Kilian Jornet had dreamed of competing in the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run since he was a 17-year-old growing up in Sabadell, Spain.
Having conquered world records on Denali just a month ago and the Matterhorn in 2013, it finally was Jornet’s turn to scratch the last race off his bucket list.
After finally making the field of 140 runners after being denied entry through the lottery the two previous years, Jornet started with the goal of finishing the grueling 100-mile race from Silverton to Telluride, Ouray, Lake City and back to the start/finish in Silverton.
He did more than just finish, shattering the old course record with a final time of 22 hours, 41 minutes, 33 seconds. Kyle Skaggs had set the previous record on the clockwise course in 23:23:00 in 2008.
“I remember when I was 17 years old, and I write a list of races I wanted to do one time, and Hardrock was in,” said Jornet, who is 26. “It is because all of the ambience, the mountains and the course. It is so beautiful, in the mountains, in the wild; it’s really inspiring, I think.
“Always at the start line, I think I hope to finish. Goal at start is to finish, then, at the middle of the race, I look for my position, and then for the record.”
For the third consecutive year, Darcy Piceu (formerly Africa) of Boulder finished as the fastest woman. She completed this year’s race in 29:49:58.
It was the third consecutive year Piceu, who finished 11th overall, has picked up the pieces when women’s record holder Diana Finkel was forced to drop out for medial reasons. Finkel led by 1 hour, 19 minutes through 80.8 miles, but when she hit Maggie Gulch at 87.1 miles, she dropped out.
“I think it is bittersweet; I wish Diana could have kept going,” Piceu said shortly after kissing the rock.
Jornet’s legs never seemed to fade as he finished 1 hour, 34 minutes in front of runner-up Julien Chorier of France, who won the counterclockwise version of the race in 2011.
“For me, Kilian can go faster. I’m sure he can do it in under 22,” Chorier said as he sat at the finish line with an aching back he injured in a fall during the heavy rain over night. “He proved it’s true, because he don’t start very fast and finished in (22:41). After (Handies Peak), I see Kilian at altitude; it was so easy how he can run.”
It was just after 14,048-foot Handies Peak that Jornet grew a large gap in front of Chorier. He cleared Handies one minute shy of 14 hours, 12 minutes ahead of Chorier. By the time he checked into the next aid station, Jornet was just 16 minutes off the record pace.
Eighty miles in at the Pole Creek Aid Station, Jornet stopped for 11 minutes to drink some hot soup and warm up. He joked he was running fast to stay warm, not to go after the course record. Even with the lengthy stop, he only was 3 minutes off the record pace.
Finishing the final nine miles with pacer Anna Frost, Jornet easily strolled in to kiss the finisher’s rock, saying it was a long 100 miles, but he only was tired the final two kilometers.
“I was running easy until Sherman (73.9 miles), and then I was looking at the time I had,” Jornet said. “I had run this part the days before to check and knowing it was possible to run and break the record if I felt fresh, and I did. Then I started to run really, really faster.”
The race came so easy to Jornet that he even stopped for a small sip of tequila 32.7 miles into the race a Virginius Pass.
“It was just a small, small, small shot, but it is so nice,” Jornet said with a big smile.
The top three runners, Adam Campbell, Chorier and Jornet, were rewarded for their pace. The rest of the runners in the field were trapped in electrical storms on Engineer and in a brutal lightning and rain storm from Handies to Grouse Gulch.
Jason Koop became hypothermic one mile from the Handies summit. By chance, a group of campers saw him and brought him into their tent to warm up. Once he had regained body heat, Koop pushed on several more miles before eventually dropping out at Sherman.
Campbell, who finished the race third in 25:56:46, felt the effects of a close lightning strike on the Handies summit that rattled him and his pacer Aaron Heidt. The jolt actually blew out Campbell’s head lamp, leaving the duo with just one light in the middle of the night until the next aid station.
“That’s a legit course. It was awesome and a true honor,” the Canadian said. “I couldn’t of asked for a better race. I feel lucky, but I certainly worked for it. It was scary weather up there.”
Piceu ran into the storm full steam ahead, running past other runners who had taken shelter.
“Thunder, lightning and tons of rain - we got totally soaked,” Piceu said. “I had tummy troubles from Ouray over to Grouse, when the rain and weather came in, it brought a new element to it. ... There were others out there; some were hiding for cover. We didn’t stop and lucked out.”
Jeff Browning (26:58:59) and Scott Jaime (27:46:14) rounded out the top five overall finishers. It was Jaime’s eighth finish in the Hardrock 100. Browning, from Bend, Oregon, was the first American to cross the finish line, while Jaime, from Denver, was the first Coloradan to finish.
Japans’s Tsuyoshi Kaburaki finished sixth in 28:07:38. He came across the finish line with a badly busted up and swollen chin after being hit by rockfall early in the race Friday.
Sebastien Chaigneau of France, the 2013 champion, was forced to drop out of the race at Grouse Gulch 58.4 miles in. He had trouble breathing and severe stomach pain, ending his trip. Joe Grant, who he ran with much of Friday, also was forced to drop out with bad pain in his quadriceps.
Durangoan Dakota Jones, the local favorite, ran with the frontrunners as long as he could Friday, but an ankle injury eventually did him in. After trying to hobble through the pain, Jones eventually dropped out at Grouse Gulch. He ran past Grouse Gulch to American Basin, but he had to retrace his steps and hike back to Grouse Gulch and retire.
It is those problems that make just finishing the race a victory for most of the runners.
“Over 100 miles, even if you are really fit, you never know if you will finish,” Jornet said. “You could have problems like (Chaigneau) had, a small injury or anything.”
Jornet called the Hardrock 100 the last race he had left to complete from the list he made. Up next for Jornet are some Skyrunning World Cup events in Europe, but he knows he has a date to return to Silverton next summer to run the countercloskwise Hardrock 100, and maybe even go after Chaigneau’s counterclockwise record of 24:25:50.
Even after all his accomplishments, titles and world records, Jornet called the Hardrock 100 performance one of the best of his career.
“I think it ranks high, considering (I’ve) been hearing about it since a long time ago,” he said. “I need to run the other way now next year to be a real Hardrocker.”