Chapter 2012: Hal

When I read this race media tweet, live, I thought about Western States 2009:  “AJW editorial alert: I’ve seen Hal win at WS and AC (twice each) and this looks eerily similar #watchoutforkarlanddiana‬ #HR100.‬

That came across 50 to 60 miles into the 2012 Hardrock 100.  At first I thought, Nahhh.  Jones catches him at mile 80.  Right?  Hal has a ton of game, but RR, Javelina, WS100. . . this is HR and I thought Meltzer might be the legend that comes-up big here.  But AJW was right.  The story had changed.  Something dramatic was happening.  And AJW would know.  After that editorial floated across the interwebs, I slowly but surely started to sense a similar design.  In 2009, Hal was running really well.  I actually traded greetings with the ultra legend at The World of Hurt 50k in October 2008.  He won that in the company of Ian Torrance, Scott Jurek, and Josh Brimhall (if my memory serves me).  Pretty cool to meet him and Jurek (with whom I traded greetings in the bathroom).  Hal would go on in 2009 to make a memorable move at WS100 that, as AJW was pointing-out, seemed quite similar to this move he was making in last weekend’s monster mountain ultra marathon in Silverton, CO.

Hardrock 100 2012 was, indeed, a bit of a flashback: I’m staring at my smart phone all day and into the night, unable to focus on anything more immediate or meaningful, my wife looking at me funny; and Hal Koerner blowing-up the joint, crashing the party. When I finally hit the hay, the race was pretty much over, though I was still half-expecting a late surge that might see Hal overtaken and someone like Dakota Jones win this long. ass. race.

Regardless of the outcome, it was a race for Jones to win and perhaps establish a new CR.  I tried to explain this in the previous article.  Jones, from what I can gather, is not showing-up to showcase his new shoe sponsor or use theses events as opportunities to train.  Although fairly light-hearted and quick with a keen sense of humor, he also comes across as a thoughtful business man.  Maybe in a bow-tie.

But it’s a 100, so anything can happen.  That I even ventured such a prediction is pretty foolhardy (but it’s fun and when you’re right it’s really fun!).  Hardrock is practically an adventure race; it lasts a couple of days.  Picking a winner is like picking your nose.  Karl Meltzer’s more conventional approach to establishing odds for each favorite is a lot more sensible.

But let me clarify:  I feel like the one they call Young Money really wanted this race (and perhaps CR); I also think he is very fluent in the means to fulfill such a goal.  The momentum was palpable, the schedule and weather pretty much lining-up this opportunity for him to “get her done.”  And in support of my astrological read, some of the pictures of the race, especially those taken at the finish, reveal a sense of pain and devastation (beyond sore feet and legs from 33k of vert over 100 grueling miles and 25+ hours).  Compare the expressions of Jones to Joe Grant: massive disappointment and triumph.

Is this a fair read?  Let’s just say it’s in the mix.  A lot of people felt Jones was a pretty good lock to win this race based-on his race last year, his recent off-road success, his preparation, and his overall confidence.  This confidence is manifest in some of those expressions at the finish.

As for Hal Koerner, his preparation and build for this was perhaps even more dialed-in than Jones’.  I recall Mr. Koerner, as recent as in the last year and a half or so, with regards to the whole Western States 100 focus, that he had some other goals to address.  We have proof now that this was in no way a reaction to all of the speed that’s taken-up residence in Auburn the last few years, rendering his very impressive low 16:xx wins more or less top-10 times.  Hell no. Rather, it appears Hal has been planning a return home to some of the cozy confines of Colorado’s high altitude.

One of his first mountain races was a 3rd in the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1999, where he went 4:08, age 23 out of Parker, CO.  Perhaps a perception exists that Hal is a PNW guy who rips some of the flatter ultras.  Obviously, his two WS100 wins have helped solidify his legacy.  But that PPM result early-on in his career, the fact that much of his younger life was spent in CO, means he’s more than just a beer mile track star (I’ve seen him win one of those, as well!).  He’s ALWAYS thrived in the altitude based on where he’s from, what he did in ’99, and, of course, what he did last weekend in and around Silverton.

For all aspiring mountain runners out there, look no further than Hal Koerner.

In the end, this is a guy that’s been running a lot of ultra for a long time.  He has won a ton of races, accumulated several course records, finished relatively mid-pack in big races as well as gone off the front in huge events only to have hugely competitive fields explode under the guise of the visor or the soul patch.

I was right in my predictive article that Young Money would win OR an old schooler would rule the day.  I just picked the wrong old schooler.  I might venture to say that this race works as an addendum to my previous article.  The line has been drawn on the trail.  Are elites in for the long haul, willing to sip from the cup more conservatively and experience a lifetime of grace and growth in both victory and mediocrity?  Or are we in an era of more extreme strategy that renders the shorter career?  And although it is true that some athletes just move-on, deciding the competitive trail will be just a short stay on their ever evolving journeys, there is a certain pattern that guys like Hal help define.

Either way, it’s not really that important.  Watching Hal Koerner win HR100, however, certainly was (though I might still have trouble convincing my wife of this fact).

In the end, congratulations and happy recovery to all the Hardrockers, runners, pacers and crew alike.  You put on a great show!

2 comments

  1. When Hal rolled into Ouray, I thought he was done. He BOMBED the descent out of Governor’s Basin at a ridiculously fast pace – putting a few minutes into the guys after being behind them. I thought that this was his last play – an attempt to work what he was good at, but that he would get caught by the next climb (Engineer). Not so. He maintained that lead and built it (although it started to get chewed into out of Cunningham). Well played indeed.

    1. Great stuff, George. Seems kinda ballsy to make “a move” like that when you’re running through those monsters. But he did.

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