Darcy Piceu (formerlyAfrica) is the two-time defending Hardrock 100 champion (post-2012 interview, post-2013 interview), and she’s back to race this difficult loop through Colorado’s San Juan Mountains yet again. In the following interview, Darcy talks about why she’s back for her fifth attempt at Hardrock, whether she thinks she can run sub-29 hours for the first time, who will be crewing and pacing her, what she thinks about the dearth of women who race Hardrock, and more.
For more on the race and links to other resources, check out our Hardrock preview.
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Darcy Piceu Pre-2014 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Darcy Piceu, two-time defending champion, before the 2014 Hardrock 100. How are you, Darcy?
Darcy Piceu: I’m good, thanks. How are you?
iRunFar: I’m doing great. Did you ever think you’d be standing here in Silverton as a two-time Hardrock champion?
Piceu: Definitely not, no.
iRunFar: You’ve put yourself in that position. How does it feel?
Piceu: I don’t love the pressure, honestly. I’d rather just sort of come here and do my thing and not worry about it, but I try to just run my race, yeah.
iRunFar: You have put yourself there and you’ve run two great times the last two years—sub-30 hours, right, 29-and-change?
iRunFar: I know last year one of your goals was to go under 30 again if you could. Do you ever think about squeaking in under 29 since you’ve done 29-and-change twice?
Piceu: I’d love to. Yes, I’d love to.
iRunFar: This is the direction to do it.
Piceu: This is definitely the direction to do it.
iRunFar: Obviously there are some super-speedy guys at the front, but there’s also the depth to the men’s field this year. There could be guys that you’re running around. Do you think this might be the year to go for it?
Piceu: I kind of think every year is a good year to go for it, really. I think I’ve been lucky enough to have an automatic entry the last couple of years, so I just keep coming back for it. I just love it here. So yeah, we’ll see what happens. I think you sort of have a plan for yourself and you let it all go when you start the race in Silverton on Friday and do whatever you can do the day of.
iRunFar: It seems like you’ve run really smart races the last two years and set yourself up, unfortunately, when Diana Finkel had to drop late in the race. But do you ever think about, if you’re going to try to run under 29 hours, running a little more aggressively early on—she runs uber aggressively—to put yourself a little more out in the first 50 or 60 miles?
Piceu: That’s right, yeah. I think if I’m feeling good I’d like to do that. I would like to. I really just try to listen to my body. If it’s there for me that day, I’ll do it.
iRunFar: If not, you’ll just sort of pull back within yourself?
Piceu: Yes. [laughing with Bryon Powell regarding something her daughter is saying.] We’re going to have interruptions today.
iRunFar: Sometimes it’s a train; sometimes it’s somebody shaking hands; today it’s Sophia.
Piceu: Today it’s Sophia.
iRunFar: You always have a great team around you. It’s definitely not an individual journey for you. You have Sophia out there. Who’s out there for you this year?
Piceu: I have Catherine Mataisz who will be crewing. She knows this course inside and out. She’s crewed for Roch [Horton] and other people in the past. So I feel really lucky to have her here. My brother is actually flying in from Detroit, Michigan, on Thursday to Durango. He’ll be here and this will be his first 100-mile event. It will be a shock for him, but I’m excited he’s coming. I have some other friends coming. I have one pacer.
iRunFar: Awesome. Who’s that?
Piceu: He’s just a friend of mine, Gavin McKenzie.
iRunFar: Awesome. He’s up in Leadville, right?
iRunFar: I see him up at the coffee shop up there—one of the people from the ultrarunning family.
Piceu: That’s right.
iRunFar: Will he pace you from Grouse on?
Piceu: Probably Grouse to wherever—maybe Sherman or maybe Cunningham.
iRunFar: You’ve run this direction before on the course. Does it mean you’re any less excited about it or do you have anything you’ll change going in this direction, going clockwise?
Piceu: No, I’m not really changing anything. It’s kind of boring on my side of things. I have a little spreadsheet that’s probably from five years ago. I just really appreciate the mountains and respect the mountains. I do whatever my body will let me do on Friday.
iRunFar: How many Hardrocks have you run?
Piceu: This will be five.
iRunFar: This will be five. Is that your post-doctorate? I forget what degree that is, but you definitely get another one.
Piceu: I think if I finish five, then I’ll be a veteran.
iRunFar: You’ll get some better odds.
Piceu: That’s right. Exactly.
iRunFar: For coming back again… but if you keep winning, you get automatic entry.
