Jason Schlarb has been successful at the 100-mile distance with great runs UTMB and the Run Rabbit Run 100. Now, he’ll get to take on a new challenge with the Hardrock 100. In the following interview, Jason talks about how his early season went, what it was like skiing the course, and how he might react if things go wrong in the race.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Jason Schlarb Pre-2016 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jason Schlarb before the 2016 Hardrock 100. How are you, Jason?
Jason Schlarb: I’m doing great, Bryon.
iRunFar: It’s a beautiful day here in Silverton, Colorado, nine days out from Hardrock. How are you feeling?
Schlarb: I’m feeling good. I’m feeling really good.
iRunFar: You started off the season with Tarawera and Marathon des Sables, and frankly they weren’t up to your “A” standard. What was going on with those races?
Schlarb: Those races were adventures and experiences. I kept my volume really low. In addition to the Marathon des Sables and Tarawera, I skied Hardrock. Those three projects were just what I was doing during the winter. Marathon des Sables was quite an experience completely out of my element—flat, sandy, hot, self-supported. It was the same thing with skiing for four days around Hardrock. It was a different kind of stimulus. I kept my volume for running low and just kind of cruised through the winter and spring staying fit and doing fun stuff like that.
iRunFar: When did you start training for Hardrock assuming this is your first major focus for the year?
Schlarb: May. In May I was able to really start to get in some training. I’ve gotten about eight weeks of 80-some miles per week. I’ve averaged somewhere between 18,000-25,000 feet vert and just kind of… nothing to kind of brag about, but consistent and thorough and really taking care of my body. I did the 50k at Dirty 30 just feeling good. It paid off. That last three weeks of the eight week block started to feel that kind of Wow, that 25 miler feels like nothing. I feel fresh. I feel good as opposed to worn out like a regular build up for training. That’s really exciting for me. I’m pumped. I’m feeling good. This is a focus—Hardrock.
iRunFar: Your fitness is there. You live in Durango an hour south from Silverton. Have you been out on a lot of the course?
Schlarb: I have a weird outlook on running races. I try to avoid the course. I don’t think too terribly many people do that. I have been up here training and running a lot in the San Juans. I obviously got to ski it, so I got familiarity there. For instance, this morning just a couple drainages away, I did Boulder Creek and up Boulder Gulch. I’ve seen a lot of the course. I did Handies. I did some stuff over Pole Creek with you.
iRunFar: You’ve been on a lot of the terrain but not necessarily the same trail. Each trail system kind of has its own feel. You’ve been on the… you kind of have a feel for the steepness and technicality and that sort of thing?
Schlarb: Yeah, I’ve been in the San Juans pretty much from mid- to late-May until now every week. I just drove up from my house this morning to do this work out. That’s been kind of the approach which was the approach last year before I ran Eiger. This is the best place, my favorite place to train. It’s just nice to have a race here.
iRunFar: Obviously, you have confidence in your fitness right now. Does it give confidence in your racing ability given that you are kind of familiar with the terrain?
Schlarb: Yes, I think so. You look at UTMB and Hardrock, statistically pretty similar, but the feel of the race and the devil in the details is pretty massive. I’m really trained specifically for the terrain this time. My approach for when I did well at UTMB was to be there for a few months and really get good at that kind of angle, that kind of technical slope, and that altitude. I can honestly say that I’m familiar, man. I know this. It’s going to be good. I’m really pumped.
iRunFar: Obviously, that worked out very well at UTMB a couple years ago coming in fourth. Now here, there’s a much smaller field. It’s 152 people as opposed to 2,300. Does your approach to the racing aspect of it change in such a small race?
Schlarb: I have intentions and I foresee myself being by myself quite a bit, whereas in the first half of UTMB several years ago, I was running with Timmy [Olson]; I was running with Hal [Koerner]; I was running with Mike Foote. The first almost 80k was completely with a pack and understanding not getting caught up too fast and pacing myself for the right kind of pace for the day. That at Hardrock is a little bit more internal for most people. There’s only five guys probably that are at that level mixing it up up front.
iRunFar: You don’t plan to keep contact with Kilian [Jornet] and Xavier [Thevenard] and whoever goes out up front?
Schlarb: I do a pretty good job in all of my races of starting out conservatively. I don’t think I’ve ever… I can’t recall a race that’s longer than 50k that I’ve gone out off the front that wasn’t a very small race. I’ve always started out conservatively. I prefer to pass and gain momentum. That’s always my strategy. I stay within myself. I do a lot of heartrate training. I’ve gotten really familiar with where I can go for my threshold.
iRunFar: Will you wear a heartrate monitor during the race? You kind of know that effort?
Schlarb: No, it’s just annoying.
iRunFar: Especially for close to 24 hours plus or minus.
Schlarb: Exactly. It gets funky. It’s another factor to be worried about, so I take the heartrate monitor off.
iRunFar: You’re going to be alone more in this race than any other race you’ve been in. Does that mean you’re going to have pacers for company or going solo?
Schlarb: This is the first race I’ll ever have a pacer. I’m excited for the potential of how that will affect the mental state for me of racing and not getting into any too dark of a place or down on myself—maybe have somebody there to keep me out of that mind space. I’m also nervous. I usually run alone in a lot of my ultras besides those busy races like UTMB.
iRunFar: And in your training.
