Trails of Glory
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Thursday, July 10, 2014
I had planned to spend a light summer of trail running while cross-training on the bike and focusing on corework. You know, all the stuff that most of us ultra-runners seem to ignore. Around mid-July the realization that I no longer have a Hardrock qualifier for next year's lottery means that my quest to run Hardrock 100 has come to an end. After talking with my long time friend and equally unsuccessful HR entrant Chris Fall, he convinced me to reconsider. Here is my thought process about the possibility of pulling off a 100-mile trail race in time to qualify for the Hardrock 100 lottery for 2015.
I have entered the lottery the past four years. I had 8 tickets in the 2014 lottery and next year would have 16 if I had a valid qualifying race. I could have started trying sooner and bettered my chances of getting selected to the point that I probably would have been drawn by now. My first 100-mile finish was Western States in 2006 which was considered a qualifier at that time. I was afraid of Hardrock in 2007 and 2008. I only had two hundreds under my belt, the second one being Wasatch in 2007. Hardrock is considered a post-graduate run and I was only in my second year of school preceded by an early dropout at Angeles Crest in 2003. I couldn't fathom trying something that difficult that early in my 100-mile career. Then I read some race reports and eventually traveled to Silverton, Colorado to help Bob Bachani with his race in 2009. Last year I paced him for the last 40 miles during his third finish whcih awarded him his Post-Doctorate of Distance. I've also trained on many of the trails and seen about 65% of the course. I'm not afraid anymore.
After last year's Leadville finish I should have had two years of eligibility in the lottery good through 2015. The HR Board determined that Leadville would no longer be a qualifier and allowed those of us who finished in 2013 to use it for only one year. Kind of a bullshit move if you ask me. I don't have a problem with removing Leadville but to take away a year of lottery eligibility was unnecessary. My quandary is that I would need another qualifier this year instead of backing off for a year and taking it easy; which is what I've been doing so far this summer. I basically had written off the HR post-graduate accomplishment and decided to move on although it still bothered my soul.
Now as Hardrock weekend approaches and I am sitting it out in Tucson it has occurred to me that I have put too much effort and sacrifice into making this happen to let it go. To throw it away just to start over with one ticket a couple of years from now makes no sense. How can I accomplish the seemingly impossible task of running an HR qualifier between now and December 1st?
First of all, there are very few qualifying runs left. My only two options are on the same weekend of September 27th. Bear 100 traverses the Northern Wasatch Range near the border of Utah and Idaho north of Salt Lake City starting in Logan. I finished Bear in 2009 coming off a torn hamstring four months earlier. I power hiked all of my training and had a goal of 34 hours, 2 hours under the 36 hour cut-off. I managed some light running on downhills but stuck mainly to the hiking plan and finished in just over 30 hours including a 30-minute nap. Bear is a beautiful course especially in the fall when the leaves are turning color and only one state away from Arizona for travel purposes.
The other race is much closer to home and starts in Pine, Arizona north of Payson. The Mogollon Monster is run along many of the Mogollon Rim trails and is actually 106 miles in length. A good portion of the route is on trails that I have run during my 5 Zane Grey 50-mile finishes. The race cost is $235 and I would have to complete 8 hours of volunteer work between now and then. The major plus to this option is that I can drive up there and not incur nearly the travel costs of going to Utah. Plus I could more easily get a pacer to go with me. I believe the obvious answer is to stay nearer to home and hug the Monster.
My biggest conundrum is how I get ready to attempt this feat in two and a half months with some level of confidence that I can finish in the 36-hour cutoff. Another problem is convincing my wife Trish that this is something that makes any sense at all. We've had some recent discussions and determined that running 100 miles maybe isn't the best thing for one's health. I can't deny that I have looked like death warmed over for up to a week after some of my 100-mile finishes. I think that after learning some lessons about taking care of myself during the event I have fared much better afterwards. I believe that being realistic about my current ability and accepting that 3 miles an hour from the start is the proper thing to do will lead to a successful finish.
For now I am going to plan a couple of longish (30-40 miles) mountainous trail run/hikes between now and Labor Day weekend. That gives me 3 available training weekends. I have National Guard drill on two other weekends between now and then so those are out. I could go back-to-back days on a couple of weekends and plan one overnighter. The whole goal here is to finish the 106 miles with no time goals except meeting the cut-offs and gaining my qualifier. I would have to try and not only stay awake all night but for another 12 hours the next day; excellent Hardrock training by the way.
I have to admit that the mountains are a part of who I am. The challenge of getting out there all day and night in the weather and amongst the natural beauty is something I cannot just walk away from. I am going to give myself until after Labor Day weekend to make my decision on this. Any thoughts…encouragement…stupid…crazy…impossible...are greatly appreciated.