Dakota Jones had the race he was looking for at the 2022 Hardrock 100. In the following interview, Dakota talks about why he went out with Kilian Jornet and François D’Haene despite planning on not doing so, why he took off from them after Ouray before the halfway point, and how he worked with his pacer and former course record holder Kyle Skaggs to run faster than Kyle’s best time.
To see how the whole race unfolded, check out our 2022 Hardrock 100 results article.
Dakota Jones Post-2022 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Dakota Jones after his third-place finish at the 2022 Hardrock 100. How are you?
Dakota Jones: I’m doing great actually. Yeah, I feel good.
iRunFar: You’re moving around alright.
Jones: Yeah. Moving okay. And I’m just satisfied the way the weekend went, so.
iRunFar: I’m glad to hear that. I guess you think that’s a pretty darn good performance from yourself.
Jones: Yeah, I’m super happy. This is like the best I could have hoped for. And I mean, phrasing it like that sounds like I can’t hope so much. No, I like tried really hard. I did the best I could and like, it was honestly a dream come true. I finished in a really good time that I can be happy with. And you know, I never expected to beat Kilian [Jornet] and François [D’Haene]. I really didn’t ever expect it to be with them nearly as long as I was. It was just a really great day.
iRunFar: In fact, in a previous interview, you were saying, you know, “As long as I don’t go out with them in the first half.” Well, that went, throw that out the window.
Jones: Well, I mean, everybody thinks I’m full of shit because I ran with them until like, well, well over half the race, but I mean, you know, I felt good. And over the first 10 miles I was running with them, which is normal. They were going easy, I was going easy, it was fine. But then honestly, the second climb they dropped me. On Grant-Swamp Pass.
Jones: They pulled, not a lot, but they pulled ahead of me for sure. And then I kind of caught up a little bit on the downhill. Like I wasn’t trying to but I ended up catching up with them. And then they pulled ahead of me on Oscar’s, on the third climb, too. On both of those climbs I was like, well, we knew this was going to happen. Here we go and I was being very vigilant to just not to push it too hard and let them go. But then I ended up coming into Telluride with them. Like I was coming down the road, like damn, they’re right there. Like, because I was afraid that running with them would make me run harder than I wanted to. And it kept happening. And then we ran together for a long time. Yeah, just trying to hang on, I guess.
iRunFar: Yeah. And then apparently, yeah, what happened coming out of Ouray?
Jones: Yeah, well, I think what happened is that going down Camp Bird Road, which is this, you know, like 10-mile stretch or something on a road, which it’s not paved, but it’s basically a paved road down to Ouray. It’s, they don’t like that. I don’t think Kilian or François like it at all. And for whatever reason, I felt great. I was eating a lot. I made a point to eat as much as I could, and to drink a lot of water. And I was just cruising down the road. I felt awesome. And we came into Ouray, it’s low elevation. And I don’t know if I said in my previous interview but it’s like for me that’s always hard. Like Ouray can be really hard because there’s a huge climb on both sides of it. And it’s really low. It’s often really hot, but it’s also low elevation, so I felt a lot better.
iRunFar: And it wasn’t hot.
Jones: It wasn’t hot. Yeah, we were getting rained on a little bit out of Ouray, which was fantastic.
iRunFar: Can’t hope for better than that.
Jones: Yeah. And I just felt so good that when I don’t know, I was just running climbs leaving Ouray, without, without feeling like I was increasing the intensity. And then suddenly I was ahead of Kilian.
iRunFar: It wasn’t some sort of intentional move or anything like that, you were just …
Jones: Not at all. No, I was running with Kilian at first and François fell back. I think he was feeling really bad. And then above that, you get above the highway like three-ish miles out of Ouray. And you’re climbing up into the Bear Creek section and it’s really nice. And somehow I just, Kilian fell back. And I think he said he was having some cramps or something later, but I was just honestly trying not to push it. But I pulled ahead of both of them. And you know, you pull ahead of Kilian and Francois D’Haene, then you’re like, you start questioning your strategy. [laughs]
iRunFar: You anticipated what I was going to ask. Does it actually pop in your head or are you just like, “Oh, it’s a beautiful day and I’m feeling good?”
