You asked for reports of success and failure. Mine is a story for both: External failure in not finishing and Internal Success in returning to Ultrarunning after a five year struggle to get back in shape. Of course, internal success is more important as I proved to myself that I am in good enough shape to finish the hardest 50K section of any course I know of and I still had plenty of strength left to finish (I believe).
Unfortunately, I also discovered (reminded?) that my technical downhill skills stink – which is probably my I hurting up my knee getting to AS4. I did not want to drop there again, so I went ahead to 5, but after cruising up the hills at a decent pace, I was left with a long slow slog using a stick as a crutch to keep me going on the downhill. Slowing down that much left me chilled, my knee was only getting worse. Alas. The good news is that the knee seems OK today, so no long-term damage done.
Now I all I have to do is work on downhill training, which I will test this spring at Holiday Lake, Terrapin, and Promised Land. If I can prove myself at those races and Grindstone, then an only then, will I take on Hellgate again. Wish me luck. Oh, and I hope your knee surgery goes very well.
Just as an aside: I still marvel at how much harder this course is than the big Western Races. I never struggled at Western or Wasatch as I have did at Hellgate. I have been trying to figure out why – is it that there is no let up at Hellgate? no level spots to recover as there are on those long ridgelines and gradual descents in the West? The nasty downhills?
Thanks again for letting me participate in this special event. Looking forward to the spring races down there.