Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run

It’s with great excitement that I get to introduce our guest author today, Steve Pero. Steve has a long history with ultra marathons, and has many plus 26.2 distance races under his belt. But perhaps the most dangerous, exhilarating, ambitious, and therefore most fun ultramarathon of them all is the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run. It’ll probably embarrass him to know that I’ve read about his ultramarathon career on several blogs as well as in the book Running Through the Wall. In the book, Steve writes a short story about his experience with running solo, which then became the journey to the ultramarathon alongside his wife, Deb. His story is a timely one for the dailymile blog not only because the Hardrock lottery took place on Sunday, but also because Valentine’s day is right around the corner, and the Pero ultramarathoning history is definitely a story for the romantic in all of us.

Hardrock to me has been what ultrarunning is all about. It has great trails, gorgeous scenery, challenging climbs and many friends made over the years. These friends have become what we call the Hardrock family. As a matter of fact when my wife Deb finished her first in 2003 the RD Dale Garland said to her “Welcome to the family”.

My first Hardrock Hundred (HRH) experience was in 2000 when I traveled out from New Hampshire to pace Sue Johnston. Prior to this I had not seen any of the course, other than photos and when we reached the climb up to the Virginius aid station, now called Kroger’s Canteen in the middle of the night, I saw a sheer ice wall in front of me with cut steps in the ice…I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Next thing I hear something and look way, way up (about 200 yards) and see a person waving a light at us and telling us to grab the rope to our right. I do so and the rope stretched back and I was standing completely perpendicular to the wall with Sue holding me up! We made it up that climb with a few curse words from me and Sue giggling all the way up. She eventually dropped me on the climb up the scree slope of Grant Swamp Pass and went on and won, setting a new course record in that direction.

What Hardrock also means to me is my bonding and deeper relationship with Deb. When I returned after that first experience I said to my then girlfriend “You have GOT to see this course!” So we both entered in 2001 and both got in because getting into Hardrock back then wasn’t a big deal. While walking up Mendota Saddle towards Virginius (Kroger’s) we agreed that we should get married and made that announcement up at the aid station. My profile photo is that moment captured and us making a toast with chicken soup broth. I went on and got my first finish that year. At the awards breakfast and after receiving my finisher’s print, Dale asked me if I had anything to tell the audience…and I told our story that day or our experience at Virginius. I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the Silverton Gym. Later in the year we were married on top of Mount Monadnock in our home town of Jaffrey, NH.

Since that year we have been there almost every year and I have 2 finishes, while Deb has 1…yes, it’s that difficult. 2 for 7 (last year I gave my spot up for Deb 10 minutes before the start). Some years it was the heat, some years it was the altitude….the medic at Grouse Gulch aid station has come to know me and watches me every year I come in. Maybe that was from the year I had to get 2 bags of saline injected in my arm…but we have become friends. The Hardrock family thing again…
Hardrock isn’t all about the race on that 2nd Friday in July, it’s about the weeks leading up to the race when runners come into Silverton and spend the time course marking or hiking to acclimate. This is where we bond and re-bond every year. From the course record holder to the slowest runner, we are all freinds, all sharing that plan to conquer the 100 miles in the San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado. My and Deb’s names are going to be in the hat for the lottery on this Sunday and we’ll be there whether we get in or not to help the new runners with those wide novice eyes get through the course.
Hope to see you there!

Steve Pero

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