After this post, I really want DNF to stand for 'Discuss No Further'... but in order to move on and to be fair to those who've been following/supporting my journey leading up to Silverton last weekend, here's the full report:
After spending 3 days in Silverton and absolutely losing my mind with excitement and jitters, Friday morning finally arrived. Unlike past races, everything seemed to be going perfect; I was well rested, had no nagging aches or pains, and even was able to catch a few hours of shut-eye on the eve of the race. Ideal conditions to conquer 100 miles in the San Juans, right?
With a filling breakfast in my stomach and my gear on my back, I toed to the starting line seconds before the official countdown. There was barely time for a few 'good lucks' and we were off. Here I digress: It means NOTHING in the long run, but the initial climb up to the 'Christ of the Mines' was led by yours truly, and yes, I do realize this only makes my DNF more embarrasing. On the flipside of things, I can say that I led the 2010 Hardrock 100 briefly. Karl Meltzer? Diana Finkel? Scott Jaime? Yep. All behind me!
Anyway, the first 2+ miles are very runnable. This section is followed by one of the more spectator friendly sections of the race as runners ford South Mineral Creek at 6:20 am! After the adrenalin and cheers from this initial section of the race wore off it was time to back off and go into 100-mile mode. The pace slowed, the hiking poles were enlisted to help and the breathing was slowed. Only 29-36 more hours of this and I'd be golden.
The first climb up Putnam/Cataract was to be the most gradual of the 4 I encountered. Despite this, it was really only hikeable. This was due to the combination of steepness and altitude, along with the obvious need to pace myself. By the time ascent #1 was complete and the initial descent began, I really realized how long this arduous trek was going to take. I'm going from memory here, but I believe I arrived at the KT Aid Station, Mile 8-ish, around 8:30am (2:30 into the race). Up to this point my legs were feeling super heavy with lactic acid, and my breathing was constantly labored.
Leaving this aid station I had half a sandwhich to munch on. This was to stay on course with my nutritional mantra for Hardrock: 'Eat Early, Eat Often'. As hoped for, I started to feel a little better at this point and began running some sections.
My first major defeat of the day came about 3 miles out of the aid station when, due to the separation of runners, I completely missed a hard right turn off the trail to begin the grueling 'Grant-Swamp' climb. I continued straight up the gully on the trail I'd been on for about 10 more minutes before I ran into some hikers who informed me I wasn't on the race course. Their estimate of it only being a couple hundred yards back was not quite accurate. Running downhill, it still took me nearly 10 more minutes to get back to the fork. As demoralizing as getting off-course is, I just accepted this as part of the race and gave myself the added incentive of having that many more runners to catch and pass.
After the most beautiful scenery so far (Island Lake) and what seemed like an eternity, I summited the Grant-Swamp saddle and began on the descent to the second Aid Station, Chapman. On this stretch of trail I discovered that I'd completely exhausted the water in my pack and resorted to the ol' drinking straight from the creek trick. I did this twice. I was able to avoid Giardia the last time I drank river water, so I'm crossing my fingers for the same outcome this time as well.
I came into Chapman around 11:30am (5:30 into the race) to the cheers of my biggest running fan, Jill! This was super encouraging, and I focused on filling up as quickly as possible and hitting the trail again. It was probably a 5 minute pit stop before I was (surprise) climbing again. This next ascent was over Oscar's pass. For the next several miles I felt the best I would all day. With legs numb from all the up and down I started passing other racers with relative ease. This always has a strong physcological affect on me and I hit the summit and ensuing downhill with a renewed confidence. This descent was probably 6 miles in length and the only issue I encountered for the first 4-5 miles were some bad blisters forming on the pads of my feet and ends of my toes. Knowing I was getting close to Telluride I started running through a mental checklist of the items I needed to tend to at the aid station. About the time I had my foot-repair plan figured out it started raining and hailing. This was a total relief and felt surprisingly good.
About a mile from the Telluride Aid Station I really began to stride it out on the jeep road. I then proceeded to have a yard sale...
A full-on super man dive after tripping over a rock, led to me knocking the wind out of my system, and bloodying up my left knee on an exposed rock. Sunglasses went flying. Poles went flying. Face in the dirt. Almost immediately, my knee stiffened up and began to swell a little.
Hiker who witnessed the spectacle: 'You okay, man?'
Brooks: 'Hugh, hehhh, oohhh, yep... I do this all the time.'
Soon enough I came into Telluride barking requests to my crew and was in a chair icing my knee and tending to the blisters. So much for getting in and getting out quickly. This was about a 10 minute pit stop.
I hit the trail climbing out of of Telluride without too much concern. At Leadville last August, I'd taken a similiar spill about 40 miles in and had managed to recover and still finish. Knowing this I was optimistic of the same outcome at Hardrock.
The climb up Virginius is only about 5 miles long, but gains around 850 ft per mile, making it the steepest climb on the course. On this stretch I began to stop and suck some serious air, and take GU's more often. Despite feeling a little light headed and disoriented I managed to pass 2 or 3 more runners on this stretch. The final pitch to the summit was highly exposed and on very loose rock. Here I started to get a little nervous since the legs weren't quite as fresh as at the start! Anyway, I did make it to the Kroger's Canteen Aid Station in one piece and proceeded to sit down and do a full refuel. A familiar face, Christian Murdoch, a photographer from my local paper was up here snapping pics, and it was nice having someone to joke with and complain to for a few. He decided to make the descent at the same time as me, so down we went...
The Final Chapter:
This last downhill section begins with 3 pitches where all a runner is trying to do is not go end over end down the mountain. That focus is mixed in with some skiing and butt sliding. After 3 miles of steep terrain, I found myself on a nice jeep road with about 8 miles to go until Ouray. During this stretch the knee stiffened up to the point where all running became impossible. I had to resort to a slow, painful walk which led to these miles taking nearly 3 hours... During this stretch I ran into my running buddy Bryan, from Ft. Collins, and he tried everything in his arsenal to convince me it wasn't that bad afterall. I had some psychological highs and lows, but ultimately decided that I would physically be unable to finish. Even if my life depended on it, or if an entire Swedish Womens Bikini Team was waiting to embrace me at the finish I couldn't do it.
I arrived in Ouray (Mile 44) about 13 1/2 hours after starting and this is where my bid to tackle my personal Mt. Everest would end. The disappointment of letting down my dear friends, crew, family, and own self was by far the most crushing part. Some tears were shed, and every attempt to rally was tried, but the outcome wasn't to change. I appreciate everyone's help and encouragement (including Paul Dewitt), and am truly sorry it ended like this...
It's now been almost a week since the race and my body is starting to heal. Having Leadville on the horizon is my main motivating factor to get out of bed right now. There I have my opportunity for at least partial redemption over the Hardrock DNF.
Full redemption will come if and when I am able to return to Silverton and fight the San Juan mountains again...