David Coblentz is a true Hardrocker. In fact, on Saturday, he completed his seventh.
For the unacquainted, the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run is an annual ultramarathon in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. That’s 700 miles, 336 possible hours of running and countless blisters, cramps and opportunities for disaster. Over the course, runners climb and descend almost 34,000 feet and run at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet above sea level.
Kilian Jornet of Spain and Darcy Piceu-Africa of Boulder were this year’s champions, with finish times of 22:41:33 and 29:49:58, respectively. Jornet’s finish set a new record, and this year was the third consecutive win for Piceu-Africa.
But Hardrock isn’t all about the numbers. For some, like Coblentz, a 51-year-old from Los Alamos, who finished at right around 34 hours and in 18th place, it’s all about the experience.
“[Hardrock] embodies all the best of hundreds,” he said. “Great scenery, great community and it’s challenging. Every time, it’s challenging. It’s not something that you just do out of habit.”
That seemed to be a common refrain among Hardrock organizers, runners and supporters alike. Oliver Fischer, media coordinator for Hardrock, emphasized the importance of what he calls the “Hardrock philosophy.”
“Hardrock to me epitomizes all that we as a culture are,” Fischer said. “It’s all about letting Hardrock, be Hardrock. It’s got its own idiosyncrasies, which everybody loves, and it’s got its uniqueness.”
But it’s not like the numbers are predictable. Sébastien Chaigneau of France, last year’s winner, was forced to drop out at the Grouse Gulch aid station around 6:40 Friday evening due to medical issues, and by the end of the race, only 100 of the 140 runners were left. In fact, Coblentz’s latest Hardrock didn’t even yield his best time.
“About three-quarters of the way through, this year was my best year,” he said. “And then things started going off track.”
The surprises this year on the course not only included a few unexpected dropouts, but some unexpected weather. Thunder, lightning and rain rocked the San Juans late Friday night, and several top experienced ultra runners dropped the race. Coblentz said this was the first time he had experienced bad weather during Hardrock, and called it the “highlight” of the year.
“In the six Hardrocks I’ve done, I’ve never really had much rain or lightning,” he said. “But this year, we got really hammered and going over the Engineer [aid station on Engineer Pass] especially wasn’t easy.”
For most people, even experienced runners, the very idea of running 100 miles in under 48 hours once is unfathomable, much less multiple years in a row. And yet, for the majority of participants, this year’s Hardrock wasn’t their first ultramarathon.
Although it’s different for every runner, Coblentz said he found the time between mile 60 and 75 to be the toughest. But, he said, every year, he can’t wait to do it all again.
“Halfway through the race yesterday I said, ‘I don’t need to do this. Why am I doing this again?’ he said. “And then [Sunday] morning I thought, ‘Yeah. I’m definitely doing this again next year.’”
Coblentz said the first thing he did after finishing Saturday afternoon was not eat or sleep, but stick around at the finish line and again, it all goes back to that Hardrock philosophy.
“I hung around the finish line to watch the finishers. I wasn’t very tired, I didn’t feel like sleeping,” he said. “I really liked to hang out, and that’s part of the Hardrock philosophy. Cheer the other runners on, spend time at the finish line.”
And, at 5:30 Sunday morning as the last few runners were crossing the finish line and kissing the Hardrock, Coblentz was there, ready to welcome them to mile 100.