Matt Mahoney's 2006 Hardrock 100

The Hardrock 100 mile race started at 6:00 AM, Friday, July 14, 2006 in Silverton, Colorado. The race is among the hardest 100 milers in the world with 33,000 ft of climb at altitudes ranging from 7700 ft to 14,048 ft. There is a 48 hour time limit. Out of 131 runners, 81 finished. There is a lottery to select among 200 qualified applicants. Runners qualify by finishing one of several other mountain 100 mile races such as Western States or Leadville. "Easy" 100 milers like Vermont, Arkansas, or Rocky Raccoon don't qualify.

This was my eighth start. I finished 4 of the last 7 with a best time of 42:17. Since I live in Florida (17 ft elevation), I spent the last 3 weeks acclimating to the altitude in Leadville at 10,200 ft and climbing higher (up to 14,000 ft) almost every day.

Runners climbing out of Silverton at 9300 ft. Already, everyone is walking.

The first of many water crossings at mile 2, South Mineral Creek.

Kamm Traverse at mile 12, just past the first aid station, about 4 hours into the race.

Poor footing below the waterfall.

Near the top of the second climb, past Island Lake to 13,000 ft Grant-Swamp Pass.

Top of Grant-Swamp Pass. Runners seeing it for the first time wonder how they are supposed to descend. Surely not THAT way!

Descending the "steep" side of Grant-Swamp Pass on loose rock and gravel.

The fastest way down is on your butt.

As you descend the 3000 feet into Chapman Gulch, the grade becomes less severe. You can see the next climb back up to 13,000 ft (Oscar's Pass) as the jeep road switchbacking up the right side of the ridge at a 30% grade. It was hot and sunny during this climb. We were tortured by swarms of flies.

After Oscar's Pass, we descend 4000 ft into Telluride. The trail is along the left side. It crosses a small gorge on a wooden bridge here.

Leaving Telluride, mile 26 and aid station #3. This marathon took me 10:35. The next climb is 4500 ft to Virginius Pass. The flies still would not leave us alone.

Looking down Virginius Pass, 31 miles, 13,000 ft. Usually everything is covered with snow. There would be a cornice here with a rope hanging over it. You would butt-slide down the snow, using the rope to keep your head above your feet until the rope slipped through your fingers. This year a lot of the snow had melted so we had to butt-slide down mud and gravel instead.

Looking back at Virginius Pass. From here we descend 5000 ft into Ouray (mile 42) on easier dirt roads.

My race went OK to here. I reached Ouray about 10:30 PM, still on pace to finish around 45 hours. But I had pushed too hard up Oscar's Pass and Virginius Pass in a futile effort to escape the flies. This caused some fluid congestion in my lungs, a precursor to pulmonary edema, and a common problem among Hardrock runners. It normally clears out after several hours, but meanwhile I had a vertical mile (5300 ft) climb to Engineer's Pass and I could only get enough air to climb at 1000 ft/hour. In training I could easily climb 2000 ft/hr.

I reached the Grouse Gulch aid station (58 miles) at 7 AM, about 2 hours behind schedule. When I got there, I tried to eat but no saliva would form. Until now I had been eating a good variety of food at the aid stations, but if I could not eat, I could not finish. So I rested for 2 hours until my appetite returned.

The next climb was over 14,048 ft Handies Peak, highest point in the race. I was the last person to cross the summit, at 12:20 PM as a storm approached. My rate of climb was 1500 ft/hr. After that I had no more breathing or appetite problems. The race descends to Sherman (mile 70, 9600 ft) and then climbs to to Pole Creek, a broad, mostly flat alpine valley at 12,000 ft. I moved quickly through this area.

My next problem was the new section between Maggie Gulch (mile 85, 11,600 ft) and Cunningham Gulch (mile 91, 10,400 ft). I did not know until the day before the race that this section had been changed, when I compared my old map with the master map in Silverton. I saw this section for the first time at night. It climbs two 13,000 ft mountains, descending to the top of Stony Pass at 12,500 ft in between. The course is marked with reflective metal flags every 100 yards. At night, this was all I could see. Sometimes the markers were edge-on or obscured, so I spent a lot of time looking for them with my flashlight and checking my map, orienting it to the North Star.

I reached Cunningham 7 minutes before the 2:00 AM cutoff and wasted no time. The next climb to Dives-Little Giant Pass was a grueling 2600 ft in 2 miles but at least it was familiar. But now I was hallucinating from lack of sleep. The hallucinations were mostly internal. When I took a drink of Coke from my water bottle, it was not me who took it, it was somebody else inside my body. The other people inside me were distracting me with random thoughts and vivid fragments of dreams, controlling my legs separately causing me to stumble over rocks and weave to the edge of the trail, which had steep dropoffs. I took two one-minute naps to try to shake off the hallucinations but couldn't afford anything longer. On the way up I stepped over another runner who was huddled on the ground. His pacer explained that he couldn't move. He had left Cunningham three hours earlier. This was the only other runner I saw between Sherman and the finish.

I reached the top at 4 AM, leaving 2 hours to the finish cutoff. The next mile of downhill trail was very steep and loose, not at all runnable. It took me 45 minutes, leaving 1:15. The next two miles of rocky jeep road descended 2000 ft. I ran this, reaching the bottom with 32 minutes left to run the last 3.6 miles of muddy trail to the finish. By now the third dawn was appearing and I felt refreshed. I actually could run hard. My legs hardly felt sore. But there was just not enough time. I passed the ski hut into Silverton as the town clock rang out six times with 0.6 miles of flat roads left. I reached the Hardrock unofficially at 48:06:58.

I ran Hardrock with no crew, no pacer, and no drop bags. I carried a 2 20-ounce bottle waist pack. I tied extra clothing around my waist when I wasn't wearing it: a long sleeve polypro shirt over a synthetic T-shirt, jacket, nylon long pants over shorts, baseball cap for day and knit cap for night, and wool gloves. At night, temperatures were below freezing so I needed everything I carried. I had a 7 luxeon LED light with 4 AA batteries, changed nightly, plus a 4 LED 3 AA backup light and 8 spare batteries. I wore 8 ounce Nike Zooms without socks. I would not have done anything differently.

Hardrock website with results and more photos. The photos by Klas Elkof are quite good.

Matt Mahoney's website with links to previous Hardrock 100 reports and photos.