Jones: Oh yeah. I was like, “I didn’t see this coming, and I’m a little nervous about it.” But you know, some of my best races in the world, in my past is like that happened. I was like, well, I don’t think I should be here, but I feel good so I’m just going to go with it. And so, I did and I felt really good. And I ran, that climb, it’s really long. It’s like a 5,000-foot climb from Ouray to Engineer Pass, but it’s also, it’s a big climb but it’s also like not very steep. So, you can run lots of it and I was just jogging up a lot of these. All the flats and downhills and a lot of these minor uphills, hiking too. And I just felt so good and having a great time. Yeah, I was like, “This is probably going to come back around and bite me but we’ll go with it for now.”
iRunFar: Seeing you at mile 58 at Animas Forks, like you just, your stride looked smooth and strong. Your energy was just great and you’re talking to your mom.
iRunFar: And it just seems chill. You weren’t forcing it.
Jones: Okay. Yeah, that’s good to know. So I was, I could tell that I was getting stretched.
Jones: At Animas Forks. I was, I thought you guys could tell.
iRunFar: No, you faked it. You faked it well.
Jones: You know what it is? I think the altitude was really good to me at that point. And so, I came over Engineer starting to feel a little bad and I tried to eat as much as I could, but I didn’t quite feel as good as I wanted at Engineer or at Animas Forks, 58, 60 miles or so. And then I knew I was like, well, the altitude hurt me there and I’m about to go over a 14,000-foot peak, so I’m probably in for a hard section and that’s where I really cracked is at, on Handies Peak.
iRunFar: And what did that mean for you in the moment? What cracked?
Jones: I just like couldn’t move that fast. I wasn’t feeling good. And I was eating as much as I could. I was able to eat consistently the whole race. But just, man, the altitude, it blew me up and so I had my pacer Eric Senseman there and we were just, which is really nice. It’s super helpful to have someone to talk to. I didn’t talk much but we were just like, well, there’s still a ton of race left. So, we just like, go slow here where I feel bad and try to keep it together. But for the most part. Like when I felt bad, I didn’t want to like stop and like, try to work it out. It’s like you just keep moving.
iRunFar: But did you, you say slow down? Was that intentional to like back off the effort a little bit?
Jones: Well, I slowed down because I’m trying to maintain the same intensity and, all of a sudden, like my normal intensity is like a lot slower because I wasn’t feeling good. And so yeah, as we were going up Handies Peak like, all of a sudden, there’s Kilian and François together, you know. And they didn’t catch me until we were down to Burrows at like mile 68 or 70.
iRunFar: Did they just go straight by?
Jones: No, we actually came into the aid station right together. And then we left and there was like a four-mile stretch of road. It’s mostly downhill. And we like got this, like there’s like a tiny little uphill grade on the road. And I was like, well, I got to walk. And Kilian and François like, stop, look back me and stop and they’re like, okay, and they like, start walking too as if we’re in this together, you know. [laughs] And I was like, “Woah guys, you don’t know what’s going on here. This is, this is where you move.”
iRunFar: This isn’t the smart strategy.
Jones: I appreciate your kindness, but this is over. You can go. And so, in the next 30 miles they put 90 minutes on it.
iRunFar: Yeah. And you know, they put 90 minutes on you but for you like did things completely crater, or are you still like, “Alright, I’m alright, I’m moving well. I can’t run with them right now but …”
Jones: I mean, I was like, I’m not doing as well as I was before but I’m still doing great. Like for me getting to Sherman at mile 72-ish, like before turning on my headlamp, that’s incredible. That was like my dream. My best-case scenario and I kind of, I kind of fudged it. Like the last like mile or so into the aid station was really dark but I was like, “Eric, do not turn on headlamps because I said we’re going to get to Sherman without it.”
iRunFar: It’s funny how we do that. Done a little bit earlier going into Grouse Gulch, but it feels good to get to whatever that aid station is like, now we can figure it out without the headlamps a little bit.
