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.

My Time at Hellgate: Joe Jameson's 100K Race Report

Joe Jameson is the Race Director of the Marquette Trail 50 - His Hellgate race report mentions a lot of the LPTR's that were down for the race...

 As I toed the line at midnight I felt a blend of giddiness, fear, and dread.  A really strong inner voice was giving me the old “Joe, what did you get yourself into?”  Did I really belong with all these fast people?  I had been thinking about Hellgate 100k since my first ultramarathon in 2007.  On some ultra forum I read snippets of a race in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with a cult following, with a race director with his own cult following  -- a gifted runner in his own right – but with a blend of sadism which can be seen in the names of two of the races he started:  Mountain Masochist and Hellgate.  What other race has a midnight start (he says it is so everyone – even the top runners—have to run the same amount in the dark), crazy climbs and descents, knee deep water crossings when a bridge is handy, some of the nastiest rocky single-track covered with a foot of leaves,  and … well, you get the idea!  When I asked my brother, who lives in DC, about the area of western Virginia, he replied to the effect:  “those are some real rednecks down there  -- are you sure you know what you are doing?”  Midnight start?  Possible snow and ice?  Wet feet the whole time?  Winter temps?  Crazed RD?  Bring it on!  What is more kick-ass than that?

The good news is I thought my training was solid.  No major injuries for 6 months and steady 50-80 mile weeks with a number of races from a Turkey Trot 5 mile to two 50 mile ultras, the last being Door County 50, 7 weeks before, all on road.  If I have a strong point it is my climbing so why not use my training and my strengths to tackle a really tough course in a race with maniacal following?  

Unfortunately my legs had been feeling really “dead” for the last few weeks.  With Hellgate looming I knew I needed to rest more so I only ran two times the last week before the race.  By race day I was feeling pretty well rested and up to the challenge, though sort of scared shitless.

Since the weather is always iffy flying out of Marquette I felt obliged to arrive a day early.  I flew into Richmond, pleased with myself until I realized later there is a direct flight from  Chicago to Roanoke.  The great news is I took a detour on the way and saw the home of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the cotton gin.  I stayed in some cheap motel off exit 150 and ate at Cracker Barrel, a restaurant/knickknack store with decent food but unfortunately no alcohol – bit of a letdown there.  Oh well, back to my motel room with an eye on the Weather Channel, the weather looked like it was going to be outstanding but the recent rains meant the rivers/creeks/gullies would be full of runoff.

Friday morning I arrived at Camp Bethel and met up with a group from Wisconsin that had arrived the night before.  They were led by Robert Wehner (veteran of several Hellgates – and a RD of several ultras in Wisconsin), also with Marcel (and crew/wife or girlfriend Jodie), Sean (and girlfriend Cassie Scallon –an excellent runner coming off a  spectacular win at JFK.  Cassie got a GI bug on the drive to Virginia and didn’t start the race.), and Brad B, a veteran of the race as well.  We took a walk for an hour or so on the trail and Robert gave me his take on the course and a description of the legs.  Spent the evening hours at bib pick-up where my low-grade anxiety ratcheted up when I realized I was given bib #137.  It seems Dr. Horton seeds the racers based on past performance and his perception of how you will do in the race.  Many runners feel their race is successful if they “beat” their seed number!  And so now I’m seeded 137 out of 140 runners!  Oh well, doesn’t mean a thing, he probably didn’t know where to put me.  Still I was a little miffed ….. but also a little concerned – maybe he is right? 

Met a few other runners who are Race Directors themselves (as am I).  Hmmmm…. Is Hellgate the race that Race Directors run?

After a family-style meal of lasagna, spaghetti, bread, salad, vegetables, and cupcakes we had an orientation meeting where Dr. Horton gave last minute instructions and embarrassed a few people.  All in good fun!  He also introduced Clark Zealand, a very fast guy, who has taken over RD of Mountain Masochist the last few years.  Now we had a couple of hours to get our stuff ready for the race.  Robert, the designated boss of our dorm room, enforced a no lights on rule from 8:30pm to 10pm during which I think a few runners actually slept but most of us just rested with our eyes closed.  I might have dozed a few minutes.  Then it was lights on and a scramble to put on my tights and make sure my hydration system was full and drop bags ready.

