Jason Schlarb returns to the 2017 Hardrock 100 as the defending co-champion. In the following interview, Jason talks about how last year’s race went down, what he learned last year that will inform how he races this time, what’s his evolving relationship with the San Juan Mountains, and what his goals for this year’s race.
Jason Schlarb Pre-2017 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in Silverton, Colorado. It’s about five days before the 2017 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run. I’m with men’s co-defending champion, Jason Schlarb. Hi.
Jason Schlarb: Hi, Meghan. How are you doing?
iRunFar: Good. I’m kind of up in your neighborhood. This is sort of your home away from home.
Schlarb: This is. I’ve been spending a lot of time for a number of years up here in the San Juans.
iRunFar: You’re kind of a quasi-local. You’re based in Durango, and this mountain range is where you come to train.
Schlarb: Yeah, that’s true. I ski here during the winter. I run here during the spring and summer when I’m not in Europe. This is my favorite place in the US to run and live and exist in the mountains. It’s great.
iRunFar: I don’t know how much time you’ve spent in the last year thinking about your race here, but I was thinking about it this afternoon ahead of our interview. For all intents and purposes, it looked like you had a perfect day here last year. Is that what it felt like to you?
Schlarb: It did. There were actually some highs and lows. Kilian [Jornet] and Xavier [Thevenard] got away from me in Ouray on the way down Camp Bird Road. They gapped me by somewhere around 10 minutes. Running down that road, it was the hottest day in Hardrock history as it was in the 80s.
iRunFar: There were ATVs on the road.
Schlarb: It was a perfect storm of not my favorite kind of stuff. Those guys got away. I frankly was kind of overheated and maybe even started to resign to the idea of making podium. That was kind of a low. I turned around the corner and went up Bear Creek, and all of a sudden the whole game changed.
iRunFar: To sort of recap for folks who may not remember last year, you and Kilian and Xavier and a few other guys were kind of together for the first couple passes. Then it whittled down to the three of you after Virginius, is that right?
Schlarb: We ran together for 20 or 30 miles, the three of us, and then Kilian and Xavier ran down together. At some point, we all three were separated between there and the top of Handies. Xavier I passed on the way up American Basin, and Kilian I caught up to on the top of Handies.
iRunFar: Which is kind of crazy to me to think about going over the course’s high point and to catch up to the race’s leader and to have it be none other than Kilian Jornet.
Schlarb: Yeah, it was exciting. Quite frankly, I was little bit surprised. My pacer that I picked up in Ouray, Andy Wellman—he’s an amazing athlete—and he said he had a hard time staying with me on that section to Engineer when I switched out with Paul Hamilton. That was a really, really strong climb. I was really, really strong on the up, and I gained back that 10 minutes somehow.
iRunFar: What you experienced going down Camp Bird Road into Ouray and having a tough time and then turning the tables and feeling good climbing out of Ouray up into the high country again, that’s kind of a familiar thing that happens to people in 100 miles. Were you able to pinpoint what it was that changed it for you?
Schlarb: I think going up and then also it turned into the afternoon and some clouds came in and cooled things down a little bit. Then the three and four factors is I picked up my friend Andy, my first pacer I’ve ever had. I’ve never had a pacer before in a race. Also, it’s a really gorgeous ascent out of Ouray into Bear Creek. It’s a very coiffed-out canyon kind of feel. Compare that to running down Camp Bird on a dirt road.
iRunFar: A lot better… a lot more enjoyable.
Schlarb: There were a lot of things. I guess I was an emotional runner that day.
iRunFar: You and Kilian ended up running together from the top of Handies basically to the finish, but if I remember right, you guys were a little bit playing with each other where one would test the other and vice versa?
