Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kent Gallup's Hellgate 100k & Beast Series report

After running in Hellgate 2007 the runner inside me changed from distance to something better.  I began running for challenge, for terrain, and for the community I feel in ultra marathons.

When the body suffers the spirit flowers.

The year of 2008 would bring new chances for suffering and flowering.  The year of 2008 brought the Beast Series.  The Beast is six races that would expose a runner to a new level of pain, a new level of growth and to their worst enemy themselves.

There has to be pain for growth.

The Beast Series brought me back to Hellgate.  I feel that Hellgate could also be known as a soul-forge, because your spirit is hammered into a much more pure form.  Hellgate would also be a forge because you slowly and laboriously work to find the finish line.

Hellgate comes at you from the very beginning.  The time you start (although novel) is a play on your senses.  The weather was cold with temperatures in the 20's.  The creek levels were higher then last year, and in some places at the first creek crossing it was nearly knee high. 

The first 24 miles brought one thing to my mind and it was the same thought that I had last year - I want to quit.  Quitting is not an option.  The feeling of wanting to quit is what the Beast Series is all about.  You have to get yourself to that level and press threw it to know what the Beast Series, Hellgate, Grindstone, Masochist, Promise, Terrapin and Holiday are really teaching.

The footing at Hellgate to say the least is dangerous.  The wind was strong enough to stand a runner upright and the howling of the wind really did sound like a beast.  A beast that was hungry for failure.  The moon was full and when you were not on the trails you could run with no headlamp, but the moon seemed to gaze at me like an animal playing with its kill.

Hellgate had me running for miles alone.  It had me freezing.  It had my backpack hydrator frozen and having to resort to slurping fluids from the pack's opening.  It had me tired and afraid of failure, but not all of me had died by sunrise.  The dawn brought a new hope of warmth and sight.  I had reached AS6 by sunrise and was beginning to thaw both me and my hydrator.

I feel that the Glenwood Horse Trail was created by the Devil himself.  The trail has horrible footing and is something that causes nightmare for weeks, but with AS7 comes the easier third of the race.  The last third of the race.

From AS7 to the finish line I really only thought of the Beast trophy.  The trails are easier then the rest of the course and the warmth of the sun is everywhere.  This section to me was like that breath you take when you first sit down after the end of a long race.  The breath you take when you realize that the fight is nearly over.  I mean you only have to suffer a little longer.  The worst is really behind you.  In the last section I enjoyed community with other runners and nature.  I also enjoyed looking at the ice that was growing out of my shoes (one good thing, I am glad that I do not change shoes because my laces where frozen and I could not get my shoes off).  I know I said it was warmer but not that warm.

The last mile was only eight minutes and at the finish line was Dr. David Horton.  The man who has challenged all of us to do our best, or should I say our Beast.  I have heard Dr. Horton asking all year if I was tough enough.  I can say now that yes I am tough enough.

Now I rest and admire my Beast trophy, and I prepare my soul to take on the Beast again in 2009. 


let us dare

Res ipsa loquitur

the thing speaks for itself

Non ominus moriar

not all of me will die"

                       En Esch

Until we share the same trail again-thanks


aka kent gallup 

Bill Vickery's Hellgate 100k & Beast Series report

I just finished reading Richard Michael’s race report. I met Richard over a year ago on Sharp Top. He was hiking down with a couple of his children and I was hiking up with a bunch of mine. At that point he was thinking about running Holiday Lake. I remember walking away thinking, incredible… Richard was still in the middle of his weight loss and if I remember right he had already lost 70 pounds. I had recently written an article for the local paper about running and hiking and asked him if I could do a feature article on him. “No.” He replied. “I am not much into being in the limelight.” Too bad… It would have been a great article – he has an awesome story. My offer still stands, Richard.

