#TeamAltra Elite Sabrina Stanley entered the Hardrock lottery thinking she would start her tickets rolling for the long process of getting into one of the toughest 100 milers in the US. To her surprise, she ended up high on the waitlist with a likely chance of getting in. Her year’s focus shifted to one goal; win Hardrock 100. Her determination, grit and dedication was made even more apparent when she passed up her automatic invitation to run Western States (she placed 3rd there in 2017) and headed for the San Juan mountains to pour her heart and soul into training on the Hardrock course. Mind you, she was still on the Hardrock waitlist when she made the decision to pull out of Western States. Two days later the stars aligned and she got the call; she was off the waitlist and officially entered into the race!
Since her podium finish at Western last year, Sabrina placed 5th at Run Rabbit Run 100, 3rd at HURT 100 and won the Orcas Island 50 Miler in course record time. She has definitely made her mark on the ultrarunning world, particularly at the 100 mile distance, but her win at Hardrock fully solidified her as a gritty, focused elite ultrarunner.
Sabrina led the women at this year’s Hardrock 100 from the get-go. She maintained that lead all the way to the end. In a pre-race interview she said that she planned to run what is becoming her signature style; starting out strong but conservative, then turning up the heat half way through, but she noted that she would take a more aggressive approach to this strategy. She did not disappoint. During the early miles she was just a few minutes ahead of the other top women and, in a post- race interview she stated that when she saw women behind her at the mile 18 mark, she attacked the next time harder than she planned. She wanted to send the message loud and clear that she meant business. Her gap on the other lead women, which included Nikki Kimball, did shrink down to mere minutes at one point, but from mile 58 she pulled away and the rest was history. When she won the women’s race in 30:23:36 it was by 55 minutes. Sabrina started in 16th overall and moved her way up to finish not only first female, but 12th overall for men and women. Nikki Kimball and Darla Askew both ran strong races and finished 2nd and 3rd women in 32:18:35 and 32:52:30, respectively.
While the women’s race truly demonstrated the gritty #Fit4Her nature of one of Altra’s Elite women, the men’s race took an interesting and unexpected twist. In his second Hardrock appearance (he was 3rd in 2016), Xavier Thevenard of France raced hard from the start and until mile 28 was running under course record pace. At mile 72 he had a 90 minute lead on the rest of the field, including eventual winner, #TeamAltra Elite Jeff Browning. Mind you, Jeff Browning race Western States just a month before, and was on the waitlist for Hardrock up until just weeks before race day. Xavier continued with a comfortable lead until mile 91 when he became the first runner ever to be disqualified from Hardrock for breaking a rule (the race committee confirmed that he received aid 2 miles outside of an aid station). Jeff Browning, who ran strong but patient throughout the race was in second when he reached the final aid station at mile 91. Much to his surprise he was notified of Xavier’s DQ and found himself in 1st place with 2nd (Jeff Rome) leaving the aid station only 6.5 minutes behind him!
A “race of the Jeff’s” ensued with Browning eventually running away from Rome and claiming the win with a time of 26:20:21. Jeff Rome finished in 2nd with a time of 26:34:33. Troy Howard rounded out the podium in 27:09:39. Following the race, Jeff (Browning) said he got lost and probably covered 2.5 extra miles, despite that extra time, Jeff came within minutes of beating his own record for “The Double” (completing both Western States and Hardrock 100 in the same year) which he set in 2016 with a time of 42:12:43.
Also of note at Hardrock this year was #TeamAltra Elite Jesse Haynes who spent 5 years applying to Hardrock before his ticket was finally drawn this year. He ran a strong race, sporting his signature grin and finishing his Hardrock debut in 5th place. He too has now completed “The Double.”