Schlarb: We weren’t holding hands the whole time. We kind of helped each other. There was some confusion sometimes in Pole Creek. I’d tell him, “No, it’s this way,” and vice versa. I think what happened is… well, backing up, coming through Ouray—I don’t pay attention to splits, and I didn’t know what would be a good time through these aid stations; I was just running based on feel as it was my first time—Buzz Burrell from Ultimate Direction said, “Just relax. You’re on course-record pace.” I just looked at him like, “You’re full of crap. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Buzz is a wild guy and maybe he just got his information wrong, but he was correct, but I didn’t realize that until after the race. The point is that we were running really pretty fast and pretty hard and it was so hot. When I caught up with him, I thought that he was just being entertained. I kind of didn’t look forward to playing that game. I didn’t want to be entertainment. I’d just rather him run faster or let me pass. I was not sentimental about the idea of holding hands and running together. It ended up we were kind of pushing each other a bit. One would lead and then the other, but we were usually pretty close. The kind of cool thing is in the aid stations we would kind of chill out and wait for each other and we’d eat and drink a little bit more than we normally would and spent a good amount of time at the aid stations which I’ve never done. It wasn’t planned, and we pushed each other, and then we had the conversation at nine miles to go. Kilian said, “Why don’t you go ahead.” I was like, “Oh, no, no, no, you go ahead.
iRunFar: “No, you go. No, you go.”
Schlarb: We both maybe thought that each other could go harder and faster, but we ended up working together. I wanted to get under Kyle Skaggs’s time, which was really not even in the plan for me at the start (23:23), but then it was to go under 23 hours. We were running six- and seven-minute miles on the descent into town and just went for it.
iRunFar: The one coming down into town?
iRunFar: Oh, that’s a rocky descent, too.
Schlarb: Yeah, we just really, truly worked together on the last nine miles. For the most part, we were just pushing each other, and we happened to get really lucky that we were both at the same kind of pace and level or else it wouldn’t have worked out that way.
iRunFar: Does coming back to a race like Hardrock… last year was your first time here, and it was kind of like a glory day and, yeah, you had hole, but you way dug yourself out of it and had a heck of a race. Coming back to a race for the second time carrying the weight of a win on your shoulders and carrying the weight of running with arguably the world’s best mountain athlete, what does that look like? What does your baggage look like right now?
Schlarb: I’m different than a lot of athletes. I haven’t dwelled… I didn’t think about that… it wasn’t like I woke up in the morning and looked at a picture of Kilian and I finishing. I wasn’t super regimented. I just had fun this winter and skied and did some stuff in Costa Rica and did speedwork. Yeah, this is the kind of goal race at least until July. I prepared appropriately, but I mean preparing by going and having fun out here and doing long days. It hasn’t been really super stressful. The other thing that helps, too, is it’s the other direction.
iRunFar: Something new.
Schlarb: Yeah, it’s something new, and it’s kind of a different race, and so it’s fresh to me. I feel like I’m doing a new thing again. I haven’t been thinking about, Am I going to run faster? Or, Am I going to run with him or am I going to pass him? What if Kilian has a bad day? Some of those things go through my mind, but I’m not really dwelling on them too much. I feel really comfortable and relaxed. These mountains and this town and this race are such that it is my home that I can relax. Talking about it right now gets me a little excited, but…
iRunFar: As it should, right?
Schlarb: I don’t have any problems right now. I had a good second half of May and June, so I think I’m ready to go out and do my best. I could run just as fast or faster or maybe it will be a little bit slower. I just really don’t know.
iRunFar: Last year ahead of the race, it was a really snowy winter. The snow melted fast, but it was a very wet course at the end of the day. You have been out training in these mountains the last couple weeks. What are course conditions like?
Schlarb: I can tell you that all of June was really kind of… most of June was really kind of rough. It was a lot of slower running because of both not being on the trail and being careful on the snow. But the snow was usually pretty firm, and I could run where I wanted to, but it just took longer and it was kind of annoying and it was a little bit tough. I don’t know if you can see in the picture, but it’s pretty dry. It hasn’t rained, and it’s been really hot and sunny. For the most part, we’ve magically gotten back to almost an average kind of year. There’s two spots where we can see snow, and that’s just before Kroger’s and in American Basin below Handies Peak. Besides that, I don’t think it’s a big issue.
iRunFar: Do you think overall the course is going to run fairly fast?
