Durango rookies go the distance in Hardrock 100

They dreamed, they entered, they trained ... and they finished!

“It was everything I anticipated and more,” said Leah Fein of the 2012 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run. “I ended up getting engaged at the finish, which greatly added to the best day and a half of my life.”

Fein’s training panned out perfectly for the race that started and finished in Silverton with more than 30,000 feet of elevation gain.

“I spent three days a week in Silverton training on the course for two months leading up to the race,” she said. “That specific training was key – to learn the course like the back of my hand and to condition my body for the extreme conditions of the San Juan Mountains.”

Pleased with her time, Fein felt everything went better than anticipated. She thought she might suffer more and be burned out on running. On the contrary, though, she would love to run it again.

“I’ve got the Hardrock bug bad,” she said.

Drew Gunn had the race he dreamed of.

“I was surprised that I never really had a low point,” Gunn said. “Even when I was hurting, I was still enjoying being out there.”

Aside from wishing he had more time, he wouldn’t change much about his preparation for this race.

“Training for ultras is very time-consuming, and just running, recovery, yoga and eating could be a full-time job for me,” Gunn said.

He also stressed the importance of training on the course, if possible.

“Knowing the lay of the land can be very helpful,” he said. “Learn to power-hike efficiently. Unless you plan on being top 10, you won’t be running uphill much at all, but fast hiking can get you a pretty good time.”

Expecting to feel lousy near the end, he was surprised at how good he felt the last 20 miles.

“I have to credit my pacers for doing a fantastic job of keeping me psyched,” Gunn said. “That and having my parents there had a tremendously positive effect on my mood throughout the race.”

Megan Finnesy gushed about her experience.

“I loved being out on the course with all the other Hardrockers, and going in and out of the amazing aid stations, it just kept me going,” Finnesy said.

At the Sherman aid station, she felt a surge and came alive.

“I was able to push the last 28 miles, I passed 15 people from Sherman to the finish.”

Having family and friends around throughout the race was a plus for Finnesy, as well.

“I felt so blessed to have my dad and sister and a bunch of friends there,” she said. “It was so much more than I could have imagined. There has been nothing like it.”

In addition to running Hardrock for the personal gratification, Finnesy wanted to support Big Brothers Big Sisters, a cause that is important to her. She sought pledges for every mile and every 13,000-foot-plus pass she climbed and raised $2,303.

“Strengthening the courage, confidence and leadership skills of kids is important to me,” Finnesy said.

For these three Durango first-time Hardrock finishers, the dream became reality and Hardrock fever surely will lure them back.

Reach Marjorie Brinton at runswim55@gmail.com.