French ultraunner wins by over two hours in his U.S. debut
Written by: Meghan M. Hicks
The 2011 Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run began last Friday morning at 6 AM in Silverton, Colorado. Two days later, when the race concluded, 80 runners had kissed the hardrock, a large piece of mining debris painted with the Hardrock 100 logo, as per race tradition. These athletes dug deep as they encountered slippery snowfields, hip-deep river crossings, an average altitude of over 11,000 feet above sea level, thunderstorms, and two sunsets. In the end, Julien Chorier, of France, was the fastest man across the line, finishing in 25:17.
Chorier is a standout mountain and ultramarathon runner in Europe, but the 2011 Hardrock 100 was his first competition in the United States. He set a blazing pace from the start. By mile 15, he’d opened a seven-minute gap on the rest of the field, which he increased throughout the race. Adam Chase, one of Chorier’s crew members and the team manager for Salomon, Chorier’s sponsor, said, “He had a race plan and he executed it to a tee. Well, except for one little detail.”
The detail that Chase is referring to is the detour Chorier took between the aid stations at miles 9 and 15. There, Chorier reportedly dipped into the wrong drainage high on a ridge separating two valleys. He made his way back to the course and continued on without navigation challenges for the race win.
The race’s youngest finisher was also among its most successful. Twenty-year old, Colorado-based Dakota Jones, who has been living in Silverton and training on the course since the beginning of June, finished second in 27:10. Many ultrarunning observers speculated that this young gun would go out hard only to crash and burn late in the race. Jones, however, had other ideas. He started easy, waiting until about mile 40 to slip into second place. He stayed in either second or third place for the race’s middle miles and by mile 67 was back in second for the remainder of the race. Jones emphatically argued afterward that finishing second was a lot harder than it looked.
“There was no way I could feel this bad and be in second,” Jones said.
Mid-race, Jones played cat and mouse with eventual third place finisher Nick Clark, a British national living in Colorado who finished third at the highly competitive Western States Endurance Run just two weeks prior to Hardrock. In the days before this race’s start, Clark played down his ability, citing residual fatigue.
“I can run uphill pretty well, but my quadriceps still feel Western States on the downhills,” Clark said before the race. In bullish form, Clark fought hard through the day and night to finish in 27:43.
Daniel Levy of France emerged from the ultramarathon unknown (at least in the United States) and into the limelight of a fourth-place, 28:57 finish. Levy went out hard and gave it the same, steady effort all day long. When Levy lowered himself down the switchbacks leading into the mile 42 aid station with superb leg turnover and agility, one onlooker said, “Who the heck is this guy?” After kissing the hardrock, Levy was all thank you’s to his pacer, the race director, and his new fans.
Two women made themselves at home amongst the top-10 overall finishers. Diana Finkel, the top female across the finish line in 29:27, placed fifth overall while Darcy Africa of Colorado occupied the seventh spot. Finishing between those two ladies was Joe Grant of Colorado, who finished sixth in 29:38. Picked as a possible race winner, Grant encountered navigation and nutrition issues during the race. At the mile 72 aid station, Grant settled into a chair for almost twenty minutes in order to eat. Despite the aforementioned challenges, Grant admitted that he was “having a great time.”
Rounding out the top 10 were Duncan Callahan, Ted Mahon, and Danny Gnojek, all of Colorado. Notable drops include last year’s race winner, Utah’s Jared Campbell, and five-time winner Karl Meltzer, also of Utah.
Meghan M. Hicks is a Park City, Utah-based writer and trail runner. Visit her website at meghanmhicks.com.