I worked the Ouray Aid Station all day Saturday before Gombu arrived. This was really fun, as I got to see the front runners come through, and see the media circus that was surrounding the event, due to the European runners-Killian, Seb, Julian, and of course our American runners Dakota, Timmy, Joe, Scott Jaime, Jared Campbell, Jeff Browning.
I tried to take it easy and not take on any taxing aid station duties. I made sure I ate a good lunch and dinner. In the evening, I took over “Drop Bag Duty” which meant just hanging out in the gazebo, waiting on the radio for a runner to come in and either deliver their drop bag to the aid station or hand it off to a crew member who came by for it.
Many runners had some rather big entourage. I’m not just talking about the elite runners, many runners had more than two or three crew people there. I’m not used to that, I think I’ve had maybe three people crewing/pacing me in 100 mile races.
Ouray Aid Station theme was “North Pole”. When darkness fell, there were Christmas lights everywhere!
I got to watch the electrical storm above Bear Creek Trail. It was a very uneasy feeling, as that would be the direction were I would be going once Gombu showed up. Well, if I wanted a taste of real Hardrock weather, I think I was going to get it.
Gombu was behind his targeted split-no surprise there, it’s very odd that a hundred mile run will go to plan, specially something like Hardrock! He showed up shortly before ten pm, changed socks, got some food into him, and off we went!
Our first few miles are just through Ouray, thru the Ice Park, down next to the river, then climb up and cross 550. This is the section with the “china plates”. When you hit a rock, the sound they clink together sounds like china plates clinking together.
We both have donned and taken off our rain jackets twice in three miles. When we start climbing Bear Creek Trail, the rain settles on us and the jackets go back on. We are also experiencing wind and wind gusts on this section.
Bear Creek Trail is a pretty awesome section of trail during the daylight.
|Slim and Eric, recce before HR 2012|
At night, with rain and wind, not so much. I was not scared on the climb, it was more that I was concerned. For once in my life I didn’t regret my extra weight around the middle; I felt more grounded to the earth this way! It was a careful section to pick your way through. Luckily for us, the rain and wind died down as we got through the shelf trail.
I’ve been on this section of trail twice before, once reccying the course in the daylight, and then all by myself during the 2012 run. Being fresh out of Ouray, it was nice to climb this trail in an entirely different perspective than when my wheels fell off in the 2012 race.
|Your view of the trail in daylight|
|More pics from 2012 recce|
As things happen in a 100 mile race, Gombu’s stomach turned on him with several puking events and it was a slow climb up to Engineer Aid Station. The streams that were near non existent in 2012 were flowing very quickly in 2014, and I was careful to pick my way across. I was happy that the water level was not higher! (Gombu even paused and turned to make sure I made my way across!)
Engineer Aid Station is a very small, no frills Aid Station where the volunteers have packed in their supplies two miles straight down. Gombu got a little food into him-no where near enough, just some broth and some ginger ale and water. I donned my rain pants over my shorts finally, knowing it was going to be cold out there-this was near 2 or 4 am?
Out of Engineer Aid Station, it’s two mile straight up, 1400 feet of gain. In 2012, this pretty much sunk me to the depths of despair. (This is where my wheels really fell off in my 2012 race.) For my pacing duties in 2014, I was making sure I was eating! That was my big downfall of my race, and I was going to nail my nutrition on this section of the course.
Gombu, being the Colorado native and been training on the mountains dropped me here. There is not much oxygen around 12,000 feet.
The air was cold and I made sure I got my mask out at Engineer Aid Station. I was a bit concerned about my asthma, but I made sure I wore the mask the rest of my pacing duties.
Here is where a flatlander cannot compete, especially with no acclimation time. I was doing the walk up twenty paces, pause and breath for a ten count. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Pant pant pant. The little blinking red light at the top of Engineer never changes. It’s still WAY UP THERE!!
Walk walk walk. Pant pant pant. I hear Gombu give a whoop and I know he has hit Oh! Point and is on the road. Shortly there after, I ascend and give the red blinking light pole a little tap with my pole. Oh yeah! All downhill now, four miles!
Except for the little uphill, followed by a little downhill, then another little gentle but annoying 1/2 mile or so ascent-hey I don’t remember this at all!
Then it turns downhill. I see lights below me, and I start to jog. It’s the first RUN I have gotten all day. I’ve spent 9 miles climbing uphill, so it’s really hard to get the mechanics of the muscles settled into running downhill.
I catch up to Gombu. He’s not in a good place but is continuing to move forward. He doesn’t whine or complain, which is what I expect. I try to move myself between him and the edge of the road when he teeters a little too close for my comfort.
He finally stops and curls up on the side of the road and says to give him a few minutes. I glance at my watch for timing, then take off my pack to grab some food and my inhaler.
Gombu stirs and retches again. A runner goes by and offers him a Tums. (I’ve lost my entire drug supply somewhere on Saturday.) Gombu takes the Tums, and before I can really look up, he’s gone down the road, running!
|On our way to the Aid Station|
I don’t even have my pack on. Three runners go by and I dryly remark “I guess we’re going to run now”. I regroup and start chasing him down the mountain. He is moving really really well. I don’t know whether the Tums either settled his stomach a bit, or he’s suffering so much that he might as well run than walk to get to the aid station quicker. I believe it was a big mind over matter. I am actually sprinting (he’s a much faster runner/walker than me). I catch back up to Gombu and we settle into a very brisk power hike down to the aid station.
Mark meets me and tells me he is Gombu’s next pacer! And I am so happy, because I did not know Bob had a pacer lined up. Of course, I didn’t ask him either. Gombu is eating a bit and I am very glad he’s got a pacer over Handies Peak, the 14’er on the course. The weather has been rather epic for Hardrockers this year, but the skies are blue around Handies at 7 am.
I beg a ride back to town and a nice runner family obliges me. I’m pretty smoked after being up for about 26 hours straight, working an aid station all day, and pacing all night, but people, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hardrock is a special special place.
Oh, and my runner? Bob Combs finished, his FIFTH Hardrock, he is now in the veteran pool!!
|Robert Andrulis and Bob Combs finishing HR 2014|