop into something completely different.
After ‘The African Attachments’ filming experience at HardRock 2011, as well as spending more time with the American mountain runners in TransVulcania I was told I would fall in love with the race, with the trails and the mountains. That I had to go and see it. So I got myself onto a cheerleading team for Joe Grant and came out to explore the San Juan’s with a dream support team of Joes loving family, TK and Wolfepaw. And I did just that. I fell in love with HardRock.
Before I came to Silverton and with no real understanding of the race, how the lottery worked or the character of the whole event, I believed that things needed to change. Oh, that actually makes me cringe, thinking that I knew better. I believed there should be more numbers allowed to start. Really do 200 or 500 more people make a difference? Why was there not places held for the elite/top competitors? Where was the incentive for people putting so much of their own and their families and friend’s time, effort and sacrifice into an event?
But, I take it all back. 140 special, chosen, lucky people get to start this magnificent race/run. There is no ‘euro pop’ music playing. There are no cow bells crashing. There are a few flags drooping in the calm wind. It is 9minutes before the start of the 100mile run/hike loop from Silverton linking the LakeCity, Ouray and Telluride. It has a total vertical gain of 33,992 feet (10,360 meters) and all this running takes place at an average elevation of about 11,000 feet (3350m) with the highest point being 14,048 feet (4281m) on top of Mt Handies. The runners slowly emerge from the former silver mining camp community hall. Chatting, calm, waiting. There is not even a 10-second count down…there is a casual 9-second call…and then they are off down the road. There are dogs wandering across the runners way, there are a few excited moms running alongside, everyone else is off to the coffee shop. It is going to be a long day.
This is mountain spirit. We are here to be with the mountain, there will be a few aid stations, with a few supporters, mainly moms, boyfriends, a few pacers and a couple of dogs. The runners go with their heart. Their legs will be beaten up. There is no real race desperation. They just need to get around the mountain. They know how fast a fast time is. But will they even look at their watches except to time when to next eat something on this 24hr+ journey? This is not UTMB. UTMB has a race spirit that can’t be beaten but can be left behind. HardRock has a mountain spirit that once seen cannot be taken away from the heart.
I can not wait to go back.