Monday, December 11, 2017

Hardrock Bound

View of Uncompahgre Peak from my 2008 CT thru-hike

It's taken almost 10 years for me to be able to write this post...but it's been a wait very well worth it. 

Some of you may remember last year around this time,  I uploaded a rather lengthy post that discussed the lottery results of what are arguably the two most coveted and prestigious ultrarunning events in the United States: The Western States 100 and the Hardrock 100 (see link). 

I spoke at length about my long history with wanting to participate in these events, and how for almost ten years I had tried, unsuccessfully, to make it to their respective starting lines. Since 2009, I had been entering my name into each lottery (skipping a few years in between) with the hopes of eventually being drawn. Each year, my odds have increased, but so have the number of applicants...thereby making those increases less noteworthy. To think of it mathematically, where as my odds should have been increasing purely exponentially, because of the surging applicant pool, the slope of that line (or the derivative of the curve) has unfortunately been less than expected each year. Still, my odds have increased.

I talked in that post about the difficulty (and added pressure) of having to qualify each year for these events and how the failure to do so could mean losing all of my accrued tickets (Western States only). Last year, the news of my failure to be selected in either lottery hit me really hard. I was heartbroken. The thought of waiting another year just seemed like a lifetime. The one silver lining however, was that I was 39th on the Western States Wait List, but I had completely written that off as "beyond unlikely". I eventually made peace with the outcome and mentally moved on, instead trying to focus my energy on other race endeavors and goals. As the Spring progressed, so did my training. I kept a 6-month running streak and achieved a fitness level I hadn't had since some of my earlier Barkley training days. I raced a few local events, and even placed at several of them. Spring was going well.

After a successful Spring, I started hitting the races hard with Miwok, Mind the Ducks, and then a very fast Revel Rockies Marathon that qualified me for Boston

On my way to a Boston Qualifier

Amidst all this, something magical name had been slowly creeping its way up the Wait List for Western States. I never in a million years would have thought a 39th place on the Wait List would have ever had a chance at starting...but suddenly, with two weeks to the race start, I was #2 on the list. I made arrangements, headed to Squaw Valley, and just minutes before the mandatory pre-race meeting (and mere hours before the start of the actual race), I was told I would be running. It was an incredibly emotional moment and I can still vividly remember calling home in tears to relay the news. The race itself was very memorable, despite a slower-than-hoped finish time. I was happy to have made the finish and even more thrilled to have simply taken part in an event I had waited almost a decade to run.  The heartbreaking sting of the previous December when I had not been drawn in either lottery, suddenly felt like a distant I had somehow managed to make my way to the start, and finish line, at Western States. 

Finishing an 8-year journey

Fast forward to November 2017....

The past few months I have been trying to slowly work my mileage back up again in preparation for another Winter/Spring of solid training. I started with a fun-run at the Big Backyard event where I managed to run 13 loops for 54 miles. I had no intention of trying to "go the distance there" as I was no where near trained enough. Still I kept other runners on their toes by not revealing my intentions.

After that, I had another fun outing with my Barkley family down at the Mountain Masochist. We had a thoroughly good time laughing our way through a fun 50 miles...eeking it out in 11 hrs and 50 minutes.  A few weeks later, I'd run the TARC 6hr "Tarc-key Trot" and pull out a respectable 9 loops (for 27+ miles).

5 Barkley the start of the MMTR 

Mile ~36 on top of Mt. Pleasant (at the MMTR)

Tarc-key Trotting

Tarc-key Trot

...And then came last weekend......Lottery Weekend.

I had again entered both the Western States AND Hardrock Lottery, but in my mind was really only hoping for Hardrock. This year I would have 128 total tickets. Last year's stats would have put me at about a 55% chance of being selected with 128 tickets, but with the increase in applications, my odds would only be 42.6%. When I saw these odds published, I couldn't believe it. With all those years of applications, I STILL would only have a 42.6% chance. What's more, there were 6 applicants with 128 tickets this year. Statistically, only 2 (maybe 3) of us would get selected. I thought about last year and told myself I would NOT let it get me down. Last year after the lottery, I had decided that I needed to simply, and patiently, wait my turn....just like everyone else. When my time would eventually come, it would be even more special.

So, instead of thinking about it, I decided to go run a local 50k all morning and let the lottery play itself out. I would not check until I got home. Regarding Western States, my odds were only about 2% (since my tickets counts were reset back to 1), so I was not expecting anything there.

