It took me seven years to get into Hardrock. While that is a long time to wait for the lottery gods to shine down upon me, the upside is that I’ve now had seven years of practice. I’ve learned the course, and perhaps even more important, I’ve honed in my gear choices to make sure I’m prepared. Run in Colorado monsoon season, the Hardrock is known for it’s epic weather: switching from hot to cold in the matter of minutes, and punctuated by rain, hail and electrical storms for the ages. The fact that it is also on extremely remote trails makes self-sufficiency all the more important. Here are my six essential pieces of gear for the 2017 Hardrock 100:
Shoes: New Balance Vazee Summit
Given the often rocky, always wet terrain, I prefer a snug fitting shoe with good traction, and the Vazee Summit fits the bill. While Hokas usually dominate the field here, I personally prefer a more minimal shoe that allows me to feel the ground – I feel more in control and am less likely to turn an ankle.
$99.95 – BUY
Did I mention it’s wet out here? As such, my feet will be wet for the entire ordeal, so having the perfect sock is crucial to prevent blisters. I love Injinjis, as they protect my freak pinky toes which curl under the rest of my foot. The NuWool material keeps my feet a little warmer and the midweight thickness eats up a little room in my shoes to compensate for the bit of stretching that occurs when they are constantly wet.
$18.00 – BUY
Sticks: Black Diamond Z-Poles
Wizard sticks are definitely helpful out here on the steep climbs, taking the pressure off the back and hammies. Black Diamond Z-Poles are the standard – lightweight carbon fiber, collapsable for easy storage and sturdy as all get out. I’ve had mine for four years, and finally broke a tip this year. Black Diamond replaced it for me free of charge.
$159.95 – BUY
Pack: Nathan VaporHowe 12L
I am usually not a pack wearer, but for all the gear I need to carry, I really don’t have a choice. I now consider myself a convert, thanks to the women’s specific VaporHowe. The material is amazingly comfortable, even worn with a singlet or just a sports bra, and there are pockets galore for all of my gels, bottles, and jackets. My favorite thing however, is the extra point of adjustment around the ribcage, that I can easily adjust mid-race to accommodate the constant donning and removing of jackets and layers. There are also loops for pole storage, but I actually find it easiest just to slip them in and out of the large back pocket.
$180 – BUY
Yo. I don’t even feel these glasses on my face. They are light as a feather and don’t slide around on the downhills. I like the photochromic lens out here, as the weather is constantly changing and I’m consistently ducking in and out of treeline. It’s nice to be able to just leave them on, and I like them as little hail blockers when needed. If there was still more snow on the course, I’d choose the Spectron 3 lens instead – as the darker lens is more appropriate for the snow glare. But things are mostly melted out this year, so the Zebra is my choice.
$190 – BUY
Rain Jacket: New Balance Women’s 3L Jacket
If you’ve noticed that I keep talking about jackets, it’s because you’re going to need a jacket. In fact, that’s one of the number one rules of Hardrock: always take a rain jacket. I’ve personally seen what happens when you don’t, and it usually involves trash bags, looks of bewilderment and more often than not, a DNF from hypothermia. Even when the sky looks clear, I’ll head up with my lightweight, waterproof jacket from my New Balance team kit. But my pièce de résistance, for the big storms and the night haul is this 100% waterproof, breathable and fully seam sealed shell. I love the more flexible, mostly waterproof jacket during the day, but the 3L shell is the only thing I trust to keep me completely dry and warm when the temperature drops.
$299 – BUY