The Harding Hustle started as a 30k race in 2010 since I realized there isn’t a lot of medium distance trail races close in to Orange County (most are ultra long, ultra short, or too far away). In 2011 I decided to drop the 50k (officially – it still exists as a fallback) from Twin Peaks and add it to the Harding Hustle. My first time race directing was the Twin Peaks Ultra in 2007 that started and ended in the same place as the Harding Hustle. In fact, the 50k race is nearly the same except I like to have my named used in vain along the course so I added a second trip up the rocky Modjeska Peak. Actually, the 50k was nearly 2 miles short in 2007 so the added trip up made it just over 31 miles.
So here we are in 2011 and my 3AM wakeup call so I (along with Christina, Tee & Martha) could get to the start by 430AM. Shortly after we arrived at the race, Robert Baird quipped – “tell me why it is again you do these things?” To which I said – “I always ask myself that right about now. Ask me again in a couple hours.”
Under the cover of darkness (and rapidly rising sun), a very small group of early starters left for their 50k effort, followed at 6AM by the rest of the 45 starters.
Due to a bus getting lost and missing a runner pickup, I decided to start the 30k in two waves at 715am and 730am (61 runners total). I really wanted to start them all together but the 715am group had been waiting for some time, so I wanted to get them on the trail while I could. Shortly thereafter, I found out that the first two 50k runners, Jon Clark & Jesse Haynes had already reached the first radio checkpoint – 9.1 miles into the race – a couple minutes before the 2nd wave 30k start. They were certainly tearing up the trail with lead 50k runner Michelle Barton not far behind and the thermometer heading up to around 90 degrees.
The day, and the race were certainly heating up. Last year’s 30k overall winner, Gilbert Salazar was running with a handful of other super fast hopefuls. The top 5 30k runners at the top of Harding Truck Trail were within 10 minute of each other – who was going to be the better downhill runner? Turns out, Timothy Roberts who was first to the top of Harding and took home the 30k overall win with a new course record of 2:10:03. He ran blazing 8.5 minute miles uphill (with 4000’ of elevation gain!) and just under 6 minute miles going back down.
The women’s 30k race was won by Wendy Marshall who was a last minute entry with a time of 2:49:52. It was pretty exciting to not only see the speedsters but also those who were running their first trail race or first race of this distance. Running up and down Harding Truck Trail is no simple task, and everyone who ran this (100% completion rate) is just plain awesome. I heard some of the runners were talked into this race by friends, not knowing what they were getting themselves into.
It wasn’t long before I heard “first runner in through Maple2”. I checked my watch, realized the lead 50k runner, Jesse Haynes, was at mile 22 in just over 3 hours. Keep in mind there is almost 7000’ of elevation gain over the first 15 miles! Jesse would go on to win with a time that will be hard to beat at 4:06:47 and Jon Clark finishing his first ultra with a very respectable 4:25:29 in second place. Michelle Barton lead the female race from beginning to end as she was too busy chicking all but the top 2 guys in 4:36:52 and besting the second place female by over an hour.
It was quite a fantastic day by all accounts and the end result makes me proud of the work I put into the race as well as the work from all the super awesome volunteers. Next year’s Hustle will tentatively take place on July 7th, 2012. Hope to see you there!