Running is an individual sport. Especially ultra running. Logging countless hours on the trail, to prepare for long, mountainous races. It requires a certain type of person – motivation, and focus. But, after spending last week, running the Hardrock 100 course, then crewing and at the Hardrock 100 race, I’m convinced ultra running is team sport.

Me at the top of Virginius Pass (Kroger’s Canteen) on day 2 of ‘Softrock’

After nearly a month on the road in my Dave & Matt van, my final stop before heading home was in Silverton, Colorado. I arrived a week early to run ‘Softrock’ — my own version the Hardrock 100 race — where you run the course split up over three or four days, staying in towns (like Ouray or Telluride) along the way. Still recovering from my foot injury, I decided to do the route over 4 days with my team – Elise Mordos, Jon Rea, who would be running it with me, and Rachel Rea, who crewed us for the endeavor. (If you want more details about the course, check out my Komoot profile for all the details).

Running down into Silverton on our last day of ‘Softrock’

After completing our ‘Softrock’ we were thrown into the bustling town of Silverton, CO as Hardrock racers and their teams arrived. I was especially excited to see Dylan Bowman, a good friend and The North Face teammate. Dylan had prepared 2 years for this race, since it was cancelled in 2019 due to snow and 2020 due to the pandemic. I was planning to join his, already rockstar team, of Harmony Bowman (master crew chief), Ryan Thrower, Topher Gaylord and Tyler Green, for moral support. It wasn’t until the day before the race, that Dylan invited me to pace him on one of my favorite sections of the race — Grouse Gulch to Ouray — climbing up over Engineer Pass.

Dylan and I climbing up over Engineer Pass.
Photo credit Paul Portland

In 100 mile races, you can have a pacers, this is generally for safety reasons. As runners enter the back part of a 100 mile race, pushing through fatigue, weather and the night, it can be an added help to have someone with you. Of course, not every race allows pacers, but being a pacer at Hardrock 100 is incredibly special. The race is incredibly difficult to get into, and is capped at 140 participants. Being a part of a Hardrock team is special, the running is not about you. You are there for the support of your runner, to help them through low spots, confidence in navigation, and to remind them they are not alone.

Dylan, Harmony and me coming into Ouray.
Photo credit, Ryan Thrower

I was the first pacing leg for Dylan. After about 40 miles of running, a 14er and over 13,000 ft of climbing in his legs, it was my turn to run with him. To be honest, I was nervous of getting dropped. The paces that Dylan was running were already under course record pace – a record set by no one other than Kilian Jornet. Dylan was running in 2nd place, behind France’s François D’haene, another legend.

My pacing leg flew by (literally got several crowns for the climb and descent segments, check out my strava) and as I handed Dylan off to his next pacer, Topher Gaylord, I switched into crew mode for the remainder of the race. I followed Harmony’s lead as we continued onto the next crews spots in Telluride, then Chapman, hiking in 2 miles to a white tent stoked with food and medical aide for the runners. We spent the midnight hours waiting for Dylan to arrive at the aid station, only to see him for several short minutes as we checked in on him, gave him resupplies of water and food, then sending him off with stoke and well wishes.

Photo credit: Ryan Thrower

And before you know it, it’s over. The worry, the anticipation, the journey. Dylan ended up kissing the Hardrock in 2nd place, under course record time. A truly impressive accomplishment, and although the performance was truly his, and his alone, I was grateful to be a part of his team. To be a small piece of what it takes to run these races. It gives me renewed motivation to go out there and pursue my goals, and encourages me to extend my team. To share the journey, because it is true what they say – success is better when shared. Who’s on your team?

Photo Credit: Ryan Thrower

Leave a Reply