Hellgate 2008

by Kelly Golden

I read the race reports. I started the book recommended by Dr. Horton, "Hellgate" by Roger Sutton. Other than the outright fear they instilled there seemed to be one other similarity. They all talked about looking down from the hairpin going up to A.S. 2 and seeing the string of bobbing lights trailing behind them. I looked back and counted 6 lights and moments later realized two belonged to a truck. Welcome once again to the rabid fear of cut-offs. Not even at A.S. 2 and already running scared. Coming up to A.S 2 the wind began to howl appropriately like a banshee. How can such a Christian man pick such horrible places for his volunteers to stand?

Dropping off the pkwy and down the trail, my hands started to get numb but I enjoyed the trail I do love single track. Then up up up the frozen road to A.S. 3. The Christmas lights they had out made me smile as much as a frozen face can. Somewhere after that I thought my feet were beginning to thaw. Wrong. It was the ice forming on my shoes that was digging into my frozen toes. I ran/stumbled down the last of the trail to A. S. 4 with solidly frozen shoes and permanently fogged glasses. Thank God for chicken soup and sports drink slushies. I was glad that the drop bags had been moved because I did not want to linger in this fresh hell. I thought I must be really far back b/c theyíre serving us raw potatoes. They were frozen, as were the oranges. My water also froze about 90 minutes from A.S.5 and I was unable to get the bottles open. By now I had about 5lbs of ice on each shoe and was developing a pathological hatred of puddles, creeks etc.

The breakfast A.S. What a surreal place to stumble into (only after crossing a %&@#& creek) after a long night. I stood in the fire to melt my laces. Dry shoes and socks never felt so good. Nor did a cup of sausage and eggs ever taste so good. After forcing myself out I asked which way, "UP the road and turn UP to your left". Why was I not surprised? I was also a little confused now b/c I couldnít remember if the next cut-off was 42 or 49miles. No one seemed to know. Again the fear of the cut-off. See this is a thrill the fast ones miss out on. So I pressed on/up up up up. I caught up to a girl who was going blind at the time and she was able to follow me ,because of my bright yellow jacket, for a while. So unless youíre a blind girl from Canada you could be pretty sure I wasnít going to catch you.

The next A.S. was "just up the hill". I hate hills. Lunch, hot dogs, chicken noodle soup, coke, mt. dew. I also picked up my ipod and jammed out to downloaded "Car Talk" from npr. Out of the AS and UP a trail, along the ridge, thru leaves over the ridge around the mtn. Oh thereís I-81 to the right. Thatís something else the fast ones probably miss are the stunning views. If the stinkiní climbs didnít take your breath the views will. Good trails, very runnable. Oh look, thereís a bunch of well armed hunters up ahead waiting to put me out of my misery. But they made me keep going on to AS 8.

I had heard a lot about the "endless section". To me that seemed to start shortly after the National Anthem and ended with David Hortonís smiling face. Itís amazing how much up hill can be packed into a down hill section. But I stumbled out of the woods into an oasis of sorts. Hot chocolate, chicken soup, cokes and small talk with the volunteers/angels. Out of the A.S.. Oh what a surprise 2&1/2 miles UPHILL. I made the mistake of looking up and seeing the straight line of the pkwy way way way up there. Donít look up, donít look up. As Dorie from Nemo sang "just keep swimming..." Is that the gate? No. Is that it? No. Donít look up just move. Finally there it is. Across and DOWN. The last three miles are a blur of rocks and sticks and orange paint on the road. Finally the camp and the stereo typically ultra "low key" finish. There is David Horton, classically greeting each runner as if they won the race and he couldnít be happier anywhere else in the world. Well David you were right, it was "special". Thanks for helping us