Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hardrock 100 - 37:33:40

In the adventure of life there are those who live it vicariously and enjoy the ride from the safety of an armchair, and that is good. There are those who have a few chances to realize incredible and life changing experiences and though they don't repeat them, they carry with them a growth and personal philosophy for the rest of their lives. And then there are those for whom a taste is never enough. For whom the lust of adventure is never insatiable. To the end of one adventure only signifies the beginning of another!

The Hardrock 100 is the king of all mountainous 100 milers. It has over 33,124 feet of net elevation gain and loss, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet, and is gnarly and “wild and tough!” This adventure demands elevation gains comparable to running from sea level to the summit of Mt. Everest and back. This running includes going over 12,000 foot above sea level thirteen times, above 13,000 feet an additional seven times and summiting one of Colorado’s famed “14ers,” Handies Peak (14, 048 ft). After each long climb comes an equally demanding and punishing descent only to climb yet again. “To the summit” I kept telling myself.

The Hardrock Hundred race course links the history of the towns of Silverton, Lake City, Ouray, and Telluride, Colorado. These picturesque mountain towns stand as testaments to the spirit of men and women who chose to carve their lives out of the rocks and lofty crags, seeking fame and fortune from the minerals hidden in these mountains and valleys. It is in the spirit of their perseverance and dedication that the Hardrock Hundred is held every year. Runners from 27 states as well as Australia, Switzerland, Canada, France, and England competed in this years run.

Does that sound like fun to you? It did to me, so I applied. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in this event, as many previous runners were denied entry to the run due to limited space. Entry in the run is conducted thru a lottery system. I would also like to mention some names and thank the people that made this even successful and possible for me. Matt Kirk, my pacer, and good friend from WNC to whom I owe many thanks for helping me cruise thru the mountains and countless miles of adventure in Appalachia. Adam Hill, a running machine that is always helpful in planning fat ass events and is always willing to assist with his vast knowledge of the Appalachian Mountains (hope the toe is healing nicely). Scott B and Liz who showed us around at the Hardrock and ran the Trot Thur Hot (70 miles) with me. Greg Paige, whom a BEAR tore into this truck during day 1 of a multi stage training run on Mt. Mitchell (Damn that Trader Joes is good). David Petroski and John Lewis who joined me on Day 2 and Day 3 of the 98 mile multi stage training run. Brian Beduhn who helped us map out the 7Sisters summit double loop! Jim Cobb, Barbara Babb, and Bruce Babb who ran the Roan Adventure Marathon (RAM) with me. Charlie Roberts who ran much of our short stint on the BMT with me. Bill, Pamela, and Georgina who climbed two Colorado fourteeners (Quandary Peak and Mt. Elbert) with me a month before the Hardrock. Jay Batchen who helped me get into the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, a multi day stage run in the deep Sahara Desert of Morocco. Annette Bednosky who made it out to the birthday run this year and who has given much advice that has proved to be valuable on the trail! I know have missed some people, but thank you to all of you! I couldn’t have made it here alone.
JULY 3rd
Matt and I made it out to Colorado July 2nd and we met up in the afternoon for dinner in Frisco, which is where we rented a car. We had planned to climb a few fourteeners as acclimatization for the Hardrock. We had our eyes set on the Mosquito Mountain Range in Colorado which includes Mt. Lincoln 14,286 feet, Mt. Cameron 14,238 feet, Mt. Bross 14,172, Mt. Democrat 14,148, and Mt. Sherman 14,036 feet. We climbed up all of these mountains in one push with the exception of Sherman on the 3rd of July. Bill was in town and joined us up the steep ascent to the top of Lincoln. After the summit he decided to descent and retreat back to his car. Me and Matt pushed up to summit Cameron, Bross, and Democrat. While on the summit of Democrat we enjoyed a beautiful view and the weather cleared up from the days previous rain/mist. Pasta primavera was on my mind so I pulled out the stove and cooked a meal on the summit.

