By Kent Gallup
It had been since April that I had been planning to run in Hellgate 2007. I have only been running ultras for two years and after I read last year’s column on Hellgate 2006 (in Ultrarunning) I knew one day I would run in the spector-like race. I used two other ultra races just for the reason to finish Hellgate.
I realized from the two prep races that some of the runners that I was running with had run at Hellgate. It was from these gentlemen that I got the same words of wisdom:
It was with these words of advice and eight months worth of preparation that I found myself with one hundred plus runners at 12:01 a.m. in the woods of Virginia. The only words I remember were "It is 12:01...", and the waves of runners in front of me advanced into Hellgate. The first few miles were simple fascination. I could not believe that I had got into Hellgate and that now I was in Hellgate. All I could hear was my music. All I could see was four feet in front of me. I was intoxicated by the entire scene being played around me.
The first hill hit or should I say the first climb and the reality of the course set in. After the first climb the first single track trails and reality set in again. Hellgate was all the that it was said to be, in a single word NASTY!
Hellgate to me was all that I would breath, smell, taste, see, or feel for what would seem like an eternity. I could not and did not think of the miles, only the terrain. The terrain was the worst that I had ever seen or navigated. It was after AS3 that the teeth of this race drew blood, I had had my first fall. The course was having it's way with me. Between the falls and the course just before AS4 I wanted to quit. Just by luck (there is no luck) I ran up upon a runner I knew, and he told me I was making good time and that the first third was the worst. The little bit he said was all it would take to keep me running (thanks Byron).
The miles passed with the aid stations and most of the race seemed almost surreal for me, because I never saw another runner again until AS6. The sun had just come up and for the first time, and I could see with just my eyes and not my headlamp. The scene was beautiful. The mountains and the mist all seemed to casually enjoy the dawn.
After AS6 I really can not figure out what happened to my thinking. I had convinced myself that the cut off time for AS7 was 10:00. I had two hours to make it there and I pushed and pushed as fast as I could. This was the part of the course that was calf deep in leaves, and the leaves covered only rocks. I was becoming scared that I would get cut. I told myself that I just needed to run when I could and push as fast as I could when I could not run. I arrived at AS7 a few minutes before 10:00. As I stood and ate what I could, I remember asking Dr. Horton when the next cut off time was. His reply was "eight hours for you." I heard one the aid station attendants saying that I was now in eighteenth place. I realized then that first I had made a time miscalculation, and second that I would finish the race. I would finish Hellgate!
The next miles were still filled with horrible climbs, long downhills, leaves, rocks, leaves, rocks, climbs, downhills, leaves, rocks,... you get the picture. AS9 passed and I was on the last descent. As I ran down the gravel road I remember seeing the one mile left marker and realized that in ten minutes that I would have finished this monster of a race.
The finish line appeared and as I crossed Dr. Horton had stretched out his hand and asked if the course was hard. My reply was a simple yes.
As I sit at home I am a little depressed because the race is over. It has been four days since I crossed that finish line and I am ready to run Hellgate again. I really do miss the race. The race was fantastic in every sense of the word fantastic. Dr. Horton has created a beautiful race for the ultrarunning world to enjoy. The aid stations were more than willing to help the runners in any thing that they asked. The course itself gave its best and expect the runner to return the honor.
Dr. Horton I want to say again thank you for letting me run in Hellgate, because it was an honor and a pleasure. The race makes people survive their worst enemy -THEMSELVES.