I am very humbled by Hellgate……..There are so many opposing emotions linked to my experience with Hellgate. Joy & pain, camaraderie & loneliness, adrenaline & fatigue, logical-methodical-thinking/planning…and complete insanity!
Somehow I got the insane idea that I could qualify for UTMB as I already had 1 pt, and Hellgate would give me 3 more for 4 total. Insane! I trained in up to -20, ran my little heart out and hammered a ton of hills and ran a bunch of times in the dark in preparation for this race. I was completely unprepared for the fatigue and the elements. The girls are already planning a “Kelly Suffer-Fest” to help me in my suffer-training. I feel like I suffered but I need to suffer more, and after only over a year of running I have put myself in some crazy races and pushed myself beyond my comfort zone….Hellgate has no comfort zone except maybe the first few minutes at the start where we sing the American Anthem, say a Prayer and know full well you are part of a very special event – intimate and extraordinary and running with friends make it even better. The first leg of running lulls you into a false sense of security thinking “This is awesome!” I can so do this!
No, no, no I couldn’t.
I was in a very comfortable zone, a 16hr finishing zone, & loving my amazing headlamp that many commented on as they ran by. The lights were amazing and made me feel safe and confident as I was going to be alone for several hours. One thing about Hellgate, you become alone almost immediately. I envied the girls that had running partners – and I played leapfrog with a few and we cheerily smiled at each other and waved. Such amazing folks that run in this crazy race. I loved seeing the women out there giving it their all! Very inspiring.
I passed through the 2nd CP still pacing very well, and very impressed with my hill running as they weren’t too steep and the cutoffs were aggressive so I had to be consistent, but somewhere around 3am I couldn’t feel my legs (thanks to the rivers and the howling wind!) I started getting dizzy, almost fainted twice and my pace turned to a stumble (it wasn’t food either, I was eating and hydrating properly, my stomach was fine – I even took extra gels thinking it would help)…it was just so very frightening but I kept telling myself to pick it up you can do this! There were no headlamps around even in the far distance and I was all alone. One of the last water jumps that didn’t go to my knees, I managed to head up the mountain on a wrong trail and I’m pretty good at following trail and it was definitely marked very well although I gave the good Doctor grief for it! I noticed all the glow sticks in the valley and bushwacked down the knee deep leaves and got back on track, but my pace had slowed and at 330am I quit...my mind wasn’t in it, I was scared, tired, freezing and feeling very delirious and very alone…I didn’t even want to think about running and started making lists of the gear I wanted to sell starting with my new headlamp (nope not selling it!)…quite funny when I think back to that moment…the moment I told myself I was certifiably insane for attempting this…the girls reassured me after the race that they have quit and retired in almost all their races…quite amusing, and as I write this and although yesterday I swore I would never attempt Hellgate again…I have already changed my mind. Yes I am insane. (...and if I ever do Hellgate again first priority is to come a day earlier so I can SLEEP before the race rather than travel ALL day before the race!)
I finally made it to cp3 right at 4am and I knew I was done and my bag wasn’t at the next CP so in my mind the effort would be futile and I wouldn’t make it….my shoes were frozen, I was freezing & soaking wet and the shivering had stopped – not good. The amazing volunteers got me soup, wrapped me in a sleeping bag, stood me by the fire and Larry the EMT managed to get me some of his dry clothes, and after getting lost in the mountains trying to find CP#5 we finally got me to my drop bag so I could change…2hrs later! Thanks for everything Larry!! I was in the right place at the right time because Cathy came walking in and she couldn’t see due to the corneal edema we had read about, and I was already upset and seeing her in her blind condition made it worse but she couldn’t see my face so I sucked back the tears, helped her and managed to get to the next 2 cp’s to help her with my new found friend Eric who’s wife was running and we went CP-jumping together. Thanks for everything Eric! …Cathy you gave me more grey hairs!! ...however your tenacity is incredible and you are an inspiration.
We are very proud of our Canadian runners who placed very well in this race – Harper Forbes tied for 12th and swears he will never do this again (we’ll see…) and Denise Rispolie and Audrey Kelly tied for 2nd Female and 22nd overall – these girls are ROCKSTARS! They didn’t even train much and Denise was nursing an injured ankle! Their goal was to finish and get Audrey to France! Well they did that and more – you girls are an inspiration…bring on the sufferfest!!
After reflecting on this experience and talking it out with some seasoned/pro AR folk I still feel really good about what I accomplished at Hellgate. The elements got to me but my spirit is strong – there are many things that Hellgate has given me that I have never done before and from this I have again learned a few more things about myself. I am slowly growing as a runner and a good friend says not to worry, my enthusiasm, energy & positive spirit will eventually come together with my skills...I will always pick myself back up. Now its time to look forward…Bring on the Canadian Death Race 2009! I think some of the Beast Series runners should come take on the Canadian Rockies with us!
Thanks David Horton & all your amazing volunteers for putting on a very tough yet incredible race experience for everyone.
**The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall. ** - Vince Lombardi