2004 Hellgate 100K

By:  David Horton

          It can't be as bad (GOOD) as last year!  Or can it?  The inaugural running of the Hellgate 100K in 2003 was a classic.  We had frigid temperatures (in the teens), a foot of snow, and a full moon.  It was a very special race.  We had none of those things in 2004.  Temperatures were near freezing at night and in the low 40's during the day…. no snow and no moon!

            The pre-race and finish location is at Camp Bethel, near Fincastle and

Roanoke, VA.  It is an idyllic location with a cafeteria and a big meeting room (Heritage Building) with log fireplaces to add to the ambiance.  Camp Bethel served us a great pre-race pasta meal and were outstanding hosts.  They have been pleased that we have chosen their facilities to use for our race.

            After the meal and a pre-race briefing, runners filled drop bags and napped before the start of the event.  At 11:00 p.m., we loaded up in cars and a van and drove to the start at Hellgate Parking Lot next to Little Hellgate Creek (hence, the race name).

            We were met at the start by the local fire and rescue department with their big truck and lights.  They loved it, but thought that we had a few loose screws meeting in the middle of the night in December to run through the woods.  Before the runners started the race, Annette Bednosky sang the national anthem.  Her singing gave me chills.  After a word of prayer, the runners were off into the night.

            Marking a 100K point to point course is a challenge.  On Saturday, the week before the race, Charlie Hesse, Rebekah Trittipoe, Muffy and I worked in two crews and marked 49 miles of the course with orange streamers.  On Friday afternoon, the day before the race, Scott Brockmeier and I put up chem lights from the start to 7.5 miles and streamers on the last 6 miles.  Starting later on Friday night, Cat Phillips and Shane Amos put up chem lights from 7.5 miles to 35 miles in the course.  Chem lights last only 12 hours, but were of great benefit to the runners as streamers are hard to see in the dark.

Ryan Cooper (Erie, CO) was back to defend his title from 2003 and Aaron Schwartzbard (Reston, VA), second in 2003, wanted to move up one place in the standings.  Courtney Campbell (3rd in 2003, Berryville, VA) was making his re-entry back to ultras after surgery on is foot this summer.  Sean Andrish (Leesburg, VA) second place finisher at the 2003 & 2004 MMTR 50 Miler, was eager to try his hand at the 100K distance.

            Annette Bednosky (Boone, NC) has become one of the best ultra-runners on the east coast with many victories.  With Cat Phillips out (2003 winner), Annette was the favorite.  Bethany Hunter, now Bethany Patterson, was the local favorite, attempting her first 100K distance.  Lorie Cooper (Ryan's wife) and Sally Brooking (Marietta, GA) were also back to improve on their 3rd and 4th place finishes of 2003.  

            As expected, running buddies Campbell and Andrish took the lead from the start, but not by much.  Campbell and Andrish reached Petites Gap (aid station 2 - 7.5 miles) at 1:13 a.m. with 8 more runners less than 3 minutes behind.

            At Camping Gap (aid station 3 - 13.1 miles), Andrish was joined by Byron Backer (Greenville, SC) and Brian Kistner (Florence, SC).  Campbell limped into the aid station much later and called it quits.  Hopefully, Campbell’s foot will heal and we will soon see one of ultra runnings legends and great guys return to his pre-injury racing form.        

At Headforemost Mountain, (aid station 4 - 21.9 miles), Andrish checked in with a 4-minute lead over Schwartzbard, a 13-minute lead over Backer, and a 16-minute lead over Kistner.  With all the snow and ice in 2003, the lead runner at this point in 2004 (Andrish) was only 5 minutes faster than in 2003 

            The first third of the Hellgate course (Start to 21.9 miles) is the toughest, the second third (21.9 miles to Bearwallow Gap - 42.5 miles) is the nastiest (two very rocky stretches), and the last third (42.5 miles to the finish) is the easiest section.

            From there on in Andrish increased his lead at each aid station (10, 19, 32, 56, 76, and 83 minutes), shattering Cooper's winning time of 2003 (12:31) by finishing 1st in a new course record time of 11:22:41.

