Avery Collins Pre-2023 Hardrock 100 Interview

A video interview (with transcript) with Avery Collins before the 2023 Hardrock 100.

By on July 11, 2023 | Comments

Avery Collins, like so many trail runners, has waited a long time to run the 2023 Hardrock 100. A local to the event’s start-finish line in Silverton, Colorado, Avery talks about what it means to him to finally race one of his goal races, what it’s like to call the San Juan Mountains his home terrain, the condition the course is in compared to other years, and how he sees the men’s race playing out.

For more on who’s racing, check out our in-depth preview. Follow along with our Hardrock 100 live race coverage from Friday.

Avery Collins Pre-2023 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Avery Collins. It’s a couple of days before the 2023 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run. Good morning, Avery. How are you doing?

Avery Collins: Good morning. I’m doing good, and I’m getting super excited that the race is around the corner, because I’m doing a lot of nothing.

iRunFar: There’s been a lot of waiting for this week to happen. How does it feel to finally have a race that you’ve been endeavoring for quite some time on the actual doorstep?

Collins: It’s really exciting. So, Meghan’s referring to ten years of hard work. Obviously, two years were cancelation years that were added in there that did not help my cause. But I feel like this is kind of the culmination of 10 years of hard work and progress, and I feel undoubtedly that I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. And also, the most prepared and comfortable I could possibly be with terrain like this, given that, you know, the last few years I’ve just done a lot of races that are similar to Hardrock. Maybe not quite as high in altitude, but I’ve been living here since summer of 2018 now, and I feel like the altitude thing is not so much an issue anymore. And hopefully the culmination of many miles doesn’t affect me in terms of altitude towards the end of the race. But I have a good feeling I should be able to handle it alright.

iRunFar: So you were one of those sort of early adopters of like, the Hardrock into like your personal goals. Like, you learned about the Hardrock early on in your ultrarunning career. You started doing qualifier races, you started putting in the lottery, so it’s been a real journey to get here. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Collins: Of course. Hardrock and Tor des Géants were, outside of Western States, realistically, the two first races that I had heard about, and watched many YouTube videos on, and was very much inspired by. And it’s, you know, it’s not necessarily that everything kind of, revolved around the one goal of Hardrock, but more of everything revolved around becoming a better mountain athlete, which in turn is very much beneficial for race like Hardrock. And, you know, as it turns out, most of the races that you use as qualifiers for Hardrock are like, really awesome events. With Tor des Géants being one of my all-time favorites, for a qualifier leading up to this. And I feel like when you do something like that, it puts everything into perspective, and helps you realize how attainable all your other goals are. And I think that kind of reflects how I feel about the Hardrock course, and the race itself. I came out here in 2014 and watched the event, and was not only inspired, but very much intimidated by what I saw. And…

iRunFar: You’re not alone there. [laughs]

Collins: Yeah, so I think a lot of people can relate to that. I was very much intimidated 10 years ago. And today, I’m not intimidated by the mountains, nor am I scared of the race or the competitors. What scares me the most is I really do know what I’m capable of. And I don’t want to fall short of that goal. And I’m also scared of how much I know it’s going to hurt if I do what I’m capable of.

iRunFar: Yeah. It’s interesting that dynamic of like, you want to get into this race and run it because it called, it speaks to you. It’s in terrain that you like. But it’s also like, the longer you wait to get to it, kind of the better the athlete you become, right? There’s a dichotomy there.

Collins: Unfortunately, that is correct. I would have preferred to have gotten in to this four or five years ago. And I’ve had a lot of time since December or January when they did the drawing to really reflect on that and think about that. Because like many people for years, I was really frustrated and felt like I was never going to get in, to the point that I stopped watching the lottery, and had no idea that I got in until my phone just kept getting text messages.

iRunFar: [laughs]

Collins: And I feel like this is the right time, and I am in incredible shape. And there’s even like, this luck factor that I’ve dealt with some very difficult injuries in the past few years. And with the help of some incredible sponsors, I’m finally kind of out of the woods on that.

iRunFar: That’s awesome.

Collins: It kind of would have been a bummer to get into the race not 100%, because obviously I would have ran it. But I wouldn’t have been able to show, not only myself, but like, for me it is showing people what I’m capable of.

iRunFar: Yeah. Yeah.

Collins: And I feel like now I have an opportunity to really do that, and on healthy feet mainly.

iRunFar: Yeah.

Collins: And then the rest of my body as well.

iRunFar: Yeah, so you are a local. Like, you live down the street from the starting line. I guess one would think that that’s usually like a benefit to a race like this, where course specificity and altitude acclimation are important things, but it’s been kind of an unusual winter and then spring in that a lot of the trails are only recently truly accessible.