Schlarb: Yeah, so I can get a little impatient with different behavior. Andy Wellman and Paul Hamilton are my two pacers. I know both of them very well. I’m pretty confident they won’t piss me off. They’re awesome.
iRunFar: Good luck with that.
Schlarb: They’re awesome.
iRunFar: Speaking of Paul Hamilton, he was with you out on the Hardrock 100 ski tour. Who else was with you out there?
Schlarb: Scott Simmons who is a multi-US National skimo guy who is super badass.
iRunFar: Obviously, Paul Hamilton is pretty badass on skis as well. How are you fitting in with all that? Do you have as much of a background in skimo as they do?
Schlarb: I grew up skiing and back country skiing. I went to school in Montana. As far as racing, those guys are fast and fit. They have a really specific training regimen. They ski all year. I don’t. I ski part-time. Those guys were a bit more fit than I was but longevity and endurance, I was right there. We also had a videographer that had to keep up, too. He was probably the fittest videographer in the country, Noah Howell. He kept up, too. It was a pain train. I hope that after three 15 hour days and one eight hour day, I can knock it out in one day with this. I’m kind of looking forward to it. And we went the other direction.
iRunFar: And there’s also the dynamic of the opposite of Hardrock is it’s, I’m guessing for safety reasons, four people pretty much staying together the whole time. How was that? Was that a challenge?
Schlarb: Correct. Yeah, we had a few small disagreements on navigation because we didn’t take GPS. We wanted to kind of do it just by map. But overall considering how long we had to work hard together and the risks we were putting ourselves into, we came out as expected lifelong friends.
iRunFar: Speaking of navigation, the course is marked at Hardrock, but sparsely so with intention. Will you have any sort of backup navigation during the race?
Schlarb: I’m considering having… you know, I’m pretty familiar, especially during the day when I’m fresh, of the general direction, so I don’t think I’m going to screw up. I don’t plan on bringing anything, but when I pick up a pacer into the dark from Grouse to Cunningham, with Paul Hamilton—he doesn’t know this yet—I’m going to have him carry a phone with one of those apps with the course on it so we can see exactly we are.
iRunFar: I did it last year, and I maybe whipped it out two or three times. It was just nice to have… “Oh, yeah, we’re off course by a little bit. We need to go a little to the right.” It saves the mental worry.
Schlarb: I know a lot of guys that have gotten off for a little while. I think Mike Foote last year might have gotten off a little.
iRunFar: It’s pretty routine.
Schlarb: Yeah, and so 10-15 minutes is just heartbreaking for me even in a 20-some-hour race. I’d really like that backup especially in the dark.
iRunFar: What are you looking forward to most during the run?
Schlarb: I specifically have kind of avoided the course a lot this spring and in the summer, so putting it all together… getting over to Island Lake when it’s actually melted, running down Bear Creek, just the whole experience. The fact that I’ve put in this much work… this is honestly the race I’m most excited about in the entire world. It almost makes me emotional. To actually go and do this and put it together, as long as I get around that loop regardless of the time, I’m going to be pretty pumped.
iRunFar: It’s funny that you say that. The emotional wave hits me. I look over at Arrastra Gulch over to our left and you’re just like, “We get to run that.” It’s a cool feeling.
Schlarb: Yeah, to put this all together, it’s special. To have that belt buckle is going to be cool.
iRunFar: You’ve had great success in ultras, but things can go and do go wrong at Hardrock. It’s just a statistical chance. You can limit that chance, but if stuff goes wrong, is this a race you can foresee yourself getting on the slow train and running 37 or 47 hours just to get to the finish… if things don’t go well?
Schlarb: Yeah, my first 100 mile race was Run Rabbit Run in 2012 or something like that, I got off course by seven miles and I was in second place behind somebody, I think Dave James who ended up dropping, and I was there, I felt great, and I was so pissed off that I’d got off course, and I hadn’t done the 100-mile thing. I came back and tried to catch up and it just… I just dropped. The next day I saw Basit [Mustafa], and he was finishing just before the cutoff the next day in the afternoon or evening time. I was just, I could have finished this race. From that point on, I’ve kind of had the mindset that on a 100 miler, a focus race like this, unless it’s injury, I’m going to get it done. I can’t think of any other example more so. I did it at Diagonale des Fous. I didn’t have a great race there. I laid down and tried to take naps. I’m prepared to come in last in 48 hours. I’ll get it done.
iRunFar: Success or not, best of luck out there, and enjoy the course.
Schlarb: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: A bonus question: I’m used to seeing you run in Altra Paradigms. That’s not going to be the case next Friday. What will you be sporting?
Schlarb: The Lone Peak 3 is now my favorite trail-specific shoe that I’ve ever put on my foot. It’s got just enough cushion. It’s got aggressive lugs. Some of the Lone Peaks before this, the uppers were a little bit sloppy. These are secure and good. It’s just right. I think for UTMB I’ll be back in the Altra Paradigm because it’s a little bit smoother terrain, but for Hardrock, I’m rocking the Lone Peaks. It’s the first new shoe in several years for the race.