Dr. Horton, I just wanted to say many thanks!
As you know, I signed up very last minute. It's sort of strange, as I have no idea why that happened. Divine intervention maybe? Since you sign your emails in a religious sort of way, I figured you have to hear this story out:
I'm a physician who has spent better part of my life either learning or trying to take care of people. It's not always easy, so like most runners there, my salvation from work is sometimes found in the outdoors, breathing oxygen at an accelerated consumption. It's what makes me tick. However, 2 years ago, my life was thrown into the depths by a random accident, ending up on the other end of those who give care. This accident occurred just South of the Hellgate course, during an Odyssey adventure race event. I got hit by a car, which was just a freak accident. There was only one road and one car in that entire race, my mountain bike brakes were iced up, and I was studying a map when it occurred. Miraculously, only 2 miles away, was Dr. Wortley and the Odyssey race staff. I had never met Dr. Wortley, despite doing alot of their races. I was unconscious at the accident, so I never met him or thanked him on a conscious level.
I obviously survived that accident, mostly thanks to him, my wife, and my teammates! I was left with a myriad of injuries, most notably a brain injury, that takes time to heal. It's been tough, surely harder than any ultra event I've done. But ultra racing supplies us with a level of survivorship that only ultra racers can comprehend. I'm having surgery next week, likely bringing an end to the final physical recovery. Only recently, I started to feel normal again in the head. That was partly why I signed up for Hellsgate, as it was now time to return to the scene of my accident, visit the hospital that I don't remember, and tell them all thank you. However, the one person I needed to thank, was still Dr Wortley.
I did attempt a return to racing this year and developed a solid aerobic base, enough that I was able to do Team Race Across America on a bike. Understandably, the recovery wasn't always easy. But the reason why I was racing, hadn't come back to me, maybe because I had never brought closure. Then a few weeks ago, I friend of mine handed me a copy of Trail Runner, and I saw an article about Hellsgate. So, I googled it and emailed you. I have no idea why I went to the computer to do that.
No, I haven't been ultrarun training lately, in a true sense. Maybe I shouldn't have signed up for Hellsgate, as everyone thought I was nuts. I did have a lot of bike training in my legs though. Maybe my wife understood, but it didn't make sense even to me. I just had to! I knew it wouldn't be easy, as it's been 5 yrs since I ran a 50K. On top of that, I've been busy trying to heal my sick daughter and work is busy. So, it was curious why I would even want to enter such a thing. Maybe the hardest 100K anywhere? I started training in earnest just a few weeks before, but I at least had some fitness still left from the season.
Then, as soon as I walked into the race briefing, there was Susanna from Odyssey racing, who was volunteering for you as a course sweep. It was so good to see her, and she was part of the race staff at my accident. Then, out of the blue, over walks Dr. Wortley, and she introduced us. First, it was amazing I even bumped into Susanna, then to see Dr. Wortley. Wow! I had no idea how I was gonna find him in that part of Virginia, but he was at Hellsgate. Everyone was spilling out of the briefing, so we didn't have a chance to really talk then. In the process, I also got a chance to chat with David Goggins, someone I admire greatly.
However, I rolled my ankle during the start lineup, just 2 min before the start when coming over to check in my race number. Then, maybe because I was running on weakened legs from the sore ankle, I sprained it just after Aid Station 2. I hobbled all the way thru AS 4, hoping the ankle might shake out, but it kept getting worse. Yea, that's one brutal course! I had never sprained a ankle before, so it was curious? Why did that happen? I started eating up the available time I had to make the cutoffs. I was running in the top racers, but my relative lack of training and tightened muscles, maybe brought on more tension in the ankle. In those last few miles of hobbling along, I got passed seemingly by the whole field. All very interesting and cheerful people, as it was still early in the race. Several people wanted to know why I signed up for Hellsgate as my first true ultra run. I really couldn't explain the reasoning to strangers on the trail I've never met before, let alone myself. Despite the ankle problem, I was enjoying the ruggedness, the views from the ridgeline, and the first few inches of snow for this year. There is something lonely but special about being on a trail at night with a headlamp when it is nearly 15 degrees. It gave me many a chance to think about the struggles I had overcome to get there and why we race in the woods.
When I came thru AS 4, Dr. Wortley came right over. Once again, he was treating me! We chatted abit about my options. I was of course bummed about being unable to run competitively, but I got to hang around with Dr Wortley, getting a chance to hear about his time treating people in Copper Canyon Mexico and Haiti, while also hearing about Hellsgate Cornea, maybe something only physicians are truly fascinated by. I was fascinated by the isolation of the the tribal Tarahumara in Mexico after reading Born to Run, so hearing his first hand accounts was wild, plus I am scheduled to go to Haiti in March. Thru all this, I got to experience the antics of the race support staff, watch runners support crews in action, and see the top runners come thru AS 7. It was a magnificent experience. It gave me a chance to really feel and understand why we race in the woods. I've been missing racing on the level I was used to and had been perplexed by the idea of actively engaging in it again, given the accident. Seeing Hellsgate from the inside was just what I needed. Most importantly, I got to meet this guy Horton I've been reading about for years and his medical support, Dr. Wortley, a guy who saved my life. If I hadn't gone to Hellgate and if I hadn't sprained my ankle, none of this would of happened.
I'm coming back next year, whether you let me
or not. If I have a quick surgical recovery, I hope to get into
the Beast Series. And while down there, I also got to be driven
around in a car on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and now want to make a
bike record attempt at the 460 mile Pkwy.
A good friend of mine said to me, as I was readying to drive to Virginia, think of it as Heavens gate 100k. It surely was!