We descended into a steep scree field and then into a valley of alpine tundra. After filling up our water bottles we surveyed the area to look for the trail that lead to the gravel road, but all we could see was shoulder height shrub and game trail. I bushwhacked for well over an hour and crossed into freezing snow melted streams. After much work I finally found the gravel road. I didn’t expect to bushwhack this much and remember saying “scratch the thighs, not the eyes,” while protecting my face. This was great training for Hardrock, not only was I acclimatizing to the elevation, but also to the cross country mindset you must have to finish this course!
JULY 4th

The next day we camped out near the trailhead of where would start our climb for Mt. Sherman, it was independence day! Mt. Sherman would be our 5th 14eener climb for the trip. Keep in mind these fourteeners are not very difficult to climb, so we decided to route ourselves on more technical terrain to reach the summit. Often times, not knowing what we would expect. We bushwhacked, crossed sreams with snow melt (my feet would go numb instantly). The day was beautiful and sunny, and we could not have asked for better weather. On our ascent we spotted 20 or so elk in the distance, they were far away up high on the mountain. After hitting the summit of Sherman we headed towards Mt. Gemini, a mountain 4 feet shy of being a fourteener standing at 13,951 feet. After soaking up some sun on the summit of Genini, both Matt and I descended down snow fields practicing our heel step and recording a descent of 200 feet per minute while on the white stuff, flying! We then hit some more scree, then alpine tundra, and finally hiked thru an alpine forest which was often flooded in some areas making it a soggy trip back to camp. We then made the 5 hour drive to Silverton. We drove into town just as it was getting dark and parked infront of the Avon hotel owned by a really cool fella named Tom. It was from his second floor deck we enjoyed the bombastic sounds and visual effects of the Independence day fireworks show! Hearing the mini explosions bounce sound off the walls of the mountains was a new thing for me. I had a chance to meet a few runners this day. We camped out at little lake Molas for the next two nights. I pitched my tent next to Fred, a fellow Coyote 2 Mooner! Who would have known that Fred would finish just four minutes ahead of me?

JULY 5th

After waking up late and lounging in the sun for a while, Matt, Scott B, and I decided to go for a high altitude training run. Prior to the run, I had some fatayer (meat and cheese pies) that my mother made! These little things fueled me for the first 5 days in Colorado to climb up steep peaks, and they were tastey! They taste better at altitude as well.

We ran the last 12 miles from the KT aid station to the finish. The purpose of this training run was to see what we thought would be a night time run. Running this section during the day would prove to be helpful later on. We crossed freezing streams, mushy flooded areas, and ran/hiked up to the Putnam basin. Scott was helpful in pointing out parts of the coarse. We lounged a little at the top of the Putnam basin and then ran down the mountain onto large sections of scree, and then finally into a green trail which resembled Appalachia for the last mile before Mineral Creek. Then we crossed Mineral Creek while holding onto a fixed line as the currents may have swept us off our feet. We then crossed 550 and ran in the last three miles of the course on a scree/gravel road. As we descended into Silverton the local High school was to our left, and we ran it in as if it was the race. This proved to be very helpful during the last moments of the run, and I recomend future runners to get to know the course as much as possible. Later we scoped out the hot spring in Ouray and then hit some Mexican food (great Guacamole!!).

JULY 6th

Me and Matt both wanted to be high up in the mountains, but I wanted to walk that fine line of active rest just before the biggest run of my life and didn’t want to push it. While most runners were sleeping in some comfortable bed in breakfast in Silverton, Matt and I decided to go for a backpacking trip to a grand mountain that faces the South West of Silverton, CO, SULTAN MOUTAIN. I had to climb this mountain, and the trail name Sultan was born. We drove our car to Silverton, CO packed our bags, I had a spare watermelon in mine and hitchhiked back to the trailhead near Lake Molas. Matt was able to work his hitchhiking skills and we were able to get a ride in no time! Our approach started on the Colorado trail. Although my feet were on this trail for a short period of time, I think I will be back. After hiking in a few miles we found a good spot to camp out. We studied the mountain, and it was steep. We discussed tackling the summit up a direct route, or switching back and traversing the mountain before reaching the mountain. We both didn’t know what route to take, so we decided to figure it out in the morning as we ascended. We attempt the direct route, and if it proved to be more challenging than we though, we switchback. To make the trip even more special, it was a full moon, an alpine start was in order.

We pulled out the watermelon and creatively began to devour it, which made for a great appetizer. For dinner, I had a freezer dried meal, which was a tasty lasagna made by mountain house. After filling up our tanks, we retreated to our tents to get some shut eye so that we could get in an alpine start in the dark at 4am.

