The ultimate Hardrocker

For 23rd straight year, Fruita's Apt able to finish Hardrock 100

Kirk Apt holds the shoes that he wore to run in his 23rd straight Hardrock 10 endurance run last weekend in the waiting room of his office at Journey to Wellness, 551 Grand Ave. Apt, 55, finished this year’s race in 43 hours and 23 minutes. The 100-mile course, which began and ended in Silverton, has a cumulative vertical gain of 33,050 feet with an equal amount of descent, and takes place at an average elevation of 11,000 feet.

Fruita’s Kirk Apt smiles after finishing the Hardrock 100 on July 16 in 43 hours, 23 minutes and 40 seconds. It was the 23rd straight time the 55-year-old has finished the 100-mile endurance race.

SILVERTON — Kirk Apt, the dean of the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run, likes prime numbers.

The 55-year-old Fruita runner is particularly fond of 23.

“Twenty-three is one of my favorite numbers actually,” Apt said, just minutes after finishing the iconic 100-mile trail run through the San Juan Mountains last weekend. “I like all prime numbers and I like 23 a lot.”

Apt said he frequently thought about No. 23 during his 43-hour, 23-minute odyssey hiking and running backcountry trails linking the historic mining towns of Silverton, Lake City, Ouray and Telluride.

After starting at 6 a.m. on July 14, Apt shuffled into the finish in downtown Silverton at 1:23 a.m. on July 16, a brilliant headlamp (worn around his waist) illuminating his path to the giant commemorative rock in front of the Silverton school.

Apt finished the Hardrock 100 for a record 23rd consecutive time.

No one has completed the Hardrock, with its 66,100 feet of climbing and descending, more times. No one’s even close to 23 in a row.

A brutal test of endurance

Sitting on the first row of the bleachers inside the Silverton gymnasium, at 1:30 in the morning, Apt had been awake for more than 50 hours and moving for more than 43.

“I would say I had more doubts that this might be the end of the string than I ever have before,” he said, removing a boot-like tape construction from his right ankle. “I came into the run with a bit of a calf project going on. So … to finish, I’m delighted.”

He said he suffered a recurrence of the calf problem midway through the Hardrock, on mile 66 in Governor’s Basin, heading to Telluride.

Apt had already climbed to the high-point of the loop course, atop 14,058-foot Mount Handies near Lake City, after the predawn start in Silverton.

He’d also passed through the Ouray aid station.

“Then, my calf seized up, and I had to deal with that the rest of the way,” Apt said, explaining that the “great tape job” was courtesy of the medical crew at the Kroger’s Canteen aid station. The added support on his right calf was invaluable.

“It ended up OK,” Apt said. “But I can certainly feel it.”

He said the calf went into spasms a month ago when he was preparing for Hardrock
No. 23.

Apt said he had to cut back on his final preparations.

But wearing bib No. 29 (a prime number), he successfully navigated the first 66 miles — enduring a heavy rainstorm and then a barrage of hail.

“We got hammered on Friday at noon … a horrific hail storm,” Apt said. “I’ve never seen anything like that here. It went on for probably half an hour, maybe even more.”

The hailstones battered his legs.

“Hail covered the trail so all the way down we were running in this slush stuff,” Apt said, still unwinding at race headquarters in the Silverton gymnasium. “Other than that, the weather was perfect.”

Saturday’s night hours passed storm free, he said.

“I was grateful for a dry night,” he said after once again mastering the Hardrock course that averages 11,000 feet in elevation. It reaches above 12,000 feet on 13 different occasions during the course that alternates each year been clockwise and counterclockwise.

Spaniard wins race again

Kilian Jornet, a 29-year-old mountain running star from Spain, won the 2017 Hardrock 100 for the fourth consecutive time. He finished in 24 hours, 32 minutes, 20 seconds, in spite of suffering a dislocated left shoulder early in the race.

Jornet, who set a speed climbing standard in May when he summited Mount Everest twice in six days, worked the shoulder back into place; he’s had the same injury four times before.

He fashioned a sling out of his running vest and finished the race with his left arm bound to his side.

Caroline Chaverot, a 40-year-old from Switzerland now living in France, won the women’s race in 28 hours, 31 minutes, 50 seconds, despite taking a wrong turn and wandering off course for some 90 minutes.

“I am very surprised (to win) … we were lucky,” Chaverot said after losing the course before the Telluride aid station. “I thought we would never find (the course).”

Lost in the middle of the night in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, Chaverot said she considered dropping out of the Hardrock.

Eventually she and her pace runner at the time saw a runner’s headlamp across the valley; they bush-whacked and scrambled back to the assigned course.

Chaverot said that as she thought about quitting, she was reminded of her family back home in Switzerland and France.

“And Hardrock … I remember (the women) and the tradition … keep going to the end,” said Chaverot.

That’s a Hardrock tradition that is reinforced every year by Kirk Apt, according to longtime Hardrock race director and founder Dale Garland.

“Year after year after year,” Garland said. “Twenty-three … that is a feat that is remarkable on its own. It’s a testimony to his passion.”

Adding to his mystique

Garland said Apt has developed a mystique in the mountain trail running community with his uncanny ability to survive and finish the Hardrock 100.

“Kirk’s been a first-place finisher here,” Garland said, recalling Apt’s Hardrock victory in 2000 in 29 hours.

“He’s aged over time, slowed a bit. But he’s also been the guy, who when the day wasn’t going well, when he could have dropped out, he said, ‘No. This means too much to me not to finish … I’m going to finish even if I have to walk.’ “

For his part, the soft-spoken Apt said his quest for No. 23 included a number of revelations while he was out on course.

“I think I realized this year that a big part of Hardrock for me … is pursuing ‘overwhelm,’ enjoying ‘overwhelm.’ That’s a neat realization.

“It’s the physical and the emotional and the spiritual … it’s all over the limit,” said Apt, a resort refugee from Crested Butte who’s been in Fruita nearly 10 years. “First, there are these beautiful San Juan Mountains. Second is the camaraderie that everyone who becomes part of the Hardrock feels.”

That includes the tireless volunteers and aid station crews who support the event, said Apt, who does structural alignment bodywork.

“Dale (Garland) and the board of directors put so much effort into continuing the specialness of the Hardrock,” he said. “They (volunteers and support staff) are Hardrockers are much as anyone who kisses the rock.”

Hardrock finishers mark the completion of the run by kissing the celebratory giant rock at the finish line.

Apt has kissed the rock 23 times in a row (the 2002 Hardrock was canceled because of forest fires in the region).

But he missed the smooch in his first try, dropping out of his inaugural Hardrock.

“You know, 23 was my bib number the first year,” Apt said. “It was the only bib I was not able to get around the course.”


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