Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hellgate 2014: Drive

I decided a year ago, nearly to the day, that regardless of circumstance I would run Hellgate in 2014.  It is a very special race--this gets said quite a bit in the weeks surround the event but that may just be the best way to describe Hellgate simply.  I skipped last year in order to crew Rudy and end my year a little earlier than normal after my focus on the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile in November.  Watching the race unfold that night and day, driving along the parkway with good friends, I decided I would come back this year, and possibly every year from then on. Hellgate simply has some special atmosphere about it that is nothing short of intoxicating.

The course is the brainchild of Dr. David Horton, and in trying to describe it to some friends (of varying levels of attachment to the sport and even just mountains) I came to the following few conclusions:
  • Years after he could not create the exact Mountain Masochist course he wished (The gnarly Appalachian Trail section from the James River to the Tye River, he discovered the subtly brutal Glenwood Horse Trail
  • The entire event is designed to be as difficult as possible. It starts at midnight. The climbs are road; the descents are tight, rocky trail barely visible through the thick of leaves strewn across it. You hit the highest, coldest, windiest section of the course (Camping Gap through Headforemost Mountain) at 2-5 a.m., the coldest part of the night.
  • The course becomes extremely runnable after Bearwallow Gap, but is so mentally jarring (see "Forever Section") that it takes whatever will you can muster after so many hours of forward travel to do so.
That describes the thing pretty thoroughly.

Ultrarunning exists as a fairly consistent metaphor for life. There is an ebb and flow, a give and take.  The sport allows us to experience a lifetime in just a few hours.

My Hellgate begin with an impromptu 12-hour (rather than 6) journey to Blacksburg courtesy of the Roanoke airport "forgetting our plane was showing up." They were surveying and drilling holes in the runways, forcing our plane to divert to Greensboro 2.5 hours away. Rather than curling up for sleep at about 11 pm, I did so after 2:30 am. There's an ebb and a flow. 

I woke up the next morning not too much worse for wear, but accepted that any real racing I could have done in my current level of fitness likely went out the window with the lengthy, stressful traveling and rough night's sleep. Which might have been the best decision to make--to actually focus on simply enjoying myself.  

I spent the day in Blacksburg with my mom and some friends, watching humorous old ultrarunning movies, eating good food, and simply being lazy.  Two cars full of hokies rolled up to Camp Bethel full of stoke and settled in for the evening activities.

I don't really feel like giving a play-by-play of my race as it unfolded without incident and simply was not that exciting.  I picked a pace--or effort rather--and settled in for the next nearly 13 hours. I never really pushed it and I never really faded.  Come the final 3rd of the race when I would have liked to pick people off and work my way up, I simply could not find the drive to do so. I thought "okay time to work" and then did not actually do so.

It's a little late to do a 2014 review post, so I'll just tack a small addendum onto this.  The lack of drive I felt in Hellgate is an apt metaphor for my 2014 running as a whole--or at least the second half.  After putting a lot of work and time into Western States, I felt a need to just chill and not really work toward anything.  That statement more or less describes the rest of the year.  Now I'm ready to get back to work finally.

No comments:

Post a Comment