Lightning and rain in the forecast will add another obstacle to runners competing in the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run this weekend in the San Juan Mountains.
The internationally famous race will begin at 6 a.m. Friday in Silverton and has a 48-hour cutoff time. It will travel in a counter-clockwise loop through the mountains to Lake City, Ouray and Telluride before finishing back in Silverton.
A total of 145 elite ultrarunners selected through a lottery process will tackle the course that features the summit of 14,048-foot Handies Peak outside Lake City and conquers 13 mountain passes of at least 12,000 feet. The average elevation of the race is more than 11,000 feet, and runners are directly exposed to all elements of an unpredictable weather pattern in those peaks and valleys.
“We’re in the monsoon season,” Hardrock 100 race director Dale Garland said.
“There are two concerns: lightning and flash floods. In our runners briefing, we made sure they understand, so we’re hoping the runners will be safe and heed our advice if they get stuck out in lightning and move to high grounds for flash floods. Safety is the No. 1 concern, and we’ve given them strategies to be safe.”
High temperatures over the last month have helped melt much of the snow fields along the course, though runners will still encounter stretches of snow to cross. It was melting quickly and the course was in good condition last week, but recent rain storms may have made conditions a bit muddier.
According to the National Weather Service, rain and lightning is in the forecast in Silverton all day Friday. The high is expected to be 65 degrees with a low of 45 degrees. There is a 20 to 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms.
Atop Handies Peak, there is a 30 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms during the day, increasing to 70 percent at night. The threat will continue Saturday with a 40 to 50 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms.
The high is expected to be around 51 degrees with a low Friday night around 38. Wind won’t be much of a factor; it is predicted to be 10 mph out of the north, northwest.
In Ouray on Friday night, there is a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms before midnight with a low around 49 degrees. Saturday brings a 20 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms after noon with a high around 84 degrees.
In Telluride, the leaders could see a slight chance of thunderstorms when they roll through with a night-time low around 47 degrees. Saturday’s forecast is cloudy with a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms and a high of 73 degrees. There is a 20 percent chance of storms Saturday night.
The average finishing time of the Hardrock 100 is around 41 hours. Kilian Jornet has the counter-clockwise direction record of 23:28:10. Jornet will race again this year seeking a fourth consecutive win.
The race began in 1992 and has been canceled only twice – in 1995 because of too much snow on the course and in 2002 because of fire danger.
In 2014, in a now infamous event, Canadian Adam Campbell and his pacer encountered a nearby lightning strike near the summit of Handies Peak. It burned out the batteries in both of their headlamps. Campbell continued to run and finished in third place. He also is running this year’s edition of the Hardrock 100.
“Weather is nothing new for us,” Garland said. “We’ve certainly had those close calls that are documented. It lets us know it could happen, and we relay that to the runners.”