Collins: Yeah, yeah. And honestly, I kind of prefer the big winters.

iRunFar: Because you also ski.

Collins: Yes. And it was it was a really fun winter. And I think for me…

iRunFar: Sorry, you snowboard.

Collins: I ski uphill.

iRunFar: That was a major faux pas.

Collins: I ski uphill and snowboard down.

iRunFar: Thank you.

Collins: So, it’s okay, I kind of do both. You know, for me, the winter allows me to not only recover, but enjoy what I do in the summer. I’ve been ultrarunning just long enough now that I’ve watched generations of runners come and go, which is really crazy to think about. And the big winter rolling over into the spring, I think what a lot of people don’t realize is if you’re good at the aspect game, and you know the area well, you can do a lot of running. And honestly, we had such a big winter that the snowpack, once it went isothermic, like everything was really hard pack and you could even get out and run north through east aspects and like, run pretty fast. We’re in an interesting spot now where like, the snow is rotting. So, you know, when you don’t have this six-foot base anymore, there’s punching through and a little bit of nastiness. But it’s, it’s been a fun year to train for this. And I actually would hope that we get big winters from here on out, because I think the running is much more characteristic of big mountain adventures and running. And I think all the entrants that got in this year get the real genuine experience of what it’s like to run in the San Juans.

iRunFar: Yeah, like true, natural course conditions or natural mountain conditions for this time of year.

Collins: Absolutely. Yeah. I don’t think it’s going to be perfect like 2021, where like, everything was like, tacky and fast, but yeah. We spoke about this the other day. I think while there is a fair amount of snow, and perhaps the course might run a little slower than normal, I don’t think it would be drastic.

iRunFar: I think like, if we all would have talked a couple of weeks ago we would have said, “Oh, well, the snow is going to be pretty difficult.” But now we’ve had a warm spell. The monsoons haven’t started. It’s been really windy, and the snow is just moving away.

Collins: Yeah, yeah. I mean if monsoon season starts, it’s going to be so messy, because the upper layer of snow where it is semi hardpack is just going to be so soft and disgusting.

iRunFar: Okay. That’s a really good point.

Collins: So, I mean, you know, conditions are conditions. Like I’ve always said, everyone’s going to deal with the same thing, kind of. So, I’m good with whatever the conditions are. I will say if it rains it’s going to be, it’s going to be really hard. [laughs]

iRunFar: Well, the Durango weather guy who’s sort of our local forecaster is saying the monsoons are going to hold off, but then there’s these weird clouds that are starting today. So, who knows?

Collins: I could use the weird clouds, because right now they’re showing race day to be the hottest day of the year.

iRunFar: Yeah.

Collins: And, you know, heat is something, I can manage it. I prefer not to be in the heat. I think if there’s anything that some of my competitors have on me, it’s heat training, because I’ve been in Silverton for the last…

iRunFar: Where it hasn’t been like this.

Collins: Yeah, it’s been nice and cold. And like, I’ve been making it a point to just like, I call it the callousing of my mind and body, and I’ve been making it a point to go run in rain and hail and be as cold as possible. And now it’s going to be the hottest day of the year.

iRunFar: Forgot about heat. [laughs]

Collins: Yeah, my thought process was like, oh man, if you can handle this stuff, like the night running, when people have to kind of deal with the jackets and gloves. Like, I feel like I wanted to be comfortable at night when it was super cold, and just be able to move efficiently, and not have to mess around. And just be comfortable with like, when you’re going up over Grant Swamp [Pass] towards the end of the race, and it’s likely going to be, looks like right now like 38 to 40 degrees. Which is going to be still hot for me. [laughs]

iRunFar: Yep. And that’s Fahrenheit, not Celsius, right?

Collins: Yes, yes. 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, for sure. Yeah, but I mean regardless, I’m really excited.

iRunFar: Now when I think of like, a person like you, Avery Collins at Hardrock, you’ve lived here, so you’re as acclimated as you can get. You’re a very talented mountain runner. You’re coming into the race with now a decade of mountain running experience. Like your absolute potential at this race is really, really high compared to say like a runnable, low-altitude 100 miler type thing. Knowing that, and like knowing the experience that you bring to this race, do you care to talk a little about like, how you’re going to race? Are you… like any strategy-type thoughts?

Collins: Yeah. I mean, I feel like I have to be patient, because when you wait so long to get into the race, it’s not like a race that you can get in easily and it’s like, Oh, I’m going to find out like, can I push really hard from start to finish and if I blow up no big deal. I’ll come back next year. That is not something that really comes with Hardrock. So, I feel like for me at least, I need to go into it relatively smart and patient. I’ll say that I don’t really want to, I don’t want to lead the race from the start. And I doubt I will. I tend to know how the Europeans race. And I tend to let them race the way they race.

iRunFar: We might see some French people leading the race.

