Sarah Lavender Smith June 03, 2014 TWEET COMMENTS 1

7 Questions with Hardrock Veteran Betsy Nye

A self-proclaimed “backpacker-hiker kind of girl” discusses her dozen finishes at North America’s most extreme 100-miler

Betsy Nye on her way to another Hardrock finish. Photo by Helen Pelster.

Betsy Nye of Truckee, California, is part of small, select group in ultrarunning—a special sisterhood of sorts.

It’s the women who’ve finished the Hardrock 100-mile Endurance Run multiple times.

Hardrock, in the San Juan Mountain Range of Southwestern Colorado, is North America’s most extreme 100-mile ultra in terms of climbing and altitude, with nearly 68,000 feet of elevation change at an altitude ranging from 7,600 to 14,000 feet. [See “My Summer at Camp Hardrock,” April 2014 Issue.] Its 23rd running takes place on July 11 in the historic mining town of Silverton.

In recent years, 12 to 15 percent of the annual 140 participants have been female. The event has 156 female finishes on record compared to 1,210 by men. Only 12 women have completed Hardrock four or more times, and coincidentally, the two who’ve done it the most share the same first name: Betsy Kalmeyer (14 times) and Betsy Nye (12).

Nye, 49, is a veteran of 30 100-milers and dozens of shorter ultras. She won the women’s field at Hardrock in 2003, and her best time on the course is 32:32. Diana Finkel holds the women’s record at Hardrock in 27:18, and Kyle Skaggs hold the men’s in 23:23.

Nye works as a waitress and is the mom of a 9-year-old daughter. She and I met by chance a couple of months ago, when our paths crossed on a trail run, and after talking for a while, she asked me to be one of her pacers at this year’s Hardrock. I did the following interview to get to know her better and learn from her.


Q&A with Betsy Nye

1. What’s one of the most difficult or dangerous situations you’ve faced during Hardrock, and how did you troubleshoot it?
In 2011, when the course was counterclockwise and we left Grouse heading to Ouray, it was raining really hard, like flash floods, in the box canyon above town. It was a big snow year, and the creeks that are normally little creeks were huge rivers above my waist. I got to one and it was muddy, you couldn’t see the bottom, and it was at night. I waited for other runners so we could cross the river together. It was one of those situations where if you fall, you’re gone. It was a challenge.


2. You’ve finished the Hardrock 100 12 times and the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run, in Utah, 10 times. They cover different Rocky Mountain ranges. Are they very similar or different, and which is harder?
They’re both mountain runs, but it’s a tossup which is harder because any 100 is tough. They’re both hard in different ways. In Hardrock, they give you a lot of time to finish it [48 hours], and you hike a lot. Wasatch [which has a 36-hour limit] is runnable, so it can be harder because to do well you have to really push it. Hardrock is my favorite because I just love the San Juans, the race director is amazing … and I love the community—everyone says it’s like a tribe. It holds a special place in my heart.


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