2022 Almost Hardrock
I have been meaning to write down my thoughts from my Hardrock 100 experience for a while, but writing does not come easy to me and it took me a while to process the experience.
We tend to measure ourselves through achievement of goals; but in reality, it is not exclusively a failure if we do not achieve the goal and it is not completely a success if we do.
I did not complete the HR loop this time (a failure), but I did get to the start line (a success) and I did cover almost 60 miles (a success).
I have completed ten 100 milers and over 100 ultras in my lifetime. By sheer volume one is bound to go sideways. You prepare yourself for those times and have many tools to mitigate the issues but sometimes they simply do not work and one must stop short of the main goal to preserve health. I prepared even more for this year’s Hardrock; I slept in my altitude tent for two months, went out to Colorado 10 days ahead of the race to acclimate, and ate healthy as usual. Five years ago, when I completed a counter-clockwise loop of HR, I was slow but my gut did not rebel. I was determined to move faster this time around. That year I only arrived 4 days ahead.
I embrace challenges, but there is a difference between suffering and injury. After fueling at Telluride Aid Station (mile 27.8) I was feeling a bit odd but in good spirits. Climbing up to Kroger’s Aid Station was a like a switch went off. I slowed dramatically and could only eat if I stopped to sit and that was only to nibble. My stomach stopped tolerating any nutrition. I got drenched leading into Kroger’s and upon arrival put on my rain jacket as my hands froze after being so hot on the climb. I took in ginger ale and veggie broth there sitting for almost ten minutes. About a ½ miles down the scree slope everything I had ingested came right up. That was the start of not being able to hold anything down; not even water. I had been looking forward to the 6 mile downhill in to Ouray but instead it was a trudge with multiple stops to dry heave because there was nothing left inside me. I tried sipping liquids. I tried ginger. I tried TUMS. Nothing worked. When I finally reached Ouray, way past my scheduled time, I told my crew I should sleep for a while to try to reset my stomach. I changed my clothes, put on some extra layers, and remained prone for about 45 minutes. After the rest, I was able to take in some ginger ale and potato soup. Crossing my fingers, I headed out with Scott as my pacer, but it wasn’t long before all that nutrition came right back up. I continued this pattern up and over Engineer Pass and down into Animas Aid Station. By that time it was almost 6am; 24 hours since I started and over 12 hours since I couldn’t hold down any food or water. I was severely dehydrated and had extremely low energy. I sat down in the med tent and confirmed it was not prudent for me to continue. Yeah, maybe I could have willed myself forward but my health was at stake and if I needed rescue I would have put volunteers in jeopardy. My health is more important than any finishers medal. I want to still be able to do epic adventures like this for many more years.
- My body does not do well at altitude. – I knew this going in as evidenced by every other race I have ever done at altitude, but I figured I would embrace the challenge. I wasn’t expecting so much gut issues but there may have been other things at play such as….
- Illness at start. – There is a chance I was sick going into the race as I pulling over in the first 15 miles to dig holes multiple times. This may have exacerbated the situation and was extremely unlucky.
- I may have inadvertently ingested too much caffeine. – I know that caffeine irritates my stomach. I can ingest small amount of it at strategic time but with am already irritated gut and the altitude this may have been an additional contributor to my gut distress. (My crew filled a flask of Tailwind at the Chapman Aid Station and I may have gotten the caffeinated one).
Yes, I have a twinge of sadness for not being able to climb over Handie’s with Scott and missed out on having Shepard pace me to the finish; but I want to be able to enjoy these types of adventures to years to come. My crew and I had exhausted all our tools and the suffering was moving beyond safety into danger. We need to know where that tipping point is. I am confident that I was there and am proud of myself for recognizing it. I stopped before I did any lasting damage. Live to run another da