When a Race is Just an Excuse

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Red and gold streaks

From the first pictures I saw of the Hardrock 100 race, I knew I had to find a way to get to those mountains. The pictures are stunning. High altitude peaks rising far above the treeline, streaked with ribbons of orange and gold that stream down to lush green meadows. So, when I found the Silverton Marathon/50K race, I knew I wanted to sign up. It was the perfect way to get introduced to these beautiful San Juan mountains.

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Silverton, CO

Silverton is the home of the Hardrock 100. The Silverton Marathon/50K race starts and finishes there, just as the Hardrock 100 does. The course follows some of the same Hardrock trail, starting at 9300 feet and topping out just under 13,000 feet. I couldn’t wait to experience it.

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Heading up

From the minute the race started, I was back of the pack. It’s a familiar place for me. But, I’m checking my watch, and as the slowest person, I am doing 12-minute miles. The rest of the pack is just gone! The first six miles are fairly level. I was able to do a run/walk combo but catching my breath was not easy.

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Serious climb

As the route turned into a climb, I power-walked as fast as I could. I was able to stay ahead of about 4 others, so at least I wasn’t last. But, after stopping at the 12 mile aid station, I was nearly last. Although the road led up a nice valley, it was at about 12,000 feet and my lungs weren’t feeling it. I was plodding along when I got passed by the remaining runners, except one—an older man who was walking the whole thing.

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Beautiful views

It was then that it really thought about why I was there. I had no illusions of winning or even placing in the race. I had no thoughts of even getting a PR (personal record). I was there to experience the beauty of the mountains. I smiled and kept on.

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Nobody left

Some friendly ATVers took my picture as I headed up the bowl. Although you could see people up on the ridge, it was a long steep mile to reach them. This is where the course topped out at just under 13K feet. Sleet was hitting my face sideways and my mouth was so frozen I could barely talk. A nice man offered to take my picture, so we found a suitable backdrop and I smiled for the camera. Now I was dead last.

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Over the first pass

The course took a small dip before the next pass. That’s where I came across a couple in a Jeep that were lost. I stopped to help them figure out where they were and how to get where they wanted to go. After spending about 5 minutes with them, I carried on again.

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Nice smooth downhill trail

As I reached the second pass, I started wondering if I would truly be the last one in. Although I was ok in placing last, I didn’t want people to have to wait for me. So, I was determined to do a run/walk combo the final 10 miles. After a stop at the last aid station, where I chatted briefly with the volunteers, I worked my way to the finish. The views continued to be everything I hoped for and I had enough energy to run across the finish line. 15 minutes later, the older man walked across the finish line.

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Finish line!

In this race, it really was about the journey and not the destination. I look forward to using another race as an excuse to have a new and awesome experience. And, if I come in last, so what.

Terri Rylander

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