Monthly Archives: August 2016

Hardrock, Where are the Women? And other Lottery Thoughts.

I began this blog below a few days after coming home from Telluride in early July, but tabled it for two months not knowing how many women actually put into the lottery.  However, since then an article “How and for whom the Hardrock Lottery works,” answering many of my questions has come out in Trail Runner Magazine, relating Darcy Piceu’s story and (  )

We made it! What a view!


Answer; 16% of the potential runners put into the HRH lottery were female, while 10.5% of the HRH racers were female.

Here are my original thoughts immediately following the race;

This year would be my second time in Telluride, but really my first time spectating at HRH (HardRock Hundred.)  I decided to actually check out several of the mountain passes and see what the race was all about.  Along with me was my friend Liz, another female outdoor adventurer who has a family history with the HRH.   Let me start by saying this; its no joke.  This year there wasn’t much snow at all, and for someone going out on trails like that for the first time, it was momentarily terrifying…. until I realized, hey, I can do this… pretend the scree is snow and “ski” or “butt slide,” down it.  It was thrilling, adrenaline creating, electrifying, and terrifying all at the same time.  Those Hardrock-ers have balls to run those passes in the dark after being awake for 40+ hours!  (And yes, after the initial adrenaline wore off, I realized I had become obsessed and hope to someday also finish HRH.)

As I was watching these amazing individuals run along the course, it dawned on me… there were 152 starters, while 16 of those starting were women.  Why might that be?  I decided to look up some HRH statistics.  The race began in 1992 as a tribute to the men and women who set out to find their fortunes-many losing their lives-looking for gold, silver, and other minerals in the San Juan Mountains.

The inaugural HRH had 36 male starters and 6 female starters. Over the years 2214 men have started the race, with 1405 of them finishing.  316 women have started 184 of them successfully finishing.

(note: two years the race was cancelled.  1995; too much snow, 2002; dangerous fire.)

I’m not  writing this because somehow I feel, as a woman, shorted in the lottery and didn’t get it.  In all transparency, I did put in this year,  I had a qualifier last year but wasn’t mentally ready.  This is not a rant, just questions that have sprung into mind since the race.

Can you see Liz way up there?!


Charlie Thorn, one of the many who help make this run happen, has so nicely put together all the data from every year, which is where I got most of my information.

I know that women participants make up a smaller percentage of all ultra runners, but only 10% does seem curiously low.  Are there really so few women who put in for HRH?   Seems the average overall age of finishers is age 44, a prime age for families to have children still in grade school and needing mom and dad’s support and attention.  Many of the couples I know try to split the child care as best as possible, but I still see much of it falling to the moms. (update; I found that 16% of the lottery entrants are 10% of the runners being female isn’t too far off.)

Let’s talk about the two top finishers this year; Anna Frost and Jason Schlarb. (note, Jason and Killian tied.)

So Anna is an unmarried female, supported by Solomon, full time job trail running.  Jason is supported by Altra, running is also his full time job, however, he is married with a young son.  His wife was at the race, as support.  I don’t believe she is an ultra runner, she sure seems to be an active individual, but I don’t think she races-not sure though.  This is just one example, but I saw many many men with their wives, children, and even grandchildren there happily supporting their efforts.  This made me so happy to see the family atmosphere firsthand.  However, it was usually the husband running, the supportive wife, and kids in tow.  I think part of this discrepancy of men running while women support is because there were only 16 female racers, so I just happened to see this scenario replay over and over for men and not for women.

Me pausing for a break


More men than women participate in ultramarathons. A 2011 year-end review in Ultrarunning magazine sited 27 percent female ultra running participants. Similarly, found that, of those who used the site to sign up for ultras in 2013 and 2014, women accounted for 27 and 29 percent, respectively. Women comprised 22.5 percent of 2016 Western States 100 finishers and 18.8 percent of 2015 Leadville Trail 100 finishers.

This makes the HRH the lowest of the “popular mountain 100s” at 10.5%  when it comes to female participants.  As explained in the Trail Runner Magazine, the lottery tries to favor the veteran runners, and there are more veteran male runners than female.

