Dylan Bowman is the 2021 Hardrock 100 second-place finisher. In the following interview, Dylan talks about why this was the best running result of his career, chasing champion François D’haene around the San Juan Mountains, holding off third place Ryan Smith, and his first Hardrock experience after years of waiting.
Read our Hardrock 100 results article for more on how the race played out.
Dylan Bowman Post-2021 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Dylan Bowman, it’s the day after the 2021 Hardrock 100. You’re a Hardrock finisher.
Dylan Bowman: Finally. And so are you but this is number three for you, number one for me, and number one of many hopefully for me. It was amazing.
iRunFar: We just concluded the graduation ceremony/award ceremony, I think you’re riding a big high right now?
Bowman: Yes, also completely exhausted but yeah, 100%, it was a highlight of my career, one of the greatest days of my life honestly. It was everything I hoped it to be. Yep.
iRunFar: Saying that this is a highlight race career wise, there is a lot to unpack there. So can you start with like the nutshell summary of why those 22 hours and 45 minutes, why that represents such an iconic moment for you?
Bowman: Well I mean, I’ve been in the sport now for a while, a dozen years and I grew up here in Colorado and always wanted to do Hardrock and the first time I was here was in 2011. I’ve been here many times ever since and just I’ve always wanted to do the race and finally had my first opportunity this year. I don’t know, the race has a unique vibe to it as you know and I think it’s what people who come here are looking to sort of experience and that’s what they love about the race. I wanted to be part of that, I wanted to be part of the Hardrock family and yeah finally was able to do it and it went better than I could have imagined, didn’t think I would run that fast. Yeah, over the moon.
iRunFar: Over the moon. Let’s talk about how the race unfolded. It was a pack of guys for 10, 12, 15 miles?
Bowman: Yeah, there was four of us into Cunningham [Gulch]. It was myself, François [D’haene], Ryan Smith, and Julien Chorier through Cunningham. And we pretty much stayed very close together through Maggie [Gulch] I would say. Maybe even through Pole Creek, so 20 miles. And then Ryan and I actually settled in together for long stretch in François was just ahead by few minutes. And then Ryan sort of fell back from me sort of going from Sherman to Burrows and up Handies [Peak]. And François was four or five minutes ahead of me for what seemed like forever. And I could see them whenever we were above treeline and was really just sort of trying to maintain some semblance of contact with him but he’s just an absolutely remarkable athlete and yeah, sort of once we got over through Grouse [Gulch] and over Engineer than the gap just started growing.
iRunFar: It’s kind of crazy to have a competitive race where you’re alone still. Do you know what I mean?
iRunFar: Where you can kind of see that person but it’s very abstract. You can see him because you’re above treeline, it’s a really unique landscape, but they are there and you are here.
Bowman: Right, and it’s just so quiet, there’s nobody out there, it doesn’t feel like you’re racing but I think that’s what makes Hardrock so cool. It’s just so different than anything else and it is like communal but it’s also very solitary. And I was my experience yesterday and yeah, like I said, I still just trying to absorb everything that went down because it did feel like it was over before it even started. And yeah, I feel like there’s still a lot to sort of learn from the whole thing.
iRunFar: I think you had pacers for the whole distance that you are allowed to have pacers. You picked up your first one at Grouse Gulch?
Bowman: Yeah, Hillary Allen met me in Grouse and took me to Ouray, so over to Engineer and she was great, it was awesome to have her company. And she had just done the “Softrock” around the mountain.
iRunFar: She was familiar with the course.
Bowman: And I was very not talkative.
iRunFar: And Hillary’s talkative.
Bowman: She’s talkative, she’s very friendly, she was absolutely doing everything she could to sort of tell me about what was coming up because I didn’t really know the course either so getting all that data and information from her was really helpful too. And then I had Topher Gaylord who took me over Virginius Pass, so Ouray to Telluride. Which was amazing, Topher’s been a great friend and mentor to me throughout my career. And then Tyler Green took me home.
iRunFar: I think you experienced an incredible sunset with Topher going up to Kroger’s Canteen.
Bowman: Yeah, I mean again just a highlight of my running career. Getting up to Kroger’s.
iRunFar: Honestly what’s that like, being up there? I mean, the photos, the light is unreal.
Bowman: I mean, you don’t expect to get to Kroger’s when it’s still daylight out. That’s when Topher was the one who told me that we were well ahead of course record pace.
iRunFar: You didn’t know until then?
Bowman: No I didn’t. No because I never keep splits or anything like that so I was just running by feel and Topher said, yeah you guys are way faster and I was like, oh no. Because it didn’t feel like we were pushing but as I said to you I think it was really good conditions, really fast conditions. Sort of the opposite of the Western States 100 this year in that it was just pleasant, pleasant running all day. But yeah, the sunset from Kroger’s Canteen, Virginius Pass, big hug from Joe Grant up there and his crew and then descending into Telluride, it was the most spectacular – like you could never even paint a picture as beautiful as what we got to enjoy on our way down to Telluride.
iiRunFar: You guys did the fighting part of this race in the dark. By yourself on these remote passes out there. What was that like?
