Caroline Chaverot’s win of the 2017 Hardrock 100 came with big doses of drama. In the following interview, Caroline talks about how she felt good running as fast as she was early in the race, the big storm she experienced in the event’s first third, getting lost after Kroger’s Canteen at mile 68, how she dealt mentally and physically with the blow of being off course for so long, and if she plans to return to Hardrock next year.
Read our 2017 Hardrock 100 results article to find out what else happened at the race and for links to other post-Hardrock interviews. Watch Caroline and the rest of the women’s podium finish on video.
Caroline Chaverot, 2017 Hardrock 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in Silverton, Colorado. I’m here with the 2017 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run Champion, Caroline Chaverot. Good morning.
Caroline Chaverot: Good morning.
iRunFar: How are you feeling? It’s the day after winning Hardrock.
Chaverot: I’m very happy but also very tired. I think this course deserves perfectly its name—wild and tough. It was wild and tough really.
iRunFar: You’ve run a lot of races in a lot of places around the world, and you’ve gone on a lot of adventures in non-race environments, but Hardrock to you is wild and tough?
Chaverot: Yes, and also I think that’s why it’s a very special race. We are very few runners and the ambiance can be tough because you can have storms and it’s very long, the distances are very big. You do not come on any villages, so you are pretty much alone in the mountains. The people are great cheering you at every aid station and making everything for you. There is plenty of food at every aid station. There is a special atmosphere. I think I’m not sure about what I say, but I have the impression here that the finish rate is very high compared to the number of people who do the race and the difficulty of the course because everyone knows they are very lucky to be here and everyone tries to finish the race.
iRunFar: Wants to see it all the way through.
Chaverot: Yes, it’s very inspiring.
iRunFar: It was inspiring?
Chaverot: Yes, for me, because last week we had this meeting of the women of Hardrock, and I heard this woman who has done many times Hardrock, Betsy Kalmeyer. She said that not finishing or dropping was not an option. I want to finish. For me, it was very inspiring when I got last yesterday. Okay, I lost much time and it’s pretty depressing, but dropping is not an option. I will finish.
iRunFar: The entire time during when you were lost, you were thinking, Not quitting; I’m continuing on.
Chaverot: Yes, I was so angry, and I panicked. I was turning and turning and trying to go up, down. I think I lost all my energy there because I was going up really fast and then down really fast. I was really sprinting during one hour-and-a-half. Then when I had to go up from Telluride to Oscar’s Pass I was burned.
iRunFar: I do want to talk about that moment when you got off course and then where you got back on and continued on, but let’s back up a teensy bit. When the race started, you were leading out across Silverton.
Chaverot: I felt a bit bad because, yeah, going up to Dives-Little Giant, I was leading with Iker [Karrera], and it’s not my habit. Normally there are plenty of men in front of me. But I just say, Okay, I have to follow my own pace. I was feeling good. I was not working hard. I was really trying to have a soft breath and to be smooth in my ways. I was feeling really good.
iRunFar: According to the splits, if you compare what you were doing compared to men’s and women’s history, through mile 15 (Maggie Gulch, the second checkpoint), you were running on men’s course-record pace. Then between mile 15 and Sherman, mile 28, you slowed down a bit to quite a bit faster than women’s record pace. It seemed like after Maggie Gulch you kind of settled in for the long journey?
Chaverot: Yes, and I also got a bit lost.
iRunFar: Out of Sherman in Pole Creek?
Chaverot: In fact, it was my fault. There was a pretty obvious trail, and I discussed with Joe Grant and he said, “Be careful at the moment you encounter a lake, you will go left.” I come to a lake, and I went left, but in fact it was not the right lake. It was not Cataract Lake. It was evidently just a pond.
iRunFar: Ahh, it was the first one, the little pond before Cataract Lake.
Chaverot: Yes, I got up, down, and I lost maybe 10 minutes. Also, this section is pretty flat, and I am not very fast on the flat. I just tried to set myself in the long course and to save my energy for the next uphills.
iRunFar: Coming into Sherman, about 28 miles into the race, you’re about a third of the way through it, however you’re about to climb up to the race’s high point, a 14,000-foot peak at Handies. How are you feeling then?
Chaverot: In fact, I was very happy to go to Handies because I love this place, but the problem was we encountered this huge storm.
iRunFar: A huge storm.
Chaverot: It was first raining very heavily, and then there was some hail that was really painful. I was really cold. My rain jacket was not the heavy one; it was a light one. I was really, really cold. I said, Okay, all I have to do is hurry up as fast as I can to stay warm. Every time I could run, I’d run, not to be fast but just to move and to be warmer. I knew that after Handies, I’d see some downhill, and downhill makes me warmer. I think I did that section pretty fast because I wanted really to go up and down again. It was quite tough.
iRunFar: Handies Peak can be a very difficult place in the race not only do you go up to 14,000 feet, but because you’re exposed above treeline for a very long time when the weather can be had. Once you got up high on the mountain, what was the weather like then?
