Hal Koerner is returning to the Hardrock 100 for the first time since 2005. Since then, he’s experienced great success (i.e., Western States 100 wins) and tough trials (i.e., last year’s UTMB). In the following interview, learn about his 2005 race, how he’s grown since then, and what his approach will be on race day.
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Hal Koerner Pre-2012 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here of iRunFar with Hal Koerner prior to the start of the 2012 Hardrock 100. How are you Hal?
Hal Koerner: That’s right. I’m doing great.
iRF: You’ve been down here before. How have your previous times in the San Juan’s treated you?
Koerner: It’s good to be back. This week, I got here on Tuesday and I’ve been getting some healthy flashbacks and some not so healthy flashbacks from 2005. I just keep trying to remind myself that whatever I saw here in 2005 it will be the opposite coming this way, clockwise, which will be fun. It will be a little bit different, hopefully a little bit faster, we’ll see.
iRF: How did it go back in 2005?
Koerner: Well, I think it’s easy to be a little overzealous down here. You have this huge playground, and you have this course that goes on and on. It’s beautiful, and it goes on and on. So we saw a lot of it. I wasn’t too acclimated to everything and ended up… just a rough day as far as just trying to eat and how your stomach feels about altitude. Those were tough things. Karl [Meltzer] passed me around mile 70 in the middle of the night. I was leading at that point, and then it was just a struggle to get to the finish. Mile 70-75, that’s sometimes where this race starts; unfortunately, it was ending for me that year. So I’ll just try to keep a good pace and keep that frame of reference in my mind and not get too out of my comfort zone.
iRF: That’s quite awhile a go—seven years. You’ve won a couple of Western States in there. You’ve done a lot of other big races—great races and ones you’ve suffered through, like UTMB last year. Compare your mindset from you seven years ago to experienced Hal Koerner today.
Koerner: I think it’s a completely different frame of reference in a lot of ways. Confidence is one big thing. I think I’ve learned to pace myself well at other big events with better competition, and we certainly have that here. I hope that all plays a big factor.
iRF: At a race like Hardrock where you’re going to be up high a ton, you’ll be running through an entire night, right? Is it a good strategy for the top runners to push it a little more than even pace/effort in the first 12 hours where you have daylight, you don’t have the accumulated fatigue of the high elevation? Is that your plan on race day?
Koerner: Actually, that’s a great strategy. There’s something to be said for getting as much out of the way as you can before some of that sets in and before nightfall. You’ve got to get down in the valleys. You’ve got to get off these peaks back to where you can drink and where you can eat and feel a little big comfortable, too. So you don’t want to dilly dally a lot of places. Regardless, the climbs just keep coming and the elevation stays pretty consistent. I think the pace is going to be pretty fast and furious. There are enough guys who are willing to do it. The course is perfect. The weather is about perfect.
Karl Meltzer: He’s not going to beat me.
Koerner: That was CGI people.
iRF: So is there a certain elevation, say you’re climbing out of Ouray, where it’s “Dude, I’m not even going to try to eat or drink after that?”
Koerner: Oh, I don’t… I’m just going to see how it goes. I’m going to force myself … You just have to be cognizant of when you’re not doing it and when you’re not doing it enough. That will be the thing to keep in mind.
iRF: What drew you back to Hardrock? You’ve been away for quite awhile.
Koerner: I love racing Western States; I’ve done it a lot. It’s just finding the time and getting in the lottery. So those are the two main components really, and making the decision, which is tough in the summer months. This is complete focus in a lot of different ways. You try to come down here; you try to acclimatize early and get familiar and be well rested for something like this. You can’t do it any other way.
iRF: What else did you do to prepare for this besides your taper and being down here?
Koerner: I was in an altitude tent for three weeks before I got here which I hope helped. Otherwise, for me: just big climbs, some longer climbs, lots of elevation gain, lots of vertical, some power-hiking for the familiarity, just learning my body with that and seeing where we go.
iRF: Well best of luck out there.
Koerner: Thanks, man. I appreciate it.
iRF: We’re going to have a bonus question.
iRF: Pacers and motivation can be a really big part of 100 milers. How are you going to motivate Renn out there?
Koerner: I can’t push him up the hill. But I think to have his wherewithal at mile 75 and through the night, going up the big hills, I hope he stays on top of it. I think I’ll have a case of beer here at the finish line for everybody, so hopefully that motivates him.
iRF: That should motivate him.