Caravan to the start in multiple cars/vans/trucks driving up Highway 81. Weird experience  on a near deserted interstate.  Finally pulled off to the start with 15 minutes to start.  It was cold just standing around but some were wearing shorts.  Probably about 30 degrees or so.  I wore some clear glasses – afraid of “Hellgate eyes” (frozen corneas) that had occurred to racers in the past (in colder and windier races).  With a few minutes to go we had a prayer by Dr. Horton, then the Star-Spangled Banner, then the Canadian anthem (Oh Canada?).  Now the start.

The pace was fast from the beginning.  I was probably about a third of the way back and people were running much faster than I expected and what I’ve experienced in other ultras.  I kept up, but didn’t pass anyone, just kind of holding steady.  We went up and down a few little 20 second climbs or so.  I passed a few people that were breathing pretty hard for the first few miles of an ultra – they needed to slow down.  Through the creek crossing that was knee deep, with a pretty fast current, and quite rocky and hard to keep my balance.  A few people partly fell in the water – didn’t want to do that! Then through the aid station and the REAL start of the race – the climb to Petite’s Gap.  All uphill.  There were a couple of switchbacks that you could see the head lights behind and below you.  Above was the moon and I turned my lights off.  Also up high, way up high, those aren’t stars but headlights of the leaders WAY above up and traversing the  ridge.  This was walk/run.  Probably one third fast hiking and two thirds trotting.  Passed a handful of runners on this section and the race began to really spread out.

After Petite’s Gap we crossed the parkway and descended on a slightly rocky single-track which changed into a two track.  More single-track and some off-camber technical trail followed.  Perfect.  Eventually another major climb (1500 feet or so) up to Camping Gap, and the third aid station.  The next leg to Headforemost Mountain was billed at the longest, highest, and coldest, and lived up to all three of those superlatives.  A lot of climbing, single-track, and gravel road.  Luckily, I had my ipod nano with me and jammed to Steely Dan, Tom Petty, Todd Rundgren, and the Who.  I ran a lot of this alone in the woods; but on the climb to Headforemost Mountain I passed a few more runners.  Came into the aid station and loaded up on more gels and had a couple of cookies.  My stomach was still Ok, and I wasn’t too tired yet.  This was about the one third mark.

The elevation profile shows the next section to Jenning’s Creek as mostly downhill but it isn’t necessarily a cakewalk.  There was some significant up and some sketchy single-track followed by a long downhill that was really starting to tweak my knee.  Sometimes it would hurt quite a bit, then become quiescent.  Jenning’s Creak volunteers cook breakfast but I was feeling good and didn’t even stop at the aid station.  I had plenty of fluids, and some gels, and was feeling pretty good for the long climbs ahead to Little Cove Mountain which was a little past halfway.

Imagine my surprise when I cruised into the Little Cove Mountain Aid station to find only about 5 people lounging around a fire.  The time was exactly 7 hours, and my body was starting to really feel the effects of the race.  I felt like I should be about done but still had 31 miles to go.  Sitting around the fire I found Dr. Horton who asked how I was doing.  I told him I was pretty shot but still had a little fight in me.  That’s when he told me I was in 11th place, and I couldn’t believe it!   Still I was barely hanging in there.  I knew I couldn’t go any faster and he told me that I just needed to maintain my effort and some runners in front of me might falter.  Top ten was within my grasp!

With that motivation I cruised out of the aid station to start a really long (8 mile) nasty section which started on a pretty nice fire road but quickly deteriorated into a single-track with plenty of steep uphills, rocks, and off-camber trail.  There is a section with shin-deep leaves and rocks.  Some parts, even level, were essentially unrunnable for hundreds of yards because of all the rocks hidden on the trail under the leaves.  Tight switchbacks led up and downhill, some in better shape than others.  This was a pretty slow section due to terrain, and eventually it emptied out onto another fire road with a decent (hike) climb to Bearwallow Gap.

At the Bearwallow Gap aid station I made the only serious mistake of the race.  I changed my hydration pack and neglected to take out my patellar knee brace out of the old pack.  I really needed the brace after that and started to have more and more knee pain for the next 23 miles.  I was now at about 43 miles.  I left my lights at the aid station.  I had a full hydration pack and some gels but my stomach was getting queasy.  I wasn’t able to take in my desired 300 calories/hour that was my goal.  Probably only able to take in 100-150 calories/hour for the rest of the race.  The next section didn’t have lots of climbing but had a lot of single-track which ran in and out of the ridgeline.  There were many small gullies and creekcrossings which were full of water from the recent rains.  Sometimes I could hop over the water, but more often was forced to splash right through a number of times.  My knee was hurting so I pulled the waist string out of my tights and wrapped it tightly around my lower patella and tied it and that seemed to help but it kept slipping down and I had to stop and retie it often.  I was still able to run most of this section.  In the last two sections I passed one or two runners.  I felt faint and woozy at times.  A couple of times I almost vomited.   Bobblet’s Gap was the next aid station.

