It’s Hellgate Time – Ni puha, ni pera

I’ve been told to go to hell on many occasions and at 12:01 tomorrow morning I will. You see since […]

By on December 7, 2007 | Comments

I’ve been told to go to hell on many occasions and at 12:01 tomorrow morning I will. You see since RD extraordinaire, David Horton, spawned his Hellgate “100k” half a decade ago, he has started it at 12:01 a.m. on the second Saturday of December. The course is hilly and long and I refer you to Aaron Schwartzbard’s informative and entertaining Hellgate course description for the blow-by-blow details. (This is, by far, the best course description I’ve ever read.) Also check out this cool multimedia article from today’s Roanoke Times [broken link removed], the source of both images below.

Hellgate 100k course map
– image from Roanoke Times

Don’t ever let Dr. Horton’s pleasant, outgoing demeanor fool you, he is sadistic as they come. Why else would he send 100+ runners down nasty, rocky in the dark and cold of December? When I say “cold” I don’t just mean cold by Virginia standards, I mean eye freezing cold. What I mean by dark is a bit more obvious – sunrise is around 7:20 a.m. these days. That said, as of a few days ago, it looked like Hellgate was finally going to be graced with great conditions – with forecast lows only in the mid-30s and highs in the mid-50s.

Then about a week ago, Horton suggested that this year the course is a bit “leafy” on top of the usual fun. The very late leaf season and the lack of heavy rains since the leaves fell are mostly responsible for this phenomenon. From my runs in the Shenandoahs the past two weekends, I can confirm that the trails are wickedly leafy – much more so than isnormal this time of year. For long sections of trail, I was running through a foot or more of leaves unable to see the multitude of rocks hidden below. Basically, I’ll be shuffling through leaf piles for many hours tomorrow….

… that’s when I’m not running on ice. On Wednesday, Virginia received its first snowfall from an overproducing Alberta Clipper. According to Dr. Schadenfreude Horton, about 3 inches of snow fell in the mountains that we’ll run over. This snow will have thawed and frozen before the race meaning there will be plenty of ice. Of course, there will be ice on the course from the freezing rain that’s falling in the mountains right now! It looks like I’ll finally get to try out my Kahtoola Microspikes.

Hellgate 100k elevation profile with aid stations
– image from Roanoke Times

For a 100 +/- runner race, the men’s field is quite solid with:

  • Keith Knipling – He could cap off a crazy good year with a win here – this is his kind of course.
  • Aaron Schwartzbard – A speedster who will be running his fifth Hellgate.
  • Serge Arbonna – Serge won Hellgate in 2005 and finished 3d last year.
  • Sean Meissner – stud from Oregon, but can he handle the beastly east coast trails?
  • Mike Schuster – I’ve never seen this guy run slow.
  • Don Padfield – A tough Virginia mountain runner.
  • Derrick Carr and Scotty Mills – Two ultra experienced ultrarunners the rest of us could learn a thing or five from.
  • Greg Loomis – Due to nail one before 2007 is out.
  • Steve Baker – A fast, young runner who could bust a good one at anytime.
  • Jeff Turk – All I’ve got is that he’s from Connecticut and finished 4, 6, 7, and 10 in the four runnings of Hellgate.

The top of the women’s field include many of the women you’d expect to see at a difficult Virginia ultra, including:

Ni puha, ni pera!

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.