I have a deep love-hate relationship with Hellgate. It's hellish 66.6 miles (yes, by multiple GPS measurements) bids heavy portions of gloom and doom. The peculiar midnight start, stream crossings in the early miles, huge climbs and sweeping descents, frigid air and wind-swept mountaintops challenges even the most seasoned runner.
But, Hellgate also beckons in her siren voice. "Come to me. Embrace the night, the solitude. See the moon beams dance across open fields. Hear the rustle of fallen leaves. Watch your warm breath meet the night air in a rhythmic release of mist clouds. Stand still, if only for a moment, and listen. Listen to a quiet, sleeping world. Then, be thankful and run on."
I have started each of the eight races. This year will be the nineth. All but once, I have found the finish line. Some years I ran swiftly. I slogged through others. I have more finishes than any other woman. But I still can't predict what will happen this year. I am promised a healthy dose of suffering. I know it will hurt. I'm just not certain how bad it will be.
I have experience on my side. But experience only gets you so far. Last year, I cruised effortlessly through the first thirty-five miles. Then the fun-meter ran out and my lack of long-runs reached out to grab at my ankles in a death-grip. This year, I'm fighting a nagging knee injury from a soccer game back in June. I am popping decongestants to get rid of a newly-acquired cold. The race could go either way for me.
But regardless, I have a job to do. I will report to work at precisely one minute past midnight in the wee hour of Saturday morning. I hope to punch out less than eighteen hours later, job completed.
Stay tuned. Report to follow.