Collins: I would imagine, yeah. There’s a high likelihood that Americans won’t be leading for the first however many miles, but I’m hoping the Americans take over later in the race.

iRunFar: [laughs]

Collins: Yeah, and you know, I just want to feel out what everybody’s wanting to do that day. And not that I don’t intend on perhaps running in the lead pack, but if it feels like Oh, this is going to cost me by the time I get to Animas Forks, then I’m going to hold off. Because really, from the top of Handies [Peak] to Kroger[‘s Canteen,] which is lots of miles, over 20 to 25, I’m not sure exactly the mileage. It’s a lot of really good running. And honestly, for around here, relatively easy running. Between downhill off Handies, and then Engineer, which is nothing but road, and relatively gradual road. Bear Creek is not a highly technical trail, and it’s a ton of low grade downhill into Ouray. Yeah, so I feel like if you can save yourself some of those mid miles, even into later miles, there’s time to be had there.

iRunFar: The miles might pass a little bit quicker later on.

Collins: Yeah, hopefully. And that would be the goal. I just don’t want to get to where I know I can actually run, and not have that ability to turn it on.

iRunFar: Do you think, since heat is becoming a factor, this is probably the thing we’re going to be talking about after race day? A lot of people are thinking is it, you know, when the sun’s out at high altitude, the heat is going to feel the worst, or is it when you’re down at the lower altitudes around Ouray where the heat is going to feel the worst. As a local, where is that? Where is the heat going to be like, the game day changer?

Collins: I think, you know, I’m going to need to be more conscious of it down in Ouray. I totally understand for anyone coming from lower altitudes, the sun exposure up high can also be costly. You know, I spent the last however many months up high, and I feel like I’ve perfectly crusted my skin to be ready for the high.

iRunFar: [laughs] Calloused for the high altitude.

Collins: Yeah, to be ready for all the sun exposure. So that’s, I don’t think that’ll be very problematic. And even like the hydrating part, a large majority of my calories anymore are coming from my water bottles, so I kind of have to drink. So, I would say Ouray is probably going to be the spot where I need to be really smart. And I wouldn’t be surprised if when we run by the Uncompahgre, if I just take a quick dunk, and then get out of there.

iRunFar: Once a lifetime exposure to the Uncompahgre River.

Collins: Yeah, and I feel like once you leave Ouray, Camp Bird, which I think where the sun’s going to be.

iRunFar: Yeah. Is it going to be shaded?

Collins: There’s a decent chance I think it’ll be shaded through there. Hopefully, I mean, if it’s not, then I guess that means I’m kind of running kind of fast, because if the sun’s still hitting me, then I’m kind of getting through the course quickly.

iRunFar: So, there’d be goods and bads to there being sun exposure for Camp Bird for you.

Collins: 100%. Yeah.

iRunFar: Okay, last question for you. You’re a longtime local of Silverton now. You’ve seen all the nooks and crannies of the San Juan Mountains. There is about to be, you know, a passel of people descending upon this place for the first time. What do you want to tell those people about like, the experience to have in this place this week?

Collins: That’s a good question. Well, the first thing I would suggest is never stop eating and drinking, because it’s pretty likely that a lot of people will feel good through the first 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50 miles. But the moment you slip up is when you when you dig a hole when you’re running at an average of, what is it, I think 11,000 or 11,500 [feet.]

iRunFar: 3,000 meters. Insane.

Collins: It’s really hard to climb out of that hole. So, if you really want to enjoy your experience, I think it’s important that you stay on top of your nutrition. And it’s probably too late to say this, but I would say don’t come visit and run up a ton every single day. I won’t name any names, but I think some people have already made that mistake. So, they’re enjoying themselves, which is all that matters.

iRunFar: Vacation before the race vacation.

Collins: Yeah, I had the advantage of I don’t need to like, check everything out. I did that when it made sense in the biggest part of my training block, so now I’m doing a lot of nothing. There’s a little bit of FOMO because I see a bunch people going out and having fun.

iRunFar: “I could go, too!”

Collins: And I’m saving all my fun for race day.

iRunFar: Awesome. Avery Collins, best of luck to you in your first Hardrock 100 Endurance Run, and it’s going to be fun to chase you around the mountains this weekend.

Collins: Awesome. Thank you. Yeah, I hope you’re chasing and not waiting.

iRunFar: I hope. We like to chase, but maybe, like, maybe don’t run sub-20 or it makes it really hard to chase you guys.

Collins: Oh my gosh, sub-20. That’d be so cool. Alright.

iRunFar: Best of luck.

Collins: Thank you.

Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.