Hellgate 100k 2004

December 11

It is midnight , and I havenít been in bed since I got up yesterday morning around 7am .  I am running the Hellgate 100k for the second year in a row.  I am one of only 28 people who finished the first ever race last year and decided to return for more punishment.  Annette Bednosky sings the National Anthem as we all await the start.  Even with the less than ideal amplification, she gives a flawless performance!

At 12:01am , right on time, David sends us off into the dark, and what a dark night it is.  Last year, we had nearly a full moon, but this year, we are presented with a new moon.  I am wearing just shorts, two Coolmax shirts, and a wool cap.  It seems like half the runners are in tights and half of us are in shorts.  The temperature is in the 40s for the start.

Mile 3.5      42:23 ( 12:07 avg./mile) FSR 35

The first section is relatively easy, even in the dark.  We move quickly to get a few quick miles in before the terrain and elevation demand that we slow down.  Just before this aid station is a nice stream crossing where the water is actually not too highóonly about knee deep, and we all get across without any problems.  I hope that I am not going out too fast, but so far the pace feels about right.

Mile 7.5      56:26 ( 14:06 avg./mile) Petites Gap

We run and walk all the way up the mountain to Petites Gap.  I run most of the time with Dave Snipes with Gary Knipling always close by.  The traction going up this hill is a lot better than last year when we had to run on ice for the last mile or so.  At this aid station, my support person, Rex, is waiting with a dry pair of shoes and a pint of chocolate milk.  I grab a bagel to eat on the run as I say good-bye to Rex until Headforemost Mountain .

Mile 13.1    1:35:29 ( 17:03 avg./mile) Camping Gap

This section starts out very technical as we run down the hill on a very rocky trail.  I think I roll my right ankle for the first time of the race on this section.  It is a very dark night, and I realize that I did not put a brand new set of batteries in my headlamp, but for now things are going well despite everything.  In this race, it really is a war of attrition, and I just hope that my mind and body hold out longer than the course does.  I enjoy a rather good cup of vegetable soup at this aid station

Mile 21.9    2:27:11 ( 16:44 avg./mile) Headforemost Mountain

David says this is the toughest portion of the course, and I guess I have to agree with him since we do this section in the dark.  I am running by myself for most of this section, and it is a true test of nerves and will power to keep thinking about moving forward as fast as possible.  On the way up to the mountain, I am treated with a few snow flurries that gently drift down through the beam of my headlamp.  Rex is waiting on the other side of the aid station and just as I am getting ready to leave, Gary Knipling catches up to me once again.

Mile 27.6    1:33:10 ( 16:21 avg./mile) Jennings Creek

Gary and I run together all the way down the mountain to Jennings Creek.  He is most gracious to help light my way as my headlamp keeps getting dimmer and dimmer.  We both agree that things are going better for us this year than last because most of this section was in the daylight for us last year.  Just before getting into the aid station, the sky begins to brighten, and I can finally turn off my now useless headlamp.  Unlike last year, I am confident that I wonít need it on the last section this evening.  They are serving breakfast at Jennings Creek, so I eat some scrabbled eggs and a biscuit, while washing it down with another pint of chocolate milk.

Mile 34.5    1:47:24 ( 15:34 avg./mile) Little Cove Mountain

There are some great downhill sections on this part that I am able to really take advantage of now that it is daylight.  I pass Dave Snipes and Brad Smythe, who passes me back on the road up the mountain.  Last year, the aid station wasnít all the way at the top of the hill, but was rather a mile and a half below.  Having it in the right spot will definitely make the next section better this year.  At the aid station, I change into my third pair of shoes.  I want to have as good of footing as possible for this next section.

Mile 42.5    2:12:35 ( 16:34 avg./mile) Bearwallow Gap

During the early rolling miles of this section, it is difficult to stay motivated because I canít run all of the time, and the down hills and up hills are not very long.  However, I try to stay focused on moving forward as quick as possible because I donít want this section to last any longer than it already will.  About halfway through Gary Knipling, Mike Price, and Brad Smythe pass back by me, but then I pass them on the downhill.  We all come into Bearwallow Gap close together, but not before I have fallen into the water on the last creek crossing.  Fortunately, it is not far from the aid station, and I change out my shoes and shirts before continuing.  I am over an hour ahead of my time at this point last year.  Although lunch is being served here, I decide instead just for a doughnut and pint of chocolate milk.

Mile 49.5    1:47:49 ( 15:24 avg./mile) Bobblets Gap

I start out from Bearwallow slightly ahead of Gary, Brad, and Mike, but Mike and Brad catch up to me once we get up on top of the ridge.  I am doing very well leading them out and around each bend in the trail until I roll my ankle again not once but twice in a matter of a couple of minutes.  It is then that I lose contact with Mike and Brad.  I can still run, but I am now being very careful not to twist it anymore.  As I come down the hill and get on the road for the last mile into Bobblets Gap, Gary catches me once again and we run into the aid station together.  Here I drink a cup or two of conquest and decide on a Twinkie to tide me over to the next aid station.

Mile 56.1    1:58:52 ( 18:01 avg./mile) Day Creek

Gary and I run down the hill on the road from Bobblets Gap together, but then he tells me to push on ahead and try to catch Mike and Brad.  I am still feeling like I have something left in the tank, so I conservatively push myself up and down and around this single track trail trying to catch a glimpse of a runner ahead of me.  Unfortunately, the only thing I catch a glimpse of is another stream crossing.  I think there are 10 stream crossings on this section, but I might have missed counted one or two.  Finally, and under two hours, I make it into the last aid station.  Everybody admits that this section is longer than 6.6 miles and my estimate is around 7.6 miles.  Rex has the aid workers properly briefed, and I have two cups of Coke along with a stack of Pringles.  It is time to infuse my body with some caffeine for the final kick into the finish.

Mile 62.4    1:15:41 ( 12:01 avg./mile) FINISH

As I leave Day Creek and head up the last mountain, I catch glimpses of Mike Price.  I am confident that I will catch him on the downhill if I donít let him get any farther ahead on the uphill portion.  I better my time to the top by over four minutes by just flat out power walking as fast as my lungs will allow.  At the top, I canít see Mike, but I know if I run down the hill, I have a good chance of catching him.  I never do catch Mike on the way down, but instead I pass three other runners who are just trying to make it in at this point.  My legs hurt, but I can almost smell the finish.  With a mile to go I push even harder and manage to finish 16 hours and 17 minutes after I started.  This is over an hour and a half improvement on last year, and I am thrilled!

Official Finishing Time 16:17:00

36th out of about 87 starters (57 finishers under 18 hours)

I didnít run the JFK50 this year because of the Urban Challenge, and so I was therefore fresh to run a hard race.  I have accomplished that and am very pleased with my results.  Rex does an impeccable job as my crew, and he even drives me home.  An ultra runner really canít ask for more than that

Never stop running,

Darin