Jeff Rome had a breakout performance with his second-place finish at the 2018 Hardrock 100. In the following interview, Jeff talks about how he came to trail running, why Hardrock appeals so much to him, how he bounced back from some vomiting, and when he switched from conservative to race mode.
For more on how the race played out and for links to other interviews, check out our 2018 Hardrock 100 results article.
Jeff Rome Post-2018 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jeff Rome after his second-place finish at the 2018 Hardrock 100. Congratulations, Jeff!
Jeff Rome: Thank you!
iRunFar: That’s quite a breakthrough performance. Do you agree?
Rome: Yeah. That’s the best run I’ve had. Yeah, it’s a breakthrough.
iRunFar: You had a good debut last year.
Rome: Yeah, I took over two hours off of it. It’s easier this direction, but it’s not two hours easier. I went a little faster.
iRunFar: Let’s back up a little bit. What’s your history with sports? Were you a runner growing up? Did you play other sports that would apply?
Rome: Not really. I always hiked a lot. Really, before I got into running, I just did long hikes. I hiked Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim before I ran it. I started realizing that I could do that a lot faster and not have to take a whole weekend to do it.
iRunFar: So your running evolved as a more efficient way to cover that mountainous terrain?
iRunFar: When did that transition start to happen?
Rome: Well, I was kind of doing that and then one of my friends in college suggested we train together for a marathon. Then I did well, and after that I signed up for the Javelina Jundred. That was my second race. I didn’t finish that.
iRunFar: Your second running race was a 100 attempt?
iRunFar: When was that?
iRunFar: A couple years then…
Rome: Yes, my first 100 that I finished was the Bear 100in 2012. That’s when I started putting in for this. That’s why I did the Bear was to put in for this.
iRunFar: You’ve been putting in for a while from the 2013 race on.
Rome: Yes, and it took me five years. I did it last year and got lucky enough to get back in.
iRunFar: And made the most of that opportunity.
iRunFar: You’re a trail runner, but you also dabble on the mountaineering side of things? You do summiting and scrambling and that kind of stuff?
Rome: Yeah. That’s why Hardrock appealed to me most, because it’s the most mountaineer-y run out there… well, maybe not, but it’s mountaineer-y but it also has a good flow. There’s steep, but there is also actual running in this race, too.
iRunFar: Tell me more about this “running.”
Rome: Well, like Burrows to Sherman, you can run. In this direction especially, there’s a lot of running. We were doing sub-nine-minute miles which is a short section, but it feels good to… I love cranking out hills, but it’s nice to break up that.
iRunFar: You like running, too, so you get both at once. There’s also not technical mountaineering, but there are big hikes up big mountains.
Rome: Yeah, and there was a fixed rope going down Virginius, so you’ve got to be careful.
iRunFar: How did you approach that one?
Rome: Troy [Howard]went down first right ahead of me. I brought my camera on the race and took a few shots. I made sure he wasn’t right below me and then went down.
iRunFar: Did you have gloves?
Rome: I actually didn’t, but Anna Frostsuggested I take my BUFF off and used it. It worked.
iRunFar: Go, Frosty. Now that BUFF is probably pretty well destroyed?
Rome: Maybe, but I don’t know.
iRunFar: Let’s get on with the race. You go out and you’re behind me. I remember you passing me a mile from KT. I remember telling you, “What are you doing back here?”
Rome: Well, it was interesting, because I basically did the same thing I did last year. I started out slow and even kind of passed the same people at the same miles in the race. Then, I had more energy or more drive at the end and took some time off in the second half.
iRunFar: You felt good the whole way?
Rome: Not the whole way. I puked at Engineer, but even to me it was unexpected. They had birthday cake at Engineer, and I was about to get some birthday cake. Then, I felt it coming up and had to puke. Then my pacer, Alyssa [St Laurent], wisely suggested that maybe I shouldn’t have birthday cake right then.
iRunFar: They didn’t tell me. I’m jealous. They didn’t tell me about the birthday cake at Engineer. I came in and left. Eric Senseman, next time tell me about the cake. You got sick. Was it hot for you coming out of Ouray?
Rome: Yeah, I think it was just the heat. I’m not too sure what it was. The rest of the time I was pretty fine.
iRunFar: That’s a pretty common section for people to feel nausea on.
Rome: I was a little worried, because I haven’t puked in a race before, but some of the aid station people seemed a little worried, but my pacer, Alyssa, was really encouraging and I didn’t feel too bad. I kind of held back a little bit and recovered. From there, I started to feel better and better until the end when I tried to hammer. That hurt.
iRunFar: You went out really conservatively. Was there a time where race mode really turned on?
