SILVERTON – Sabrina Stanley is young by ultramarathon standards. She feels overlooked in the running world. But the youngest runner in the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run field couldn’t be ignored.
The 28-year-old from Steamboat Springs dominated the women’s race at the 2018 Hardrock 100, a 100.5-mile foot race through the San Juan Mountains with 66,000 feet of elevation change and an average elevation of more than 11,000 feet.
Stanley, who like the men’s winner, Jeff Browning, gained late entrance off the wait list, finished in 30 hours, 23 minutes, 38 seconds, well ahead of second place Nikki Kimball, the 47-year-old veteran from Bozeman, Montana. Kimball finished in 32:18:37.
The win backs up Stanley’s Orcas Island 50 Miler win in May, a third place at the HURT 100 in Hawaii in January, as well as a third at Western States 100 and fifth at Run Rabbit Run 100 in 2017.
“Very, very surreal,” Stanley said. “I feel like I’m just kind of starting my journey as an elite ultrarunner, and I feel like I’m kind of overlooked a lot, and so to validate myself, it’s just really fulfilling.”
Stanley arrived at the Grouse Gulch aid station 58.4 miles into the race in 16:18. She had more than a 30-minute lead on Darla Askew, who placed third in 32:52:30 for her sixth Hardrock finish and fifth top five. Kimball had fallen more than an hour off of Stanley’s pace at that point.
But Kimball regrouped and passed Askew on Saturday, and ran with high spirits to claim second at her first career Hardrock appearance.
“It’s just stunningly beautiful,” Kimball said of the course. “I had fun pretty much all about other than three miles of it.”
While Askew had the Hardrock experience edge ahead of the two first-time competitors at the front of the field, it was Stanley’s dedication that proved key. Stanley moved into a camper in May and was in Silverton by mid-May. She spent the summer running all of the Hardrock trails with her dog, Sable. She also studied the route on Google Maps until she knew every detail of the route.
“I knew the course, like every inch of it, or my pacer did,” Stanley said. “I wanted to know everything. ... I knew the pace if a climb was going to last forever or if it was a short climb I could just run up. Strategy was huge with knowing the course.”
Stanley was first into Telluride after 7:27 elapsed. Kimball was only eight minutes behind her. Askew was the third woman into Telluride, 22 minutes back of Stanley.
Kimball started to struggle a bit and was passed by Askew. She had a tough three-mile stretch and at one point laid down for a moment of mediation. She said she had to accept that age was catching up with her, and perhaps her brain and body could not work as one. She found clarity and peace of mind and ran the rest of the race with a smile on her face.
“I was just kind of in a bad place and sort of recognizing my brain and body aren’t connected real well,” Kimball said. “I remember so much when I could run hours faster in a 100, but I’m 47 and have about 90,000 miles on my body. I had a feeling like I was being really mean and disrespectful to my body. I always respect my competition and the race and the course, but I just think it had been five years of being disconnected from how my body is changing and really accepting that. It was one of those little epiphany moments where it took 10 minutes of me lying down feeling horrible. I got off the trail where no one could see and laid down. I needed to reset.”
While rain poured down in Silverton as Stanley ran to the finish line, her pacer played a little trick and told her that the second-place woman was right behind her with only three quarters of a mile to go. Stanley kicked into a sprint.
“We sprinted the last bit before I looked back and realized it was Michael Wardian, and he just has a ponytail,” Stanley said. “So, there was no need to sprint. But I didn’t have time to think. He said second was right behind me, and I sprinted because I was thinking I was losing my first-place finish that I had since the gun went off.”
Stanley said she will gladly accept her automatic entry into the 2019 Hardrock 100 to run the counter-clockwise course, and she still has goals to improve.
“Without a doubt I’ll be back,” Stanley said. “I want to break 30 hours, and I didn’t do that today. That’s my goal for next year.”