Monday, December 10, 2012

HELLGATE. Fantastic.

The event all started with me half-knowingly strolling into a women's restroom. The door was open in the cozy building at Camp Bethel (great place), and I didn't see the "ladies" sign until I was two steps in the door.  As I was using said bathroom, I heard a merry band of people chuckling. Whoops. As I exited the opposite sex's bathroom I was greeted with a round of applause and laughter. "Can't you read!?' "I go to college I swear!" I felt part of a loving and joking family.

But the door was open!
The event actually started well before the bathroom-incident. I was so stoked after Glove's Grindstone 100 that I decided to put my name in the Horton-selected-lottery-type-thing that is Hellgate. Without thinking about it, because yes, it was probably a bad idea, I put my application in the mail. AND I was accepted! Hellgate is a small and intimate and SPECIAL race, and I was thankful? and anxious and stoked that I got in. Had to do justice now...So I ran a very good MMTR and kind of kept training, which was probably a bad idea again. I had some foot issues, I couldn't really walk without limping but I could run. I got new shoes with support in them (highly recommend Solomon Sense XT 5s. They should last awhile too). I finally did a little rest and then got called to a wildfire on Sunday night and was out until early Wednesday morning. And I was sore! I don't have the upper body to fight wildfires I suppose.

Anywho, come Friday afternoon and my dad came to Blacksburg and the UltraVT crew piled in two cars and headed to the camp. Picking up my race number, Horton said "show me you earned your entry" to me and Fletcher. Glove remarked, "that's encouraging." Haha. Anxiety was really setting in. I'd never run more than 52 miles and more than 8:40mins. I was about to add at least four hours onto that. Starting at midnight. EEEK! During the pre race briefing I felt like I was getting a fever I was so freaking anxious. Yuck.

Come to the start line and we were quickly off. Fletcher was running next to me and I was happy about that. Glove took off, but about five mins later pulled back and hung out with Fletcher and I. We went up the first climb to AS2 WAY too fast. I was sweating bullets in my long sleeve. We basically ran the whole climb. I was flusssstered and using way too much energy by the time we saw our fab crew at AS2. I switched shirts and told myself to RELAX.

Top left: weird. Top right: not happy. Bottom: Fletcher hanging with a pinched nerve
Fletcher had wisely backed off as he was having some weird foot tingling issues. We think he has a pinched nerve in his back, BUT HE FINISHED!! Major props.

For the rest of the night Glove and I ran together, which realllllly was nice and helped. We moved swiftly. Never breathing hard, but not going easy. My plan was to go easychair the first third, hang the second third, then work the last third when I would pick up Henry Wakley to pace me in. That didn't really happen haha. Glove and I chatted a lot through patches of dense fog and fun climbs. I didn't caffeine until 4am or so, which I was pleased about. We didn't listen to music until about 5am, which was also good. I thought one of the biggest struggles would be to keep awake, but that really wasn't a factor until maybe 11am.  

4am and happy!

Sunrise came with smiles and a fistpound to Glove. Well, we made it past dark. I needed to eat. We barely missed our crew at the breakfast aid station, and I thought breakfast was the following aid station so I didn't eat too much there. Bad mistake. I ate well the first 5 hours, then basically dropped off from there, still eating, but not nearly enough. Powerbars weren't tasting very good, and neither were gu's. Perhaps one of the biggest things I came away with from this race: ALWAYS take more water and food than you think you'll need (for a race this long). You can kind of struggle through a 50k or maybe 50miler with not enough food, but 100k you will DIE. Thankfully I didn't die until the last 6 miles. We'll get there.

After AS6 Glove began to fade a tad, which was a little bummer cause we ran so well through the night together and had loose plans to finish together. I enjoyed the section into AS7, where I found out top 10 was viable by Horton shouting "THEY'RE CLOSE! YOU CAN GET A JACKET! DO YOU WANT A JACKET!? HURRY UP WHAT ARE YOU DOING GO GO GO!" Horton's enthusiasm got to me, and I way too hastily ran out of Bearwallow too fast. I had plans to eat a whole PB&J and drink some redbull, but I completely forgot. Not good. 
Forced smile :) Mile 44ish. 

Dad saying, "hey stop and eat" and me ignoring him. Typical relationship.
Pre-race I didn't think about post-bearwallow at all. My thought's were basically: Henry will get me through. AND HE DID! We talked a good bit through the "forever section" which really didn't feel like forever because AS3 to 4 was over 10 miles and that felt like forever. I was loving the forever section's trails too. Beautttyful. Views too! I ran this section well and eventually popped in headphones again because I was plain tired.