Chaverot: It was just raining. There was no storm anymore. I was a bit lower when I was a bit close to the lightning because you know you can count between the lightning and thunder, and I didn’t have time to count to one. Ohhhhhh, my gosh. Then on Handies it was just raining. I was really cold, but I saw some photographers and I say, Oh, okay, I’m lucky. I’m running and staying warm. They must be colder than me. I don’t have to complain; I just have to go straight down.
iRunFar: Caroline, going into the evening climbing up from Ouray toward Governors Basin and Kroger’s Canteen, you moved up Camp Bird Road so quickly, but then it looked like you had a bit of a slow split between Governors and Kroger’s. Were you starting to feel fatigued then?
Chaverot: During the dirt road I was feeling good, and then it was steep, and I think normally I’m pretty good in the snow, but I don’t know why for going up to Kroger’s, I was very bad. I glided sometimes. My poles were very light ones, but they didn’t have any baskets.
iRunFar: They poked through the snow.
Chaverot: Yes, I lost much time. Yes, maybe I was feeling the fatigue a bit.
iRunFar: Starting to set in a little. What was incredible to me was that your time to Governor’s Basin, which is 64.5 miles into the race, you were just 23 minutes behind the lead men which included men like Mike Foote, Joe Grant, and Kilian Jornet. It’s an incredible split for a woman for such a long distance in this race. Yet, there was a lot of racing to go. There were another 14 or 15 hours.
Chaverot: Yes, I was really prepared to do that, but after Kroger’s, I got lost.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about that. I think at least watching your GPS tracker, you began making the descent out of Kroger’s, but then you have to pass a saddle to get to the next drainage. You didn’t make it over that?
Chaverot: Yes, in fact, I talked to my pacer, go ahead and find the path. I thought he knew it, but in fact, he didn’t know it so I just followed him. I think the marking was very poor. After me, they put more markers on. But the stupid thing was when you get lost, you have to go up, find the marking, and don’t try to continue, and I was afraid of losing five minutes, and I lost 90. It was so stupid. When I saw no markings, I should have gone up, seen the marking, maybe ask some people and go quietly. Then I got angry, and we went down, up, down, up, and I lost all my energy. It was over after.
iRunFar: Yeah, the Hardrock course is lightly marked as you experienced, but also, part of being part of this race is knowing that you need to route-find, too. You can’t entirely rely on marking. You have to be able to know the route yourself.
Chaverot: It’s a bit of a pity because I knew pretty much of the course, and I never wanted to drive to Telluride. It was the only section I didn’t know. I studied the map. During the day one time I went to Kroger’s, and I looked at the trail, and it seemed pretty obvious. During the night, there was a bit of snow on the ground, and I didn’t recognize. I think if I would have been alone, I would have taken the time to look. You know when you are two, my mistake was to rely on the pacer, and then I followed him. We disagreed, and I think I got confused because of that.
iRunFar: A moment of making a mistake very far into a race, can have a big impact, like spending 90 minutes off the course unfortunately.
Chaverot: Yeah, and I lost so much energy. I think the problem was also when I went to Telluride, I was very tired. If I would have been not lost, I would have much more energy in Telluride. After, going up to Oscar, I was really, really slow. Luckily I had a young pacer who was very patient, but the magic was over. I was angry and I couldn’t stop being angry and depressed and disappointed and slow. Then the end of the race, I just went, but I was slow and it was not so much fun.
iRunFar: In fact, your splits from Telluride to the finish, they were no longer on record pace, they were slower, but they were faster than almost everyone in the field. The only person who was catching you was Darcy Piceu, but her deficit to you was so far, there were only so many minutes she could make up. She couldn’t catch you. You were too far out in front. So though you felt like you weren’t going that fast, you in fact were still making great time relative to the women’s field.
Chaverot: I’m happy to know. It was a bit of a nightmare. I was very slow going up. One moment I was going up out of Telluride, I looked at my watch and I said, “In one hour, I only did very little. I was so slow.” Then I stopped looking at the watch because it will only get me more depressed. I think I could do some good running downhill until Chapman. Even going down to KT was okay. Then the last downhill, I couldn’t run. I had no legs.
iRunFar: I think the awards ceremony is just starting, and I want you to go in and collect your winning trophy. I have one last question for you. You crossed the line in Silverton, and you run the third-fastest time for women in the race’s history. Do you feel a sense of… you speak of being angry, disappointment, and feeling fatigue… now do you feel a sense of pride for what you did accomplish there?
Chaverot: For the moment, no, but I’m very happy… yeah, a little bit pride because I could do it, and that was my goal was to do this circle and to kiss the rock. I’m happy about that. Yeah, but you know, I’m not really the person who is easily proud of self. Yeah, I think it was good what I did. To keep continuing and not getting completely despaired. Yeah, I’m happy.
iRunFar: Hardrock is a race that people return to. Do you think you’ll return?
Chaverot: I have the ticket! I spoke with my husband this morning and he said, “Ah, you will leave another time next year.” I said, “Ah, we have time.” Yeah, I would like to do the course in the other direction. I think if it was in the same direction, I would hesitate more because I like to change. The other direction will be at totally new course. It will be very interesting.
iRunFar: New race, new experience. I guess possibly we’ll see you in 2018 then.
Chaverot: Yes, I hope. Also, it’s really a special race, and it’s great to be part of it.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your win at the 2017 Hardrock 100. Go collect your trophy. Well done.
Chaverot: Thank you.