My Hellgate Experience. 


Greetings to all:

I must echo what Iíve read elsewhere before; Hellgate is the best race Iíve never finished!  I must say that dropping out of this race never entered my mind and usually does not in most races.  I showed up a little late Friday evening for the event; arriving while David was briefing the runners about the course and conditions.  I already realized that the course conditions were going to be rough as I about wrecked heading to Camp Bethel on the back roads full of ice.  When I left Richlands, VA, roughly a 3 hour drive from Fincastle, we had cool temps and no ice whatsoever.  After Hortonís briefing I went back to the car loaded up my drop bags and changed into my race gear and proceeded to lie down on the floor and rest roughly an hour before we were to head out to the course.  When the time arrived I hitched a ride with Scott Brockmeier, his dog Sierra, Bryon Backer and Brian Kistner.  I had a good time listening to stories and good humor along the drive to the Hellgate parking lot.  I was in a good mood and feeling super.  Once there I sat in the car enjoying the warmth until a van driver yelled last call for the drop bags.  I got out of the car and gave him my bags in time to jog to the start in time for the group national anthem.  Immediately, the race started and I felt GOOD.  The cold temps never bothered me and I was running very relaxed and feeling super.  I ended up jockeying for position a little bit and wondered perhaps if I was moving a tad too fast for this distance, especially since I was right with Aaron Schwartzbard and his bright green light; but realized upon my readings that the first seven miles of the course were the fastest, so I decided to Ďput money in the bank.í  I crossed the first creek crossing with ease and enjoyed the long accent to aid station # 2.  Upon that decent I met Corey Handlesman, who was running very relaxed.  We talked about how high up we were and it seemed like the moon was within touching distance.  He explained how he had been a rock climber and started running to get to his routes faster and not to be so winded when he got there.  He and I jockeyed for position on the single trek section until we hit a really rough patch going across creeks.  I was falling and sliding so much, but still having a blast.  I made it to aid station #3 in good time and feeling great, I grabbed a few potatoes which I swore I smelled a mile away, and began moving onward.  This is where my night started to change.  About 500yds after the aid station, I took a series of nasty spills on the hard ice and it HURT.  I could make it a few yards before I fell again.  I did this for about ten minutes before I realized I needed to walk a while because my hip was hurting along with my knee.  That is when people caught me and started passing me; I ran a little while with Jen Shelton who was running great up the hills and with ease but was slipping and sliding as much as me.  I eventually made to the Promise Land course and was able to run good again but the damage was done, my leg was bruised along with my mentality.  I had not eaten anything for about an hour due to concentrating on staying upright and this was starting to effect me big time.  I began to get cold, really fast.  I started slowing down even more and getting dizzy.  People started to pass me pretty quickly.  I composed myself and drank a lot of fluid and took some E-gel and started feeling good again, I started passing people again as I pulled into aid station #4.  It was here where I fell once again and decided to call it a night.  I pulled into there around 5:05am and was on a good pace, but knew that 66.6 miles on the terrain would not be happening this day.  Regardless, I donít have a bad thing to say about the course and the climbs.  Being a mountain goat myself, I didnít think the climbs to aid station #4 were as bad as I was thinking and with a little more training and perhaps taking up some of the training runs on the course, I will have this thing licked eventually.  Iíll be back again and attempt another Hellgate and will echo the saying; itís the best race Iíve never finished!  Iíll also have some backup YakTrax next time too!


Nick Whited