Thursday, January 29, 2015

2014 Hellgate 100k++

I started this post on the plane home from Hellgate and reflected on a great weekend and a race performance I wish I could change.  It's taken me weeks to get back to it - here goes nothing. 

Hellgate is a special race.  Unique in so many ways and a true gem among ultras.  I fell in love in 2013 and couldn’t wait to go back in 2014.  Hellgate certainly did not disappoint, but I disappointed myself.  

Last year Hellgate was a reunion weekend for me and my college running coach.  He lives in Ohio and I in Washington and he offered to come down and meet me and help crew.  We had so much fun last year that he and I decided to do it again this year.  We stayed at this great hotel in Roanoke that is totally decked out for Christmas and it really adds to the festive feeling of the weekend.  We stayed there again this year and it was fantastic.  Catching up with an old friend is always a great time and we certainly had a great time again this year.

In short, I had one goal at Hellgate.  To not go out too fast.  Secondary goals: Savor the night, run easy, then pick it up as daylight emerged.  Fuel well, stay warm (post Pinhoti trauma made that prominent in my mind) and finish strong.  I feel like I did a good job of not being too keyed up for the race and not too nervous.  Something about being here before made it easier.  You know where you are, where you will go and what you will cross to get there.

I basically blew my goal from the start.  Hellgate starts on a slightly winding trail for the first few miles and then continues for several more miles up a long dirt road climb.  I ran pretty conservatively for the first mile but then I threw all goals out the window for some reason.  Thing is I didn't THINK I was running too fast.  I didn't feel out of control.  Maybe it's something to do with the uphill road climb - I really like those - but by the time I got to mile 8 or so I was right with the lead woman.  This is not taking it easy.  I later learned from my coach that the leader and I were WAY under record pace at the 8 mile aid station.  In hindsight that explains a lot.

The feeding problems inevitably followed.  I had trouble finding anything that tasted good or sounded good.  I kept putting off the fuel when I knew I needed it because of that.  I dug myself into a big hole by not eating enough calories.  And we all know the domino effect this has on everything else.  It wasn't long before my pace became difficult to keep up.  And it wasn't long after that I started to become less coordinated.  Anyone who knows the Hellgate course knows that there are traps all along that course.  Traps in the form of ankle busting rocks that are covered by 12-18 inches of dry leaves.  My ankles found almost all of them.  I twisted each ankle really hard at least twice.  I tripped over sticks and hit the ground.  The lack of food left me wondering if I'd ever run on a trail before in my life.  

In the end, the race this year was a suffer-fest.  I finished with ankles that would barely support me anymore and an ego that was seriously bruised from disappointing myself.  But the race itself held true to form - a tough and challenging 100k (with bonus miles) that beckons me back for yet another try.  David Horton is a gem and his race is nothing less.

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