After Bobblet’s Gap is 8 miles to Day’s Creek.  This starts with about a 2 or 3 mile downhill which was hard on my knee but I was able to run at a pretty good clip.  Then it was a sharp right turn into the nasty single-track again.  (Some runners missed this turn but it was easy to see.)   This trail was up, and down requiring some serious hiking.  At one point it actually went up a creek bed and I had to jump from bank to bank.  I thought I was making decent time when Helen Lavin came screaming by me.  She was running a lot more of the hills than I was.  Two things I remember about her other than she was going much faster:   she had some sort of a long-sleeved parka or coat on which I thought would be really hot (I was sweating at this point in a long sleeved technical shirt with the sleeves pushed up; and she said “hi Joe” but I don’t think she knows who I am – maybe she said “how’s it going”?  In any case in my sorry mental state I spent sometime perseverating about that.  Did she say “hi Joe”? or did she say something completely different?    Just at the end of the section, as we ran into Day’s Creek, I was passed by the same guy that passed me, like, 15 miles ago.  Turns out he made about a 15 minute wrong turn on an earlier section and was now making up for lost time.

After Day’s Creek I knew I could finish OK the last 6 miles.  The climb out I walked the whole thing and got to the top in about 41 minutes.  The run down to Camp Bethel was slow partly due to my knee and partly because my legs were trashed.  I was passed by Micah Jackson just as we were onto the gravel road.  I did the last section in, I think,  about 70 minutes.  Horton gave me a big hug and I was surprised to finish in (just) under  13 hours.

Aftermath:  Now, 9 days later, my legs are just getting back to normal.  My quads are still slightly sore.   My knee is better but still tweaky.   Overall, I recovered pretty well, and I’m back to 6-8 mile days.  I loved this race and will do it again if my body lets me.  The weather was perfect this year.  I’m sure it would be a lot harder with the snow and ice of previous years.

Joe Jameson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

High Water Huff 50K

Mary Gorski's Race Report:

WHAT: The HUFF 50K, Chain O Lakes State Park, Northern, Indiana, December 17, 2011

Wading waist-deep in freezing water with snow falling all around me.  

It wasn't quite what I expected to be doing the week before Christmas. But there were warning signs in the days before that would have clued me in had I paid just a little bit of attention.

First, there was the weather report.  As usual, a few days before leaving for the HUFF 50K in northern Indiana, I looked at the weather forecast of neighboring cities. Fort Wayne, Goshen and other locales all reported pleasant temps for a late December run in the Midwest; highs in the mid-30s. And until the day before the race, no precipitation was even predicted. Finally, the HUFF –– with a reputation for brutal weather –– will finally make a change not only to new course at Chain O Lakes State Park, but to a kinder, gentler new weather system as well.

Alas, if I had only paid attention to the red warning banner than ran across the weather page. In my mind I saw red and thought of Christmas. The weather page is in a holiday theme. I love the holidays. Isn't that pretty? Now what were those predicted temperatures...

Had I read what was in the Red for Warning banner I would have noticed words like "FLOOD DANGER," and "GET TO HIGHER GROUND IF NEEDED." If I would have read the pre-race email a bit more carefully, I would have taken more seriously the caution about standing water on the road into the packet pick-up location. This was the only standing water that my friend and travel partner Kathryn Dunn and I noticed since we made a wrong turn or two and got to Chain O Lakes park in the dark. We didn't see the standing water in the woods until we were actually standing in it the next day. 

What you don't see might not hurt you, but it certainly can freeze your tootsies off the next day!

HUFF was filled with surprises. One of them came two minutes before the start when the race director said something about 50K runners doing TWO loops. TWO? The HUFF had always been a three-loop course. While the race site had changed I and many others thought that the loop number never would. It was the same distance but somehow two 15.5-mile loops seemed much more daunting than three 10+ mile loops. There was a shorter 10-mile race, a race that was billed as a ONE LOOP race, but their loop was different than the 50K loop. We quickly put this together in the seconds before the race started and I took comfort in the fact that I wasn't the only one discombobulated by the change in loop number. 

What if you needed something from your drop bag at 10 miles instead of 15.5? Well, what if you needed it at seven? Muddle on. 

