Darla Askew continued her Hardrock 100 excellence by taking third at the 2018 race. In the following interview, Darla talks about how she may have charged too hard on a couple long road descents, what was great about her day, why she prefers the counter-clockwise direction, and what advice she has for future Hardrockers.
For more on how the race played out and for links to other interviews, check out our 2018 Hardrock 100 results article.
Darla Askew Post-2018 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Darla Askew after her third-place finish at the 2018 Hardrock 100. Congratulations, Darla.
Darla Askew: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: It was a rough one.
Askew: It was, it was. There were highs and lows—both literally and emotionally. But in the end, like I said, a finish—for this beast, it’s a good thing [laughs].
iRunFar: When did it start getting really tough for you?
Askew: For me, I started trying to push on Camp Bird Road. I don’t know, I wanted to make up a little bit. I think that was my demise. Coming into Ouray and onto Bear Creek, I could’ve had some nausea. You know, not the typical. But then I felt great going up Engineer. I felt great. Then, I ran down to Grouse a wee bit too fast. Going up Handies, I’m dizzy, my head’s spinning and my vision was a little weird.
iRunFar: Your stomach probably wouldn’t have felt too good, either.
Askew: I wasn’t sick that way, but I wasn’t eating or taking in proper calories. I normally pride myself on being able to say to pacers, “oh, you don’t have to tell me when to eat or drink.” I’m pretty self-sufficient. That was not the case this year. Sean was like, “you need to eat, you need to drink.” It was still a wonderful experience. I’m so happy that Sean has spent six years with me out here.
iRunFar: Has Sean Meissner paced you for every one of those?
Askew: He sure has. And then Kristina paced me for that Ouray section, so that was pretty awesome. I mean, it was great. We had great weather—as you know. Going over Handies, I saw stars—it was clear sky. It was beautiful. I think I had but one layer on, that’s it. Yeah, it was wonderful.
iRunFar: You had a good time on Handies. Did you have any other highlights in the second half of your race?
Askew: I would say I was really glad to see you at Virginius. Going down the rope together really saved my bacon because I was terrified.
iRunFar: You weren’t happy about that.
Askew: No, I’d had some nightmares about it in the nights leading up to the race. But I was super-happy to have company going down that for sure, so thank you. And, I mean, the wildflowers were pretty spectacular going to Maggie. All in all, it was a tough, tough day, but not so tough that I’m unhappy with my time.
iRunFar: It wasn’t you’re A+ dream race, but it was a solid race.
Askew: Yeah, I’m super-happy with it.
iRunFar: I heard after your fifth Hardrock last year, you said you were going to take a break. That didn’t happen. It doesn’t sound like that will happen for next year.
Askew: I was telling my husband that I wasn’t going to do it. But considering next year is the direction that I like… we’ll see.
iRunFar: Why do you think it is that you like it better when you run the Hardrock course in the opposite direction?
Askew: I think it’s because the climbs are steeper and the descents are more gradual. The steeper descents in this direction, I think it just kind of breaks me. That’s something I need to work on.
iRunFar: We talked about this a little on the course. You don’t love the descending, especially the crappier descents on the course. This time especially, when two of the descents were pretty dry–coming off Cunningham and coming off Little Giant were not fun.
Askew: I was on my butt. I watched Sean, and I was like, “if he’s going to be on his butt, then I’m going to be on my butt.” And that was the easiest way to get down. I mean, poles did not help you at all for that section.
iRunFar: I probably should’ve done that, too. I did the poles. It was not…
Askew: I meant to, too. I tried, but as soon as I planted, they were not staying steady. My feet were sliding on the scree. Luckily, it’s a short section and didn’t last too long. Then, coming off of Little Giant, I was like, “oh, we’ve got a road section so now I can cruise.” Unbeknownst to me that the road looked like a dry riverbed, because it was so rocky! I don’t remember that in years past.
iRunFar: No, it was basically a cheese grater. They were pointy rocks, too. They were aggressive.
Askew: They were aggressive. Every now and then they bit you. So that was kind of slow going, but overall, yeah, it was a great day.
iRunFar: So, any advice for people doing Hardrock?
Askew: Obviously, coming out here early is helpful. I’m kind of the type of person that wouldn’t necessarily scouting out a course. I like not knowing what’s ahead of me, to be honest with you. For this race, though, it might be beneficial to scout things out. And I would say just take your time. Make sure you’re fueling and drinking and eating. Definitely don’t push too hard on either the ups or the downs, you need to be consistent. I haven’t learned that yet, but that’s kind of what’s in the back of my mind.
iRunFar: If you could learn that lesson, you would.
Askew: That would be the lesson I’d take hold of. I think being consistent is the key, because with altitude your stomach can get trashed so quickly. Once it does, it’s really hard to get it back. You might gain an hour here, but you might lose an hour somewhere else because you can’t move.
I think scouting the course is good, especially once they’ve marked it, like a week before the race. I don’t know if you noticed, but Pole Creek was minimally marked. We were thinking that maybe we weren’t on the right trail. I’m like, “I know we follow the Continental Divide Trail for a little bit, but this doesn’t look right to me.” Sean’s just like running ahead a little bit.
iRunFar: Was that before the Pole Creek aid station?
iRunFar: Yeah, that’s between Cataract Lake and Pole Creek. We had–Adam St. Pierre took off ahead of me but we could yell and… yeah. It was minimally marked.
Askew: It really was.
iRunFar: Before my first Hardrock, people said “check it out, and when you’re going through there, be aware that it’s difficult and confusing.”
Askew: It is. Because you’re on the Continental Divide Trail, then you’re off the CT, then you’re back on the CT.
iRunFar: There are random contours.
Askew: Yeah, again I think that would be good advice to someone [preparing for their first Hardrock]. Normally, I like surprises. I don’t want to know what’s ahead of me because it could be intimidating.
iRunFar: Do you still feel that way about Hardrock? Is there still that sense of discovery?
Askew: Yeah, I think so. In my mind, I’m initially like, “how am I going to get down Grant-Swamp Pass?” That was the first thing, because it’s the very first kind of obstacle for me. I’m like, “well, whoever’s up there with me, I’ll follow their lead and do whatever they do and hope they pick a good line. Because I typically pick the line that cliffs out. I think, to me, I have to check the obstacles off the list as they go. So it was Grant-Swamp, and then Virginius, then Handies. Handies wasn’t too bad, because it was pretty tacky going down this year.
iRunFar: Way better than two years ago.
Askew: Way better.
iRunFar: There’s so many people who come from an alpinist background at Hardrock who love the technical. I’m so glad that if there’s someone like you in the race, there’s some parts of the course that intimidate you, too. Not the difficulty from an athletic aspect.
Askew: The terrain is a beast. If you’re a skier, a mountaineer, I think this may cater to your liking. You might be psyched about those crazy descents. I’m not a skier. I like to have my feet on the ground with just shoes on or bare feet. No skis, nothing else. But maybe I should pick up skiing. It’s never too late.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations again on another solid Hardrock.
Askew: Thank you so much. Thank you for being out there, too. I loved seeing you.
iRunFar: It was a pleasure.