Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs’ Will Carlton trailed off when he tried to find the words necessary to describe his time running 100 miles in a race with 67,984 feet of elevation change.
“Forty-two hours in the mountains — I don’t know — I wouldn’t call it a traumatic experience but …”
Who could blame him? Silverton’s ultramarathon, the Hardrock 100, is internationally renowned for its rugged, San Juan mountain terrain and incredible length. The man who won the race that began July 12 set a course record when he finished in 24 hours, 25 minutes.
A day. The winner ran for a day.
The adjective “challenging” doesn't really put this race into perspective for those who can’t call themselves one of this year’s 140 participants.
But there is a noun that made this race manageable for Carlton: friends.
Some groups of buddies meet up at a local bar to consume two weeks’ worth of meals in a 6-pound pizza challenge. Carlton and his comrades take on months’ worth of the average person’s daily jogs in epic 100-mile races like the Hardrock.
“I really couldn’t have done that without my crew,” Carlton said. “They don’t let you drop out when the only logical thing your body thinks to do is drop out.”
Carlton’s body was pleading with him to drop out. There was a point in the race when a stomach ailment had him keeled over and throwing up for hours. But with the support of his friends and the ultramarathon community, he found what he thinks is the true meaning of races like the Hardrock.
“You know, in the end, I realized that the race really isn’t about running a particular time. It’s about completing the journey,” Carlton said. “It’s more about everybody completing this almost physically impossible path. It’s more of a personal challenge than a race.”
Carlton’s description of what 100-mile races were about found summation in how he chose to describe his 42-hour experience initially.
“I wouldn’t call it a traumatic experience, but … it definitely wasn’t an easy one.”
Jake Miller, a 2012 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School, is working as a summer intern for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He recently completed his freshman year at Nebraska Wesleyan University.