I'm sitting here on sunday afternoon with fat, blistered feet, sore achilles in both legs, wondering what would be the best way to describe this amazing journey I was fortunate enough to go on. It's really almost a surreal experience to be able to sit here and say "I'm a hellgate finisher.". Hellgate 100k in my mind was always the ZENITH of any of the ultras on the east coast. It's where VERY TOUGH ultrarunners test their metal against the elements, rocky leaf covered trails and 14,000ft of vertical climbing over 66.6 miles. oh, and the race starts at midnight. a little different!! I've read so many race reports from this epic race, and I'll be honest to say the race was vilified in my mind. I WAS scared of hellgate. When I was running Terrapin mtn 50k this spring I was with Marlin Yoder and Sophie and she said, " WOOP! HELLGATE COURSE!!" it literally sent a chill down my spine. and we were on the same section Friday night, I told sophie that had some one told me in march, that I'd be THERE running hellgate with her in December, I would of NEVER believed them. I am very happy that sophie convinced me to run Hellgate ( just like LUS and MMTR) She believed in my ability to finish HG, before i even believed myself that I could do it.
I came the evening before the race and stayed off exit 150 at the holiday inn. I slept in and laid around until check out, then came to Camp Bethel and snagged a bunk and proceeded to visit with all my friends and lay around all evening until it was time for packet pick up and dinner.
I have talk about dinner. It's always really special to see all your friends at packet pick up, but one thing I thought that was awesome about dinner was that rather than buffet, you are served family style. As soon as I walked into that dining room and sat down, At that moment the light bulb came on, and I immediately understood WHY horton likes to keep this race small. So Dr. Horton: I GET IT NOW. :)
There are "years": "ice year" "leaf year" "warm year".. no idea what this year will be called. I was fortunate with the weather. It had rained heavily for a couple of days the beginning of the week, so even though the course was a little wet and mucky in many places:) I'm sure it helped with the leaves. The forecast was for low in the 20's friday night and high 41 saturday. I think it was way colder than 20 on top of headforemost mtn. BRRR! but immediately descending I felt it was really comfy. it may have been in the 30's all night. I was never really cold. ( other than headforemost) but I'm getting ahead of myself.
JJ JESSEE was kind enough to come crew for me since brock had to work this weekend. He came after the race meeting and I gave him all my gear and bag o gels and snake oil. He gave sophie, donna and I a ride to the start. It felt a little cold at the start, and I was calm. I thought I would be terrified-- but I wasn't. We lined up sung "o, canada" and the "star spangled banner" and before I knew it was 12:01 and we were off! one thing i did differently this race: no garmin. my first race EVER without it. I just wore my timex ironman and never even set the chrono just looked at the time of day. I can't say it really made that big of difference. I was probably happy to not see how slow my pace was on some sections. :)
sophie and I before the start in our LUS jackets ( that barely got worn)
I guess for my race synopsis I can break it down in a few sentences for each section:
start to AS1: ran with Mike and Sophie-- did we cross the river before the first AS?? I can't remember.. I do remember a river though. I think that was how it went. What really sticks out in my mind is it being really tight and congested on the single track.. people right in front, people right behind you and it was a little nerve racking.
AS1 to Petits Gap:
started up the road and with mike and sophie and buddy, we RAN. It was awesome. finally got my elbow room.
Petits Gap to Camping Gap:
single track with glowsticks on trees:) thanks grattan and donna! I thought of you guys everytime I passed a glowstick. it was a little rocky and downhill ( not my strength) but I was really happy when rocks from the terrapin course started looking familiar. sadly lost sophie and mike once we got off the single track and were climbing on the road. ( just like terrapin!) Sophie is just a rock star on those big climbs. but I was totally okay because 1. I was starting to feel a little worked. so the run/hike thing was cool by me. I just turned on my ipod and got up to camping gap. the moon light was amazing on the road, and I was super happy to KNOW where I was and it be familiar.
CAMPING GAP TO HEADFOREMOST MTN:
okay so I left camping gap and started out toward the white oak trail/WOR loop and was again, feeling really happy that I was familiar with my surroundings and that i was getting ready to go on the promise land course, I leaped frog a bit with alyssa godesky ( who I think got 4th ) .
I was really loving the grassy road and thinking about my first promise land50k this year, how I was extremely sick with bronchitis that race and Rebekah stayed with me for a GOOD bit like an hour and cheered me up and pieced me back together to get me eating again. I knew she was out on the course and had a bad cold and I said I prayer that she was feeling better and having a good time. I spend ALOT of time reflecting on the past year of the races in the LUS.. and just how awesome it was to end my season this way it had all come full circle. started running with a really great guy who got 3rd in the IMTR 50 this year ( his knee was bothering him) I hope he finished but had a feeling he may have dropped at headforemost. So that was cool to get to talk about Mt Rogers and Damascus for a bit. I love where I train and all my friends there and feel so extremely fortunate to call those trails "home". Separated on the climb from the IMTR 50 guy up the mtn. and as I climbed I started to get cold
HEADFOREMOST to AS 5/jennings creek/ breakfast AS:
I got COLD quick up there.. I don't know what happened on that climb but when I got to JJ's trooper at 5:10AM I was light headed and slurring my speech.. JJ ( being the super crew he was) switched nathan packs, got me in my pink jacket and gave me ensure and off I went. once I started descending I immediately felt MUCH BETTER. and WARMER:) I listened to pink floyd and thought alot about my brother, Todd. I wore a locket with his picture in it to Hellgate. I knew it would help me in my rough patches because for some reason, alot of times during my rough patches I think of him, and how he wouldn't want me to quit -- he'd want me to overcome adversity and figure things out and keep moving.
