Hellgate 100K: 3 for 4

Carrie Lombardo

This is the kind of race you just have to keep score. The Hellgate course will always give you a point to stop and question, “can I?”. This year was surely that. This was my most limited year of training. This year I sent in my application after SO MUCH deliberation. I WAS lucky to get a spot in the 10th running of Hellgate. I was REALLY scared. Hellgate beat me once, would it happen again or would I be strong enough to fight back.

I took my usual early leave of CT and drove to Hamburg, in plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep, which has been key for me. On Friday morning was the only glitch you have already read about. We drove very leisurely to Camp Bethel. I was surprisingly relaxed until the exit. Then I started to fell a little nauseous. We met up with my friend Mike from DC and saw some other VA friends which helped me calm down a little. Dinner and the pre race court held by Horton was all fun and always memorable, time was passing quickly. Unlike past years I did not rest before but slowly got ready filling my pack and changing etc. I was more awake than usual. Before I knew it, it was time to get in the car for the ride to the start. I did doze on the way there.

Mike and I started together. And although there is no chatting from the start to aid station 1 due to the pace, everyone always speeds out, we got to chat on the way from aid station 1 to 2 to 3 and almost to 4! I was moving along pretty well until the climb to Headforemost Mtn. I started to watch the clock and Mike went ahead since I was falling behind. I had wanted to be at Aid station 4 before 6 am, which would be a 40 min cushion. But I was falling behind that time. As I climbed I went through all the doubts of finishing and the like a bolt of lightening a thought hit me and I am sure I swore out loud. Ultra’s voice boomed into my mind: “You can’t (beep)ing quit in the dark!!” So I ran into the aid station right up to Forrest and said’ “I KNOW! I am not allowed to quit in the dark so I am going to run to the next aid station.” Forrest filled my pack for me, handed me off some gus and off I went.

I am REALLY sure that getting through the dark, and following Ultra’s rule can push you through. By the time I reached the breakfast aid station it was light out and I was feeling good. I did not mention stopping for the rest of the race. I ran with Kerry Owens, who is an inspiration to me, 2 time Beast finisher. I ran with someone new that I met out on the course, Helen, who knew who I was and had read some of my race reports…that was funny. I was supported all day by Forrest and Spuds. I had an unusual race in that the middle of the race was my best running. I made it from aid station 6 to 7 and 7 to 8 way faster than I expected. At the second cut off I had given myself and hour cushion! That was at Bearwallow Gap, where Forrest was able to go with me and pace. Spuds went on for the day to crew me. I was always looking for him at the next aid station. I wasn’t a needy runner but finding Spuds at the aid stations where he was patiently waiting for me was so great.  Having a reason to get there faster is always motivating at the end of a race.

The forever section really did take forever. I think about 2 hours and 15 mins, by far my longest section in time. With about 2 miles left in the forever section and 8 miles to go overall I took a hard fall. It scared the crap out of me. I was stunned and not able to immediately bounce up. It was then that the fatigue of the day and worst lull came. I scraped myself off the ground and started moving slowly, I was able to run a little bit into aid station 9 then final aid station. But I had to walk most of the rest of the course, although I would have preferred to lie down. I crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway and tried several times to run downhill but it just wasn’t working. When I got to the orange painted 1 mile to go mark I gave my final push and ran? or something like ran to the finish line. 17hours 10mins. Horton was there to yell my name calling me into the shoot of the finish line of Hell…gate.

I was SO happy! I am SO grateful to Forrest for being there to crew and pace me. Thank you Spuds for spending a day following me from aid station to aid station when it was not the intended day for you!! I appreciated having Smiling Dan out there!

I said this was it. This was the last one. But most know better than to believe that, with  good reason, since I am already plotting next year’s Hellgate. I can never make up the one when Hellgate beat me but I can keep on trying to tame that course, although I don’t think it will ever get any easier. I have run it faster twice but it has never felt easier.