I didn’t even come to Silverton to watch Hardrock 100.
It was 3 am on Saturday morning and as I hiked in the dark through frigid streams carrying two packs filled with aid station supplies, half a dozen mashed potato burritos, a bivvy sack and my ultra-light backpacking coffee maker the only thing that made sense to me was that I finally lost my mind. But then again, I love this shit. –>Mo randomly drives to small mountain town, immediately makes new friends, gets sucked into a new adventure.<–When I arrived at the alpine aid station I bypassed the 5 people strewn between the media tent and a meager campfire and walked over to some tall grass. I pulled out my bivvy, took off my wet shoes and crawled in for what I hoped might be some semblance of a nap.
“Did somebody say Jamil?” I sat up upright and attentive as if I never slept a wink (does 10 minutes count?) Gina (Lucrezi) laughed, “I said for real.” Oh well, awake as can be I decided to trust my instincts and stay awake for game time. After all, at 83 miles into the race Jamil Coury nor his pacer Mike Versteeg could afford to miss any of the precious supplies I had pack-muled from Ophir up through the woods.
Ask any trail/mountain/ultra runner about the holy grail of races and Hardrock 100 will ALWAYS make the list. Sure I’ve heard of the event before but, being so very new to this sector of running, I never knew what it actually meant–the 33,000 feet of vert, the week long party the precedes the race (including not one but TWO beer miles), the insane lottery system that makes getting an entry tougher than even covering the 100 miles of mostly alpine terrain between 9,300 and 14,000+ feet elevation. Basically as a former middle distance runner this event flew off my radar into the category of bat shit crazy.
My original game plan in Silverton, Colorado was to spend the month of July training high and living simply to get ready for the Kendall Mountain Race on July 22nd. I signed up for the race in February not even knowing that the event climbs up (and back down) a 13er. Clearly I live by the philosophy that ignorance is bliss…or perhaps I know better and there is no use planning too much because the wild life constantly chooses me and I simply need to always be at the ready to roll with it. Anyways, in the spring I interviewed Kendall Mountain race director Jamil Coury for a story I wrote for REI about his affinity for mashed potato burritos during races. Fast forward to July 13th (Hardrock Eve) and I was making a mountain of the burritos, like a dirtbag catering service, and prepping to crew (solo) my first 100 ever for someone I just met. How the sun and moon aligned for this to happen is a story for another time, but between my expertise at making cold burritos, crewing my Mom for extreme cycling races in the mountains and my spontaneous nature I knew I was the right woman for the job.
The day began with a pre-dawn wake up call to load up the supplies (a dozen mashed potato burritos, a plethora of Gu’s new toasted Marshmallow gel, NuttZo, Mas Korima cookies and last minute searches for Salomon soft flasks), walking “all the way” across town to the start and then watching 150 runners embark on their 100 mile journey. I hit the road to the first aid station, Cunningham at mile 9, and enjoyed the sunrise amongst many friends I’ve made in the running world which is something I appreciate most in this sport–no matter where I go I have some crazy family members to hang with. Case in point, immediately after Jamil passed through the station in 65th and took burrito #1 I hit the road with Celia from Gu and filmmaker Billy Yang to cook up a breakfast feast. Once properly stuffed I traded Scott Johnston/Uphill Athlete workout war stories with Luke Nelson and then pranced off on a run with Clare Gallagher. By the time I returned it was time to wake pacer number 1 up from his hangover inside his house (aka Van) and hit the road to the mile 43 aid station at Grouse.
In no danger of being late to resupply and link up with our runner, Mike and I found ourselves in a crash course of getting to know each other as we avoided the rain for four hours sitting inside the Jeep as my yellow caravan quickly became the social hub of the entire aid station. As everyone else convened around the Jeep while getting soaking wet, Mike and I stayed dry and entertained with a few rounds of Hangman, I spy, knife wielding dance parties, beer, yelling at one-armed monster Kilian Jornet, creating a support group AND a reality TV show. If anyone can handle tight quarters like these it’s two 30 year old dirtbags living out of their vehicles. Hours later game time arrived. Mike pranced down the road to join Jamil in 25th position while I set up a burrito buffet with enough snacks to get him Ouray.
Already 4pm I stopped in town to pick up a pizza and then hit the Million Dollar Highway to the next aid stop. I quickly realized how much driving crewing a 100 miler involved but I figured it would be a great way for me to get to know the new hood since I plan to hang around here for a while. Once in Ouray I linked up with pacer #2, Schuyler Hall to help him warm up properly for his leg of the journey with some track drills. Jamil ran into the park, still freaking smiling, swapped some gear and loaded up another burrito. Listening to his stories about running through hail storms and over 14ers all day made me really wish I had opted to pace him and prance around in meadows singing songs, laughing and telling stories together, but then I reverted my brain back to business mode–someone has to be the bearer of burritos after all.