Piceu: That’s right. Exactly—if I luck out.
iRunFar: You’re probably a great person to ask. You have a ton of Hardrock experience now because you’ve been here other years besides the years you’ve run. There’s a tremendous men’s field here this year. Any exciting insight on how that might go at the front there?
Piceu: Gosh, I have no idea. I just think it’s going to be exciting. I mean, I’m sure everybody is assuming Kilian [Jornet] will do something amazing. No pressure, Kilian. I think it will be exciting to watch what can happen with such amazing competitors.
iRunFar: Obviously you’re focusing on your own race while you’re out there, but are you going to be listening in when you come through Ouray?
Piceu: Maybe. I tend not to really care about what’s happening out there. I get so focused on doing my thing. But yeah, I’m sure it’s going to be exciting, so it’s going to be fun to kind of hear how it’s all playing out during the race. Hopefully it won’t be too much media. My hope is that this will stay Hardrock and that the heart of Hardrock will not change.
iRunFar: Probably not. The stars aligned for a tremendous field here. Every year we do have strong runners at Hardrock, but the chances of having a field like this again and the attention that comes with it is pretty small.
Piceu: Yeah. My vote is that they let more women in.
iRunFar: To actually change the system?
Piceu: That’s right.
iRunFar: There’s no bias against women in terms of…
Piceu: There’s no bias, right, but maybe to allot a percentage for women.
iRunFar: Because as of last Friday, it was 18 women out of 140.
Piceu: Right, which I think is maybe the largest number that’s ever been, which is great, but I think it might be nice to have more.
iRunFar: Do you think you’d want parity, like splitting the field 50/50?
Piceu: No, I don’t think that will never happen. That will never happen.
iRunFar: There aren’t enough entrants to do it.
Piceu: A small percentage of entrants would be nice.
iRunFar: To have 40 or 50 women out there?
Piceu: That would be really nice because there are women that want to get in that are strong so we could have maybe a more competitive field here.
iRunFar: A couple years ago… this year there is you, Diana, Sarah McCloskey, and some other strong runners as well, but it’s pretty limited at the front. One year I think Lizzy Hawker also got in, but she was injured. There’s a couple years when there’s been another maybe third really front-of-the-field woman. But to have four or five?
Piceu: Right. Right. I think maybe Anna [Frost] wants to run it.
iRunFar: Who else wants to run it?
Piceu: Maybe Anna Frost?
iRunFar: That would be awesome. She actually wrote an essay one year trying to get in.
iRunFar: That didn’t fly. Sorry, Anna.
Piceu: Yeah. Yeah, it’s the good-old boys.
iRunFar: That again wasn’t discriminatory towards women. I think they’ve shut down that option completely for the essay qualification. I was talking at a coffee shop today. The last person I can remember doing that was Emily Baer back in the day.
PIceu: Oh really? That’s awesome.
iRunFar: So now this will be your fifth. Do you have any advice for somebody maybe going for their first Hardrock this year?
Piceu: Just pace yourself. Eat and drink as much as you can. Usually when you start climbing really high, the appetite goes. So when you come down into the aid stations, because luckily the aid stations are all down at lower elevations, eat when you can in the lower elevations and then when your appetite starts to go up high, do what you can and just refuel at the bottom at the aid stations.
iRunFar: There are a lot of really long descents. Do you find yourself trying to eat more on those long descents as you’re coming into the aid stations?
Piceu: I try to eat more in the aid stations and then probably climbing out initially. Usually above 11,000 or 12,000 feet, things start to slow down and digestion slows down. So I tend to just switch to Gus or whatever you can get down at that point.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there this weekend and enjoy.
Piceu: Thank you. Thank you.
iRunFar: Bonus question: You just had a movie launch today—“100 Miles High.”
Piceu: Oh! Right.
iRunFar: How did that come about?
Piceu: Fred Marmsater who worked really, really hard came out here last year and took a lot of video footage and was out everywhere on the course last year and just put together a really neat film.
iRunFar: What is that like to be… you just like being out in the mountains. You did NOLS [National Outdoor Leadership School]?
Piceu: Outward Bound, yeah.
iRunFar: Outward Bound—you come from just being out in the mountains and you now love running, but there are films about you running.
Piceu: Yeah. Yeah. A little weird.
iRunFar: Does that feel more strange than winning Hardrock twice?
Piceu: Maybe a little bit. Yeah, maybe a little bit. It does. Yeah, I’m not really used to that kind of thing. You’re just doing it because you love it.
iRunFar: Exactly. Love it out there, Darcy.