Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Improptu Hellgate 100K?!?!

Brad Birkholz's Race Report...

To crew or not to Crew?

That wasn’t the question I was asking myself for this year’s Hellgate. I had every intention on crewing instead of running it, even up to the point when we arrived. But, after driving around with Horton, helping mark some of the trail, coming back to Camp Bethal and soaking up the atmosphere, I got sucked in. When it was time to go to packet  pick up I decided to run instead of crew. Why not, was already signed up. What was I thinking? I hadn’t run hardly anything since my dismal performance at Glacial. Now it’s not like I just got off the couch and ran 100K+, I’ve been working out, a lot actually, just not running wise. Just decided to take it as it comes and see what happens.

Well because I didn’t plan on running I didn’t have all the gear needed to run this thing. Unfortunately Cassie got sick on the way down and wasn’t able to run. Because of this I was able to get some gels and S-caps from her. Sean had a pack that I could use because he was using Cassie’s and Marcel had a pair of shorts for me to use. Just needed to find a short sleeve shirt.  No one had a shirt so my InStep long sleeve tech shirt got customized with a pair of scissors. Had everything else needed and I was set to run.

Because of my last minute decision, eating dinner, race meeting and getting the gear I needed there wasn’t much time to chill out and lay down before the 12:01 a.m. start. Standing there in the dark waiting to go I was going over the course in my head, this was my 6th time at Hellgate with 3 finishes so I knew what was to come and was getting antsy to get going.

From the start to aid station 1 was all runnable. Didn’t even use my head lamp because there were so many people through here didn’t need to use it. Got through the infamous stream crossing at mile 3 to the road and the long climb to aid station 2. All systems were a go through here even my stomach, by the time I got there my stomach was growling and needed food.

The sections during the wee hours of the morning went well. It got cold at times in the higher elevations and was able to turn off my light with the full moon. From the start to just before aid station 5 I was going back and forth with Marcel and PT, who I know from Arkansas.  It was just before 5 that I caught up to Marcel again. He was taking in the Hellgate experience by taking pictures along the trail, didn’t see him again till the finish line.

With each aid station came more food. My stomach was working overtime and I was starving by the time I got to the next stop. With each aid station also came my drive to finish, not once did I feel like stopping. Other than my legs getting sore I felt stronger as the race progressed.  Got to aid station 7 feeling great, this is the make or break point for me. If I can hit 7 feeling good I know that I’m going to finish. Talked with Jody, who was crewing for us, had a hamburger and left.

From aid station 5 all the way to the finish I must have passed at least 20 people, which was great motivation to drive harder. Got to the last aid station in great shape, was ready to crank it up the 3 mile up and the 3 mile down to the finish.  Don’t know where it comes from but the last 3 miles was practically a sprint. Passed 5 people in the last 3 miles, even more motivation to push harder. Got back to Camp Bethal and collapsed at the finish with the effort I had just put out.

All I can do is shake my head at what I’d just done. In 4 finishes 16:02:19 was my 2nd best time.  Just jumping into a 100K is not advisable, but I was able to pull it off. Not to beat a dead horse here but when they say that Hellgate is a special race, it really is. I’ve put myself through more crap in the race than any other I can think of. Twisted ankles, cuts, bruises, ice, snow, cold, warm, shoes falling apart, water freezing, frozen hands, knee tendonitis and a dislocated shoulder and I keep coming back. Why do I keep going back? Because it’s Hellgate, that’s why.

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