Schlarb: Yeah, I think it might be an average kind of year. If it’s cooler, which it looks like it might be, than last year, it possibly could be faster.
iRunFar: Based upon how you felt in last year’s race and your training leading up to it, did you try to modify your training or do a couple workouts that you really think helped you get to where you wanted to be last year? How has your training comparably looked like?
Schlarb: I’ve taken the same approach that I pretty much always do, but I’ve done it here. When I went to UTMB several years ago, when I did Run Rabbit Run, I did two hard workouts a week, and I did a long run, and the rest was kind of easy with some climbing. It just happens that now I do it specifically in the San Juans. It’s slower, it’s more steep, and there’s more vertical. I try to stay race specific the last four weeks before the race. So, I’m right here doing it in the mountains I’m going to be racing in. I don’t go on the course as much as a lot of other people do, but I’m here in the San Juans. That’s how I specify, but my structure is about the same for a 17-hour 100 versus a 23-hour 100.
iRunFar: Now that you’ve seen… I know we’re going the other direction this year—I say “we” like I’m part of it; I’m not running… so sad.
Schlarb: You have before. You’re part of the team.
iRunFar: The course is going the other direction this year, but you know how it runs. Are you going to be running by feel like last year? Are you going to be ticking off splits? Are you going to apply some time goals to this?
Schlarb: I would love to run 22:30. I don’t think it’s impossible. It gives me goosebumps. Maybe it’s cocky; maybe it won’t happen. That’s what I’d like, and I believe that’s possible for my body.
iRunFar: How do you figure that?
Schlarb: Just by feel. When Buzz told me half way through the race that we were at whatever pace, I had no clue what that pace was or would be. Maybe I’ll look this time, but I’d kind of like to not worry about that. There are a couple things: I don’t do splits, and I don’t run with other people except for that exception last year because I like to be exactly where I want to be and every single step is exactly the effort that I feel is the best effort for me. So I think that can deliver me to a 22:30, and I don’t feel like I need to be really analytical on sections of the race and where I’m doing. I’ll just listen to my body. My body is ready for this kind of running, and I’ve done it before, so I think I have a chance at having a really, really good day. But it’s 100 miles, and any little thing can come up and screw you.
iRunFar: That’s the beauty of 100 miles and the extra beauty of the Hardrock course.
Schlarb: That’s right.
iRunFar: I think it’s probably fair to say that this is a mountain range that you love. Is there a particular view or moment or piece of the course that you’re really going to enjoy on Friday and Saturday morning, too?
Schlarb: Yeah. Let me think for a second. I really look forward to running down Bear Creek from Engineer because there’s a creek there, there’s a canyon there, and it’s one of the longest descents this year. Cunningham is a special place for me because I do enjoy doing some training on both sides of that drainage. Gosh, every single piece is special and unique. I can’t think of one in particular that I’m looking forward to besides that one descent.
iRunFar: We’ll see you flying around the corners in Bear Creek Canyon then.
Schlarb: Yeah, hopefully the quads are with that run down that.
iRunFar: If a beverage of choice happens to be offered at Kroger’s Canteen, are you going to take a sip or no?
Schlarb: I might especially since it’s in the last third of the race. Last year…
iRunFar: It was morning, right?
Schlarb: Yeah, last year I got up there and got all emotional and gave Roch [Horton] a hug and everything, and the tequila was not there. I don’t know if Kilian had some because at that point we didn’t run together through there. I can’t remember exactly what was going on. Yeah, I would do that. I sure would. That would be fun.
iRunFar: Roch Horton, do you hear that?
Schlarb: I want it to be natural. Whatever happens, I’m good.
iRunFar: He’ll have a triple shot for you because…
Schlarb: That wouldn’t be natural. I hope not.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you on Friday. This is always a highly anticipated weekend. The men’s race is just going to be super fascinating this year courtesy of last year, so best of luck to you.
Schlarb: Thank you, Meghan.
iRunFar: See you out there.
Schlarb: Alright, we’ll do.