Hartman pushes limits in Bigfoot 200

An Alamosan tells the tale of an excruciating but enlightening endurance race. From the Alamosa Valley Courier.

Greg Hartman, owner of The Ink Pusher tattoo studio in Alamosa, shows off one of his artworks. Hartman recently completed the Bigfoot 200, a 200-mile endurance race in Washington State.

Greg Hartman didn't sleep the first night - he just ran.

By the second day he was hallucinating, but still running.

The second and third nights, he granted himself an hour of sleep.

When he crossed the finish line, 76 hours and 42 minutes after he began, the Del Norte resident and owner of The Ink Pusher tattoo studio in Alamosa had run 200 miles - the longest race of his life.

85 racers began the Bigfoot 200 race in Washington State last month, but only 59 made it past the finish line, the rest succumbing to injury or fatigue.

But Hartman was in seventh place.

"200 miles is a mental game," said Hartman, who has been running so-called "ultra-races," or races longer than 50 kilometers, since he was 22. He's 42 now, and running farther than ever before.

The race began at the north end of Mount St. Helens, a volcano in southwest Washington State, and ended in the tiny town of Randle, after winding along miles of narrow forest trails.

"The first stretch looked like Mars with waterfalls," said Hartman. "It was where the volcano erupted. I got to run through all that madness. There's no trees left."

Over the course of the race, Hartman climbed a total of 50,000 feet, sometimes using ropes to scale or descend steep gullies.

Hartman ran as much as possible, mostly on long flat stretches and downhill segments, and "speed-hiked" the remainder, carrying a small pack containing water, energy drinks, snacks, a raincoat, and a hat and gloves: "just enough to survive between aid stations."

At the aid stations, spaced 12 to 20 miles apart, Hartman scarfed loads of high-fat foods: cheeseburgers, quesadillas, burritos, and loads of Oreo cookies.

"Your body will tell you what you want," said Hartman. "You look around and you go 'wow! That looks really good.'"

Hartman plowed through the entire first night without sleep. On the second day, he said, the race began taking a toll.

“I had weird tunnel vision,” he said. “Things would get blurry. Late in the afternoon, where it was really hot and dry, I could’ve sworn I saw a girl sitting on a rock in a black sweatshirt.”

“All I could think was, ‘Why would you be out here in a sweatshirt? It’s so hot!’”

He allowed himself an hour of sleep that night. On the third day the hallucinations got worse.

“I got déjà vu – I kept swearing I had been there before, like I was running in circles.”

Hartman pressed on, taking brief occasional naps, and chugging “power coffee” – coffee mixed with coconut oil.

“I went through a pound of coffee and a jar of coconut oil over the course of the race,” he said.

He said the race pushed him to his limit. "I got to mile 140 and said out loud, 'God this is far!' But I realized I'd gotten that far - why quit now?"

Nearing the end of the race, Hartman was surprised to find himself passing other runners.

“Generally people are more spread out,” he said. “People are in the places they’re going to be in. But I passed a racer in the last stretch before the finish line. He was just about done. He was walking.”

“After I passed him, I felt pretty confident I could just walk the rest of the way. But about four miles from the finish, I look over my shoulder and I see a guy I was running with earlier, and he was just flying.”

“So I just took off. I didn’t even look back. He didn’t let up on my all the way to the finish.”

Hartman beat the man by three minutes.

At the finish line, Hartman met with his support crew: his girlfriend and her daughter, his brother, and a friend.

“It was amazing to be at the finish line. I was just overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions. But mainly I couldn’t wait to lay down.”

His post-race dinner was a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake, followed by a shower at a hotel where he had to sit in the tub because he could barely stand.

The next day consisted of off-and-on sleeping and eating.

He said the race was a big success.

“I did fantastic. I said I wanted to make it into the top ten, and I did.”

“I’ve had some races where things don’t really come together. I’ve had ones where my brain says yes but my body says no.”

“This one my brain said yes and my body said yes.”

Although Hartman has been mountain biking regularly, he hasn’t run since the race. He says his body is still recuperating.

He’d like to try another 200-mile race, and says hundred-milers just don’t cut it anymore.

The triumph he feels from running carries over into the rest of his life.

“Finishing something like that makes me realize I can do anything I want,” Hartman said. “In any aspect of my life. Whatever I choose, I can go after it and get it.”