Jennings creek AS to LITTLE COVE MTN:
I got to breakfast AS at 6:41. still dark, I couldn't wait to get rid of my headlamp but decided to keep it until I got to the next AS. Saw JJ. Then I got a cup and filled it with silver dollar pancakes, eggs, bacon and quiche. YES!! QUICHE!!!:) and I ran out of there and started the climb and I ate my yummy, yummy breakfast. MMMM. it was awesome. Then I found fellow IMTR Guy Love, he was having problems eating and drinking. I was sad he was having a bad day. I told him it definitely wasn't my greatest race either but to hang in there and keep moving. I continued on and met Nelson ( waves- HI NELSON) who said he read my blog before and we hiked up the mtn to little cove mtn.
me at the little cove AS mile 34
little COVE MTN to BEARWALLOW GAP:
What a big surprise to get on top of that mtn and see BOB and DREW ( go CATS!!) and JJ!! I was happy the sun was shining, and I was getting ready to drink a handheld of aminos on this section. JJ told me this section maybe a little tough I think it was 8 miles. happy to ditch my rudy project clear lenses and my headlamp and my gloves.. decided later down the trail I should of kept the gloves:) this section was FUN for alot of it, it was FS road then this cool section that reminded me SOO much of the dark side on the promise land course ( but I knew it wasn't the dark side just similar) THEN.. came the fun part.. the devils trail and just alot of climbs. I really had some rough patches. I went from the depths of despair to being SO happy to being alive. I thought the devils trail was unreasonably cruel to me, and then I decided it wasn't the rocks fault I can't run well on them.. I was just mentally not sharp on this section. so I came into bearwallow mile 42 at 10:40AM seeing bob, drew, jj, tammy ( I LOVE YOU GUYS!)
looking like this:
but after a hydration pack change, getting some gloves, sunglasses, lots of encouragement from tammy, bob and JJ and a CHEESEBURGER; I left looking like this:
42 miles down only 24 more to go
much better. I love friends! this picture is small but I'm smiling and RAVISHING a cheeseburger.
BEARWALLOW GAP TO BOBLETT's GAP:
7 miles . from what I remember there was alot of climbing and leaves and ridges. I was alone alot and just tried to run where I could and listen to music. I know i'm slowing down but knew I had PLENTY of time to even run 15:30 or 16 hrs. so That was okay. and so mentally, I just tried to stay positive-- how awesome the weather was ( 40 and sunny) and i was eating.. ( the fact I can get a cheeseburger and quiche during a long run really makes me think I'll be okay during 100's for the nutrition stuff) and what a great experience this was for me just BEING at hellgate and knowing I was going to FINISH hellgate. So I just tried to stay in the game that way even though i was REALLY starting to hurt BAD.
I get to boblett's gap and both my achilles are really really hurting. ( I think it was just all the climbing and running on the rocks)
shuffling into boblett's gap AS.
and Tammy called brock for me! that was SO awesome to get to tell him and the kids that I loved them.
BOBLETT's GAP to FOREVER SECTION
I was hurting bad. So I took 2 tylenol ( yep, I know). Jamie Darling was working this AS and asked me what she could get me to help.. She was so sweet. I asked her for a gun so I could shoot myself:) ( I was joking-- kinda- it hurt just to walk) JJ offered to jump in with me and run the forever section with me. before the race, had NOT even anticipated or thought of having anyone run with me, BUT JJ had on his montrail masochists-- at first I thought hmm maybe just the last 6 miles it would be great to have a friend to run with, but when he offered at bobletts-- I immediately took him up on it. so off we went.
we were LOVING that road down the mtn. so much that I missed the turn onto the single track. We spent about 20 mins ( me trying not to freak out because I had never gotten lost during a race before) finally found out after running back and forth 3 times looking for me 2 other guys were lost too. so apparently Im not the only one who missed this turn:) BUT I decided it was what it was.. and poor JJ I think he either thought I would be mad at him ( hey, i missed the turn not him! not his job to navigate me) or I was going to cry or something. because of the lost time and the couple of people who got ahead of me. nah, I just thought.. this is just life. things dont go perfectly.. you fix what you can, do your best and ROLL WITH IT. So I just decided to have fun running the forever section with JJ. He so selflessly worked all day friday, drove up to camp bethel, stayed up all night, all day and NOW was running with me! It was so much fun just trying to figure out where the forever section would end, laughing and making jokes and saying "HELLGATE!" because WOW. I was almost finished. and I'm SO happy I got to have this adventure with JJ. so thankful for his help, but running with him was the best.
DAY CREEK TO FINISH
it was ON. I knew i had 3 miles up and 3 miles down and I was ready to be done. JJ and I hiked up the first 3 miles to the parkway in 41 minutes. I was SO proud of myself. tylenol was kickin in:) feet felt way better. I crossed the parkway and thought of Gary Knipling who told me to really enjoy that moment knowing there was just 3 miles downhill to the finish on that nice dirt road. and so we made our way down happy to know I was going to run 16 hrs and something and the sun was still bright and shining ( I didn't want to finish in the dark) SO that made me happy!! and finishing this race... no, I didn't cry.. sometimes I do that at finish lines, I was just SO HAPPY to be there. HAPPY I finished Hellgate 100k. HAPPY it was 16:19. Happy I learned so much about working through rough patches and the highs and lows of ultra distance running. Happy to learn that I'm tough enough to get in there and dig deep when i have to. Happy I had the support of my family and so many friends. Happy I got to spend friday and saturday in the mountains with SO many old friends and I made many new friends! Happy horton let me in his race!:) I'll def be back next year.. if Horton, lets me in:)
Bob said it best: " I once was lost, but now am found."
Horton Hug makes all the pain from running 66.6 miles in the mtns all better