Hell and Back.
2nd annual Hellgate 100K was held December 11th, starting
at 12:01 am. The point-to-point course roughly followed the Hellgate horse
trail through the mountains of eastern
knew going in that this was a tough 100K, both because of the terrain, and
because nobody believed it was only 62 miles long (a common theme of David
Hortonís races). A number of runners had a GPS unit, and after the race
the consensus was about 66.7 miles, with 12,700 feet of climb and 12,800 of
elevation drop. We lucked out with the weather, with temps in the 40s and
little to no precipitation. A number of the aid stations are located at
high points of the course, and it did get cold and windy up there. Thanks
to all of the volunteers who braved those conditions (although the campfires at
some of the aid stations looked very cozy).
course was a combination of single track and old roads, with surfaces of grass,
gravel, and rocks (lots of rocks). One of the good things about the wider
sections is that they allowed you to run (or walk) side-by-side with another
runner, and converse without having to look back (and then fall). There
were very few flat sections, and you were usually going up or down, sometimes
for 3 or 4 miles at a time. There are many stream/creek crossings, but
they are all short. At most of them, you can rock hop across (carefully),
but at some, you had to step in.
the start to aid station #1 was some fairly easy typical trail running, just the
thing to get you going. AS1 to AS2 could also be thought of as easy (since
it was on a fairly smooth gravel road), except that it was all uphill for 4
miles, with 1,200í of elevation gain. While many ultra-runners tend to
walk the uphills, at this point everyone seemed to be feeling good, and nobody
wanted to slow down.
leaving AS2, you started a long downhill on a grassy road, and it was here that
I got off course for the first (and last) time. Near the bottom of the
hill I came to a gate, and did not find any streamers, glow lights, or arrows.
Looking back up the hill (way up the hill), I could make out some glow lights
branching off to 1 side; I had missed a turn. With a bit of mumbling, I
trudged back up the hill and picked up the correct path. While I may have
lost a few minutes there, it did teach me to pay closer attention to where I was
going, and I didnít go off course the rest of the day (the course was well
was the first of 2 usually negative things that probably ended up being
positives. Just before the next section of rocky single track emptied onto
an uphill road section, I caught a toe on a rock and went down. After
stepping out onto the road, I took a minute to brush myself off, and the runner
that had been a little ways behind caught up, and we headed up the road
together. It was Bethany Hunter (now Patterson), and I was a bit surprised
to be running along side a more accomplished (and well known) runner. It
wasn't planned, but we ended up doing most of the rest of the race together,
occasionally being joined by Scott Gala and Sally Brooking.
other races I've done, there have always been sections where you meet up with
someone for a while, but you usually end up separating again. There are so
many individual variables, that it could be hard to do an ultra with someone
else unless it was planned in advance, and even that probably doesn't always
work out. There is no way to know for sure, but I don't think I would have
done as well if I had not had the chance to spent most of the race with
night portion of the race is a bit of a blur, as you really had to stay focused
on the trail and the markings, but there are some sections that stand out.
About halfway between AS4 and AS5 you started downhill on a rocky, rooty, narrow
single track that required intense concentration. After 2 miles of this,
the trail emptied out onto a wider grassy road, but continued down for another 2
miles. It was a big relief to finally reach the bottom and the aid
station. They had hot soup here, which went down well (
AS5 and AS6, the sky started to lighten up as dawn approached. Somewhere
in this section was the halfway point, but it still felt that there was a long
ways to go. Our spirits were lifted during a long single track section
that we flew down, and after another long uphill climb, we found ourselves at
next section was 8 miles long, and advertised as the second toughest section.
A couple of miles of the trail cut across the side of a hill, with the trail
filled in with leaves. This wouldnít have been so bad, except that this
section was also very rocky. Even with the daylight, it was nearly
impossible to run this section, and you had to carefully pick your way through
the rocks. Near the end of this stretch, my feet were starting to feel
raw, but fortunately they settled down after we got past it.
Horton was at AS7 when we pulled in, and I suggested that the next time they
marked the course, they should take some leaf blowers with them. It seemed
reasonable to me, but somehow I donít think it will happen. The section
from AS7 to AS8 was very scenic, as you followed the contour on the side of the
mountain, and had incredible views of the valley below. You ended up with
another long climb to AS8, and at this point, finishing started to seem
was a long downhill after this aid station, and the downhills were starting to
hurt. I hate to admit it, but I started to look forward to the uphills
(and the opportunity to walk). I reached AS9 at about 13:20, so I knew
that a sub-15 hour time was possible. At no point did I ever check my
place at an aid station, and all I could think about now was getting it over
with (thatís pretty typical in an ultra, isnít it?).
last section was basically 3 miles up and then 3 miles down, and those last 3
miles really hurt. Hats off to Roy Heger, who caught me just 1 mile from
the finish (