By Cathy Gallagher
Hellgate: went down with Audrey, Denise and Kelly
Dorey to a much anticipated winter ultra 100 km.
Met a very passionate ultra crowd - really neat to see an organizer that
was so obviously respected by all the runners - seemed like he (David
Horton) new everyone in the crowd except the "Canucks"! Harper Forbes and
his fiancÚ Amy drove down and met us at Camp Bethel.
Race started at 12:01 after a mad scramble to find Denise and Harper (we
all had to get separate rides from people appointed to us to start line).
Finally found them and we were off. Stayed with Denise and Audrey for a
while but their pace was too quick at this point for me and I still am not
sure what pace I need to do to maximize in these races so did my own
thing. Climbed up a beautiful mountain range - not too steep so ran/walk -
the moon was full and beautiful and everyone was starting to spread out.
Got through first two aid stations - felt great and loved the food in the
TA's - soup, sandwiches etc. Was already starting to see people drop with
stomach problems - felt bad for them. The wind came up on the open areas
of the mountain but really did not feel that cold and felt great, alone
but not scared this time! Aid station three is where my race started to
change....I looked up at the moon and saw the most beautiful rainbow
around it...I asked racers around me what they thought of it and was
quickly told there was no rainbow and that my corneas might be starting to
freeze...I quickly dismissed this and proceeded on loving this race but as
the sun started to come up I noticed I was in a very deep fog -which again
I shared with another passing male or at least wanted to see if he was in
the same fog...unfortunately not - he told me it was a beautiful clear
day. He gave me his clear shades which helped a tiny bit but I knew what
was happening to my eyes was not good. Next aid they gave me some drops
and told me two other males had already dropped out with same problem
(corneal edema) We were warned about this condition at beginning of race
as two Hellgates ago they had a few people who fell victim to it (2005
I was convinced that my eyes would get better and continued on...I could
just barely make out the trail and flagging tape that was hanging from the
trees or arrows on the ground. Was told by medic at next aid that my eyes
were not getting any better and that I would not do permanent damage but
would take a while to get full vision back. Foolishly and stubbornly I
insisted on going to and pressed on at a ridiculous slow pace and made it
to aid station number 8 around the 80 km mark when I lost complete vision,
skidded on a hill and realized I was in trouble and used my whistle and a
lot of yelling. Aid station Larry got me back to truck and finally
regained vision back after about 5-6 hours.
I have never experienced anything like this in a race and was told there
is really no way to prevent it except wearing wrap around shades - but
that was not a guarantee for sure. It seems to happen in the colder races.
Luck of the draw is what I was told - 6 others had it and 23 people
dropped out in total - some to this but many to the elements and stomach
problems. I would have taken a "bonk" any day over this as I really felt
helpless as to trying to get beyond it. I learned that perhaps I should
have stopped sooner but pushed too far - but who was to know they would
get worse...anyways Denise and Audrey and Harper did AMAZING - Denise and
Audrey took second place and shook up the seedings and blew people away.
Harper swore he would never to another ultra but did very well also coming
in just before Denise and Audrey! Congrats to them! Kelly Dorey got
hypothermia around aid station 4 which was a shame.
I will not forget this experience but will do my research as to why or how
I can prevent it in the future in a cold ultra....