JULY 7th

This is a very special day for me! It was 4am and packed all of our gear knowing that we would descend into Silverton on the other side of the mountain and not return to our campsite. Once at the base of Sultan we climbed steeply. I let Matt go ahead of me, I wanted to keep me legs fresh and didn’t want to push it fast. As we climbed the moon glowed above and was more round than the watermelon we devoured below. I let out a Coyote Howl which I learned back in Ojai, CA. There was something special about the moon tonight, and I knew someone very special was watching the same moon I saw high above in the sky.

As I reached closer to the summit, I made sure to stay on scree mixed in with some vegetation. It held up better. Finally I was at the summit. Matt had been waiting for a while and had the stove out. He quickly started making his special soup, and a new sun was born. It was here that I took this video of both a full moon and a new sun atop of Sultan!! It couldn’t be any better. The soup warmed my body, and was tasty.

We descended and did not care to try summiting the Grand Turk, a peak to the South of Sultan. It looked very technical with three jagged mini peaks with loose rock, and I did not want to risk it at this point. On our descent we made sure we had our rock climbing helmets on. Loose rock was everywhere, and I was on all fours descended, and butt sliding down rock. Some parts were a little scary. We finally made it into a snow field and descended down some alpine tundra.

Looking back at Sultan I was impressed at what we had accomplished with a full backpack on. We had two choices to make on the descent. Go down the Northeast side of Sultan, or take the Southeast Deadwood Gulch. 50/50 chance on getting this one right? We had no map, no guide, no beta, no information, so we took a chance and descended down the Deadwood Gulch. If you ever climb Sultan the way we did, never descend down Deadwood Gulch! It was a bushwhack all the way down, steep descents. We finally had to jump into the creek and hike down the creek to get onto 550. We walked the last 2 or 3 miles of road into town. Had we headed down the Northeast side of Sultan we would have hit a nice trail and hiked right into Silverton!

JULY 8 and JULY 9
We checked into the Teller House hotel where we met both Rudy and Ally. Both very nice hosts, and Rudy can cook up a killer breakfast! These days were spent as relaxation, and a time to meet other runners, check in, and let the legs rest as much as possible.

I had a chance to meet a few of the runners before the run. Bob Combs shared his views on MMT vs. Grindstone, Mike Dobies told stories of the Barkleys, and other runs he had under his belt, and Robert Andrulis shared his organizational skills on what to put in drop bags, and how to keep up with all the items. I found Andrulis' strategy to be helpful, so I crafted something very simular.
I set my alarm for 4:30am on the night of July 9th and lie in bed at 9pm, trying to get as much rest as I possibly could before the race.

JULY 10th

I woke up nearly every hour from 1am onward. The next thing I know I wake up and read my watch and it says 5:27am!! “MATT” I yelled out, its 5:27am. Shit, the race starts at 6am and I have a deadline to check in at 5:45am or I lose my spot to a waitlister. There was three waitlisters that were not guaranteed to run and flew out to Colorado waiting for someone to not show up, or fail to wake up on time to run. I was about to make their dream a reality. It was a close call, but we made it to the gym and checked in. I didn’t train, fly out here, acclimatize only to sleep in.

Silverton START (9,310 feet) – Mile 0

I felt good despite the sleeping in. It went by fast, 6am, and we were off. I ran a little fast during the start as I had heard of the beaver damns where you could be bottlenecked behind a trail of slow runners. So for the first few miles I thought I would hang with Scott B. After crossing a cold creek and getting our feet soaked we began to climb steeply which slowed us to a hike uphill. I met more runners and exchanged names and states. Many of the people that run Hardrock are return runners over 2/3rd and the rest are first timers like me.

Scott and I ran into Joe Clapper whom I met for the first time. We were all East Coasters hiking up the hills at a steady pace. Scott pointed out to me that we were within 150 years from at least 4 previous first time finishers. Was I moving too fast? Would I crash and burn later on in the run? I hoped not and kept moving forward. Here is what was going on in my mind at this time. I am running the Hardrock, one of the toughest foot races in the world. I have Matt as a pacer (I don’t think I could have ask for better), and I was feeling great. I wasn’t pushing hard, but I was moving faster than what I previously thought I would do.

