The Hardrock 100 is renowned as one of the most challenging ultra marathon races in the world. It has 33,992 feet of vertical climbing over 100 miles. It traverses a loop from Silverton, CO through Ouray and Telluride across ridge lines and peaks amidst the rugged San Juan mountains. Now do it on skis. In the winter. In the cold. In the dark. Join Altra & Big Agnes Athlete, Jason Schlarb, on this awesome adventure.
When Jason Schlarb first hit Rob (Marketing/Sponsorship) up about Skiing the Hardrock 100, he knew they needed to be in some warm jackets and tents. Enter Big Agnes’s Shovelhead jackets and Battle Mountain tents. We sat down with Schlarb – after the fact – to ask him some questions about defeating one of the toughest feats in Colorado.
We asked Jason why he thought it hasn’t been done before:
“Part of the reason the Hardrock 100 mile remained un-skied for so long is because gear just 5 to 10 years ago was so much heavier and far more limited in performance. With 700 gram skis, 1.5lb boots, titanium bindings, light, durable and warm outerwear (Big Agnes Downtek™Jackets) along with camping equipment (BA Battle Mountain 3) that allows affordable, light and warm overnights, we are far better equipped to make an attempt on our 4 day ski traverse.”
BA (Big Agnes): So let’s start with Hardrock. Could you give some reflection on how it went? How you felt? Maybe little on your competition during the race and how many times have you done it.
JS (Jason Schlarb): “Hannibal from A-Team says it best, “I love it when a plan comes together”. My race at the Hardrock 100 was a long-planned-for and anticipated event.
I’m a professional mountain runner, but more specifically, my expertise lies in the very long distance, super steep ultra-marathons at high altitude. The Hardrock 100 mile is the race for me. For five years I tried unsuccessfully to win a spot in the low odds Hardrock lottery program, until this year.
I love the San Juan Mountains of Colorado so much, where the Hardrock 100 takes place, that my family and I moved there two years ago.
After gaining entry to Hardrock, my winter, spring and early summer was focused specifically on being as well prepared for this one race as possible.”
“Racing with me at Hardrock was the reigning champion and course record holder Killian Jornet from Andorra (country in Spain). Killian was last year’s National Geographic Explorer of the year. He has won the ski mountaineering world cup multiple times and is the undisputed best all around trail runner in the world. Period. Along with Killian I was racing the French phenom Xavier Thevenard, two time Ultra Tour du Mount Blanc (UTMB) 100 mile, which is the super bowl of 100 milers.
My preparation for the race was good. After a winter of training that included a 100k race in New Zealand, a four day 1st ever ski of the Hardrock 100 course, and a spring where I did a seven-day stage race in Morocco and a lot of mountain running, I was ready for some Hardrock action.
The race started fairly conservative with Killian, Xavier and I running together alone. Fifteen miles in, things started to heat up literally and physically, with record temps. Somewhere around 30 miles in I let Killian and Xavier go. I was at a low point in the race, and my competition gapped me by over 10 minutes. Around the halfway point I had mentally gotten over my 3rd place slip and was focused on running my own race. Then I caught up to my competition. Xavier was really hurting and I passed him on the climb to 14,000 ft. Handies Peak. At the top of Handies I was with Killian.
I don’t like to run with my competition because it stresses me out. Killian has also been known to slow down and run with others out of bordem, then drop them later in the race when the finish is close enough for a big burst. I was not at all interested in entertaining Killian.”
“After a few quiet miles we proceeded to push the pace… together. We also started to talk a bit. Only after the race when Killian told me and I put my memories of that long night together, did I fully believe that we were both going about as hard as we could. Tough to believe I can push this super hero icon of mountain endurance sport.
A very special bond was tempered over those long hard hours. By mile 91 and our last aid station Killian invited me to go ahead. I refused, offered the lead to him and he did the same. The only appropriate and satisfying choice was to carry on as we had all night. Together we finished and ran 22:58, the second fastest time ever.”
BA: Will you do it again?
JS: “Only the winners from the previous year of the Hardrock are spared the process of the lottery for entry. Of course I’m running Hardrock in 2017.”
BA: Since coming off the race what have you been up to?
JS: “After Hardrock I traveled, trained and raced in the Alps and Dolomites of Europe with my 5 year old son, to include a week long stage race in Iceland where my wife joined us and also ran the race. I’ll finish the year with a race in China this November and subsequent video project.”
BA: What do you have planned for 2017? Race? Goals? Adventures?
JS: “My crew Scott Simmons, Paul Hamilton, Noah Howell and I will do another ultra-distance ski project and film in March. Before that though, I have a stage race in Costa Rica called the “Coastal Challenge” in February. Hopefully I’ll race Transvulcania 50 mile in the Canary Islands in May, then Hardrock. Not sure what the second half of 2017 will hold quite yet though.”