Rome: Going into it, I was thinking I wanted to be able to run Pole Creek, but I ended up turning it on a little earlier. We were going up Handies and at that point, I was just kind of going along and not really racing. It was that American-Grouse Pass. You have a pretty good view of that. It was at night. I checked my watch when I got to that pass and I saw the next person behind me was about a half hour back. I had no reason to hurry. I could see some headlamps ahead. On the way down, I caught Jesse Haynes. Then, I had someone behind me and needed to race a little bit. I saw headlamps ahead of me… and that’s how the rest of the race went—see a headlamp, catch it, hurry.
iRunFar: You played a little shark or Pacman or whatever you want to call it? That must have been a fun feeling.
Rome: Yeah. Yeah, it was. I felt like every headlamp I passed, I knew each person was going to be a little bit faster, so I kept getting more and more adrenaline. Each climb from Maggie to Buffalo Ridge, I pushed really hard there. I passed Troy there. Okay, I’m good, I’m settled. Then, I find out that Jeff Browningwasn’t too far ahead, so then I had another push.
iRunFar: Really? If you passed Troy with any gusto, you probably felt not secure, but maybe that you could be conservative?
Rome: Yeah, when I passed him, I continued charging for another couple minutes to get some distance. Then, I saw he wasn’t catching up. So, I went down into Cunningham a little conservative, but then I went hard.
iRunFar: That was probably an exciting and miserable realization.
Rome: Yeah, I had figured I was on the podium already—sweet—but then I find out I have a shot!
iRunFar: At winning Hardrock.
iRunFar: I can’t imagine trying to race up and down Little Giant.
Rome: Yeah, going up, they told me he was six or seven minutes ahead. I was able to catch sight of him going up. Every now and then he would come into view. I caught sight of him as he was going up to the pass, and, then, it was demoralizing when I got there, because looking down into Little Giant Basin, there was no sign of him.
iRunFar: That’s pretty impressive his descending then on that. That upper part is not quick. It’s really bad slippy footing.
Rome: I think Jeff Browning did the second fastest split from Cunningham to the finish. I think he did 2:05, and Kilian [Jornet]did 2:03.
iRunFar: Second fastest ever.
Rome: Yeah, so he was hauling.
iRunFar: Maybe he caught sight of you at the pass.
Rome: He did. When I first saw him he was going not slow, but he wasn’t really booking it. I saw him look down and automatically he accelerated.
iRunFar: Sounds like an exciting race in a race!
Rome: Yeah, it was the first time I feel like I actually “raced” a 100. And it’s at Hardrock which some people say it’s not a race… it wasn’t a race and it turned into a race.
iRunFar: What was your favorite memory from the race?
Rome: Engineer Pass—after I puked I started to feel better. Then, there was a bit rainbow I could see from the pass. The lighting—it was sunset going over Engineer, and then we were just cruising down the road.
iRunFar: You didn’t get hit with that thunderstorm?
Rome: No, there was almost no… lightning nowhere near me, and when there was rain, it was hot. It won’t be like that next time.
iRunFar: You were thankful for it. Sounds like a pretty perfect weather day.
Rome: Since it was so dry, I only got my feet wet at four stream crossings. I was able to keep my feet dry for most of it.
iRunFar: It was a very un-Hardrock Hardrock.
Rome: Yeah, strange… compared to last year especially.
iRunFar: Was it wet last year?
Rome: Yeah, and hail.
iRunFar: Some of us got off pretty easy. That thunderstorm last night was pretty brutal looking. Do you have anything else planned for this year?
Rome: I’m not really great at planning things. The only thing I really planned was Hardrock. I have some ideas but no concrete plans—no races but maybe some adventure runs.
iRunFar: Maybe put your name in a lottery in December?
Rome: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
iRunFar: Congratulations on a great race, Jeff. Look forward to seeing you here soon.
iRunFar: A bonus question for you, Jeff—you finished second, and I hear you know the second woman. Tell me your relationship with Nikki [Kimball].
Rome: I moved to Livingston, Montana, a while ago for an AmeriCorps Vista term. I was volunteering at a track meet, and one of the teachers at the high school was like, “That’s Nikki Kimball over there. Do you know that?” I introduced myself, and we went running the next day. She kind of got me hooked into physical therapy, so she was the first person I shadowed.
iRunFar: So you worked under Nikki Kimball when you started down the PT path?
Rome: Yeah, she’s the reason I’m in PT school.
iRunFar: That’s pretty awesome.