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Mike Day  

As race time approached I was relaxed and comfortable with my preparation.

My crew for 2004 consisted of my wife Melinda, and our three youngest children: Sam, 12; Thomas, 8; and Kevin, 4. Kevin wanted to start the race with me but fortunately he fell asleep and we didn't have to fight that battle.

Right before the start of the 2004 Hellgate, feeling pretty good.

Based on the knowledge I gained from the training run (and also from my ignoble defeat in 2003), I started out fast. This is counterintuitive, but is the correct strategy for Hellgate, I believe. The first seven miles or so are some of the easiest on the course, even though they are all uphill. A big key to success at Hellgate is to run the easy parts of the course as fast as you reasonably can. Most of the course is either very steep or very rocky. So run the easy parts fast!

I was using a heart monitor to make sure I didn't goo too fast. I could tell from my heart rate that I was in good health - despite the fast pace my heart rate was under control and within the parameters I set for a long race.

I had the pleasure of running the first 20 miles with one of my favorite running/training friends, Neal Jamison. Despite "being in good health" both of us had a head cold, and were hacking and snotting all over the course. At one point near the end of the grassy road section before headforemost mountain, Neal coughed up a whole bunch of phlegm. I saw a massive cloud of mist explode from his mouth into my headlight beam and then watched as my breathing caused me to inhale the cloud. Well, I thought, I've probably done the same thing to him several times; hopefully we have the same bug anyway. (This kind of thing happens all the time, but you never know until you are running on a cold night with headlamps.)

I lost track of Neal when I stopped to change flashlight batteries right before the singletrack downhill rock garden that precedes headforemost mountain. I definetely made a good choice of flashlights. I had a good headlamp that I kept on the halogen bulb for most of the night, plus a very bright 1-watt LED flashlight. These two lamps gave me very good illumination and enabled me to run fast downhill, especially on the rocky sections. There was a new moon the day before Hellgate and the night was dark. Bring a couple of good flashlights to Hellgate - you won't regret it.

I saw Neal for the last time as I was going into Headforemost mountain. Coming out of Headforemost mountain. I completed the next section, down to Jennings Creek at a very good pace. This section is very rocky, and I fell several times. At this point I was only five minutes off of David Horton's pace when he tested the course last year, around a 15 hour pace.

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