Dry, fast and ... 102.5 miles

Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald file photo

Last year, Diana Finkel and Julien Chorier were the first woman and man to kiss the Hardrock. Chorier isn’t entered in the 2012 field, but Finkel of South Fork returns to chase her fifth consecutive Hardrock 100 title.

By Dale Strode Herald staff writer

The legendary Hardrock 100 Endurance Run will feature a new look this year.

The 2012 Hardrock 100 will showcase the same grueling 100 miles of trail running in the San Juan Mountains. It also will feature a familiar list of top finishers and former champions when it takes off Friday morning from downtown Silverton.

But unlike recent years, the 2012 version will be staged in a snow-free environment, even at the highest point on the course atop 14,048-foot Handies Peak.

“It will be dry and fast ... conditions are excellent,” said longtime race director Dale Garland of Durango.

“If we continue to get rain, that will help settle the dust,” Garland said. “It should be fun.”

Early snowmelt and hot summer temperatures have stripped the snow from the San Juans, leaving the majority of the 100-mile Hardrock course with dry footing.

“The other thing this year is I’m really excited to see how all the Durango runners do,” Garland said.

A total of six Durango-based ultrarunners will take the starting line Friday morning in Silverton – the most Durango runners in the Hardrock in more than a decade.

“It adds to the ... event, having local runners,” said Garland, who competed in the Hardrock before taking over as race director.

One of the Durango runners, 21-year-old Dakota Jones, is cast as a prerace favorite for 2012 after finishing runner-up last year in his first Hardrock 100.

“Dakota ... would have to be considered one of the favorites, given his experience and what he’s done this year,” Garland said.

Jones, a former Durango High School runner, recently won the Transvulcania 50-mile trail race on La Palma Island, a part of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.

And he won in record time.

“I look for a good race for him.”

“He’s been training (in the Silverton area) to get ready,” Garland said.

Running veteran Brett Gosney of Durango, 53, will hit the trails in search of his seventh Hardrock 100 finish. Gosney also is a member of the Hardrock board of directors.

Gosney finished 11th last year when the course ran counterclockwise.

Also entered in the capped 140-runner field are four Durango first-time Hardrockers: Mike Farris, Leah Fein, Megan Finnesy and Drew Gunn. They’ll be out to complete their first Hardrock 100 – and kiss the finish-line rock in downtown Silverton, the ultimate tradition of the race.

Garland said the field includes a number of runners from other nearby communities.

Ricky Denesik of Telluride, 52, will be out to complete his fifth Hardrock 100.

Rick Hodges and Rick Trujillo, both of Ouray, again will race this year. Hodges, 63, can join elite company by finishing his eighth Hardrock 100. Trujillo, long one of the top trail runners in Colorado, also is a member of the Hardrock board of directors.

Silverton, the start and finish, will send out veteran trail runner Rodger Wrublick, who is chasing his seventh Hardrock finish this year.

“The course will be a little longer this year ... like last year,” Garland said of a course adjustment necessitated by late stream runoff in 2011. The runners last year actually ran 102.5 miles in the Hardrock 100.

“The runners all know ... they all know it’s 102 miles,” Garland said. “But the added section ... this year it’s all downhill.”

The course, which alternates direction each year, will be a clockwise route this year.

Basically, the Hardrock course goes from Silverton to Telluride to Ouray to Lake City and back to Silverton – 102 miles later.

Defending men’s champion Julien Chorier of France will not be back to defend his Hardrock 100 title. He won last year in the third fastest time ever for the Hardrock: 25 hours and 17 minutes. (And he ran the extra 2.5 miles.)

Jared Campbell of Salt Lake City, who won the last clockwise Hardrock in 2010, is back in 2012 along with the King of the Hardrock: five-time champion Karl Meltzer of Sandy, Utah.

“You never can count out Karl Meltzer with his experience and his knowledge of the course,” Garland said.

“Plus, he’s a fine athlete,” Garland said of the Red Bull-sponsored ultrarunner who in 2010 ran the historic route of the Pony Express from Sacramento, Calif., to St. Joseph, Mo.

That’s 2,064 miles in 40 days – and seven pairs of running shoes.

Meltzer most recently won the Hardrock in 2009. He also won in 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2003.

“My training has been OK,” Meltzer said in a telephone interview, adding that a left foot problem has limited his work this spring and summer.

“I think I’ll have a good run (at the Hardrock),” he said.

“I also don’t feel any pressure to win this race,” the only five-time Hardrock champion said.

As a veteran runner, the 44-year-old Meltzer said the pressure is on the young guns, specifically Jones.

Meltzer also said Jones, Joe Grant of California and Hal Hoerner of Oregon likely will be the early pacesetters.

“I’ll run my race ... I know my limitations,” he said, preparing to start his 10th Hardrock.

If the young guns tire each other out, Meltzer said he and others may be ready to step up.

“There are a lot of good runners. Scott Jaime could win it,” Meltzer said. Jaime, the former Hardrock runner-up from Denver, is in the 2012 field.

“He’s spent a lot of time up there (Silverton area) training,” Garland said.

Jaime’s runner-up finish came in the record-setting 2008 race when Kyle Skaggs of New Mexico finished in less than 24 hours (23:23).

“For the ladies, it looks like there will be three at the top,” said Garland, who pointed to four-time defending champion Diana Finkel of South Fork.

She finished fifth overall last year and became the first woman to win four Hardrock titles. She’ll race for five in a row.

Finkel will be challenged by last year’s runner-up, Darcy Africa of Boulder, and former winner Kristin Moehl of Seattle.

Race headquarters this year has been moved back to the Silverton School, Garland said. Last year, the start/finish was moved to Kendall Mountain because of renovation work at the school.

Once the 19th Hardrock 100 begins at 6 a.m. Friday, individual racer progress can be tracked at www.hardrock100.com.

dstrode@durangoherald.com

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