Catching Up With Darcy Piceu

Last weekend, Darcy Piceu won the 2021 Jemez Mountain 50 Mile in New Mexico, which was Darcy’s fourth win of this race over the years. In this video interview, Darcy talks about her injury earlier this spring and her recovery from it, how Jemez went this time around, and her training build-up for this summer’s Hardrock 100.

Catching Up With Darcy Piceu Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Darcy Piceu. It’s a couple of days after the 2021 Jemez 50 Mile down in New Mexico, which you won. Hey Darcy, congratulations. How are you?

Darcy Piceu: Thanks, I’m good. How are you?

iRunFar: Good. We’re talking to each other across Colorado. You’re at home in Boulder.

Piceu: Yep.

iRunFar: Awesome. It’s a couple of days after your win down at Jemez. How’s your body feeling?

Piceu: It’s coming back around. I felt pretty good. I wasn’t too sore. I had forgotten how hard that race can be. We were just talking about how the race seems to change every year and they had a massive fire above town years ago and so that’s impacted the course over the years. But it’s quite a lot of elevation gain and loss which is great training for the Hardrock 100. Yeah, it was really well-run race. I like the down-home feel to it. And, yeah, I feel good. I wasn’t too sore. My knees are definitely not super happy after that. Most of my recovery revolves around bringing my knees back to health again.

iRunFar: Got it. You mentioned your knee. I think I saw on social media a couple months ago a photo of a very swollen knee. That was a part of your end-of-COVID-19-weird-running-time story wasn’t it?

Piceu: Yeah, it was in training. I was training a lot this winter and last winter. For that, you know, crazy unknown race that we’re not supposed to talk about.

iRunFar: That we won’t mention.

Piceu: You don’t talk about the name. I had come off of a really big training week and there was no acute injury, there was nothing, I didn’t fall. I didn’t do anything specifically to it, but I woke up one day and it was really hurting. It progressively got worse and inflamed. It ended up having a bunch of fluid in it, having to drain out the fluid, get cortisone, etcetera. It turns out to be just bad arthritis in both of my knees and I’m just trying to figure out how to manage that and what that looks like moving forward. So it was really nice to race again, to kind of ramp things back up.

iRunFar: It’s been such a strange time with the absence of races for so long. What was it like putting on a bib and running with purpose of trying to finish the race as fast as you can? Talk about that for a second.

Piceu: Yeah, it was really fun. I drove down. We’re about six-and-a-half hours from Los Alamos so I drove from Boulder to Los Alamos on a Friday and got there late Friday, checked in, did all that stuff. It was a very quick in and out for me. Drove in Friday, race Saturday, drove home Sunday, which is fairly typical for me. I tried to go in and race and come back and just be really efficient with my time so that I don’t lose a lot of time with my daughter. This was the last week of school. I work in a middle school part time and she’s in a middle school for the first time this year, so we had a busy week this week.

But it was great. I’m not answering your question about racing, but it was really fun to pin on a race bib again, and to be around other racers and runners. The field definitely spread out pretty quickly. I think I ran with a couple of guys on and off throughout the day and that was fun. Just getting to kind of chat with other people and I think everyone was pretty excited to be out there again.

I was telling you earlier that I took a wrong turn. I got lost for in total probably 30 minutes or more. I had lost my place so I spent time getting caught back up to all the people that had passed me. So I’m glad that I’m doing a couple races leading up to Hardrock so that I’m hopefully getting all of these mistakes behind me, you know, kind of going through all the things that you’re not supposed to do when you’re racing and getting them out of the way. Then I’ll show up to Hardrock a little more prepared.

iRunFar: It’s like the year-and-a-half break from racing has turned everybody back into ultra rookies again.

Piceu: A little bit, yeah. I just, like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just did that. Jemez is not as minimal as Hardrock, I do love the minimal markings and all that stuff, but confidence markers also feel really nice. You see them, you’re like, “Oh, yay!”

iRunFar: “I’m on course!”

Piceu: It was a good reminder: if you’ve gone 15 minutes without seeing a marker, check to see where you are.

iRunFar: You’ve mentioned Hardrock a couple times. This is what you’re building up to. I think this is going to be your eighth start of Hardrock, is that right?

Piceu: Yeah.

iRunFar: How exciting is it to be able to do Hardrock again?

Piceu: Gosh, I’m really excited. Of course it’s evolved over the years and it’s a little different. And who knows what it’s going to feel like this year, because I’m sure things will feel a little different, just because of COVID-19 and how we have to sort of manage that. But I’m really excited. I’m just excited to be back in the San Juans again and be running through the mountains and excited to see the community again and, yeah, I’m really excited for it.

iRunFar: You ran the 2017 edition and then I think you didn’t get picked, or you were pretty far down the waitlist, for the 2018 edition. Then, did you volunteer at Kroger’s Kanteen in 2018?

Piceu: Yeah. We had so much fun up there. I think it was me, Diana [Finkel], Anna [Frost], and they’re all, like, a group of women who had all won the race before. And then Joe Grant, Scott Jaime, Jason Poole, and Roch Horton, of course, and the whole crew that’s up there. That was just so much fun. It was such an awesome experience to learn what really goes into that aid station and how much work goes into it. Like how many loads of 50-pound packs we had to carry up there to get all the pierogis and tequila on top of the pass. It’s a lot of work.

And I get sad thinking about the fact that that might not be a part of this year’s Hardrock, because we’re not sure about whether or not that can happen. So, that is a big loss. I would like to try and figure out a way to still make Kroger’s happen. That’s sort of a mission that I have. Because Roch [who was the aid-station captain] is retired and I would like to hopefully make sure that that still happens. It won’t be the same but, but I think that’s such a cool part of the race.

iRunFar: I feel like this is different a little bit for everybody, but what is it that draws you to keep coming back to Hardrock?

Piceu: I feel like you and I have even had this conversation before a bunch of times before or after Hardrock, you know. I think so much of it is in the community. People talk about the Hardrock family and it’s not like that, like this good-old boys, it’s that there really is truly a community of people that have been going there for a really long time and there’s a lot of bonds that have been formed, and those are all really special.

And for me, I’ve been going down to the San Juans for many, many years. I was an Outward Bound instructor in the San Juans. And now they’ve been running the race. I volunteered, like I would pace friends for years even prior to me running it. So I’ve just been going down there for so many years, it just feels like it’s like tradition now, and I don’t know what July would be like if it didn’t involve coming down to Silverton and spending time down there running around.

iRunFar: The Hardrock family has gotten to see your daughter Sophia grow up over the years.

Piceu: She’s up to here now. [holds hand up to her neck to indicate height]

iRunFar: Is she and all of her tall self coming to Hardrock this year?

Piceu: Yeah, she is. She would not miss it now at this point. I know, she’s five feet tall. She keeps reminding me that she’s hit five feet. I’m like, oh my god, it’s crazy.

iRunFar: “Could you stop growing for a little while, please.”

Piceu: I know. Like, she was a baby in our arms, which to me it’s like, that’s such a cool progression. I know there are others who have that experience with their children. I got to talk to Blake Woods’s daughter after Jemez and she’s going to be [at Hardrock] pacing him this year.

iRunFar: Awesome.

Piceu: There’s also the extended family for a lot of people. And kind of expanding out toward everyone’s larger family.

iRunFar: I think that’s a great way to end this interview. Congrats to you on your win at Jemez last weekend and I for one, am excited to see you run Hardrock in a couple of months.

Piceu: Thank you.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Managing Editor and the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running.' The converted road runner finished her first trail ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places.

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