2021 Hardrock 100 Preview

An in-depth preview of the 2021 Hardrock 100.

By on July 7, 2021 | Comments

Kailas logoCome the morning of Friday, July 16, 146 lucky runners will set off for 100 miles of beauty and challenge through southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in the Hardrock 100. Along the way, they’ll climb (and descend) 33,000 feet, all at elevations of up to 14,000 feet. The course switches direction with each event edition, and 2021 sees the route run in a counterclockwise direction.

Despite the insistence of some that it’s a ‘run’ rather than a ‘race,’ there’ll certainly be some at the front of both fields going for the win or another top position. This year’s edition will feature strong women’s and men’s races for the win, even if there’s not the competitive depth that the larger fields of other events allow. In the women’s race, we’ll see defending champ Sabrina Stanley challenged by Hardrock newcomer Courtney Dauwalter and three-time winner Darcy Piceu. The men’s returning champion, Jeff Browning, may have even taller task in holding off a pair of talented Hardrock first timers in François D’haene and Dylan Bowman. We dive into the details of each field below!

Squirrel's Nut Butter - logoAhead of the race, we’ll publish interviews with some of the race favorites and, of course, we’ll be covering the race live starting at 6 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Friday, July 16. Stay tuned!

A special thanks to Kailas for making our coverage of this year’s Hardrock 100 possible!

Thanks to Squirrel’s Nut Butter for their support of our Hardrock coverage.

2021 Hardrock 100 Women’s Preview

Let’s take a look at the top women running this year’s Hardrock 100.

Top Women

Despite only 16 of the 146 runners slated to start this year’s Hardrock at the time I’m writing this, it wouldn’t surprise me if three of this year’s overall top 10 were women. In fact, we could see a pair in the top five if things play out just so.

It’s also worth keeping Diana Finkel’s course record of 27:18:24 from 2009 in mind. She set the course record traveling in the counterclockwise direction, the same direction as this year’s event. It’s also fun to note that the three-fastest ever women’s times at Hardrock were run in this counterclockwise direction.

Courtney Dauwalter

Courtney Dauwalter

Although she’ll be a Hardrock rookie, Courtney Dauwalter (pre-race interview) has to be the women’s favorite at this year’s race. In recent years, she’s won the 2019 UTMB, 2019 Madeira Island Ultra Trail, 2018 Western States 100, and 2018 Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji 100 Mile. Just a few week ago, she set a new course record at the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile, run not far to the east of the Hardrock course. What’s more, Courtney now bases herself up at 10,200 feet in Leadville, Colorado, so she’s plenty accustomed to the thin air she’ll find along the Hardrock course.

Sabrina Stanley (pre-race interview) returns to Hardrock as the defending women’s champion, having won the 2018 race in 30:23. Since then, she’s won the Hurt 100 Mile (2019) and Diagonale des Fous (2019) along with the shorter Mount Cheaha 50k in February 2020 and Quest for the Crest 50k this May. Last year, Sabrina managed to set the women’s supported FKT for Nolan’s 14—twice. A resident of Silverton, Colorado, she’s fully acclimated to the altitude and knows the course well.

2017 Hardrock 100 - Darcy Piceu

Darcy Piceu

If there’s a current Queen of Hardrock, it’s Darcy Piceu (pre-race interview) with her three Hardrock wins (2012-14) among her seven finishes while she continues to be a near lock for the women’s podium any given year. Indeed, she finished second in 2015 and 2017, her two most recent runs at the race. More impressively, she has twice as many sub-30 hour Hardrock finishes (six) than another other woman (Diana Finkel has three), and, as far as consistency, Darcy has finished all seven of her Hardrocks between 28:57 and 30:15!? Back in 2018, Darcy won both the Andorra Ultra Trail and Angeles Crest 100 Mile. Darcy did battle a serious injury earlier this year, but bounced back with a win at the Jemez 50 Mile in late May and a second at the Squaw Peak 50 Mile in mid-June.

Meghan Hicks has a pair of Hardrock finishes, with a rough 39-hour finish in 2015 and an improved 34:25 in taking fifth in 2016. In 2016 and again in 2020, she set the then women’s supported FKT for Nolan’s 14. This spring, she took third at Scout Mountain 50 Mile. More important, she’s been living and training on the course since March.

More Women to Watch

  • Marta Fisher – 4th 2016 Ultra-Trail Harricana
  • Olga Nevtrinos – 1st 2018 IMTUF 100 Mile; 7th 2016 Cascade Crest 100 Mile

For the small number of women in the Hardrock 100 field, there’s a trio that adds plenty of experience to the mix. Betsy Kalmeyer, Betsy Nye, and Liz Bauer come into this year’s Hardrock 100 with 19, 16, and 10 finishes, respectively.

Notable Withdrawals

  • Alyson Kirk – 1st 2019 Lone Star, Hellbender, Cruel Jewel & Old Cascadia 100 Milers. She withdrew due to injury.

In Memoriam

Switzerland’s Andrea Huser was to make her Hardrock debut at the 2021 Hardrock 100, but sadly passed away in a fall while trail running last year. Among her many accomplishments were taking second at UTMB in 2016 and winning the Diagonale des Fous in 2016 and 2017. Her passion for adventure and competition led her to insatiably race across numerous sports, always doing so with a humble joy. Andrea visited Silverton in 2019 when the snow pack led to the race’s cancellation during which time she showed love and awe for the mountains that surrounded her.

