Darcy Piceu won her third consecutive women’s title with another strong effort.
Kilian Jornet has conquered yet another one of the biggest trail running races in the U.S., this time the country’s ultimate race, the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run in Silverton, Colo. The 26-year-old Catalan trail running and mountaineering star took 40 minutes off the previous course record for the 100.5-mile course through the rugged San Juan Mountains, winning in 22 hours, 41 minutes and 33 seconds before sunrise on Saturday morning.
Jornet was his typical jovial and humble self in the moments after the race, showing few signs of fatigue. He said he enjoyed the course and ran relaxed most of the way, adding that the massive rainstorms, steep climbs and high altitude didn’t really bother him or slow him down too much. Jornet broke the previous record for the clockwise direction for the run of 23:23 set by Kyle Skaggs in 2008.
Runner-up Julien Chorier, a 33-year-old Frenchman who won the race in the counterclockwise direction in 2011, finished second almost 2.5 hours behind in 25:07. Canadian Adam Campbell, 35, was third in 25:56 and Jeff Browning, 42, of Bend, Ore., was fourth in 26:58.
“It’s a great race and my goal was to come here and run well and finish,” Jornet said. “My goal was to run easy at the start with other runners and save energy. The record is something that I thought about but not until later. My goal was to finish, because it’s 100 miles and it’s always difficult to finish 100 miles. But once I saw that I was close to the record (late in the race), I started pushing. Now that it’s over, I can say it’s the most beautiful 100-mile race I have ever run.”
Darcy Piceu, 39, of Boulder, Colo., won the women’s race for the third straight year in 29:49. (For the third year in a row, Diana Finkel, 42, a four-time Hardrock champion from South Fork, Colo., had been leading for most of the race only to drop out at mile 87 for unspecified medical reasons.) Betsy Kalmeyer, 53, a five-time Hardrock champion from Leadville, Colo., was the second woman finisher in 37:57. (For complete results, go to the Hardrock 100 site.)
In all, 100 of the 140 official starters (71 percent) reached the finish line of the race this year. Amanda Grimes, 35, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was the last official finisher in 47:50 early Sunday morning.
With an average elevation over 11,000 feet and a high point of 14,000 feet, Hardrock is considered the most challenging trail running race in the U.S., one that compares favorably with some of the world’s most grueling races. The course is a 100.5-mile loop that links four historic Colorado mining towns (Silverton, Telluride, Ouray and Lake City) and numerous backcountry mountain peaks and passes. It has a cumulative vertical gain of 33,992 feet of climbing and 33,992 feet of descending for a total elevation change of 67,984 feet. Unlike most 100-mile runs that have a 24- or 36-hour cut-off time, Hardrock has a 48-hour cut-off time and an average finish time of just over 41 hours.
Jornet was noticeably running easy most of the first part of the race, often checking out the scenery and even taking photos on his phone. He ran hard over the final 25 miles of the race, but he still took his time at aid stations to refuel with soup and Kit Kat candy bars. (He also admitted to partaking in the local tradition of having a very small shot of tequila at the Virginus Pass aid station above 13,000 feet near mile 31.)
“For someone to come in and take 40 minutes off the record like that is phenomenal,” race director Dale Garland said shortly after Jornet finished in the darkness early Saturday morning. “I figured if the record was going to be broken, it would be this year, given the competitive field we had here. A lot of other things went well, including good weather for most of the day. That record has been challenged by some of the great names in ultra-distance running, but for Kilian to come in here and take 40 minutes off the record is still just amazing. He’s a special athlete.”
The grueling course took a toll on several other world-class trail runners. Joe Grant, a past runner-up from Boulder, Colo., dropped out at the 51-mile because of a blown quad muscle. Dakota Jones, another previous runner-up from Boulder, Colo., dropped out of the race after mile 60 with a sprained ankle. Tim Olson, a two-time Western States 100 champion, was among the early leaders through the first 30 miles but faded badly due to stomach cramps. (Olson, one of the pre-race favorites, still managed to finish the race in 13th place in 30:18.) Jason Koop, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was among the top 10 runners in the race when he was caught in a rainstorm and was reportedly near-hypothermic while resting in a camper’s tent near Handies Peak. He eventually continued on through two more aid stations before dropping out of the race at mile 72. Seb Chaigneau, last year’s winner from France, dropped near mile 60 complaining of chest cramps and weakness due to lingering affects of a previous illness.
“That’s the game of trail running,” Chaigneau said. “I didn’t feel well early and now I need to take time to recover.”
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Jornet, Chorier and Olson shared the early lead up and over 12,900-foot Grant Swamp Pass, with Chaigneau, Grant, Jones and Adam Campbell among those close behind. Jornet took the lead after leaving the Telluride aid station at mile 27. He ran solo for the next 30 miles or so, leading by as much as 15 minutes, but then he purposely slowed down after the 50-mile mark and took his time in the 60-mile aid station so Chorier, a longtime friend, could catch up. Chorier left the aid station 5 minutes ahead of Jornet, but Jornet caught him and the two ran together over the highest point on the course—14,058-foot Handies Peak—before massive rainstorms set in. (They missed the lightning, but ran through the rain for two hours.) Jornet put a gap on Chorier and led by 33 minutes by mile 72. He picked up speed from there and was on record pace by mile 78.
“It’s not surprising in a lot of ways,” said Scott Jurek, the 2007 Hardrock 100 winner who was on hand to watch the race. ”Even though people have said he hadn’t been to Hardrock before or it was his first long race of the season, he’s in a league of his own. He’s amazing. And what’s really amazing is how much time he made up on his record pace despite staying at aid stations and taking his time. But all day you could see how easy he was running. He looked like he had two or three more gears all through the race.”
Jornet has won numerous trail running races and set many records on several continents in recent years, including the U.S.. Last year, he won the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado. He won the 2011 Western States 100 in California after finishing third in 2010. In 2009, he set a new record for running 165 miles around Lake tahoe in 38 hours. He’s also won many of the world’s other most prominent trail running races, ranging from short-and-steep vertical kilometer races to the 104-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland.
In previous weeks, Jornet set a new record for hiking up and skiing down 20,237-foot Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) in Alaska and won two hard mountain running races in Chamonix, France, before spending the past week running through the San Juans in anticipation of his Hardrock debut. He flew back to Europe on Sunday and might race again in Italy later this week.
“Hardrock is a special race,” said Jornet, who took a short nap before getting up to greet Chorier at the finish. “The mountains here are amazing and the wilderness is really remote. I would like to come back sometime, but you can never consider that right after you finish a race like this. You have to take some time before you make that decision. But I would like to come back and run it in the other direction.”
Later this summer, Jornet is hoping to summit Russia’s Mount Elbrus (18,510 feet), which he made an unsuccessful attempt on last year due to bad weather, and Aconcagua (22,841 feet) as a continuation of a project known as “The Summits of My Life.” Jornet hopes to conclude the project in 2015 with the ascent and descent record attempt on the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest (29,029 feet).