For the third time in its history dating back to 1992, the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run has been canceled.
The 2019 edition of the 100-mile ultramarathon was set to begin July 19 and run through July 21 with the start and finish line in downtown Silverton. After months of consideration and a board meeting Monday morning, it was determined this year’s race would be canceled because of the amount of avalanche debris covering multiple sections of the course that loops through Lake City, Ouray and Telluride.
The Hardrock 100 also was canceled in 1995 because of too much snow and again in 2002 because of fire danger. The 2018 edition was threatened by extreme fire conditions and a closure of the San Juan National Forest in June, but the race was able to be held.
With the run traversing across the rugged San Juan Mountains with 66,050 feet of elevation change at an average elevation of more than 11,000 feet, including the 14,048-foot summit of Handies Peak outside Lake City and seven mountain passes at higher than 13,000 feet, the avalanche conditions this year simply wouldn’t allow for a run. Run organizers cited inability to reach aid station locations and uncertain conditions on more than 40% of the course as contributing factors to the decision.
“Our runners are disappointed but understand,” run director Dale Garland said Monday in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “They appreciate our commitment to safety for the runners and all of the volunteers. What this is really showing to me is that we live in a dynamic place. One year, it’s fires. The next year, it’s avalanches. It’s part of living in Southwest Colorado.”
Garland said data indicated the substantial amount of snow on the course, at least below 11,000 feet, was likely to melt in time for the run to be held.
HARDROCK 2019: CANCELLED— Hardrock Hundred (@hardrock100) June 10, 2019
Due to historic snowfall, avalanches, avalanche debris, an inability to reach certain aid stations and uncertain conditions on more than 40% of the course, we are sorry to report 2019 Hardrock has been canceled. Full details: https://t.co/SyRPGS4k6P pic.twitter.com/qAkjmjn3pP
“The main difference between this year was the avalanche debris and threat of high water that we didn’t deal with in 1995,” Garland said.
All runners who were on the 2019 start list as of Monday will be given entry into the 2020 race, Garland said. That includes runners who got into the run via the wait list.
Impact on runnersDefending women’s champion Sabrina Stanley was eager for the 2019 run and the chance to defend her title running in the opposite direction, as the course alternates a clockwise and counter-clockwise direction each year. The 2020 run will run the counter-clockwise direction as it was supposed to in 2019. To be what is known as a “True Hardrocker,” runners aim to complete the loop running in both directions. Stanley still has that goal.
“I didn’t really plan anything else for this summer as far as races,” said Stanley, who moved to Silverton from Steamboat Springs in April to train full time for this year’s Hardrock 100. “I thought if I scheduled anything else, it would invite the universe to cancel it. I’m pretty bummed. I’m going to spend all day researching races and see what I can fit into the rest of my schedule that matches with my fitness.
“We signed a year lease down here this year and moved in April. Hindsight is 20/20, and there was no way for us to know. We probably wouldn’t have moved down there if it wasn’t for Hardrock. Now, we’re going to sign another six months past our lease to stay for 2020 Hardrock. I haven’t run it in that direction, and I would like to get that crossed off.”
Garland said he has been humbled and appreciative of other race directors reaching out Monday morning to let him know of other races to direct Hardrock runners to this summer. Many have already offered discounted entry fees or offered to waive late-entry fees to Hardrock athletes.
Trail running enthusiasts were excited to see loaded fields at the front of the men’s and women’s runs. Garland has heard from many of the top professionals and said all plan to run in 2020. Fans were especially eager to see Xavier Thévenard of France, who was disqualified from the 2018 race with less than 10 miles to go with a lead of more than an hour. It was ruled he had received aid from outside of an aid station roughly halfway into the race. He was entered into 2019 and was looking for a redemption run.
“We’re going to take 2019 and plop it down in 2020,” Garland said. “The field will roll over. So far, I’ve begun to hear from some of those top-name attractions on the men’s side. Xavier Thévenard, Francois D’Haene, Dylan Bowman, and they’re all on board for 2020. They’re all supportive and, at this point, planning on coming back.”
Durango’s Jason Schlarb, a 2016 co-champion along with Kilian Jornet, said the heavy winter snow was a welcome sight but said he was saddened to learn of the Hardrock cancellation. He had gained entry to this year’s run via the lottery and had targeted it as his main objective after having to drop out in 2017.
“After the devastatingly dry 2018 and subsequently horrible fire season last year, everyone celebrated a big winter,” Schlarb said. “I am also sad. Sad that the Hardrock community doesn’t get to run and be together, sad that the Silverton community will suffer economically, sad for the fact that the damage (and) inaccessibility to the trails from the snow and avalanches won’t be fixed for a long while. Lastly, I’m sad that I don’t get to be a part of the most competitive lineup at Hardrock ever this year. Maybe next year.”
Eyes on the courseWhile data and snowpack levels indicated it would be tough for the Hardrock to take place in 2019, it was eyes on the course that indicated larger problems with avalanche debris. Several volunteers and Garland were out to make assessments, and Garland had worked closely with officials from around San Juan County. All of it factored into Monday’s decision.
“It was important to not only go look for ourselves but to talk to people involved in the day-to-day stuff,” Garland said. “We felt like today we needed to give runners and volunteers as much advance notice as we could while still allowing for Mother Nature to do her thing. In talking with folks in charge of our permits, people flying in from out of the state and out of the country and dealing with changes of airline flights, we felt this was an appropriate time frame to make the decision given that a few weeks wasn’t going to change the avalanche debris conditions that dramatically.”
Stanley has been out on trails around Silverton and Ouray and said deep snowfields won’t allow for much running.
“I honestly haven’t seen many singletrack trails you can even get to,” she said. “We’ve been driving as much as possible to Ouray to get some singletrack. Even there, you can only get a few miles up before snow blocks you. It’s out-and-backs, straight up and down.
“We live directly on the backside of Silverton, so I’ve been running country roads on dirt with mild elevation gain. Honestly, maybe this wouldn’t have been the best year for me to run Hardrock because I’m not getting the vertical I was last year.”
Hardrock’s family reunionRunner Bryon Powell, runner-and-chief of iRunFar.com, has also spent a lot of time in Silverton. He has mentioned having a gathering in Silverton during Hardrock weekend regardless of the run’s cancellation. Garland is on board.
“Now that the decision has been made, I’m getting more excited about that,” Garland said. “Last night, we began talking about what we can do to bring the Hardrock community together, even if it’s not a race. I’m surprised by the number of people who say, ‘I’m still coming.’ We will be putting together an expanded ‘Camp Hardrock.’ We will do things to build our community, fix trails on parts of the course destroyed by Mother Nature. We will get together and have a good time.”
A gathering in Silverton would be a welcome sight for the town of Silverton and its economy. Recently, DeAnne Gallegos, director of the Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce, indicated the Hardrock 100 contributed roughly $1 million to the local economy.
“It would definitely be a huge financial loss to our economy,” she said. “But it’s safety first out there.”
Herald staff writer Jonathan Romeo contributed to this email@example.com