Sometimes it helps to put your running effort into perspective. You may struggle to get in a 10-miler around Lady Bird Lake in Austin on a hot summer morning, but let’s step back for a minute and look at what’s going on elsewhere in the country.
This past weekend for example, runners from around the nation tackled one of the most brutal, unforgiving running events known: the Hardrock 100.
High in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, approximately 150 hardy runners navigated an extremely challenging course linking the Lake City, Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton areas. As the name implies, the course is 100 miles long. What’s not as well known is that it has a cumulative vertical gain of 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, and takes place at an average elevation of about 11,000 feet. The high point is 14,048 feet.
Hardrock is so tough, that unlike the 24-hour cutoff that most 100-milers have, it has a 48-hour cut-off.
Simply running at altitude alone is a challenge, but climbing steep mountain peaks, running through the night, through epic thunder and lightning storms, and through snow, add a whole other dimension.
Pacers are allowed to accompany runners in the second half of the race, and Austin’s Allison Macsas, the 2017 Austin Marathon champ has signed on for some pacing duties. Her leg will take her from Grouse Gulch to the 72-mile mark at Telluride, a 30-mile stretch which includes cresting the snow-covered Virginius Pass.
Macsas, who heads up Rogue Expeditions along with Gabe Steger, is no stranger to mountain running. Leading expedition trips top Morocco, Patagonia, and Lake Tahoe, she’s paid her mountain dues. Those experiences enable her to adapt to extreme terrain of Hardrock.
Macsas paced Susan Gardner, a 53-year old who was running her 10th Hardrock and had three previous finishes to her credit.
“I began pacing at Grouse Gulch, mile 42, at 11 p.m. Friday night and finished in Telluride at mile 72 the next afternoon,” said Macsas. “The weather was crystal clear the entire time, which was such a nice surprise after a stormy week! Though the pace and distance were very manageable for me, the course was no joke and I was out of my comfort zone a few times!”
Notably, Macsas left her comfort zone crossing a creek on Bear Creek Trail that was essentially a waterfall cascading hundreds of feet down into the canyon. “I was very happy to have poles for that,” she said.
Going up Virginius Pass to the infamous Krogers Canteen aid station. Macsas navigated through a huge amount of snow that had to be hiked at a near vertical grade.
“As someone who had her first experience with hiking on snow earlier this year, this was stressful for me. Again, I was very happy to have poles! The top part had a fixed rope which I used to get to the aid station, which was an epic spot and an incredible production,” said Macsas.
“The whole night section up to Engineer Pass and down to Ouray was just a really special feeling to be out in those meadows and forests at night. Plus, the drop off the Bear Creek Trail was a bit less terrifying when you couldn’t see it,” she added.
Macsas obviously was successful in her pacing duties, as Gardner made the 48-hour cut-off, finishing 118 in 47:01. Spanish phenom Kilian Jornet, widely considered to be the best mountain runner in the world, won the vent in 24:32. Caroline Chaverot, of France, topped the women’s field in 28:31
Upcoming races: Saturday, July 22, Orange Leaf Half Marathon and 5K, 6:30 a.m. at 160 Creekside Way, Suite New Braunfels, Texas 78130. Sunday, July 23 Don’t Tread on My Tri, Sprint Tri- 500 meter swim (Aquarena Springs) 12 mile bike ride, and 5K run at 7:30 a.m.