Wow 79 degrees today: Dec 10th (what the Hell!)
Well Friday night at 12:01 am I began my quest to complete David Horton's longest/hardest/and youngest ultra race held in the southwestern Virginia mountains. This race: hellgate 100K is (like the other Horton races) long and rolls in at 66 miles (measured by 4 different GPS's units). the fact that it is located where it is and is 66 miles makes it hard enough but add in the being awake all day factor, starting in the dark, and the likelihood of cold, snow, ice and you get an epic event....just like the good Dr. Horton likes.
I did not mind all of the above...what I didn't like was the incredible amount of leaves down IN the trail covering all the loose and jagged rocks that make the blue ridge mountains the old decaying giants they are. The late fall and recent leaf drop with out much wind or rain recently created pockets of leaves 2 foot deep and rendered many sections of trail 1-3 miles in length completely unrunnable at any kind of normal stride. I like running and really was thrown off and slowed by this.
The 2nd thing that makes this race a tough one for me is my current state of having no hip flexor or hip extensor power. There are Many long climbs on the course where you ascend straight on forest service roads for one thousand to 2000 ft and without any hill climbing in Egypt and hardly any since I came back my legs just are not ready for the steady walking grind. Women, children, dogs and those in their 60's simply walked away from me on all these climbs. It got to be comical as I would have to take shuffling running steps to catch back up to those I was moving with until they walked away again. And whenever I stopped for a bathroom pit stop, or to get something out of my shoe I could never catch back up.
Luckily there were some downhills on the course and here I was able to run like I wanted and my quads (all hardend up from the 21, 26, 40, 62, 25, 26, and 50 mile long runs I have done the last 14 weeks) held up like champs and allowed me to go as fast as I wanted. Even today 48hrs post finish I easily handled some running in the back yard with Oskar.
The best thing about Hellgate was all the time I got to spend with VHTRC mates and training partners beginning with a few miles on the first climb with legends of ultrarunning Scott Mills and Derrick Carr, then Bethany Patterson and Ryan Henry miles 10-20. At mile 27 I began to run with Sophie Speidel and finished it out the last 3 miles with Kerry Owens. But, from Mile 2 on to mile 60 I ran with slightly ahead of or just behind my training partner of 2000-2001 Jeff Wilbur. Without all of y'alls company I would not have had the good time I did. THANKS!
My race started out HOT! as the temp was much warmer than I anticipated and I was insanely overdressed. This necessitated a stop about 1.5 miles into the first climb to strip off two Patagonia capilene T- shirts, my hat, gloves, and re-don but unzip my sporthill windshielding long sleeve. The patagonia running pants I had on were also not necessary but ended up staying on for all 66 miles.
After this first break I settled in at a fun pace where I could chat it up with Jeff Wilbur and stayed just off the front group and slightly ahead of the womens top 2-6 placers. This pace had me slipping back slightly during the race when I had some bonk points but surging again strongly after 42 miles.
Due to ice conditions the BR parkway was closed causing the mile 22 aid staion and drop back place to be moved and drop bags going only to mile 42. This pretty much sucked as I had planned to adjust my clothing, shoes (as I was getting a blister) and pick up needed cliff shot blocks as they have been the main thing that has been working well for me in ultras of late. but, what are you gonna do???? I ran on... ate the shot blocks I had at a sparing pace and bonked..... until mile 27 where I put down an amazingly tasting scrambled egg wrapped in a tortilla. After another long climb that digested well and I had some great running energy....until the next bonk. Such is the ultra game.
At mile 42 I picked up my drop back took several minutes to make several adjustments and rallied to run the next section very well enjoying perhaps the most BEAUTIFUL SECTION of trail running in all of the 55 ultras I have now completed! Incredible section with great trail and sweeping vistas as far as you could see. I will never forget those 7 miles.
So will I go back???? Everyone always asks this after the tough ones... everyone answers no immediately then relents later. but, honestly no I doubt it. There are other races I want to do. Consider this box checked.