Downtown Silverton is starting to buzz as runners begin to arrive in preparation for Hardrock100 2009. I arrived on Sunday afternoon after overnighting in nearby Durango. The 30 hours of planes, trains and automobiles left me jetlagged and frayed. I succumbed to a massive headache the first night and was uncertain if it was jetlag or altitude induced. Probably a combination of both. I suffered the same fate last year and likewise massive fluids and more sleep cured it. I spent the morning shopping for supplies in Durango. I must have been an amusing sight wandering around the supermarket in a fog trying to convert weights, prices and labels into an aussie equivalent. I struggle in a foreign supermarket at home but put me in a different continent and time zone and it is not pretty. Amazingly I ran into a guy from the outdoor store (where I had bought some new montrails earlier) and he recognised me and wanted to know my name so they could track me on race day. The pressure builds!
Driving through the mountains, dropping from the 10,000ft pass, my first view of Silverton caused a flutter in my chest. I tried to hoot but my altitude fried vocal chords only managed a feebled squeak. I was back.
After an emotional reunion with my motel owner and unpacking I went for my first easy run to loosen the legs. I headed out along the first few miles of the counter clockwise course over my favourite local trail towards Arrastra Gulch. I was impressed with my new Montrail Wildwoods that gripped like nothing else. Past the beaver dams and through the spruce lined trail it felt good to be back. I could feel the thinness of the air but I took it easy and finished with a comfortable 5miles without much elevation gain.
Day 1 5.5 miles in 1:27. Silverton-near Arrastra Creek (white cabin) and return. Max elevation 9,400ft.
Monday dawned clear with a thick frost. There is a minor heatwave sweeping the country and Western States this weekend looks like being hot. This heat is melting the snow on the Hardrock course but there are reports of some thick snow/ice banks still up high. I headed out in early morning sunshine and there was even a warm southerly breeze. Aiming to stay low again, I went past the start line at the school gym and up past the miner's shrine and along Nute's Shute to the river crossing at Hwy 550. I contemplated crossing and following the trail up Bear Creek but decided I needed another day at 9,000ft so back through town and out towards Arrastra Gulch proper this time. I missed the unmarked trail where it picks up the water pipes and ended up bushwacking a fair bit before backtracking and finding the right path. All the way up to the creek crossing I was sucking in the big ones as I fought for oxygen. But it felt good to be working at last. Back down the hill I let loose and really tested the new shoes, leaping logs and rock hopping and really soaking up the pure trail singletrack. I remembered coming through here last year late on the second night of the race. Teresa and I were just plodding along on trail I was now flying over. This year I would run this fresh at the race start.
Day 2 Monday 12.9 miles in 3:43 Silverton-Hwy550-Silverton-Arrastra Gulch and return. max elevation 9,600ft.
Tuesday started clear again but by mid afternoon the monsoonal rain came down with lightning and thunder. I got out early to beat the weather. I decided to head up Mt Kendal for some climbing. After an hour or so of steady climbing I had my garmin still on metric and when I flicked to imperial I was surprised to see I was already above 12,000ft. Wow, cool. The jeep road wound around the mountain and snow capped craggy peaks appeared around each bend. Little furry critters scampered off the road as I approached. Some looked like a cross between a cat and a fox. Others could have been cheeky guinea pigs. So cute. And plenty of ground chipmunks, chirping at me. Above the tree line snow patches appeared and the wind became chill. I thought of turning back but the peak beckoned so I kept climbing. Crossing a couple of snowbanks and scrambling the final gravel pitch, I topped out at 13,000ft. The view was worth the effort. Wow!
After a quad busting descent I stopped at the river to soak my legs. I don't care how good an ice bath is for recovery, I couldn't stand the pain!
Day 3 13.9 miles in 4:42 (3:04 up & 1:17 down, change=soaking and talking) Mt Kendal summit and return. Max elevation 13,000ft