Follow Up On Hardrock Qualifying Races

AJWs TaproomOne of the things I try to teach kids is that there is a difference between intent and impact. Often a kid will tell me when he’s sent to my office as a result of some “bullying issue”, that, “I didn’t mean it seriously. It was just a joke.” And, while I nod my head and say, “Of course, that’s what you intended but is that how Johnny received it?” I am thinking, the intention was a joke but the impact was an insult.

My column last week on the new qualifying races for Hardrock provided an example of me, of all people, doing exactly that. While I was analyzing the impact of the Hardrock Board of Directors’ decision to revise the qualifying standards for their race, I failed to consider their intent. After consulting with Kris Kern, the Board of Directors President, I’d like to offer some additional comments.

In the context of the new standards, the Board did NOT change the qualifying standards to restrict entry into the lottery. Nor did they alter their standards to ensure runners are more likely to finish, or to promote other races. That was my interpretation, not their intent.

Rather, the Board’s principal goal was to:

…better ensure safety in the mountains by tying the qualifying events through an objective analysis to the conditions a runner might experience in the San Juans. Those that have done Hardrock or read the race reports will realize that almost every year there are conditions that have the potential to become a rescue situation. Having some confidence that runners know what they are getting into and are prepared is the purpose for having qualifiers, and we think it is the responsible thing to do. We try to make this clear on the Hardrock website.

Furthermore, the Hardrock organizers laid out a series of attributes which they will use to determine future qualifiers:

We describe on the website why we have qualifiers and what attributes we expect of them. We gathered data reflecting those attributes from race websites for all candidate races to use as a basis for comparison. The data we looked at, as best we could determine from websites and race maps included total climb, maximum elevation, number of sustained climbs (greater than 2,000 feet, greater than 3,000 feet), sustained running at high elevation, number of aid stations, and maximum distance between aid stations. We also tried to gather the potential for mountain weather, water/snow crossings, exposure to drops, and navigation off trail, all of which are much harder to find and in some cases we had to rely on familiarity of Board of Directors members with individual races. This allowed us to look at many race attributes to evaluate how someone running that race might experience some of the conditions they would find at Hardrock. In general, the qualifiers we kept had significant climb plus at least two or three other attributes we were looking for.

Kris Kern, speaking on behalf of the Board, went on to say:

The Hardrock 100 Board of Directors worked hard to make the transition to the new qualification standards as fair as possible, phasing out runs over two years (with the exception of Leadville – please read our reasoning for that change on the website). The unanticipated result is that there are substantially more qualifying runs for the upcoming lottery for the 2014 run than there have been in the past and will be in the future.

Finally, after reviewing some of the comments from last week’s column, the Board would like the public to know two additional points:

1. The Hardrock lottery is NOT conducted via computer. In fact, the Board of Directors cuts paper tickets, drops them in boxes, and draws them one-by-one. The changes we made to the lottery last year balanced the lottery between those with a long history at Hardrock, those that have finished and want to return, and those wanting to run for the first time.

2. Starting limitations (currently 140) are set by the National Forest Service and BLM in our permit. We work with them every year to ensure that we are being responsible users of public lands. At the same time, we have an ongoing debate: if the BLM raised our limit, how many participants should we limit ourselves to? There is not an answer to this, but we consider impacts to the land, our volunteers and the community that hosts us, safety, and the character of the event in these discussions.

Lastly, I would like to offer my personal opinion on what it takes to be qualified for Hardrock. I ran the race once, in 2009, and prior to that race I had finished Western States seven times, Angeles Crest four times, Grand Teton 100 two times, and Wasatch two times. And, to be quite honest, I felt like I was barely qualified for what that race threw me that year and that was in an, admittedly, benign weather year. When all’s said and done, Hardrock requires serious chops!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Southern Tier Live Pale AleThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Southern Tier Brewing Company. Their Live American Pale Ale is a creative twist on this classic variety. This smooth and eminently drinkable APA is a blend between Sierra Nevada AP and Dale’s AP. Not bad!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What do you think about the clarifications the Hardrock 100 Board of Directors made here, explaining the intent of the changes to their qualification process?
  • For those of you who have run the races on the new qualification list, what elements do you think best make them an environment for runners to gain the skill set they need to run Hardrock with success?
  • For those of you who have previously run Hardrock, did you find that you were adequately prepared by your previous ultrarunning experience for the rigors of this “post-graduate” outing in the San Juans?