2021 Hardrock 100 Men’s Preview

Here are the top men running this year’s Hardrock 100. It would take good conditions and an exceptional run, but at least the snow-free course is favorable when thinking of Kilian Jornet’s overall course record of 22:41:33 from 2014. Keep in mind that Kilian’s overall course record was set in the clockwise direction, the opposite of this year’s edition. The fastest a man has gone in this counterclockwise direction is 23:28:10, also by Kilian but in 2015. Interestingly and opposite of the women, the four-fastest ever men’s times at Hardrock were set in the clockwise direction.

Top Men

Francois D'haene - 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail champion

François D’haene

While this will be his first time running the race, that makes France’s François D’haene (pre-race interview) no less of a favorite to win this year’s Hardrock. Why? He’d be on a very short list of best mountainous 100-mile trail runners in the world with three wins at UTMB (2012, 2014, and 2017) and four wins at Diagonale des Fous (2013, 2014, 2016, and 2018). Without Kilian Jornet, Xavier Thevenard, or, maybe, Jim Walmsley (he knows these mountains well) here, it’s François’s race to lose outside of the San Juan Mountains and the challenges they hold taking it from him. After a light 2020, François tuned up for Hardrock in taking third at the 112k Ultra Cabo Verde Trail in May. It’s worth noting that when snow canceled Hardrock in 2019, he came over and spent a few weeks training on the Hardrock course anyway and he’s back in the area acclimating and scoping the course for at least two weeks again this year.

After trying to get in for seemingly forever, Dylan Bowman (pre-race interview) will be another Hardrock rookie challenging for the men’s win. Bowman’s damn good at mountainous 100 milers and spent plenty of years living and training in the Colorado Rockies. Among the reasonably recent results that show his chops in the mountains are a third at Transgrancanaria in 2020, wins of Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in 2016 and 2019, and a seventh at UTMB in 2017. While he lives in Portland, Oregon these days, he’s been living at altitude in Mammoth Lakes, California and training in the Sierra Nevada for much of the past month.

Jeff Browning - 2018 Hardrock 100

Jeff Browning

Jeff Browning (pre-race interview) returns to Hardrock as the defending champion, from winning in 26:20 back in 2018 following the disqualification of Xavier Thevenard. Among his three other Hardrock finishes, he took fourth in 25:42 in 2016 and fourth in 26:58 in 2014. Earlier this year, he won the Zion 100 Mile. Late last month, Browning dropped out midway through the Western States 100 due to dead quads and wanting to save something for Hardrock. In 21 years of running ultras, it’s only the second time he’s DNFed a race, with the other being due to a sprained ankle at UTMB 2015. Browning will be 49 years old on race day.

High-altitude 100 milers seem to suit Ryan Smith, who won Leadville in 2019 and High Lonesome in 2018. Going back a few years, Smith was eighth at UTMB in 2015 and 22nd there the following year. Other top results include fifth at the shortened to 47k Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in 2016 and 16th at the 85k Trail World Championships at Penyagolosa in 2018.

One shouldn’t underestimate Trevor Fuchs on a mountainous 100-mile course. He’s won the Hurt 100 mile in 2020, taken second at the Bear 100 Mile in 2019, and won the Wasatch 100 Mile in 2016 and 2017. I’m looking forward to finally seeing Trevor race in person.

Although it’s been quite a while, Julien Chorier has twice run Hardrock, winning in 2011 in 25:17 and taking second to Kilian Jornet in 2014 in 25:07. This Frenchman may no longer be able to run that fast of a time, but he continues to have success, placing ninth at TDS and seventh at Ultra Pirineu in 2018 and finishing fourth at Transgrancanaria and 17th at UTMB in 2019. Earlier this year, Chorier took 13th at Transgrancanaria.

If you’re going to follow this year’s Hardrock, you should know Troy Howard, who finished third in 2018 after finishing second in both 2009 and 2013. One could be worried that he took 14th at the relatively small San Juan Solstice 50 Mile in late June, but he was 12th there in 2018 ahead of his third place at Hardrock. Troy simply knows what he needs to do for a good finish at Hardrock. I should add that Troy will be 48 years old on race day. That goes along with Browning at age 49, Smith at 42, and Chorier at 40. That’s a solid masters field right there!

Dominic Grossman

Dominic Grossman

More Men to Watch

  • Johnny Clemons – 1st 2017 Cruel Jewel 100 Mile; 3rd 2017 Pinhoti 100 Mile
  • Jamil Coury – 9th 2017 Hardrock; 4th 2018 Tahoe 200 Mile
  • Dominic Grossman – 3rd 2019 & 2017 Angeles Crest 100 Mile; 3rd 2018 Pine to Palm 100 Mile
  • Mick Jurynec – 10th 2018 Hardrock 100; 1st 2019 Superior 100 Mile
  • Nick Pedatella – 5th 2021 San Juan Solstice 50 Mile; 4th 2012 Hardrock 100
  • Aaron Saft – 1st 2018 Uwharrie 100k; 3rd 2019 Mount Mitchell Challenge; 2nd 2016 Canadian Death Race
  • Mike Wardian – 11th 2018 & 21st 2017 Hardrock 100
  • Bryan Williams –  6th 2016 Hardrock 100; Colorado Trail (Collegiate West variant) supported FKT

Notable Withdrawals

  • Grant Guise (New Zealand) – 13th 2017 & 10th 2016 Hardrock 100. He’s exercised the international deferral option until 2022.

Call for Comments

  • Who do you think will be the first woman and first man to finish?
  • Who do you think will surprise everyone at this year’s Hardrock?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.