            Schwartzbard continued on to take 2nd for the second year in a row, finishing in 12:46:15, a 14-minute improvement over 2003.  Schwartzbard had a slight scare as he caught sight of Keith Knipling (Chicago, IL) closing in on the last climb.  Knipling was in 7th place as late as aid station 5 (Jenning's Creek - 27.6 miles).  By aid station 6, (Little Cove Mountain - 34.5 miles), Keith had moved into 3rd place and maintained that position finishing in 12:52:58 (an improvement of 4 hours and 16 minutes over his 2003 time).  I guess the mountain training that he has done in the Chicago area has really paid off.

            Scott Brockmeier made it interesting for Knipling as he closed to 4 minutes behind at aid station 9 (Day Creek - 56.1 miles).  Brockmeier took 4th place with a time of 12:57:21, knocking 2 hours and 17 minutes off his 2003 time, moving from 11th place to 4th place in 2004.  Brockmeier  ran the whole course in training in 2 days, 3 weeks before the race.  I guess training pays off.

            As expected, Bednosky took the lead from the start and pulled away all night and all day.  The only question was would she break Cat Phillips course record of 13:15 from 2003.  Through aid station 4 (Headforemost Mountain - 21.9 miles), Annette was 2 minutes ahead of Phillips' time.  However, by Bearwallow Gap, (AS 7 - 42.5 miles), Annette had fallen 13 minutes behind Cat's course record pace and could not make it up.  Annette finished in 13:50:08 for the victory, with only eight men beating her excellent time.

            A race was brewing for 2nd place in the ladies division between Brooking, Patterson, and Cooper.  Through 42.5 miles, these three were within 10 minutes of each other.  By aid station 8 (49.5 miles), Patterson had forged a 7 minute lead over Brooking which she maintained to the finish with a 2nd place time of 14:40:25.  Brooking was edged out of 3rd place at the end by Morgan Windram (Boalsburg, PA), who finished with a time of 14:52:06.  Brooking followed close behind with a 4th place finishing time of 14:55:33. 

Eleven of the 14 ladies who started the race finished (78.5%).  Forty-eight of the 72 men that started finished (66.7%).  I guess we know who's tougher!

We have two cut-offs.  The first one is at Headforemost Mountain (AS 4 - 21.9 miles).  Runners must reach this aid station by 6:30 a.m..  The second cut-off is at Bearwallow Gap (aid station 7 - 42.5 miles).  Runners must reach this aid station by 12:30 p.m..  These are not easy cut-offs and Hellgate IS NOT an easy race.  Two different runners measured the altitude gain at over 12,800 feet, with an equal amount of loss.

With only nine aid stations, runners have to be more self-sufficient.  Also, two different runners measured the distance of the course at 66.6 and 66.7 miles.  I guess it truly does meet "Horton" standards!

Runners had two places for drop bags, 21.9 and 42.5 miles.  Runners were treated to a REAL breakfast by Rita Bryant at Jennings Creek.  Lunch was served to runners at 42.5 miles compliments of Dan and Ruth Laslie.  I don't know if the runners took advantage of the meals or not, but I did.

            No one saw any bears on the race course.  However, Rebekah Trittipoe saw one on the race course when marking one section.  A bear was killed just past the Camping Gap aid station on race day, AFTER we went through this area.

            Special thanks go out to all of the people who make this race happen:  My wife, Nancy, my secretary, Ashley Partridge, Nancy and Charlie Hesse, Muffy, Rebekah Trittipoe, and a host of aid station workers.  A special thanks to the Lynchburg Amateur Radio Club and Hal De Vuyst for GREAT radio communication.  Thanks also to our sponsors:  Montrail, Patagonia, Conquest, and Frank Villa. 

            As in all of the other races, Dr. George Wortley serves as our medical director.  George had just returned from Mexico where he purchased a pair of sandals for the male and females winners of Hellgate that were made by the Tarahumara Indians.  They must wear these if they run Hellgate next year!

            If you like sleep deprivation and want a challenge, enter the 2005 Hellgate 100K to be held on December 10, 2005.  In 2003, we started 71 runners, this year, 86 runners, and we will maintain the limit of 100 runners.

            Eleven runners completed the Horton Slam (Holiday Lake 50K, Promise Land 50K, MMTR 50 Miler, and Hellgate 100K).  These runners received a blanket/sleeping bag with all four-race names embroidered on it.  The runners were:  Paul Arnett, Byron Backer, Annette Bednosky, Chris Calfee, Denise Davis, Wes Fenton, Dan Lehmann, Herman Richards, David Snipes, Kevin Townsend, and Joe Novak.