Monday, December 14, 2009

Hellacious Hellgate

I heard the sound switch from the scuffle of gravel to the crunch of leaves. My confused mind sent a signal to open my eyes. Good thing. My mindless weaving had nearly cost me a trip down the steep embankment. But in some curious way, it wouldn’t have mattered. Once I landed I could have dozed. Sweet contentment even if it was near single digit temperatures.

Sleep running is not a new phenomenon to me. In fact, I find myself in that mode quite often. Eat. Drink. Talk out loud. Sing. Falalalala. Take a caffeine tab. I do all the right things but sometimes it is miles before I wake up. When I do, all is well. But when my mind is hazy and my body fighting forward motion, it is, well. . . hell.

This was my seventh Hellgate 100K. I miserably failed one year but was attempting to complete my sixth wicked race. After a year of heavy-duty volunteering at the other five Beast series races, I could not resist the call of this course. There really is no explaining it. It is cold, dark, wet, starts at midnight, and requires forward progress up and down those mountains for about sixty-seven miles. Why? Just don’t go there. Unless you’ve done it, I can’t really say.

Usually I do this race without a crew but this year was an exception. My oldest son, Caleb, and three of my “posse” (friends from Horton’s running class) joined me. I didn’t have to worry about filling my pack at aid stations. They had everything I needed. But at about 4:30 a.m. I was thinking I had something to give them: my concession and retirement speech.

I was sure I was behind the cutoffs with all my sleep walking. I had my words planned out. I didn’t want to disappoint them but maybe they could learn a lesson about a gracious failure. But it wasn’t to be. I still had plenty of time the next time I saw them…and the next. . .and the next. . .all the way to the finish.

Was it always pretty? Probably not. My legs actually never failed me so I just kept chugging along. I was afraid to push my pace. I figured a slow pace was better than running out of pace. I bonked. I recovered. I wondered why I was there; training and racing had fallen out of my favor from time to time. This was going to be my swan-song. It would be all right. I could still help with races and work with young, aspiring ultra-wannabes. Settled. I finished before dark and headed to the showers, sure this was the last of it.

And then I went home, got some sleep, and woke to a new day. I have more Hellgate finishes than any other woman. I like that. I want to keep it that way. So, maybe just one more year. . .


Rick Gray said...

As I sat here and read your post, I am replaying the night and day back over in my mind. It is funny how us ultrarunners experience many of the same things, but yet always a bit different. New experiences and shared experiences allow us to talk for hours about the past-time we love.

To finish Hellgate once is a major accomplishment. To finish it six times is a "Hellaceious" accomplishment. You are truly an amazing woman and an even more amazing friend. I am so glad you are ready or at least preparing the mind for your next Hellgate. Your volunteerism over the last year has been greatly appreciated and I for one have benefited so many times for your assistance.

Rest up and enjoy the very quickly approaching Christmas season. Rick

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Thank you! I have loved, loved, loved every minute of helping with the races this year. Put the streamers up. Take the streamers down. Odd, but strangely rewarding.

Mery Christmas to you. Hope you had some good discussions in your own brain throughout the race!

Neal Jamison said...

Great job Rebekah. Keep up the good work.

Rick Meyers said...

Very well done job indeed. This was my first Hellgate and won't be my last. To finish is amazing but to finish six can't be put into words. Congratulations and I liked reading your post.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rebekah,
I'm sorry I didn't get to see you at the race - you are always an inspiration. I woke up in the middle of the night, safe at home, warm in bed and looked out the window. Guilty, I snuck to the door and stuck my nose out. Darn! It was COLD! Went back to bed and prayed for you and all the runners.
God Bless.
Bill Vickery

Sophie Speidel said...

You are the QUEEN of Hellgate! Awesome job, my friend. May there be many, many more Hellgate adventures ahead for you...

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Your comments humble me. You are all too easily impressed.

Helen said...

Rebekah - congrats on a 6th finish! I think for sure you will maintain the most female finishes for a long time!! I would def love to go back again but I am not sure I could keep it going every year :)

Sorry I did not get chance to talk with you at all - I saw you in the center later but was getting ready to hit the road.

It was a wonderful first Hellgate experience for me (I mean, it was HELL for the most part - but in a good way)... it's an awesome community of runners to be associated with and I am already looking forward to me next trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains!


Jenny said...

I'm so proud of you Mama Cat! Great job!

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

The problem with finishing late is that I miss chatting with all you fast people. Great job Helen and Jenny! Superb performances and I loved both of your reports about the race.