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. . .