Valley runners rock in race |

Valley runners rock in race

Courtney Belcher
Special to the Post Independent
Submitted Photo

One hundred miles. Twelve mountain passes. Deep snow, raging rivers, and up to 48 hours on the trail. Of the 125 men and women at the starting line of the Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run, only 71 made it to the finish line in Silverton.

Among those who can add a Hardrock finish to their list of accomplishments this year are three Roaring Fork Valley residents ” Garett Graubins and Devin Gardiner, both of Carbondale, and Aron Ralston of Aspen.

Graubins, 32, finished in 31 hours, 51 minutes, coming in sixth ” an impressive result for someone unsure whether he would race at all. Graubins was put on the Hardrock’s lengthy wait list and trained rigorously for months, without knowing if he would ever set foot on the course. One day before the race he was accepted ” the final person taken from the wait list.

Graubins credited his race success to perseverance, his love of running, and the support he received from his pacers.

“It was a battle out there,” said Michael Benge, Graubins’ final pacer, who ran the final third of the race alongside his longtime friend.

The toughest fight of that battle came only 2.5 miles from the finish line in Silverton when seventh-place finisher Hiroki Ishikawa nearly passed Graubins and Benge.

“You don’t want to get passed that late in a 100-mile event,” Graubins said.

After the race Graubins felt both pain and exhilaration. The night after the race his wife, Holly, woke him from what she thought was a nightmare.

“I started whimpering in my sleep,” said Graubins. “My legs hurt so bad!”

Far from a nightmare, however, Graubins considers his sixth-place finish, “a dream,” especially in light of the talented competition.

Ralston, 29, thought he was dreaming when he trotted into the Virginius Pass aid station and was met with mariachi music and a handful of volunteers wearing serapes and sombreros.

“They had gone to some considerable length to make it a fun environment,” Ralston said. “They offered me a margarita at 13,000 feet.”

The volunteers were a welcome sight to Ralston, who struggled to keep food down after the halfway mark.

“I started making these honey sandwiches. That’s about all I could keep down.” Sick or not, Ralston never wanted to give up.

“Heading into Grouse Gulch I started to feel like I was achieving my dream. It just reinforced that I was really happy to be alive,” he said. Ralston finished in 45:55, two hours ahead of the cutoff he feared he would miss.

Devin Gardiner, 27, knows this fear well. After developing severe stomach problems just outside of Ouray, about 50 miles in, Gardiner could hardly keep moving.

“I looked straight up at Virginius Pass, and thought, ‘There’s no way I’m getting over the pass!'”

After a half hour’s sleep, Gardiner awoke with new determination. Unable to keep food down, he set off with a packet of children’s fruit snacks and followed the cardinal rule of the Hardrock: Keep moving.

Surprisingly, of the three valley men who completed this year’s Hardrock, only Gardiner ” the one closest to dropping out ” is certain he wants to run it again.

“It’s definitely doable,” said Gardiner, who finished in 44:11 and plans to enter the race again next summer. “It’s not this far-off feat anymore.”

It wouldn’t be a successful Hardrock finish without kissing the famed hunk of granite at the finish line. All three of these men joined the elite ranks of runners who have kissed the rock. How did it feel?

“You wouldn’t think a hunk of rock could feel so good,” Graubins said, “but it did. Now I’m going to rest!”

Despite this declaration, Graubins continues to live out the Hardrock spirit: He was back at work Monday morning.

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