Jones: Yeah. And so I mean, I ate some quesadillas there, and then you know, it’s just like the point is just like keep moving. Don’t stop. Like I’m like, every step forward is a step closer to the finish line. Like I’m not helping myself out by stopping and trying to figure something out because nothing was wrong. I wasn’t hurt. I don’t know, I was just kind of tired because I’m running a hard 100-mile race. It happens. And so, you just keep moving and I don’t know, in the dark it was actually really nice because you can’t really see how big a climb is. You just keep moving. And then once I got up after that you get a high section. It’s like not that steep but you get above tree line, like 11,000 to 13,000 feet for several, for a long time.
iRunFar: Like Pole Creek is long and high.
Jones: Yeah, like 10 or 15 miles or something.
iRunFar: Mostly 12,000 feet.
Jones: Yeah. And once I got there, it actually, I like totally turned it around. It felt really good. Yeah. And I ran like Cataracts, all the way down and up Pole Creek. So I was running long sections there.
iRunFar: How’d your pacer feel there?
Jones: He was doing great. And then we like, after Pole Creek you do this, it’s like gradual for a long time. And then you have a steep section before the pass.
iRunFar: He was worried about that.
Jones: Senseman kind of cratered. But it was okay. He got me over there and that was what mattered. What really amazed me, we came over that pass and I’d been running really well for two hours maybe at that point, I had been feeling good. And I come around, you could see Maggie aid station, which is like mile 85, but then the next climb is like right in front of you. Those guys were at the top. I could just see the headlamps at the top of the next climb. And I was just about to, I was just descending from this one. And I mean, it was cool. Like I was like “Those guys are amazing. That’s incredible.”
iRunFar: And so you’re, say you’re in Cunningham. You’re seven miles or nine miles, I don’t even know at this point. Are you looking at your watch like “Oh, I can break 23”? Are you worried, “Oh maybe I’m not going to get 24”? Like what are you fueling on positivity or just trying to or trying to maintain?
Jones: Yeah. I was like, I knew what I had to do, in that what you have to do from Cunningham is a 2,800-foot climb in two miles. And so it’s an intimidating prospect, but I was also like, you know, you get over there and then you’re done and finished. And I knew I was on a good pace. I wasn’t thinking too much about time. I was pretty sure that third or fourth place was well behind me, so I didn’t have to worry about that. But I also like, I don’t want to slow down. I wanted to keep moving really well, as well as I could. I didn’t think about time that much until I actually left the aid station. So I got to get paced by Kyle Skaggs, which was a kind of a dream come true, because the first time I volunteered at Hardrock he ran the race and set the course record.
iRunFar: And really changed the game at Hardrock.
Jones: I really think, yeah. He kind of ushered in this sort of new generation at Hardrock. So he offered to pace me last week and it was a really big honor. And we laughed and he was like, you know, “You’re exactly on my time here.” And he’s like, and he also said that he blew up on that climb.
Jones: He felt terrible and like actually sat down for a minute.
iRunFar: And was he encouraging like, go fast?
Jones: Yeah, he was like, “You can totally beat my time. Let’s go! Come on, man!” He was awesome. He’s like telling me stories about all kinds of things. I couldn’t talk much on the climb, and he’s just really positive and friendly. And then coming over the top, he’s like, “I think we could break 23! Let’s do it!” And we’re like, pushing so hard, but I couldn’t quite pull it off.
iRunFar: But before the race, you said, in a great race you could break 24 hours and you did. That’s sinking in.
Jones: Yeah, that’s what I thought is like my best-case scenario is going under 24. And I mean I was 23:06, I think. And like, that’s a dream come true, man. To be able to do that. That feels so good.
iRunFar: Congratulations on that. So you’ve got a busy little bit coming up. You’re putting on your Footprints camp next week. You’re in the process of moving. You’re going back to school in the fall, or returning to school in the fall. Are you going to do any more racing this season?
Jones: Yeah, I got some ideas. I’m hesitant to say because I’m not quite sure how, which ones I’ll end up doing.
Jones: But I kind of got to see how I feel after this. I’ve got some ideas. I definitely want to race. You know, you have a good race like this and all of a sudden, you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I want to race every weekend. Hell yeah.” Just pull it off and then that can backfire pretty quickly.
iRunFar: That’s never happened before. [laughs]
Jones: Exactly. But I don’t know. I feel really good about this.
Jones: It’s like, everything I hoped it would be, so it’s fun.