Hadley foots it to another Hard Rock 100

“You just got to pretend they don’t hurt”

The statistics of the Hard Rock 100 are staggering. It’s 100.5 miles long with 33,992 feet of climbing, including summiting Handies Peak at 14,048 feet, and 33,992 feet of descending.
A smooth road run of that magnitude would cripple a person. But the Hard Rock 100 is far from smooth. Allen Hadley points to the hillside that runs from the top of the bench down to Big Mine Park and says, “A majority of the course is like that.”
Hadley started the Hard Rock 100 last weekend in Silverton, Colo. at 6 a.m. on Friday, July 9 and finished back in Silverton in 21st place, 34 hours and 14 minutes later.
It wasn’t his first rodeo by any means. He has a growing list of endurance races, including three other Hard Rock 100s.
In 2004 Hadley ran a time of 33 hours, 54 minutes to finish in seventh. In 2007 he placed 12th, and last year 36 hours and 33 minutes got him 33rd place.
His training for the race starts “as soon as you recover from the previous one.”
Ultimately, training for the Hard Rock 100 comes down to one thing.
“Climbing, putting in as much vertical as possible,” says Hadley.
Coming into this year’s race, Hadley was concerned about being unprepared, still a bit fatigued from a 50-mile race he ran in late June.
“I can’t say I felt like I had the spring in my step I wanted,” says Hadley.
Nevertheless, his plan was in place, setting a series of time goals throughout the course.
With Steamboat resident Matt Morrill pacing him through the first 55 miles, Hadley ended up ahead of his strategic splits but feeling fine.
“I was slightly faster than I would have wanted but I felt good,” says Hadley. “I never was out of my comfort zone.”
He pulled into an aid station just below Engineer Pass after close to 50 miles and 14 hours of running, drank eight ounces of ginger ale and headed out, bound for the top of Engineer Pass.
Shortly after leaving the aid station, Hadley hit his first of several boot-and-rally experiences.
“Within 100 yards of the aid station I threw up the entire contents of my stomach,” says Hadley. “After I threw up I felt fine.”
He hit the top of Engineer Pass at 10 p.m. and while his stomach may have settled for the time being, a different beast started to arise from below.
Blisters, big, deep and tender blood blisters were forming on both heels.
As they descended down off Engineer Pass and into Grouse Gulch, he sent Morrill ahead to get to the next aid station and have wet towels ready to deal with Hadley’s feet.
“The descent to Grouse Gulch was painful,” admits Hadley.
Once at Grouse Gulch, he pulled off his shoes, wiped off his feet, let them dry and then “duct-taped my heels back together.”
From there, Morrill handed the pacing duties over to Pat O’Neill. After a feed they headed back out on course at 11 p.m. Friday night, bound for a 4,000-foot ascent to the summit of Handies with another mountain pass between them and the peak.
This time Hadley lasted 200 yards before another boot-and-rally.
“I instantly lost all the food I ate at the aid station,” says Hadley. “Pat said, ‘This is perfect, you’re right where you want to be.’”
Running on vapors, Hadley “choked down a couple antacids and just got some fluids in,” and the two set their sights on Handies Peak.
With a single gel in him, some water and a watered down sports drink, he summited at 1:30 a.m. and turned back down toward the aid station at Sherman at mile 72.
Still, the blisters were just getting worse at this point and Hadley had been reduced to a near crawl as a result.
“We were down to a slow trot on the flats and a walk on any hill and that’s discouraging,” says Hadley. “The most limiting factor was my feet, they just hurt so bad.”
Nevertheless, Hadley remained on his time pace and got one last boot-and-rally session in before reaching the Sherman aid station.
With his feet crushed and food intake reduced to a couple of saltines, Hadley then turned back uphill at around 4:30 a.m. for another climb, six miles long and 3,000 feet up.
“Pat called me ‘dead man walking,’” says Hadley. “I was running on fumes and I was sleepy like I’ve never been before in a race. Four to 6:30 in the morning was a really, really dark and sleepy time.”
O’Neill then offered Hadley another bit of inspiration at 6:30 a.m. as the sun was coming up.
“We came across this female elk that was blind and its ribs were showing, coyote stew,” describes Hadley. “Pat makes this nice comment, ‘Hey Al, at least you’re looking better than her.’”
Hadley’s stomach started coming back around but his feet just got worse. He hit the Maggie’s Aid station at mile 81 at 10:15 a.m. Saturday and proceeded to pass a couple of people on the following 1,700-foot climb.
“That was good mental support to reel some people in,” says Hadley.
But the feet—his feet were still crushing him and Hadley was preparing himself for the next descent on his feet.
“My mental preparation was knowing I was going to run down two 3,500 foot downhills on feet I couldn’t even walk on,” says Hadley.
While slip sliding four miles down a “trail” that fluctuated between 30 and 40 degrees of off camber steepness, Hadley was celebrating the work of God above for creating something so miserable as the trail he was on.
But it wasn’t over yet, as Hadley had to climb back up between 40 and 50 switchbacks to the top of Little Giant before the final descent.
Hadley had an hour and a half to get down from the top of Little Giant to Silverton if he wanted to break 34 hours, so O’Neill put it as simply as he could to Hadley.
“Pat says, ‘You just got to pretend they don’t hurt,’” says Hadley. “It was time to block out all foot pain and get ‘er done.”
Hadley passed one more person before crossing the finish line and kissing the rock in Silverton, a Hard Rock 100 ritual, 34 hours and 14 minutes after starting.
“I’m totally happy, totally content,” says Hadley. “Pat and Matt were incredible, they couldn’t have been better.”
Hadley admits, 24 hours after the race, he would never do it again. But 48 hours later, he’s back in.
“I’m ready to try it again,” says Hadley.

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