In many ways I applaud the HRH to keeping the lottery open to all, not just elites.  With that said I think it is every person’s responsibility that if they put their name into the lottery, they realize that they are taking a coveted spot, and they put forth the effort to train hard, and fully attempt to finish each lottery race they take a spot in. There are so few spots, and so many people who are waiting to put their hearts into training for these races.  There is no shame in pulling out if you get picked in the lottery for some unseen reason; family, injury, work, life etc gets in the way.  Bow out and let someone off the wait list in.  Don’t let fomo get you to the starting line of a race you know you can’t finish.

This kid loves adventures, totally a future Hardrock-er


Neither I, not the TRM article, has a definitive answer when it comes to women representation in the HRH or ultra races in general.  I think that the HRH has every right to keep things as they are and continue the tradition of their lottery, and not save 20% of its slots for women, at the same time, it would be nice to see a deeper Women’s field in the San Juans.   It might actually encourage more women to put in to the HRH hundred lottery, or any other mountain ultra.

I do think that is one key to more women in these types of events; seeing other women succeed in tough races.  I have been lucky to have had several women I have only met through social media thank me for sharing my adventures and inspiring them to go on their own, which leads me to believe that having more women more visual in ultra races will inspire others to follow.

Whatever happens or doesn’t happen to the lottery- the Hardrock Hundred will continue to draw me to it, and hopefully other women as well!


Do you have any thoughts to share, please do!

Trailheads in Colorado; note how only one of us(a HRH finisher) is touching the rock.






Orange Mud Endurance Pack Review

Before I begin, for your comparison I am a 5’3″ female weighing 105 lbs. My chest below my bust is 27″ bust is 31″waist 25″

As I was packing for my trip to Telluride a month+ ago, I realized that my single bottle Hydraquiver wouldn’t be able to carry enough water in the heat and dry air of Colorado, fortunately for me Josh had just created a new pack; the Endurance Pack, that was finally in stock and ready to order.  With my fingers crossed for it to arrive before my departure I ordered it.  Here is a link to how Josh Sprague comes up with some of his ideas, and how long they take. (bad wordpress won’t link;

It came with just a day to spare, I packed it into my luggage and headed off to Colorado.  First, like all other Orange Mud products it has the breathable and durable mesh backing, and the stretchy pocket material that allowed me to fit all sorts of things into the front pockets for easy access.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well this video is worth more.  It explains how to move the adjustable straps around, how to synch the sides down first, and where to put your poles.(WordPress is misbehaving and not letting me link so here is the link you can copy and paste to the video;

Endurance Pack - BPVP-70 - Orange Mud, LLC

The very stretchy 4 front pockets.  I stashed my poles in the bottom two.


I opted out of the pole upgrade (mostly because I don’t own poles) but on the Hardrock course I borrowed a friends and found that in a pinch I could break down the poles and they fit in the front pockets.  I couldn’t run too far with them in there, but while I was scrambling or climbing up rope and needed my hands for a few minutes I could stash them in there.  I bet with some creativity and some small bungee cords you could make a hook on the top front straps for the poles if you did want to use the front pockets as pole holders.

At one point I tried to fill the pack with as many items as I could before a hike just to see what I could fit in there.  I got about 7lbs of stuff in there (including the full 2 L bladder.) That was a jacket, gloves, headlamp, extra batteries, 5 bars, 7 gels, an extra collapsible water bottle in the front, sunblock and extra lube.  As seen in the video if you get the upgrade the bungee cord allows for more gear to be bungee-d onto the back.  Also I used my own bungee cord and made the upgrade myself.

So onto fit.  I’m on the far end of the scale, I had to tighten all the straps as far as they went.  I believe Josh said his 7 year old can wear the pack, so I guess that means I am the size of a young boy.  SO I am guessing this pack would fit some of the smallest torsos-I’m just above 100lbs.  I haven’t tried it on my 6 foot husband yet, but it seems like it would fit him too, its quite adjustable.  I didn’t notice any bounce anywhere, and haven’t lost any items out of the pack even running hard down technical east coast trail.

