Annie Hughes Post-2023 Hardrock 100 Interview

A video interview (with transcript) with Annie Hughes after her third-place finish at the 2023 Hardrock 100.

By on July 17, 2023 | Comments

Annie Hughes braved a difficult day to finish third in the 2023 Hardrock 100. In this interview, she talks about how the race went from her perspective, the important role her pacers played, and her plans for the rest of the season.

For more on how the race played out, read our in-depth Hardrock 100 results article.

Annie Hughes Post-2023 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here just after the 2023 Hardrock 100 with third woman Annie Hughes. Annie, congratulations. How do you feel?

Annie Hughes: Thank you so much. I feel tired, but good. [laughs]

iRunFar: Okay, brilliant. Such an amazing achievement. So, I seen you on the course and it looked like you had a difficult day. So, you’re just the absolute queen of powering through. So, just kind of to talk about the early miles. Did you start to feel a little bit off from early on, or how was that?

Hughes: Yeah, I felt like I was working harder than normal to keep up with like, you know, the pace I wanted to run and you know, the women in front of me. So it just felt like a harder effort than normal, and then, you know, things kind of started to go wrong. So like, upset stomach and then breathing issues. So, kind of all the ultrarunning things.

iRunFar: Yeah, perfectly normal ultrarunning stuff. So, was it around Handies Peak or somewhere like that where you had stomach trouble first?

Hughes: Yeah, so around Handies, I started to get really hot. And then also, yeah, just dehydrated. And yeah, those kinds of things. But the stomach didn’t really happen until Camp Bird Road, is where it really hit. Right after the Ouray aid station. So.

iRunFar: Okay. The conditions were really difficult, I think especially for someone who lives in Colorado, and you’ve had such a massive winter, and then you’re running in a heatwave. So, did you find the heat really hard?

Hughes: I did. Yeah. The heat is always just really hard for me. Like, that’s always a big challenge. So yeah, to have the heat. And then the breathing also started to affect me a bit on Handies Peak. That’s where that started. So, pretty early on as well. And yeah, those little hurdles you have to get over to finish.

iRunFar: Well you did so good. There was a really strong women’s field, and it was pretty close. So, did you share some miles with Kimino [Miyazaki] or Claire [Bannwarth] or anyone, and how was that?

Hughes: I didn’t share many miles, but Claire was in front of me for the first 15 or so miles. And, so, yeah, I caught up to her and chatted for a minute or two, and then went past. And yeah, I thought I’d see here again on the downhill. She was really, like, I’d catch up to her on the uphill, and then she would go down and drop me again, so I thought I’d see her again. But yeah, it’s just funny how that all works. I spent a lot of time alone. Like, it’s really spaced out in these long ones.

iRunFar: Okay. And for you was the downhill your strength throughout the day? Were you climbing better than you were descending?

Hughes: I feel like it kind of went up and down. Like the beginning, I felt stronger on the climbs and not as strong in the descents. And then towards the end, I felt a lot stronger on the descents just because I could breathe a little easier. On the uphill it’s like the breathing that was holding me back. Which is kind of frustrating, because it’s like, I could power up this so much faster if I just breathe.

iRunFar: Yeah, that is really frustrating. Like, you’re a local so, like you just said, it’s been a big winter for you guys. So, you’re used to snow, but people were saying the snow refroze, and it was like really slippy out there. Were you okay with that? Is that your comfort zone?

Hughes: Yeah, I mean, I’m used to, you know, running in the snow and you know, crossing snowfields, all that kind of stuff. But yeah, there were a couple of spots that were pretty sketchy. Especially on the climb coming out of Telluride. There are a couple of spots there where I was a little sketched out. But yeah, got through it okay.

iRunFar: You did great. And was there any point where it kind of started to turn a corner and you started to feel more comfortable, or feel like you were a little bit safer in podium position?

Hughes: Yeah, I guess it wasn’t, because I never, you know, really knew how far behind next female was. But yeah, in the last section, or going on the last climb, and then you go down to Putnam, and that’s the last aid station to the finish. And going up on that last climb, we looked over and saw some, a couple of runners cross the ridge. And I was like, I didn’t know who it was. Yeah. And so I was kind of stressed like, Was that the female behind me? And so then I started like, powering down the other side, and yeah, didn’t even stop at the next aid station. [laughs] But it ended up being a lot further than I thought, so I could have walked more, but I’m glad I pushed. It like, lit a fire, and got to see like, what I was really capable of.

iRunFar: Okay. And you might have felt better than you thought you did at that point.

Hughes: Yeah.

iRunFar: And then did you stay very long at many of the aid stations, or were you just trying to get in and out as quick as you could all day?

Hughes: Yeah, I feel like I’m always trying to like, just get out as quick as I can, but also taking the time to like, take care of myself. And yeah, there are a couple of stops when my stomach really turned where I needed to spend a little bit longer, just like, to get some more food down, and broth, and all that kind of stuff. But for the most part, like I was, I felt like I got through them pretty good. I think I had like 72 minutes total stopped, which at Hardrock I feel like that’s pretty good.

iRunFar: That’s a pretty dialed system, right?

Hughes: Yeah.

iRunFar: And then I know you’ve ran without pacers before for other races like Javelina [100 Mile] which is always obviously really different. But I think you had pacers for this, and do you think pacers are really important for something like this?

Hughes: Yeah, I was so grateful to have pacers for this one. It was just, I just had a lot of like, really low moments. Like, some of the worst I’ve experienced in ultrarunning. So yeah, I was just grateful to have friends that were so kind and patient, and supported me through that, and kind of saw me at my worst. [laughs] So yeah.

iRunFar: It was nice for your friends to get to share in this achievement as well, I suppose. And then how did you feel when you eventually made it to the finish line?

Hughes: Oh my gosh, it was so surreal. Like, I just, you know, dreamed of kissing the rock and all that. It’s just really special to be here. And yeah, just to have the opportunity to run and then to finish is just like.

iRunFar: Yeah. Massive achievement. And then afterwards, I know you’re not taking it easy for long. You’ve got a pretty big race in Switzerland. So, you want to tell us about that a little?

Hughes: Yeah, so I’m doing the Swiss Peaks 360k, so it’s 230 miles with 80,000 feet of climbing. [laughs] So, yeah. Hardrock, it’s kind of a double dip, because it’s good training for Swiss Peaks, but it’s also, you know, like, this is like my A race of the season. I really wanted to nail it. So yeah.

iRunFar: Big adventures ahead. You’re so young for someone to do such big ultras. So, what is it that you love about like these really long things?

Hughes: I just, I love the challenge of it. And, I don’t know. I just feel like these longer distances just fuel me more. Like, it’s just what I enjoy doing. So. Yeah.

iRunFar: Okay. Brilliant. Well there’s no better reason than if that’s what you enjoy.

Hughes: [laughs]

iRunFar: So, thanks so much, and enjoy a little bit of recovery before you get going again.

Hughes: Thank you so much. I will.

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is Managing Editor at iRunFar. She’s been working in an editorial capacity for ten years and has been a trail runner for almost as long. Aside from iRunFar, she’s worked as an editor for various educational publishers and written race previews for Apex Running, UK, and RAW Ultra, Ireland. Based in Belfast, Ireland, Sarah is an avid mountain runner and ultrarunner and competes at distances from under 10k to over 100k. When not running, she enjoys reading, socializing, and hanging out with her dog, Angie, and cat, Judy.