On Friday night, I got a really nice note from Blake Wood telling me he'd have his fingers crossed for me in the lottery. He even sent me a picture of all my tickets. It made me smile a bit for sure.  I politely responded by saying, 

"Thanks Blake. I'll be out running a local fun 50k here in New England, and trying not to think about it. Either way, I'll be back in Silverton for the trailwork and/or to captain again next year in July. I just can't stay away!"

...and that was it. I woke up Saturday with a smile, put on my running gear and headed to the Middlesex Fells for an ass-kicking, technical 50k. 

The race ended right around the time the lottery was underway but I opted to keep my phone in airplane mode. I wasn't ready to check yet. I wanted to enjoy my post-50k runners high and simply get home to spend time with C.

After stalling for a few hours at home, I eventually made a comment to C that it was about time I finally check the news...

She looked at me and said, 
"Can I show you something?"

...."Ummmm Ok"

"Look at my phone for a sec..."

..."Ummmm Ok"

"You're going to Hardrock..."

She had known for about 30 minutes already but didn't want to tell me until I was ready to check. I stared at the twitter feed and didn't say anything. I didn't know what to say. I simply couldn't believe it. I was drawn 9th in the "Never Lottery".

Hardrock Hundred‏ @hardrock100 Dec 2
Never lottery 1-10: Owen Wainhouse, Sean Downes, Dale Holdaway, Brian Westphal, Jesse Hayes @JesseMHaynes, Robert Lalus, Benjamin Bucklin, John Conboy, John Fegyveresi (with 128 tickets!!!), Michael Hinterberg #hr100

I continued to stare at the screen, still unable to process it. This has to be a joke right? Ha ha? If not, then it has to be the wait list or something. But it wasn't. I was actually drawn 9th. I double checked on my own twitter feed and already had over a dozen messages from friends congratulating me.

Then it all came like a wave. I excused myself from the room, went into another room, closed the door, and 8 years of emotions all came up at once and I lost it. It had finally happened. I was finally going to be running the Hardrock 100. I thought about my CT thru-hike, the San Juan 14ers I had done, the aid station captaining, the memories....and I simply could not believe it. I eventually came back out to the living room, more composed and just gave C a huge hug. 

I asked her, "Hey, wanna come out to Silverton next July with me?"

She said...."Heck yeah!"

It was a good day.

The published Hardrock "Nevers" Odds this year

My Ticket Count

The actual drawing...showing my name as 9th picked.

I finally calmed down the next day....and wrote the following online to my friends and family:

"It's taken me a full day to think about, and really process it. Since 2008 when I first came to learn of Hardrock in Silverton during my Colorado Trail thru-hike, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it some day. After several years of qualifying, several years of applying, and two years of volunteering, yesterday the lottery luck finally turned in my favor. I was very happy to see that so many with 6 and 7 years of lottery tickets were accepted (or waitlisted) this year. Last year I wrote after failing to get into the Lottery: "I am perfectly content to wait my turn just like everyone else has and when my day does finally come for this event, I know it will be so incredibly special for me". I am humbled and honored to be invited for 2018 and I will not take one second of it for granted. I will miss cooking all the runners our famous breakfast burritos and avacado burgers at the finish line next year though, but I know the station will be in good hands. Now....time to step it up to some real training..."

And with that, I'll leave you with some of my favorite and fun Hardrock and San Juan memories....

Summit of Wilson Peak (14,017')

Summit of San Luis Peak (14,014')

Summit of Uncompahgre Peak (14,309')

Summit of Mt. Sneffels (14,150')

Climbing Wilson Peak

More from Wilson Peak

The Class 4 crux pitch on Wilson Peak

Storm coming in over Wilson Peak

My very first picture of the San Juans in 2008
Uncompahgre Peak in the background

Along the CT

Along the CT

Along the CT

Dropping down to Silverton (Animas River) from the CT

Views near Silverton from the CT

The start of the 2016 Hardrock

View of Silverton

Some of my aid station handiwork

More of my aid station goodness

Kilian finishing this year with one good arm

My friend Jeff finishing this year

Hanging out with my inspirational hero...Blake

...and then there is you...
The Hardrock
I have never set my hands upon you
...but in 7 months,
I will finally be there
to truly greet you,
face to face.
...After a wonderful
and beautiful
100-mile adventure...