After a few miles I kept pushing on and Scott pulled back. My main goal was to finish, but would love to finish strong for the first time I run this crazy loop of over a 100 miles. I ran with one hand held bottle and a cycling shirt on, the kind that has three pockets in the back. This was ultra light weight, but would do the trick until I reached Cunningham Gulch, where I dropped my waist belt.

Cunningham Gulch (10,380 ft) – Mile 9.2 – 4 minutes at aid station

Matt was waiting at this aid station and had my waistbelt out waiting for me. I filled up my water bottles, grabbed a pop tart, strapped up and was out of the aid station in 4 minutes. I was focused and felt great. I went into a state of trance after pulling out of Maggie Gulch. My legs were moving, and I was running, but my mind could have been on another planet. I felt great, and I was focused on running a smart race. The weather was perfect, a little warm at the lower elevation points, but overcast. The sun wasn’t an issue yet. I passed some, and few passed me.

Maggie Gulch (11,840 ft) – Mile 15.3 – 1 minute at aid station

I flew by this aid station only to grab a few chips and fill up water. I wasn’t too concerned about filling up water at the aid station because every time I saw a beautiful stream I would fill up my water bottle there too. I don’t think you could ever get dehydrated on this course (except going up Virginus Pass) because there is plenty of creek water available out there. I continued to run the 4.3 miles to the next aid station on rolling green hills as we were in alpine tundra. It was here I ran with Kim Holak from Minnesota for a mile or so, and then opted to pass and push on.

Pole Creek (11,460 ft) – Mile 19.6 – 1 minutes at aid station

I again only spent a minute at this aid station, refilling water, and grabbing two mini turkey sandwiches with cream cheese to go. I was leading at this point with Kim maybe 300 meters behind me. I took a wrong turn here and bushwhacked back to the trail only to pass the same group of runners again. I was reluctant to pass because I didn’t want to get lost! The tail is marked, but I had a tendency to go off trail. It was here that Mike Burke from Oregon passed me and I tried to keep up with him on the hills. He was a strong climber, I let him go only to catch him on the descents. We ran together for a while, alternating the passing, taking turns on the lead. We descended a gulch to reach the Sherman aid station.

Sherman (9,640 ft) – Mile 28.7 – 5 minutes at aid station

I can’t say enough about the people that man this aid station. They have spoiled me for life, and now I hope I don’t have a new standard for aid stations. 300 meters before reaching the aid station orange signs appeared, “Grilled Veggie Quesadilla, “spaghetti,” “Hot Soup,” Smoothies!” Wow, I was getting sucked into the king of aid stations. I needed the calories to stay on my running high, but I needed to focus.

Immediately when I got into Sherman my bottles were filled and my grilled veggies with spaghetti on top was before me. As I began to devour the calories I felt a cool wet cloth go over my face and neck, whoa! This aid station rocked. The people that manned this aid station were the friendliest, most amazing volunteers I have ever met. Sherman was awesome. On my way out I grabbed a banana strawberry smoothie and a banana. I could see Mike a minute ahead of me, and I speed walked in an attempt to catch him. I wanted to let me food digest, and I was in no mood to run at this point. The section out of Sherman is up a gravel road which can be dusty when there is vehicular traffic. We walked for miles, and Mike was still ahead of me.

We finally got off the gravel road and started ascending the base of Handies Peak, the only 14ner on the course and the highest point at 14,048 feet. It was here that I lost Mike and a group of other strong climbers. I hiked and ran slowly uphill until I was joined by Ronda Sundermeier. We hiked uphill together for miles. Few words were exchanged as we were both jamming to the tunes of the hills.

I remember pressure breathing and rest stepping all the way up to the summit of Handies Peak. As I reached the summit I took 30 seconds to glace around, it was 5pm exactly. Ronda still appeared to be 5 or 6 minutes behind me. Looking around I saw expansive views for miles. The day was clear, and the dry Colorado air chapped my lips but allowed me to see far away in the distance. I descended down some fine scree, knowing that I would eventually be passed soon. Somehow me and Ronda both went off trail and ended up bushwhacking/climbing down scree to get back onto the trail. During the mix up we were passed by a Coyote Two Mooner, Howard Cohen. Ronda took off and passed us on the downhill, never to see her again.

Fourteeners Redcloud Peak, and Sunshine Peak from high up on Handies Peak.

Fourteeners Mt. Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre Peak from Handies Peak.