Schuyler and Jamil hit the trail while Mike and I jumped in the Jeep and fought the urge to fall asleep en route to Telluride by blasting a mix of 2 Chainz and Queens Of The Stone Age.
Once at the next aid station we figured we had a few hours to spare and catch some sleep. It took a while for the adrenaline rush of driving under the influence of exhaustion to ware off and we maximized the loopiness by igniting the next super athlete fan craze–#KilianingIt. It was hysterical for 5 minutes for us at least, then we cracked open some Sufferfest beers and promptly passed out (with them in hand and still mostly full) in the park grass like the hobos we actually are.
At home in my element (on the ground outside) I felt as though I actually fell asleep, but it probably was not more than 10 minutes before I got a call from Jamil’s sister that he was nearing town. I doubted it (because at 1 am that would mean he was an hour ahead of pace from the last station) but I walked over to the staging area in my delirium to scope it out. 5 minutes later I turned around and there was Jamil sprinting, now in 8th place. Oh shit. I faked being awake and coherent, threw open his bag, spread out all the snacks onto the ground, tucked another burrito into his pack and started running back to the grass to wake up Mike who actually didn’t believe me that Jamil arrived. Despite being a less than organized crew it all came together, also likely because Jamil is both a super relaxed person and is a total 100 miler pro who does other totally mad races like Barkley. Before Jamil took off he looked at me and in a very serious tone asked, “See you in Ohpir?” Yeah, fuck being tired. I clearly had my most important mission of the night ahead of me.
Despite drinking one of Jamil’s drop bag Monster energy drinks (the first of my life–disgusting), I made a few wrong turns on the drive delaying my arrival in Ohpir for a night hike and forest nap. I grabbed Jamil’s duffel bag (now not only stuffed with fuel, but also dirty wet socks, camera gear and even a bedazzled white dress shirt which I wore to simply celebrate its strange existance) in addition to the official burrito-pack (also containing my bivvy sack and emergency coffee supplies). Again, I didn’t sleep much (10 minutes max) and when Jamil and Mike ran in it was a very different scene than the previous 83 miles. Jamil was in good spirits, but clearly tired ( I wonder why) and nauseous. The goal of the next 30 minutes–keep him awake (his Achilles heel in long races) and make him eat. He asked me to tell him about my day (probably the last thing I expected someone in this stage of racing to request), so I told lots of silly stories while he choked down some vegan ramen and charged his Suunto watch (which would later cause a serious wrist injury–his only ache from this entire ordeal).
Because I am a competitor by nature and a team player (#TeamMashedPotatoBurrito) here I made a deal with the devil to boost morale–no more naps for me if he promised not to nap. I would stay awake through the night AND even run my hill interval workout on Kendall Mountain before he finished to suffer ever so slightly in solidarity. He took off running into the night with Mike and I immediately questioned my sanity as I hiked back over the rivers and through the woods to the Jeep as the sun rose over the stunning peaks surrounding me.
As it turns out Jamil still had several more hours of running ahead of him and no more requests for me to deliver the burritos, so I ate one. Even over 24 hours later and a bit soggy it was delicious.
I took off to Kendall and somehow hammered out an amazing workout. I looked over the road at the stunning vistas and let my imagination drift off and envision myself racing up the wild and tough peaks and valleys of Hardrock. WTF is wrong with me? Is this was over 24 hours of sleep deprivation does to you or am I really thinking I’ll race 100 miles someday? High above the town of Silverton I faced a truth I have always known since I was a little kid–I want to run and romp and eat snacks in the mountains all day and never have to go back inside (which is why I live in my Jeep). I also love to race. Crewing for this race was far from random, far from planting a seed. I unlocked a truth and a dream from deep within me that I was never ready to look at, let alone nurture until now. Just two weeks before I walked down the main street of Silverton with the strange feeling of arriving, like a homecoming, and this was it.
As the clock marched into the 29th hour we got word that Jamil was closing in on the finish. This would be a massive PR, his first top 10 finish and a huge personal victory for him after a challenging year with less than optimal training. Sure, everyone wants to be on a team with a winner, but this is the kind of shit I live for. A team of burrito eating misfits digging deep to squeeze out the best experience possible during a deranged sufferfest in the mountains. Jamil’s smile boldly stated all of this as he literally sprinted in towards the finish line towards his son and ran the final 100 meters with him in hand before kissing the coveted rock.
Post-race Team Mashed Potato Burrito sat in a stooper in an alcove just off the road. We drank gin from a flask delivered by one of Mike’s groupies and traded more stories from the last 29 hours of life that seemed to be both infinite and pass by in a flash. And yes, we did finally take a looooong nap (6 hours) followed by a unanimous decision to get our grub on with, you guessed it, another burrito.