2013 Hellgate 100k+++

Mentally, it’s been a challenging year for me, to say the least.  I could possibly have been in the best shape of my life this summer, but suffered from stomach issues and fatigue that did not allow me to perform up to my abilities.  Hellgate was my “feel better” race, a way to end the season on a happy note with feeling strong instead of feeling defeated.

Horton races are good for that.   Hellgate delivered, since my main goal was simply, to finish strong, which I was able to do even after a long stretch of falling asleep on my feet and barely moving forward.  My stomach never gave my trouble this race but my downfall may have been being too cautious and not taking in enough calories. Scott and I left the kids at my mother and father-in-laws to make the trip with just the two of us.  It would have been too challenging with the midnight start and the predicted cold temperatures and precipitation to have Shep and Dahlia in tow.

Thee weather delivered a mix of sleet, snow and rain with temps in the 20’s and 30’s but I felt well prepared with multiple shoes, mittens and even hand heaters to change into during the race. Scott was a trooper staying up all night to see me through this event.  After experimenting this year with numerous sports drinks I decided to go back to an old standby. My nutrition strategy was to stick with only Perpetuem like I used with success at Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile back in 2011.  The race began at 12:01am, right on time.  I had a fun time chatting with Kathleen Cusick  (the eventual woman’s winner) for the first few miles but then held back a bit to focus on conserving some energy.

I felt good and was slightly ahead of my goal pace when I rolled into mile ~27 (which is actually ~30), I refilled water, got more Perpetuem and continued on.  I decided to keep my lights, but didn’t need them for more than 15 minutes as the night was fading away and daylight came quickly.  As soon as I crossed the street the course went straight uphill and I felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks. My pace slowed and my eyelids felt heavy the higher I climbed. I was fighting to move. My thoughts began to turn negative, but I fought them to stay on task; to finish feeling good.  I focused on “I CAN!” My stomach was doing fine but I was fatigued and had thoughts that I needed to combat it with more calories.  Maybe, because of the cold, I underestimated my calorie need or Perpetuem just wasn’t working for me.

I grabbed some real food at the next aid station but because of my slowness it took me a long time to get there.   In hindsight, I probably should have stayed a bit longer, taking in more calories but I was still a bit afraid of eating because of my experience in Tahoe.  I also took an electrolyte caffeine pill, which helped stop me from falling asleep on my feet.  After staggering down the trail and dirt roads, getting passed by many people, I finally made it into aid station 7 (mile ~43).  I was 2 hours overdue.  Scott was worried but instinctually I knew what I needed to do. I asked for all the hot food he could find me. I changed my mittens, changed socks, changed into a waterproof jacket, added a layer to my top and changed my hat.  I was starting to get chilled as I sat and ate.  I filled up on warm boiled potatoes with salt and M & M’s. I started to perk up and asked for food to go as well.  I took more pretzels and more M&M’s to go.

A few miles down the trail my fatigue lifted along with my spirit.  I was running again.  I started passing some of the people that passed me miles before.  My toes thawed, my body warmed up and my stomach remained happy.  I continued to grab M& M’s and grilled cheese sandwiches to go at the next couple of aid stations.  The rain came down hard on and off.  I used my hood as a heat regulator. It worked great.  My pace remained steady and at the next aid Scott told me he would drive to the finish and run back to meet me at aid station 9 so he could run the last part with me.  Since I was no longer in top 5 female I could have a pacer.  I remained steady and felt good.  I beat Scott to the last aid station and started climbing the last mountain hoping I would see him soon to spend some time together.  It’s always a pleasure to experience some miles on the trails with my husband.  After 25 minutes of climbing he was running toward me elated that I was in such a good mood and going much faster than he anticipated.  We crested the hill and now began the last 3.5-mile push to the finish.  It was now 15 hours 34 minutes that I had been out there.  I pushed hard downhill on the rutted dirt road, bouncing off the rocks.  It’s one of my favorite things to do.  It smoothed out and turned to tar with just over a mile remaining and we ran harder, trying to get under 16 hours but I just couldn’t do it…..and who knows if that is really 3.5 miles from the top anyways!!!???  I finished in 16 hours 3 minutes a good 2 hours longer than I believe I am capable of but in a much better place mentally and physically than I have been all year.  So, I call it a success!  Thanks to all the volunteers and Dr. Horton for putting on such a spectacular event!

I do promise to write soon about my challenges in 2013, my findings (with the help of Coach Al and Dr. Kurt) and my plans for better health and better running.  So stay tuned!

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