Bowman: It so hard. The race is just so relentless.
iRunFar: And yet we’re so happy today.
Bowman: It was just so incredible. Just like the section from Ouray to the top of Oscar’s Pass was just brutal. Because it’s 5,500-foot climb and then a quick descent and then a 4,500-foot climb. And it just feels like you been climbing for eight hours by the time you get to the top of Oscar’s Pass. And then as you know it doesn’t and there, you gotta’ go up Grant-Swamp Pass and it just keeps coming, it keeps coming. I really lost my ability to eat for a long time but I was still moving well, I wasn’t feeling great but I was moving well and I knew I was moving well. But every aid station to come in and get the feedback that François’s lead was continuing to grow, just wow. He is just such a remarkable athlete and it’s hard to find the words to describe how impressed I am by the fact that he beat me by an hour.
iRunFar: And you ran what you ran.
Bowman: And I ran way faster than I thought I would.
iRunFar: Were you also at the same time getting feedback on who was behind you and the gap, that you were cementing yourself into second place pretty heartily?
Bowman: Yeah, a little bit, it became pretty clear to me, like okay, it would take François having getting off course or having something really wrong happen for me to catch him. So it wasn’t like I was complacent, wanting to just protect second place but you know, I was doing everything I could to just continue to move forward and occasionally I would get an update that Ryan was 20 or 30 minutes back and because I felt like I was still moving well I never really felt like I was that threatened from behind but I have so much respect for Ryan too, I’ve known him a long time, I feel like he always sort of flies under the radar and is a much stronger athlete than he gets credit for. And I mean he showed it yesterday as well.
iRunFar: What was it like to cross the finish line and it’s not even close to daylight yet?
Bowman: Yes, incredible, you know. I figured my headlamp would be in my backpack but it’s so cool, yeah, to just cross a river and have those final 5 kilometers, which is like finally where you can run.
iRunFar: You can actually run.
Bowman: You can actually run, and my legs worked and I was just like, I don’t know, I just felt it you know? It’s just like wow, what a freaking adventure and yeah to come into town at 4:30 in the morning, 4:45 in the morning, kiss the rock have some friends and family there to enjoy it with me, it was goosebumps moment.
iRunFar: It’s a pretty wild course, any animal stories? River incidents? Natural phenomena?
Bowman: No, I mean it was pretty tame day from that perspective but I did see on the climb, the final climb up to Putnam, some glowing eyes in the night. You know with my headlamp and they were wide set eyes so it did spook me a little bit because I don’t think it was a deer or anything. I think of something larger than that. After you know, a mile of checking over my shoulder every 30 seconds I felt safe. Luckily I had my poles out just in case you know, you have self defense.
iRunFar: Come at me, I’ve run 95 miles but I’ve got more. Last question for you, you’ve had kind of a month. There’s been a lot packed into this month for you. You led the Western States 100’s live coverage, which was 30 hours of coverage but a whole week of work. You had a little bit of break and now you’re here this week. What now?
Bowman: It’s going to be a big come down that’s for sure. Yeah, I mean both experiences were to the greatest experiences of my career honestly as you know I just love the sport, love what we do. Love the people, love the vibe and yeah, just feel privileged to be part of it you know, and to get to contribute in a couple different ways. To participate as an athlete, to help spread the word and help tell the story a little bit too. It’s fun for me. And so trying to just kind of keep that going, especially as we have more races going on and we can start gathering more. I get a lot of joy from that.
iRunFar: Are you going to sit on the couch at least a little bit?
Bowman: Yes, of course. I’m great at sitting on the couch.
iRunFar: I’m relieved to hear that.
Bowman: How was your day?
iRunFar: It was great. I mean it was hard because it’s Hardrock but it was great.
Bowman: Third place?
iRunFar: Yeah, thanks for asking.
Bowman: Awesome. Who gets to do your interview?
iRunFar: I think that Bryon [Powell] will do it later today. Let’s see.
Bowman: Okay if he needs a break you guys call me and I’ll do the Meghan Hicks.
iRunFar: Should we just switch the mic right now?
Bowman: Let’s just switch the mic. Up to you, I mean I don’t want to step on Bryon’s toes but.
iRunFar: I’ll just break it and do it, I’m sure he’ll be happy.
Bowman: Let’s do it.
Bowman: Sunglasses on.
iRunFar: It’s midday in Silverton.
Bowman: We both haven’t slept very much either so keep the sunglasses on.
iRunFar: Can’t see the red blood-shot eyes, the puffy.