Note the first three letters of the word I just typed: MUDdle. How apropos! Where there is flooding there is water. Where there is land recovering from flooding there is mud. I have never slip-slided through so much mud. Grey mud, brown mud and even black mud. Chocolate mousse-like mud. Toxic-sludge like mud (with sparkling flecks of green to give it a festive holiday look). And just plain shoe-sucking, ankle-wrenching, impossible-to-run-in MUD. 

That was about half to two-thirds of the slightly hilly course (through a beautiful forest, with light snow falling all about). The other sections? Some where very runnable -- for MOMENTS AT A TIME! 

And then there was the standing water. I knew that we would be running NEAR the lakes of Chain O Lakes park but I had no idea that we would actually be running THROUGH them. 

My first encounter with standing water was about five miles into the course. There was a slight gully with a stream about two-feet deep. Some opted to try to get across it on a log. I'm too clumsy. I figured that having part of me wet would be better than having all of me wet if I fell. And so I walked through the water. Frozen feet but just for a couple of minutes. 

"I can do this! It's not so bad," I thought to myself.

Shortly after we reconnected with the 10-mile runners who told us of several thigh-to-waist high water crossings they had already encountered. "Glad I'm not doing THAT course," I said to myself. "A 15.5-mile loop sounds good to me!"

And then we had our own aquatic fun. 

The first couple of flooded sections could be avoided by going through the muddy woods on either side. But with about four miles to go on the loop there were some long stretches that forced runners to do their Polar Bear Plunge a couple of weeks early. The longest was a slow, cold slog to the other side. I thought of Shelly Winters and the Poseidon Adventure. I wonder how cold that water was that she swam through in the upturned ship to save her fellow passengers. 

And then I stared to fantasize about being in an ultra-hot Bikram yoga room.

My mind quickly wanders when the blood flees from it to try to reheat my lower extremities. 

I came to the end of the first loop chilled but not frozen. I thought that I would trade out my vest for a full jacket and perhaps grab my camera for a few photos of the course. But when I got in the tent that had our drop bags I learned that all bags had been moved from the right side of the tent to the left side. I'm sure that there was a reason, but I decided that I didn't want to take the time to figure out what it was or where my bag ended up. Off I went to loop two. 

At first, the running was good. I rewarmed and was optimistic. I knew what to expect this time and knew that I could muddle through it since I survived the first loop. But then I hit the mud, mud that had been churned by the feet of several hundred runners. Loop one was sloppy, loop two was indescribable. I have never gone through such long stretches of slip-sliding mud. As my arm flew in the air for balance I thought of John Travolta rocking away on his Urban Cowboy bronco -- Kathryn and I had caught the last part of the movie before we fell asleep the night before. Little did we know that it was good prep for the balance moves we would need the next day. 

And then there was the water. "Heck, I made it through the first time, no need for detours; I am going to just wade right through and take the most direct route."  

This worked well for the first few crossings but then I got to the last and longest passage. "I can do this! I did it before!!" I silently cheered in my head. 

Midway through I turned into a frozen, hyperventilating, crying idiot, panicked that I'd never make it to the other side. "Freezing to death is supposed to be a calm way to die! I'm not calm! I'm going to die and I'm not calm!!!!" replaced the perky little "I can do this" self-speak.

Oh my.

But I did get to the other side, as did the two men who were right ahead of me and surely heard my emotional melt-down. Once I regained a little composure I caught up to them and apologized for sounding like a such a blubbering fool. 

"I was feeling the same," said one of them. "Couldn't look at you or I would have lost it too."

"The two women I was running with dropped after the first loop because they couldn't re-group after that crossing," said the other.

And then a guy -- wet head to toe -- came by us and said: "At least you didn't fall in!"

Oh my. 

The snow showers came to an end, and so too did the second loop. Manny -- a fellow runner from Wisconsin -- saw me at the finish and came out of his warm van to give me a hug. I held on for a bit not just because I was happy to see Manny but because the body heat felt so good. He was just what the doctor ordered. 

HUFF was well-marked, and fun in that "Oh my God I can't believe that I survived it" sort of way. Kathryn and I both finished with little more than a couple of bruises and some mud-encrusted shoes and clothes (I haven't had the guts to open my race bag yet). And for me, it was great to reconnect with so many friends: Fabiano and Danieli (the last time we saw each other was a year previous on sunny Peanut Island in Florida), Bruce, Lynn, Susan, Manny (and his warm bear-hug body) and a bunch of others whose names will pop into my head as soon as I post this. 