About Hellgate… I talked with Neal last night and he was comparing notes with me. I think he just wanted to hear my depth of suffering. Anyways, I finished the Beast series. These happen to be my only races to compare since I am a newbie to the sport. However, I think the last two races were my favorite courses. There was something mysterious and awe inspiring about Hellgate. I had no idea what to expect and it seemed like everyone had a different story. Now, I realize part of the mystery of the race is just that – many people could run the race and tell very different stories. The weather, hills, wet leaves, moonlight, creeks, shadows, bear stumps, and wind all combine to make this a true event.

About ultrarunning… Now that I have finished my first year of ultrarunning, please indulge me a minute of reflection. Most of all I think back on the relationships I have developed with people. Those ultrarunners more experienced than me that saved my hide more than once. When you begin ultrarunning it is hard to know what you are doing. I was new to running. I went to a training run before Holiday Lake and Dr.Horton asked me if I had any technical gear. I said, sincerely, “What’s that?” He then sent me some gear in the mail. How cool is that?! I remember lying in the parking lot at Grindstone and yielding my spirit to God as I believed I was dying. I remember being so sick after Terrapin that I couldn’t get out of the van. Adam brought me something to drink and it was the most refreshing thing that I have ever drunk. I remember chasing Neal through the woods, sincerely believing I had a chance to beat him – I even passed him as he stopped to water the bushes. Little did I know at the time there was still 10 miles to go and I would never see Neal again as he passed by me at the waterfall while I sat clinging to a tree. I have since given up hope of beating him. I remember my second ultra at Terrapin and I started the race with a can of V8. I foolishly believed I wouldn’t need a water bottle – heck! There were only a few miles between aid stations! Jared just smiled at me as I ran happily by him at the beginning of the race, still waiting to drink my V8. This was the same Jared who had real compassion on me as he passed by me later and stopped to encourage me. I remember going on the training run at Grindstone and at the time I had an inflamed knee. I ran the last half of the 27 mile run with one water bottle. I soon realized how dumb this was as I vainly searched for water. I drank out of a muddy pool. Climbed down a steep bank to fill the bottle. Drank from a curled up leaf. I even offered my empty bottle up to heaven and begged God to fill it. Surely, He could – what about the five loaves and two fishes? I was very dry. Then a mountain biker came by – with jugs of water! My five loaves?! And all the people who were such an encouragement during the races, Chris, Marianna, Rebekah – answering all my pre-race phone calls, Snipes – for his gentle challenge, my wife for waking me up at 5 when I forgot to set the alarm, my kids for sincerely asking me if I won, for David and Clark and their organizing ability, being a part of Donna’s harem – at least for a short while, and many other people too many to mention. Thanks.

Now I sit at Panera, drinking coffee in the warmth. People around me talking and laughing. Do they have any clue that just two days ago a hundred people ran at midnight through the woods? Do they have any clue while I am hobbling to the next coffee? This is why when you see a fellow ultra runner out in the real world there is a bond. Mutual suffering. Misery loves company and I am grateful ultrarunning has such great company to be miserable with.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Richard Michael's 2008 Beast Series attempt

2008 The year of many First

I’ve always said that I didn’t care how much I weighed as long as I could still do the activities that I liked to do. I’ve always enjoyed hiking and being outdoors, but after ten years of a sedentary lifestyle and gaining 100+ pounds one day it dawned on me that I couldn’t do a lot of the things anymore. So in the summer of 2007 I started to walk, at first it was 2 miles, then 4 and then eventually up to 8 miles a day. By September I was down 50 pounds to a mere 245lb. so I wanted to start running again. With the goal of running the Bedford Christmas Classic 5K in December I finished the race and was ready for my next adventure.

My brother-in-law had just run the Richmond marathon and that seemed like a good challenge, but running the city streets just didn’t appeal to me. So I searched the internet and found this neat little race in my backyard called the Promise Land. This was to be my next challenge. With a little more searching I found David’s web page and ran across another little race called Holiday Lake that was supposed to be a good introduction to ultras. With just 2 ½ months to prepare I started to work on distance and with a little luck and a lot of help from friends I finished my first 50K++. Then came Terrapin Mt and Promise Land each with there unique challenges, I was having fun and these races were starting to get addictive. I even did my first sprint Triathlon (Angles Race) in April.

