Epic Adventure: Tackling Colorado’s ‘Softrock’ 100

Looking for a European-style trail adventure? Consider the “Softrock 100” in Colorado.

The Hardrock 100 in the heart of Colorado’s rugged San Juan Mountains is one of the oldest and hardest 100-mile trail runs in the U.S. Not only is it a grueling run, it’s also very difficult to get into—especially if you are a first-timer. This year more than 1,200 people entered the lottery for 140 spots in the race. Enter “Softrock”—the informal name for a multi-day running and hiking adventure that follows the grueling Hardrock 100 course. The loop is still an enormous challenge, but breaking it up over several days and the chance to stop in the mountain towns of Telluride and Ouray for overnight rest breaks, meals and additional provisions make it a bit more palatable. Some ‘Softrockers’ will camp each night (with or without a sag wagon of supplies), while others stay in hotels.

Many runners will tackle Softrock as a preparation step for Hardrock—this is a course that you should definitely know and practice before race day. Last week, I had the privilege to run Softrock over four days—less than a week after the 2014 edition of the race—with seven other runners under the leadership of ultrarunner and coach Cindy Stonesmith and her sister Tammy Stone, who has served as a pacer at Hardrock countless times. Dan Blankenship, who also paced at Hardrock this year, spent a week scouting for accessible aid points, drinkable water and viable course segments. We chose to run Softrock counterclockwise. (The race alternates between clockwise and counterclockwise each year, with this year being a clockwise year.) Our eight-strong group included impressive race résumés, with finishes at Badwater, UTMB, Marathon Des Sables, Richtersveld Wildrun and the Desert RATS stage race. However, none have done Hardrock—yet!

Click through the the photos below to get a glimpse of the terrain, weather and excitement of this grand adventure!

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