Happy holidays, and remember -- those red banners at the top of the weather page aren't just for holiday decoration. Sometimes they actually have pertinent information inside.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hellgate 100K

LPTR's at Hellgate!

Marcel Uttech's Race Report:  

Many people talked about how ‘special’ this race was… after awhile I already knew that I wanted to run it. The course sounded so challenging and scenic! After listening to Robert talk about his experiences there and going over some race reports from previous years, I was sold.

I knew I would have to train seriously for this one, not just because it was a 100k but more so because of some of the other aspects that make it so different than other races. Like the 12:01 am start- that throws ya off a bit! Of course you are up pretty much the whole day beforehand since you are at the camp, and there are other people there too, and practically everyone is talking about the race or previous ones or training and the energy around the place is electric!

The drive down was slightly cramped but a lot of fun. Temps were in the 40’s as Robert fired up his van, and then Cassie and Sean, Brad, Jodie and I piled in and headed east to Virginia. The drive took us about 14.5 hrs…we took turns driving and the time went by as we sailed through Illinois…Ohio…Indiana…Kentucky…West Virginia…ah, hello Virginia and your awesome mountains!

I had trained some with Robert for this race, and was glad that I did because many times our conversation would drift to Hellgate and I would learn a little more….I was a bit nervous and coming off of a dnf at Glacial I was pretty determined to get through this one, come hell or high water! And yes, both came.

The weather was perfect down there, we arrived to Camp Bethel and Robert kind of gave us the rundown of the place. Neat out buildings, with all kinds of landscaping around utilizing the creeks and natural spring fed pond to create scenic little waterfalls and guided little streams under decorative bridges…The main building where we stayed was simple and wide open inside the main part of it with rooms along the sides for sleeping which contained bunks. Showers were right there, and access to a fridge and micro (and yes, coffee makers!)

Friday morning Robert took us up the final section of the race which was a good climb up the side of the mountain. Took us about 45 minutes to walk it, Brad, Jodie and I took a little longer as we were taking pics. It was nice to get out in the woods and exercise a little, felt great!

After we returned to the camp Horton arrived. He was just as I remembered in the video that Jim Blanchard loaned me, where Horton runs the PCT from Mexico to Canada…full of energy, mind going a million miles an hour, always moving…nice to meet him. Brad and Robert went along with him to finish marking the trail and to help out doing whatever else needed doing.

More and more people began arriving as the day wore on, leading to many exciting conversations and a growing feeling of anticipation for the race. Cassie wound up sick the night before the race. She had flu like systems, and it made her so miserable that she had to drop from the race.

As the race drew nearer it was getting harder to find stuff to do…having the start at midnight really threw you off. I found myself pacing, then sitting, then pacing. It was mental torture! Should have brought a book…at least the dinner broke things up. The pre race dinner was set up home cooking style in a large room where everyone got to sit at these round tables. There was like 6 or so to a table, and they had pasta dishes and salad. I sat with Paul, the RD from the Ozark race and some others that had done Hellgate before and so dinner conversation was all about races, Hellgate, and of course poison oak.

Horton held a pre race meeting to discuss the race, and introduced some key helpers in the race (such as Robert!) so you started to get a feel for the history…he would call out the number of finishes and then those who had them would have to stand up. He would also make small talk of past mistakes people had made, and then make them stand up to…it was all good fun.

When it was time to go Jodie drove us (and Joe from Michigan) to the start. The full moon was already rising, which was wonderful to have running through the night!

Some gal sang the Canadian Anthem, and then we all sang the American National Anthem followed by a prayer led by Horton. And then it was GO time.

This race has A LOT of climbing. Miles of climbs. It was wonderful having the moonlight because we could shut our headlamps off while walking up the gravel roads. Gave the eyes a nice break! I remember by mile 15 my hamstrings were already starting to get sore, and I was thinking man this is going to be a long day lol! It was awesome to be up close to the top of a mountain and then look back down the switchbacks and see all the headlights bobbing their way up…just surreal.

