Kilian Jornet dislocated his shoulder 13 miles into the Hardrock 100. Then, he won the race.

Michel CooperLast Update : Saturday 15 July 2017 - 11:56 PM
Kilian Jornet dislocated his shoulder 13 miles into the Hardrock 100. Then, he won the race.

SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS — From the clouds above the Grouse Gulch aid station emerged Kilian Jornet, wearing a distinctive red cap, gingerly running and weaving his way down switchbacks into the valley as a steady soaking rain fell under a slate-colored sky, punctuated by occasional flashes of lightning and rolling thunder.

Here, not quite halfway through the Hardrock 100 endurance run, Jornet — perhaps the greatest endurance athlete of his generation — appeared hurt. His left arm was tucked close to his body, while he carried a hiker’s pole in the other hand, trying to steady himself down the steep descent.

For once in his storied ultrarunning and mountaineering career, Jornet looked vulnerable.

“I didn’t think I could make it to the finish today,” Jornet, a native of Spain, later admitted.

Had he dropped out, few would have blamed him. Jornet said he fell on Stony Pass before Maggie Gulch just outside Silverton — roughly near mile 13 in the course’s 100.5-mile route — and dislocated his shoulder. He popped it back in himself and continued his run, forgoing medication along the way, he said.

“It’s not the first time,” he said of the injury.

He raced all the way to his fourth consecutive win at the Hardrock 100 — his arm wrapped by medics in a sling — in 24 hours, 32 minutes, 32 seconds.

“At the beginning it was painful, then better, but then as the storm started coming it got very painful,” Jornet said. “It’s not easy.”

A busted shoulder might not seem like as big a deal as, say, a broken foot. But given the treacherous and steep terrain — danger that was compounded by rain — the challenge Jornet faced would have probably conquered most any other athlete. Up until the final 11 miles, Jornet was trading the lead with Mike Foote of Montana, who had twice finished second and once third at Hardrock, and Joe Grant, who last year set the record for self-supported climbing of Colorado’s 57 fourteeners.

“I’ll take it, especially when Kilian’s in front of me,” said Foote, who finished second, tears welling in his eyes at the finish. “Kilian graced me with his presence the majority of the run, then he left me, which I was expecting.”

Jornet’s status as an ultra-endurance athlete rocketed to international fame in May. He ascended and descended Mount Everest from base camp without supplemental oxygen or fixed ropes — about 12,296 feet — the final climb in his Summits of My Life project, an attempt to set the record for an ascent and descent on some of the planet’s most iconic mountains. Fewer than 200 people have ever summited Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen.

Despite a stomach bug, he finished in 26 hours, setting a fastest-known time for the feat. Just six days later, he did it again, this time starting slightly higher from advanced base camp. It took him only 17 hours.

At the Hardrock finish in Silverton, the mountains lost in morning fog, Jornet’s own words belied the pain showing on his face. The injury forced him to be more cautious on descents, but he could gain ground on his competition on the ascents.

“Not a lot, but a little,” he said of the pain he felt.

Eventual women’s winner Caroline Chaverot of France nearly lost her lead two-thirds of the way through the run. Descending Virginius Pass in the dark, she and her pacesetter became disoriented and lost their way, scrambling up and down the hillside. She said she lost about 90 minutes of time.

“When you get lost, you have to go up. And as I continued I was just more lost and more lost,” she recalled at the finish, tears in her eyes. “It’s difficult to be motivated when you get lost so many times.”

She considered dropping out but thought about how lucky she had been to be selected to compete in Hardrock, a lottery process in which the only two guaranteed entries are the men’s and women’s winners from the previous year. Having raced successfully in Europe, this was her first run in North America. She was well ahead of the course-record pace when the incident occurred.

“Finally, we saw a guy, then we scrambled down,” she said. “I was so dispirited. I thought we would never find the course.”

During a scramble, she and her pacesetter fell, right before arriving in Telluride, but managed to hold on the final 33 miles. After her 28-hour, 31-minute, 50-second journey through some of Colorado’s toughest mountains, she paused in reflection, before adding:

“It’s a tough race.”

Source: denverpost

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Michel Cooper