Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fearless, Frigid, and Fast: A Recipe for a Hellgate PR, 2008

Let it slide,
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine
Until you feel it all around you
And I don't mind
If it's me you need to turn to
We'll get by,
It's the heart that really matters in the end

---Rob Thomas, "Little Wonders"

Where do I begin to describe Hellgate 2008? What made it all come together for me this year?

Was it the full moon? We had the good fortune to run under the largest full moon in 15 years. I felt like we were somehow cheating to be able to run without lights for most of the night. The moon followed us all night and into the morning hours, and at one point, I was running on a ridge line with the rising sun to my right and the setting moon on my left. What a gift!

Was it the weather? Frigid temperatures, bright moon, bright sun. A perfect recipe for me. Besides the full moon, the pre-race chatter focused on what the temperatures would be up on the ridges...predictions were for lows in the teens with some wind. I seem to run my best in very cold weather, as long as I am appropriately dressed. We had these conditions before in 2006, so I knew the drill: tights, two wicking layers, a vest and a sturdy wind jacket, glasses, hat and gloves. After the race, many runners were regretting running in shorts and no hat. Ouch!

Was it the trail? We were spoiled this year with leaves that had been washed off the trail by the heavy rains that came the night before. The Devil Trail had been flattened somewhat, though the rocks were still there. But somehow this trail seemed "easier" for me than in previous years. Another gift...

Was it the conservative start and support from the guys? My friends Ryan Henry and Rick Gray were looking to pace themselves at the start and asked if we could all run together given my propensity for conservative starts. Soon we added Neal Jamison, Ed Duval, and Dan Lehmann to the group and we ran together up to Camping Gap (mile 15). They stopped at the AS but since I was feeling good, I kept moving. We were running 15-20 minutes ahead of Horton's sub-15:00 splits and once again I was following them with the hope of breaking 15 I shifted into "assertive running" mode and kept at it. Neal caught up with me and kept me company until mile 42, when he took off looking strong---an amazing example of the training effect, as Neal's longest run since racing the OD100 in June was 14 miles in August...he finished Hellgate in 14:45. Awesome job, my friend. Thanks so much for the great company and the push.

Was it my nutrition? At Hellgate, you need to eat, eat, eat. You are cold and running during your sleep phase, so proper nutrition is the most important factor in finishing the race. Over the course of the race, I ate two, 5-serving flasks of raspberry Hammergel, sipping some every 15-20 minutes. I also ate 6 Clif Bloks just before the start and drank 20 ounces of Sustained Energy in the first 10 miles. After that I drank 20 ounces of water with Nuun supplemented with plain water from my pack. At daybreak I ate an egg sandwich, and then added chicken noodle soup at every AS along with a few more gels and Clif bloks, all at 20 minute intervals for 15 hours. Never did I bonk or lose energy. It was one of those perfect days!

Or, in the end, was it all in my head...or heart? I was so calm and relaxed during the pre-race, it was almost scary. After three years of running Hellgate in a variety of conditions, I knew what to wear, what to eat, how I was going to pace myself, and I was very confident in my fitness. Training for and running the Grindstone 100 ten weeks earlier played a huge role, no doubt. One word seems to best describe Hellgate 2008 for me: Fearless. I ran without fear of the dark, the cold, or the trail. It paid off in a 13 minute PR, 15:03.

Rick Gray and me at the start of Hellgate, 11:58 pm 12-12-08
(photo by Bethany Patterson)


I am a runner. "We are what we repeatedly do" said...

outstanding!!! Great to hear that it all went so well. that moon had to be something! Congrats on a fantastic year. see you at Boyers to kick off 2009??

Sophie Speidel said...


I am taking a long rest long run will most likely be Gap to Gap...I discovered last year at Boyer's that I was not remotely recovered from Hellgate. So, have fun out there and I will see you perhaps at G2G or at TWOT?

You missed a great year to run Hellgate (if there is such a thing!).

Take care and have a Merry Christmas in your new home!

po' pharmer said...

Hey Sophie,
Congratulations on another great run @ Hellgate (Oh so close to 15 hours!) & thanks for the report. I really missed being out there again this year. The moon must have been phenomenal.

Jamey G.

run4daysbill said...


Wooo hoooooo! Awesome job, chica!

And the multimedia deal is also impressive. Great stuff, buddy.

Sophie Speidel said...

Thanks guys!

Jamie, we missed you this year. Come back in 09!

Gentry, you know I say this to you every year...but you really MUST run this race. You have done so many ultras and this one is unlike any other. C'mon...think about 09!!

The video is a bit rough in places but I had fun filming it---it cost me the sub-15 but it was worth it!

Merry Christmas!

Rick Gray said...

Sophie, You barked at that PR and it ran running away with its tail tucked between its legs. You were amazing Saturday and I appreciate all of your support and encouragement. Rest up as 2009 is just around the corner. Rick

Neal Jamison said...

Yes, Sophie, the video DID cost you the sub-15. The last time I saw you, you stopped to pull out that camera. ;-)

I lost so much energy in the last third. I was really drained on those last climbs. I kept expecting you to catch me, like you always do.

Great run. See you next time.

Bedrock said...

Just saw the video and that was awesome. Congrats.

head handler said...

Sophie, Great job! Thanks for helping Rick. You are an inspiration to all women.

Tammy Gray

Steve Pero said...

Fantastic run, Sophie! Guess you are finally learning how to run these beasts, ey? You've come a long way from the 05 MMT ;-)

Luckily, Deb and I withdrew because the ice storm would have kept us from coming. No power for several days at our house and many downed trees in our yard, one on our roof!

See you at Rev Ring or G2G? (If the weather doesn't get in the way) ;-)


annette bednosky said...

Congrats Sophie! You are awesome! I can tell you are pleased! Take care of you and relish the warmth of indoors and the "no need" to worry about calories, hydration, pace, frozen fingers, etc. I can't wait to run beside you in '09!

Anne Riddle Lundblad said...

Hey Sophie,
Nice job! What a year you've had -- and it's been a result of your hard work and great attitude (and I guess a few "gifts" here and there don't hurt!)
Wishing warm and happy holidays to you and your family, Anne

Sophie Speidel said...

I am truly blessed with the best friends anywhere! Thanks, everyone, for all your good wishes and support. It means the world to me!

Rick, I look forward to our next adventure and especially to getting Hellgate finish #5 next year! You are one tough runner.

Tammy---you are crew from heaven and I appreciated all your help and smiles, not only at Hellgate but at all the ultras. Thank you.

Steve--I've said it before, you MUST run this race. Truly an ultra to put on your resume next to MMT and Hardrock :-)

Annette, I am looking forward to seeing you back on the trails soon. We missed hearing your lovely voice at the national anthem singing---and I LOVE those pics of us from last year that I put on the video...they make me smile. Heal up, sister.

Anne, your "three more days until Hellgate" email got me PUMPED up---so sorry you couldn't have run it this year, but I know there will be a place for you next year---100K is your baby! Thanks for all your support and good karma. Training with you this fall has been a blast!

Merry Christmas to all! xoxoxox

Andy said...

Hi Sophie,
I'll say it again, submit this great story to Trail Runner and get your props for some great writing! You really know how to describe a great event in colorful detail.
Nice job, as always!

amy said...

Great run Sophie! Glad everything came together for you for a Hellgate PR. I thought of you all often from Friday night onwards. Was really hoping to run my first Hellgate this year, but will save it for the next one. Here's to a happy and healthy 2009....

farmgirl said...

Sophie, you rock. Thanks for visiting my blog. Keep commenting, it gives me a reason to keep blogging. I'm only in it for the feedback. Just kidding.