We came to the first creek-not so bad. I heard someone say “this is the creek before the creek” and I thought oh, it must get worse. They had had a lot of rain down there so there were plenty of spots where water was running across the trail that had made its way down the mountain. In fact there were spots where the water was coming right out of the mountain! Very cool. Until you were running in it and your feet were soaked ha-ha

When we came to the creek Horton had mentioned it was up to about my knees, rushing along pretty good. I was about half way across when I saw the photographer sitting on the bank in the dark and that was quite a startle! Made my way across and squished up the other side; long climb to dry out and then some more single track. There was a single track section in here that had a ton of leaves and I found out soon enough that the Altra Instincts have less than desirable traction on such surfaces. I was sliding all over the place through there, once I almost slid right off the trail and down the mountainside so mental note for next time!

Seeing Jodie at the aid stations was a good boost. She crewed for everyone in our group, and found her way from aid station to aid station all night. It is always nice having someone you know helping out there! Plus I always got to ask how everyone else was doing, since I was last in our group coming through after Brad got ahead of me. I still cannot believe he decided to go ahead with the race with no training for 2 months and rocked it! WTF?!

Throughout the race I talked with a few people who were finishing up the Beast Series…had one guy (SNIPER) who pointed out Telluride Mountain as we were climbing up a mountain beside it. Always cool to talk with local runners too, who fill ya in on all the history of the trail and ‘what those guys are doing with the dogs’ that kept passing me while they were going up the trail in their hunting trucks. The aid stations were great, manned by students from Horton’s classes. They were encouraging and as helpful as they could be. At aid station 4 I heard of people dropping already. All I could think about was my dnf at Glacial. Seriously, it haunted me every time I thought about how hard things were getting or how much this or that is starting to hurt or how much farther can this climb possibly go on? I mean the mountain is only so tall right? Ha-ha There was no way I was not finishing this race….

Through aid station 6 I felt ok, which was around 30-40 miles. Soon after this however I started to get bad inflammation in my feet and ankles, and things were kind of at a real low. I struggled through the next section, running with Drew, a guy from Richmond who I got to know pretty well while running the next few hours. At aid station 7 I knew I needed something.  I argued with myself about taking Ibuprophen for a few hours...as I look at it as a crutch. Finally I just made the decision that nothing else is going to take the inflammation down, nothing in your pack, nothing in your supplements, nothing else you got on ya. I asked Jodie to see if she could find me some at aid station 8. She did, and after briefly talking with the medic there he said it was ok since I was hydrating well and had no cramping issues. After taking it and about 3 miles or so down the trail, I could almost feel the swelling go down and I was back in business! Still hurt but at least I wasn’t hobbling along! 

The rest of the race was pretty smooth sailing…there are sections of this race where you swear it’s just been forever, and then there are sections that are so scenic that I wanted them to last forever. The view of the mountains was just awe inspiring, and reminds me why we trail runners do what we do! At night the lights from the cities in the valleys was amazing, the sun coming up was such a welcome sight, the brilliantly green moss on the rocks and some tree bases was neat to see- so much tied into this race.  I can see why everyone calls it a special 

Climbing the last hill, you already have a smile (at least I did, I believe the guy behind me was cursing) as you know the end is in reach. I remember getting to the point where I realized that I was going to finish, in less than 17 hours. Talk about ecstatic! 

My Garmin watch helped me to get through the longer parts since the mileage was always longer than what the course said or the people at the aid stations would say. It lasted until mile 64- the last hill. I couldn’t believe it when the ‘low battery’ alarm went off! “Stay with me!” I said aloud, this is it! Then it faded to a dull blank screen… Alas, technology will never have the guts that ultra runners do…crossing that finish line and shaking Horton’s hand was a real treat to my memory. 

I am so glad that I was able to be a part of Hellgate 2011, and now I understand why Robert keeps on coming back to this one.

Mmmmm... Ensure....

Brad, Marcell, and Robert

(Editior's Note:  Joseph Jameson, Friend of the LPTR family and Race Director at the Marquette Trail 50 finished 8th overall!  WTG Joe!!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tuscobia Winter Ultra

Midwest ultra-runners Helen Lavin and Chris Scotch have stepped in to save the Tuscobia Winter Ultra after it had been briefly cancelled due to some personal complications that came up for the previous race director.   

The Mid-December event features options for 150 miles, 75 miles or 50k along snowmobile trails between Park Falls and Rice Lake, WI.    Race rules mirror those for the legendary Arrowhead Ultra - This is a no frills, minimal support, tough-as-nails affair for hardy winter souls!  

Great to see individuals from within the Ultra community stepping up to keep an event alive!   With all the combined experience from Helen and Chris, you know it will be a very well run race.  Check out the details here at the event site:

So far only ONE WISCONSINITE IS REGISTERED!!?!?   Represent!!!!