Descending into American Basin.

Grouse Gulch (10,710 ft) – Mile 42.1 – 12 minutes at aid station

When I reached Grouse I was greeted by Matt. He was very helpful in getting my drop bag, food, etc. I immediately jumped in the creek and took a 1 minute bath. I did get a few weird looks, but it felt good. I changed my shirt here and spent 12 minutes at this aid station. Looking back at it all, this was too long. But I was having a good time, and that’s what matters.

We packed up, thanked the aid station volunteers, and took off at a hiking pace up a long, swervey gravel road. We were ascending up to Engineers Pass. As we reached the summit of the pass the sun was setting and some amazing views were off in the distance.

We descended down on single track, cross country terrain. I remember slipping here as it was getting dark getting my arm all muddy. We trotted down to the Engineer Pass aid station.

Engineer Pass (11,800 ft) – Mile 42.1 – 2 minutes at aid station

I picked up a turkey sandwich here, and filled my water bottle with hot chocolate! Having something warm made me feel good especially as the day turned black. Our headlamps were on at this point.
The long descent into Ouray was slow going. Although we were running, I definitely hit some low points here and walked some, even downhill. It was dark, the stars were out, and there was a large moon, just shy of being full that was hiding somewhere in the distance. My feet began to talk to me, I told them to quiet down until Ouray.

Ouray (7,680 ft) – Mile 56.5 – 31 minutes at aid station

When I reached Ouray I was at the lowest point of the run elevation wise, and was still in a low spot both physically and mentally as well. I was low all the way around in Ouray. I needed to change my socks, reapply desitinen to my feet, and tape them up. Changing shoes helped out a lot as well. Matt came to the rescue even when he wasn’t feeling it at this point and assisted as best he could.

Billy Simpson aka Woodstock rolled into Ouray 9 minutes after we did. Woodstock looked fresh and appeared to be having the time of his life. This guy was always fun to be around, and would always find a way to make you laugh, even when your stuck in a low spot. We tried to hurry and head out with him, but managed to leave 5 minutes after he did, never to see him again. After the finish he admitted he thought I was hurting really bad in Ouray and didn’t think I would make it. Had I gone out too fast? Had I pounded my body to the point of no return? I was hurting, but wanted this run bad enough to just push thru the low spots. Trick your mind I kept telling myself.

We took off one minute before midnight and began the steep ascent uphill on a gravel road to Virginius Pass. Here me and Matt cracked jokes and told stories to stay awake. We met a couple burning a wood fire watching all the runners having a grand time. After a mile or two, Molly Zurn pulls up with a fast uphill pace on two hiking poles. She was jamming to her iPod and wasn’t interested in conversation at this point. Its 1am go figure.

Governors Basin(10,780 ft) – Mile 64.4 – 9 minutes at aid station

The hike up took a long time, and felt like forever to Governors Basin. I remember being cold here, and just wanting soup. This aid station had limited supplies, but somehow I managed to stay for 9 minutes. After seeing another Coyote Two Mooner, Fred Ecks roll into the aid station, we took off. Fred later passed us on the uphill before reaching the pass, strong climber. He reached the pass a whole 16 minutes before I did. Getting up on to the pass was tricky. The sun was not up yet, but it lit up the sky. The snow had frozen over and was icy. We had running shoes on, no crampons, or axes (Fred had his ice axe!).

We managed with what ever footing we could kick in, and then improve on previous runners foot work. This would normally work well, but the foot work disappeared into the distance and we were left with a slab of ice. One runner’s pacer slid about 15 feet and was freaked out of her mind. I was on all fours trying to figure a way up the pass. Someone yelled to get on a small section of scree and climb up it. I managed to find some rocks to climb up, and then traverse back to the ice where I reconnected with a previous runners foot work. Kicking in foot work this time of the day would be impossible as the snow may have been a large slab of ice. Another small climb ahead on some more ice, this was more manageable. Then finally, the last steep climb all the way up the pass on ice, this time with a fixed line we could hold on to. This section was a little dicey, but hey, this is hardrock. No one said it would be easy.

