What's up.  No one has mentioned anything about Hellgate.  Either too tired or trying to keep this a secret?  At the risk of giving it away, here's how my run went.

I arrived at Camp Bethel at around 6:00 to a warm fire and friendly faces in a ski lodge atmosphere.  The pre race meal was really good, but I was advised by Gary Knipling, who ran last year (and made the mistake) to eat light.  After the briefing and prize drawing, I laid down in one of the bunk rooms, but never got any sleep.  For several week I had been apprehensive about night running which made the 12:01AM starting time come too quickly.  We lucked out with the weather.  It was 39 degrees and clear, so shorts and a light weight long sleeve were all that I wore (and gloves).  As the race progressed the temperature varied quite a bit with all the ups and downs in elevation.  At times I was cold, others hot, but overall think I made the right decision.  Running in the dark was a lot of fun.  I was alone a lot and because of the downed leaves it was often questionable if I was on a trail at all.  I was advise by Albert LaPorte that the best tactic was to stop, turn out my light and look for the next glow stick.  It was sometimes a challenge, but never impossible.  The course was very well marked.  And standing in the dark the stars and sky were fantastic.  It actually snowed for a little bit.  Kind of surreal with the flakes going in all directions in the glow of my headlamp. It didn't last long, just enough to add to the pleasure. My new Streamlight Argo light worked fine, exceeding my expectations.   In my pre race paranoia I had prepared to make four battery changes if necessary, but only made one at 6:30 (it got light at 7:00.)  This light has circuitry that prevents it from ever dimming.  It sucks the three AAA batteries dry and then just goes out, so it was shocking when that happened without warning.  Luckily it was on a dirt road and I was able to make the change without even taking it off my head,  barely had to stop.  I was also using a 3 LED waist light, so was never in total darkness.  I started out mid pack and was slowly working my way up, but was surprised to find myself in the top ten at the 42 mile drop location.  From there it was pretty much a matter of who hurt the most, because no one I saw was moving too fast, definitely not me.  I caught Ryan Henry a little before the last aid station and ran into it with him.  From there it was mostly dirt road.  A three mile incredibly steep climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and then just as bad a down hill to the finish at the camp.  Neither of us ever mentioned anything about finishing in a tie.  We just continued side by side as we had for the previous six miles.  My legs and will were giving out, so I was very fortunate that he stayed with me to the end.  It was good to take a shower and get some food, but I was feeling a little nauseous and could not get in to the post race partying mode, so after a failed attempt to get some sleep, just got in my truck and drove home.  I pulled into my driveway just before midnight making it a very full and satisfying day. 

Once you get past the insanity factor of running for 65 miles, in December, in the mountains of Virginia, and starting in the middle of the night, you will find that this is an adventure you were glad that you did not miss.  The perfect location, challenging trails, banquet variety aid stations, supportive and accommodating volunteers.  Truly the best of the Horton Experience!

Herman Richards