It comes with a 2l bladder that has a removable hose.  This is nice because when you want to keep it from growing mold you can take the whole thing apart and let it air dry, even the mouth piece comes on and off easily for cleaning.   My biggest complaint about this hose is that its Looooong!  I had to thread it through the left shoulder loop then over to the right shoulder loop and tuck it down into the chest strap.  If I didn’t loop it left to right first it basically dangled down to my groin which was annoying.

There is an outer zip pocket on the back that is also made from the stretchy material allowing it to hold more than you would expect. Then in between the bladder slot and the outer zippered pocket there is another vertical pocket.  Last week I got caught in a late summer thunderstorm and stashed my phone in that middle pocket afraid it would drown in the deluge of rain.  It stayed nice and dry while I got soaked!  FYI none of the pack is waterproofed if you are looking to keep something dry long term.  I am not a heavy sweater but sweat through this pack on some long runs in the 115 deg humidity here in NC this summer.

Endurance Pack - BPVP-70 - Orange Mud, LLC

At the bottom you can see the clip, that is for your poles, I also clipped a hat to it, my dog’s leash to it, and a water bottle to it on a hike. The top loops are for the bungee upgrade holding your poles.


I have taken it many miles with me now.  A full week of running and hiking in the San Juan Mountains, day hiking with my husband in Asheville (carrying enough food and water for the both of us, plus the dog,) On several super hot 7 hour runs, I did have to refill the bladder twice on one particular 7 hour run in the extreme heat.  I have even used it at the gym as a sort of weight vest for uphill hiking on the treadmill.  Its quite nice having a hydration pack double as a weight vest.  I just filled the bladder up and then threw in some small plate weights into the other pockets while I hiked.  A bonus was I could keep my phone in the front pocket for easy access to answer emails while I hiked at the gym.  This is definitely going to replace my Hyraquiver for unsupported training runs and races that have long breaks between aid.  Overall I would say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the pack, I haven’t owned a bladder pack since the old Nathan pack I purchased in 2012 which I always felt was so much pack but could carry so little.  The Endurance Pack did not disappoint… if there is anything this girl loves its her pockets, and the EP had more than enough pockets and storage for all sorts of back up things one might need out on the trails!

If you are curious to try this pack, or any other item from Orange Mud, use the code wispfriends and get a discount at checkout!

Happy Trails all!


So Many Things to Catch up on.

Well I had my last two back to back long weeks before a type of taper I am going to try.  Due to the super hot and humid weather, I have abandoned “mileage” for now and am going by time on feet.  Two weeks ago I ran 21 hours with about 14k of vert (which is huge living here in the flat lands of NC.) and then last week I ran 25 hours with 13k of vert, all during the hottest and most humid weeks of this summer.  I think I did speed work one afternoon in 115 degree weather! Phew!

Now that my brain is finally starting to recover and I find myself with more time, I have started to turn back to catching up on my blog.

First will be my taper I am trying.  Following two big weeks, I will take an off week this week..really easy running and body work, to work out any imbalances I may have picked up in the last two weeks.  Then bring my mileage and intensity back up, not quite as much as last week, but to 70% of my longest training week, and do a typical 3 week taper from there to Run Rabbit Run.  (so it sort of becomes a 4 week taper-ish.)

Second, I have been reading and listening to different people talk about brain training, and coping mechanisms for the pain we feel during ultras.  In the past I feel like I was pretty good at suffering, having practiced it while trying to keep up with faster runners… and probably doing too much anaerobic, and “grey” area running.  This year I decided to try a MAF approach to my training, allowing me to do much more volume, and consistent training, but there isn’t a ton of “suffering” involved… unless you think 7 hour runs are mentally suffering… and then I would question why you were ultra running… but I digress :). To practice a little suffering I got the idea to sit in a sauna from a mixture of books read and podcasts listened to.  For a period of time during the last few weeks of my training I’ll be working up to an hour in there.  These sauna sessions are less about real heat training, because I can sure get my fill of that just by walking out my front door, and more about getting closer to my “central governor,” and pushing past what my brain feels is an unsafe amount of time in the sauna.  (I will blog more on this later in the week.)

Third; I have two new reviews I need to finish.  One for the Endurance Pack from Orange Mud, and one for the new Topo Athletic minimal road shoes.

OK, things to look forward to in the next two weeks folks!