Hardrock Hal: Pre-Race Interview with Hal Koerner
This Friday at 6am, the 19th running of the Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run kicks off from Ouray, Colorado. Hardrock is considered by many, to be one of the most challenging and rewarding ultra-endurance events in the world. With almost 68,000ft of elevation change over the distance, Hardrock truly lives up to its engraved reputation of being, “Wild and Tough.” The average elevation of the Hardrock 100 course is about 11,000ft. The high point of the course is a suffocating 14,048ft. The course is remote, dynamic, inspiring, and ever-challenging. For this reason, the Hardrock 100 is considered a, “Post-Graduate 100 miler.”
Among those lucky runners who survived the lottery this year, Super-Stud Hal Koerner will be testing himself against the course and several other capable front-runners. Hal will be joined by other accomplished ultra-elites, such as Karl Meltzer, Dakota Jones, Nick Pedatella, and Joe Grant. Hal and I spoke by phone and he shared a bit about his training for this year’s Hardrock 100 and what he hopes to accomplish this year in this epic race.
Jerry: Good afternoon Hal! Thanks for finding time for our call. Where are you now?
Hal: I’m in Ouray. I arrived last Tuesday.
Hal chats by phone from Ouray, CO
Jerry: Awesome! OK, so I just want to know what makes the Hardrock 100 so special?
Hal: It’s exclusive. This event is put together by a small group of people who dedicate themselves to this event. It’s also because not everybody gets to run this event. I’ve put in for the lottery three times. I may not get to run it again for a while.
Jerry: You’re a veteran of the sport, with over 100 ultras completed. What have you done to specifically prepare for this race?
Hal: Large amounts of vertical. I’ve been doing 3-5,000ft non-stop climbs. My daily runs have 2-5,000ft vertical. I’ve been training for hiking and power-hiking as well. Also, practicing eating while hiking up climbs because I usually don’t do that.
Jerry: Awesome… I also understand you’ve been sleeping in a Hypoxico tent?
Hal: Yes, I ran Hardrock in 2005 and had some problems with the altitude. I had some stomach issues and headaches. I was always intrigued by the altitude tent. I knew about the Nike Oregon Project team living in a house rigged for altitude and other athletes using it for training. I started sleeping in the Hypoxico tent about four weeks ago. I’ve been using it off and on…I was pacing at Western States so I had a few days off there. When I came out to Colorado, I set up the Hypoxico tent in my motel room. People were like, “What is that?!”
Hal's Hypoxico Tent and Generator in the Ouray Motel
Jerry: Have you been running your regular trails there in Oregon?
Hal: Yeah. I’d rather have been training somewhere else, but yeah, I was running my local trails.
Jerry: How did you feel with the influence of the altitude tent when you were training?
Hal: I sensed a change. At the highest points of my training runs, I didn’t have any wheezing or shortness of breath. I’m feeling a heck of a lot more confident going into this race having used the altitude tent.
Jerry: Tell me… in preparation for this race, did you focus on weekly mileage or vertical accumulation perhaps? What was your focus?
Hal: I didn’t calculate my exact vertical but it was 25,000ft vertical per week, easy. I ran about 100-110 miles per week.
Jerry: What can you share about your goals for this race?
Hal: 25hrs. Running under 25hrs is a huge goal. I really think I can do well here. I’d really like to win the race.
Jerry: What about your taper?
Hal: Inside of two weeks, about 9-10 days, I did my last long run of 26 miles with 5,000ft gain. My longest runs after that were 13-15 miles. Once I arrived here in Colorado, it was hard but I managed to run no more than 2 hours.
Jerry: Do you use a heart rate monitor or other means to measure effort?
Hal: No, I probably should. I run by feel or strength. I sometimes run off of pace too.
Jerry: So, with respect to Hardrock…you are competing against other “front-runners” who aren’t just running, but actually racing. Do you tune into the other guys competing or just disconnect to run your own race?
Hal: I’m totally tuned into it, although I don’t want to be. (laughs) I want to do really well here, but so do a lot of other guys. I just like to have other front runners in my sight…it helps me. I try to stay patient. I have a few places for which to make a move, but I’ll have to feel it out.
Jerry: So, this is kind of silly but I think it will be fun. Psychologists use a “word association” exercise sometimes to reveal things about people. I’ll say a word and you just respond with the first thing that comes to mind…OK?
Hal: Sounds good…
WORD ASSOCIATION EXERCISE:
LONG RUN “50 miles”
SALT PILLS “30”
RUNNING SKIRTS “Short and on women”
AEROBIC “Anything above 7,000”
FAVORITE FOOD “Marmots”
SECRET WEAPON “Long sustained downhills”
TAPER “1 beer a night”
HAL KOERNER “2 time finisher of Hardrock”
HAPPINESS IS “Being able to run in the high country.”
HARDROCK “Go Hard.”
Follow Hal and the other runners at the Hardrock 100, starting Friday morning via Hardrock’s live webcast
Thank you and Good luck Hal! We’re rooting for you!
Jerry Armstrong, aka EnduranceJer