Got to Boblett's Gap at AS8 and my crew wasn't there. Had plans to eat the PB&J and redbull again but that didn't happen. I drank some mtn dew and that instantly didn't sit well in my stomach. I started to have issues running downhill. Slow. Till AS9 I had passed maybe 3 people and caught up with 10th place. He was gingerly picking his was down the rocks but I didn't pass him, just stayed on his tail for maybe 2 miles? Got to AS9 and crew wasn't there again. I ate a couple oreos and had some gingerale but that didn't sit well either. I took two tums and that helped, but my stomach was aching for food and I couldn't take it. 10th place guy started to run up the 3 mi climb, and I basically let him go, giving up the jacket. That was fine. My goal when I sent in my application was to finish. I was going to finish. 

Walked the whole climb, Henry trying to push me but I was out of it. I was in a low patch. That was becoming lower and lower. My inner thoughts were something like "bleeeep this stupid bleeeping climb and all this bleeping elevation gain and I'm bleeping tired and I want to stop and sleep and for this bleeping race to be over and this bleeping sucks bleep bleep bleep" but I was consciously telling myself "you're ok. recognize how you're feeling and move on. you're almost there, you can do it, you're still hiking relatively well. you asked for this. it's not supposed to be easy. embrace it. you're alright." It was a weird dichotomy between what my body and mind were telling me. I was out of water. I wanted to die basically. Drama. Forcing myself to respond to Henry, trying to smile, forcing grimaces that might have been smiles. Looking back on it, it was bad, but I'm sure it could have been worse. 

Once we topped out the climb we got some water from the kind volunteer sitting there. I just wanted to sit there too. Henry and I started to jog down the climb. The plan was to run it well all the way in. But my stomach was doubling over itself in hunger and cramps. I felt like I had to throw up but I had nothing to throw up. My head hurt. My feet were tingling. I felt top heavy. I had to stop a few times to collect my stomach then tried to run a little more. I never hated a downhill so badly haha. I was surprised nobody had caught me (Sam Dangc and I were yo-yoing for the past 20 miles or so and he was downhilling way better than I was but I was hiking better). The road finally turned to gravel and a straight shot to the camp. Henry said Sam was behind. I didn't have the energy to look. My head was spinning but my legs were moving, actually running now. Henry wasn't going to let Sam pass me. We hit the 1mile mark and started moving. A blur. 7:15 last mile, what the heck, I was struggling to walk downhill fifteen mins ago. I thanked Henry and ran in where Horton was yelling, "WOW! You did it! I didn't think you'd do it!" :-)

Posture says most of it.

I'm stoked and tired at the same time now. I toughed out some hard miles. I survived the worst bad patch I've ever had, and I ran for more than half a day. That's odd. The human body is incredible. I'm ready for two weeks of zero running and then easy running after that. I need a break. Eight ultras in one year might be too much for a still-newbie like me. Horton said he'd give me a proper seeding next time ;-) and that I had to live up to it and that this year wasn't a fluke. It wasn't. Unfortunately the next Horton race for me won't be until Promise Land. I never really felt good in the race, minus maybe a couple hours when I started to listen to music at 5am. Other than that I was working all day. Which was fun and new. The new ground past 8:40 was incredible. But I was tired. I need to race less! I'm excited to rest and then get back into running a lot in training, which is what I love. Races are a time to race for me now, still enjoy it of course, but the whole stop-and-smell-the-roses fun is for those everyday runs that leave me in continual awe. Hellgate was certainly the hardest thing I've ever done. Period. 

Gotta say thanks to Henry, Earp, Catherine, Rachel, Darren, Kelly, Fletcher, Guy, and Jordy. And pops! And Horton for putting together this, yes, special, race. I can only guess what it would have been like if the weather was horrible. Eeek. Ultra VT repped hard! Glove came down with some bad tendonitis (understandably, I mean he did the BEAST series!) but still finished sub 14, which is great. Jordy finished right ahead of Glove with more energy than I could imagine. Fletcher deathmarched the last 20 and made it. I love our team.

The crew!

Would I do it again? Like Fletcher said, not for another year hahaha. In one year exactly? Sure...

Now: sleeping. eating. doing college. Recharging. Being thankful.

See you round the mountain!


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