23 year old Kyle Skaggs broke the 24 hour barrier at the incredibly steep Hardrock 100-miler (33,000′ elevation gain). His time of 23 hours, 23 minutes set a new course record by three hours and beat second place Scott Jaime by over six hours. Diana Finkel of South Fork, Colorado won the Womens division in 31 hours, 9 minutes.
SILVERTON – From Silverton to Telluride to Ouray to Lake City and back to Silverton.
That’s a challenging route for a day trip – in a car.
Kyle Skaggs did the same mountain-town tour in less than 24 hours without a car – just his own footsies.
Skaggs, the modest wunderkind of mountain ultrarunning, won the 2008 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run on Saturday morning in record fashion.
He crossed the finish line in front of the Silverton school, paused for the traditional kiss of the namesake giant hard rock, and stepped into the history of mountain endurance running.
His time of 23 hours, 30 minutes stunned longtime Hardrock organizers and followers – an almost unthinkable sub-24 hour finish in one of trail running’s most rigorous 100-mile tests (at altitude).
He started fast, surpassing previous checkpoint records with each step from Friday’s 6 a.m. start.
And he finished strong, just as faint light started to appear over a still snoozing Silverton on Saturday morning – a half-hour before 6.
“It was just starting to get light when I ran into town,” Skaggs said. “I felt good.”
“I didn’t set a time (before the race,),” Skaggs said as he relaxed in the finish area after a hard-earned shower and a few bites of post-race breakfast.
“I was not worried about splits or anything,” said the 23-year-old from New Mexico – who has been living, coincidentally enough, in Silverton.
“I just went out to run, to run fast,” he said.
And, he added, he counted on his training and experience.
“I had run a lot of these trails before. I’d run most parts of the course,” said Skaggs, who added the coveted Hardrock 100 title to a resume that includes last year’s victory in the Wasatch 100 – and a one-time course record for the ungodly Grand Canyon double-cross crossing.
“Training (in the San Juans) that’s a huge advantage,” he said, having been around a year ago when Scott Jurek won the Hardrock 100 in record time (for the clockwise route). Jurek had lived near Silverton and trained on sections of the Hardrock course.
Through the heat of the day on Friday, Skaggs continued to run at record pace for his clockwise course.
Then, in the cool of the evening, he started to feel better.
“Things actually improved during the night,” Skaggs said. “I started feeling better.”
By this time, he held more than a 3-hour lead over the next closest runners.
The cooler temperatures of the night enabled him to maintain a quick pace, he said.
Then, with the sun thinking about rising, it was over.
His support crew, Skaggs said, was superlative.
“My support crew was great,” he said, commending Nate McDaniel, his pacer, along with McDaniel’s wife Petra and daughter Piki.
Veteran mountain trail runner Tony Krupicka, a two-time Leadville 100 champ, also numbered among Skagg’s crew.
“He helped a lot with this run,” Skaggs said. “It’s definitely the fastest crew.”
Skaggs’ winning margin was more than 5 hours over a strong, deep and experienced field.
Scott Jaime of Highlands Ranch closed strong, moving up to take second place in 29 hours, plus.
Ricky Denesik of Telluride, a trail running legend in his own right, finished third. He’s a former Hardrock winner who’s run the course many times – each direction.
Jared Campbell of Salt Lake City, another veteran of trail ultras, was fourth.
Nick Coury was fifth.
The women’s Hardrock winner – and sixth overall – was Diana Finkel of South Fork, another rising star in mountain trail running.
The winner of the Leadville 100, Finkel dominated the women’s 2008 Hardrock much like Skaggs dominate among the men.
She led from the start, winning her first Hardrock title to go with other trail titles – and a marathon triumph in Thailand.
She won in 31 hours, plus.
Veteran trail runner Betsy Kalmeyer of Steamboat Springs, a former Hardrock winner, was second among the women. She finished in 33 hours, plus. (Exact finish times and splits will be posted on the Hardrock Web site hardrock100.com.).
Skaggs, a former NAIA cross country runner at NAIA Evergreen State in Washington, said he tried to keep things simple during his record run.
“I just took it one mountain at a time. I just said I’m going to get to the top of the next (rise). You can’t look beyond that,” Skaggs said, brushing his Kurt Cobain locks from his face.
“One mountain at a time.”
He also followed another key piece of advice he learned last year from Jurek.
“No soccer,” Skaggs said, smiling as he lounged in a folding chair at the finish line, just a few meters from the magic rock that his pal Jurek kissed a year ago.
Jurek won last year’s counter-clockwise Hardrock route in spite of suffering a badly sprained ankle in a Silverton community soccer match just a few days before the race.
Skaggs was at that match last year; he played in that match.
He saw Jurek’s purple, softball-sized swollen ankle.
“No soccer this year,” Skaggs said. “We played a lot of horseshoes.”
Hardrock race director and race founder Dale Garland struggled for words to describe Skaggs’ remarkable run.
“I didn’t think this was possible,” Garland said. “I don’t know if there is a superlative I can use for this. This is one of the great athletic barriers that we thought would never be broken.”
Garland said Skaggs’ race was without flaw.
“There was no weak part of his race. I kept waiting for him to blow up. But he was consistent. Yes, he was consistent,” Garland said, “not to mention talented.”
“The fact that he was here last year and watched Scott’s run served him very well this year,” Garland said.
“Plus, from the start he was out there by himself,” Garland said. “It was like a 24-hour time trial.”
Runners continued their quest to complete the Hardrock 100 through Saturday night with the official finish at 6 a.m. today.
Finish times and progress reports are available live online at hardrock100.com.