Somewhere in all of this I got the hair brain idea to sign up for Grindstone which meant I had to find a 50 miler as a qualifier before October. So I dragged the family (wife and 3 boys ages 7, 5 and 2) down to Ellerbe, NC for a little Midnight Boogie (my first 50M) and then up to Beverly, WV for some Moonshine Madness. With each race I could feel myself getting stronger and learning more about myself. I met many new people this year each willing to help me and share their advice. So with a lot of hard work and help from friends and family I finished Grindstone, my first 100 Miler (and maybe my last).

I had originally signed up for the LUS, but now that I had finished Grindstone I had a chance to complete the Beast. Just two more races to go, but I was starting to get scared of the Masochist and the cut offs since I’m not a fast runner. I had just spent the last three months practicing climbing steep grades and hadn’t spent much time running, my weekly mileage was around 80 but only 30 was running miles. So after 1 week+ recovery from Grindstone I only had two weeks to get my running mileage up. I was very worried that I would not make the cut off’s so on the road section I started off fast (for me anyway) and everything just clicked. For most of the races that I ran this year it was always hard work and a struggle but for two of these races, Masochist being one of them everything just seemed to click, it wasn’t a struggle, it just felt natural and good. There are not too many things more enjoyable than running thru the woods in the fall when every thing just fells good. What a great day! So now for Hellgate I knew I had this one until one night at the beginning of the week as I went sprinting to the bathroom. The gears in my head went into overdrive, what was I going to do. I became more and more worried as the days went by and I wasn’t feeling any better. It’s defiantly not a good thing to lose 3 pounds in the taper week. By Friday I was starting to feel a little better and was able to keep food down all day, so I popped a few Imodium and thought I can do this. As the race started I felt pretty good for about the first mile and pit stop #1. I thought this is OK I should be alright for a while as I started to sip on my water to make sure I didn’t get dehydrated. So over the creak and thru the woods to AS1 I went and filled my water bottle up and within the first mile up the mountain out came the water. A lot of ultra runners have digestive tract issues during races and I have never given much thought to it since I normally have a stomach of steal and can eat what I want whenever I want. After Saturday morning I have a new respect for anyone that has to fight GI tract problems. This year I have run races with toe nails falling off, a broken toe, shin splits, and rubbed raw in places I can’t talk about and for the most part I could ignore the pain and keep going, but not this. By the time I reached Camping gap I was out of TP and was totally dehydrated. I hated to do it but I had to drop, no amount of will power can pull you thru when you can’t refuel. I was glade that I showed up and tried, it helps me live with the outcome of my first DNF.

I would like to thank all of the volunteers that give up their time to come and help out. I have never had time to talk to any of them before because it is always in and out of the aid stations as fast as you can. This past Saturday I had a chance to spend some time and chat with a few of them and help out at some of the different aid stations (another cool first). I also would like to thank David and Clark for all the time and effort you put into the sport and encouraging the new people. Most of all I would like to thank my family and friends that sacrificed a lot of their time this year to help me achieve a lot of these first’s. How do you properly thank someone that hand delivers a McDonald’s double quarter pounder to you in the middle of the forest at midnight? Congratulation’s to all of the Beast Series finishers it takes a lot of effort and a little luck to be able to complete that many races and not have the wheels come off at some point in the year.

What does the future hold for me, I don’t know? Lord willing I will be running a few of the races next year. Some of my friends have decided to run Holiday Lake as their first Ultra and I will help them in whatever they need whether it is crewing or running with them. (Good luck Tommy, Matt & Travis). I don’t think I will try the series again for a while, I enjoyed it, but it required too much of a sacrifice on the family. First of all I will have to tackle the Hellgate course again next Saturday morning at 12:01AM; I don’t want this defeat hanging over my head for more than a week.

So thanks to all for your help and encouragement and I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

Richard Michael

Forget Weight Watchers go on the Horton - Zealand Diet.