Virginus Pass (13,100 ft) – Mile 67.6 – 2 minutes at aid station

I made it Virginus Pass at 5:27am and watched the sun come up while sipping warm broth. I was cold and tired. I didn’t have time to waste, so two minutes was my limit up here and then I headed down a steep scree section. I was skiing in the scree practically. The next 5 miles or so would be a steep downhill all the way to the mountain town of Telluride. We ran and hiked fast downhill. The last two miles I remember busting out a super fast pace with a little motivation from Matt. Passing 4 or 5 runners, including Fred. I remember running into the town of Telluride, crossing Colorado St. in a full sprint. Was I going too hard? I didn’t know, but I felt great as a new day was born.

Telluride (8,750 ft) – Mile 72.6 – 17 minutes at aid station

I rolled into the aid station 9 minutes after 15 time finisher Kirk Apt and 11 minutes ahead of Fred and 31 minutes ahead of Blake Wood. These names will be important later on in the run. Matt, Scott B., and I left the aid station within minutes of each other. Both Fred and Scott passed me on the uphill out of Telluride. I remember struggling with my breathing up these hills and couldn’t climb nearly as fast as other runners. I appeared to be loosing my kick, some runners wrote me off here.

The sun blasted in the morning, and some sections were exposed, so the sun could really rock your body here. The climb never seemed to end, when we reached what appeared to be a pass, we would descent and climb yet again. This was difficult mentally and happened three or four times. Matt decided to take a nap here as I climbed at a much slower pace, and then he would catch up later. I was in another low spot here. “Ride it out, let your mind wander while hiking up as fast as you can. You didn’t come to Colorado to drop out 3/4ths of the way,” I kept telling myself. I soaked my head in cold water ever chance I got.

Matt caught up to me. After his power nap he was feeling full of energy and began to concoct his idea. He busted out some math and explained that if I maintained a certain pace I would finish in 40 hours or so. This was amazing as thought of failure only 25 miles back in Ouray were floating in my mind. So I tried hiking as hard as I could trying to maintain a dignified pace, it was slow going. Finally I reached Oscar’s Pass and descended the few miles to Chapman Gulch.

Chapman Gulch (10,190 ft) – Mile 81.9 – 20 minutes at aid station

Fred made it into Chapman a whole 38 minutes before I did, and Scott B. 39 minutes before me. Blake has managed to narrow the gap between me and him only leaving the Chapman Gulch aid station 10 minutes after I did.

I ate a bean and rice burrito smothered in salsa and cheese along with two cokes and some turkey sandwiches. I remember refueling my body with as much calories as I could take in here. I spent 20 minutes here, which is a long time compared to Blake’s 3 minutes.

Matt and I took off with high spirits and I knew I would finish this run, I had that feeling of success in me. I found a stick in the woods and used it to help me climb up Grant-Swamp Pass. Blake and his daughter passed us up on the climb and passed them on the descent. I remember asking Blake if he thought we could break 40 hours. “At this pace we will break 38 hours” he replied back with enthusiasm!

Could it be? My first time out here, break 38 hours and finish in the day? Coming from Blake, who has finished this run 14 times, I did not need to hear anything else. My pace gradually began to speed up. I flying on the downhills, my mind began to play tricks on my body, and I was hiking uphill with a steady fast pace. We reached a high enough point where would could see the road that led to the KT aid station, but the aid station was hidden behind the mountain. Here Matt and I ran downhill hard. I had planned to save the hard running for the last few miles, but my mind was out of control at this point. I remember pushing myself to my limit.

KT aid station (10,630 ft) – Mile 89.9 – 3 minutes at aid station

We reached the KT aid station 58 minutes after Scott B. and 41 minutes after Fred and left 8 minutes earlier than Blake. Blake’s gap kept narrowing and I knew he was on my tail. This guy is experienced, but I was determined to give this run 100% of what I had. I kept remembering all the people that mattered in my life, all the training that I put in, all the effort that was involved in the Hardrock project.

The 3 minutes I spent at KT involved eating a pumpkin pie and downing as much watermelon as my belly would allow me to stuff. The volunteers appreciated this as no one else had been eating the red stuff. I grabbed some more food and took it to eat up the ½ mile gravel road portion. Just over 10 miles to go I thought to myself, I smelled the finish line.

Earlier in the week, Scott B., Matt, and I ran the section from KT to the finish, so we had a good idea of what were getting into. There are three climbs, from there it was downhill. I knew what to expect, and paced my uphill climbing. I surprised myself when I started passing people uphill. A second wind was born. Up on the Putnam Basin I shook hands with Kirk Apt, a previous first time finisher, and the only runner to finish 15 Hardrocks. Very humble and cool guy to meet. Blake and his daughter were in visible sight, and they were on my tail. Blake is also a previous first time finisher with only one less finish than Krik. These guys knew this area well, but I had to put my foot ahead and push on. This was my chance to break away. I pushed up the third climb and a short light hail storm came thru, it was beautiful. Then the descent came. I can not describe in words what happened to me here, I transcended reality with the help of my iPod. I dropped the hammer as hard as I could, red lined the engine and passed more than a dozen runners.

At some point I felt as if I was pushing myself too hard, running over creeks, scree, steep trail, high in the sky, but I felt strong and I pushed even harder.

Then I coughed out a green bugger from my mouth. My shortness of breath was not just from exerting all the effort I had in my body, but I knew that I might have a mild case of edema. I was a few miles from the finish, and I didn’t want to think about edema at this point, so I pushed harder and passed more runners.

We passed Joe Clapper whom I had not seen for the past 85 miles! He was suffering, just as I was, from a mild case of edema. This man was clearly in pain, but pushed thru to the end.

Putnam Basin (11,400 ft) – Mile 94.5 – 0 minutes at aid station

I flew thru the Putnam Basin aid station with a “checking in and out” fly by. They were happy to see me moving well. Later I passed Mike Burke whom I had not seen for over 63 miles since that milkshake at Sherman. I made sure he was ok and kept pushing hard. It seemed that I was picking up energy from people that I passed and would hit the gas a little harder.

I began to breath heavier and harder and pulled back just a little. Then I passed yet another runner, and started running as hard as I could. Then finally I hit Mineral Creek. I jumped into the water and grabbed onto the fixed line and pulled myself across the other side. Doing this section before gave me the confidence to push as hard as I could.

We were on the final stretch and Matt saw that I was struggling with my breathing and appeared to be spent. The words that came out of the Kirkmister was as follows:

“Sultan! I stand before you today as you reach the finish of the Hardrock. It is today that you have the chance to write the final chapter in this epic adventure.” Or something like that, my mind was fried at this point. Whatever he said, I pushed harder and harder. I still walked up the hills. Finally we were in Silverton and I ran downhill towards the gym, turning left and running in as hard as I could for a finish I never imagined in my dreams that I would ever reach during the day. Dale shook my hand after I kissed the rock as all runners are required to do.

I finished the run 69 minutes after Scott B. did, Scott B. ran in from the Putnam aid station to the finish 1 minute faster than I did. Scott has never run the Hardrock in under 40 hours and had an amazing year, Rock on! Fred managed to finish 4 minutes ahead of me, I narrowed the original gap of 41 minutes by 38 minutes at the finish. Had I known I was that close to Fred I would have tried to push harder at the end. I managed to widen Blake’s gap of 8 minutes to 20 minutes at the finish line. I poured everything I had in the last 15 miles of this run, and I am very happy with the result! Matt, thanks for being there!

Silverton FINISH (9,310 feet) – Mile 100.4 – 7:33pm – 39th place 37:33:40

I leave this post with the same way I started it. In the adventure of life there are those who live it vicariously and enjoy the ride from the safety of an armchair, and that is good. There are those who have a few chances to realize incredible and life changing experiences and though they don't repeat them, they carry with them a growth and personal philosophy for the rest of their lives. And then there are those for whom a taste is never enough. For whom the lust of adventure is never insatiable. To the end of one adventure only signifies the beginning of another!

Photo's taken in this write up were from: Blake Wood, Matt Kirk, and the Sultan.


Rooster said...

Nice report and I love the ending paragraph...so true. It was nice to meet you at HR and congrats on your run

mkirk said...


It was a great honor to be a part of your great adventure.

Your amazing performance is deeply inspirational and will fuel the fire for years to come.

Congratulations again!

Grand Turk

Mohammed said...


Sorry about getting lost up there coming down Handies. You had an amazing run, and congratulations on such a strong finish. How do you end up spending a cumulative time of 20 minutes for all the aid stations? That’s incredible. Rock on!


Pacing was a great help, and I owe you!

The Sean said...

Congrats on an incredible adventure. That region of this planet is truly wonderful.