Running with Christ
Michael Huff


Last Saturday I completed the Hellgate 100K and in doing so also
completed the Virginia Beast Series. This past year has been incredibly
rewarding. I have had the opportunity to push myself to and beyond what
I thought were my physical limits, to push through psychological
barriers, to run beyond painful cramps and sore muscles. I have had the
pleasure to experience the true potential of the human body and the
amazing conditions that it can endure. I have found the truth in
Philippians 4:13, the Bible verse that I keep on the Semper Fi website
https://www.active.com/donate/semperfifund/MHuff8 : "I can do all
things through Christ who strengthens me".

99 brave souls stood ready at the head of the Glenwood Horse Trail in
Natural Bridge, VA. It was 0001, Saturday morning and after a prayer
and a singing of the National Anthem we were off, on what would prove
to be a very long and challenging course. It was about 30 degrees at
the start, crystal clear skies with a moon as big as it has been in 15
years lighting the way before us. Through the first 4 miles, to aid
station 1, the group spread out and everyone settled into their pace.
This would have been a fairly uneventful section but for the "creek"
(swollen to a small river by the rains of the previous day) at mile
3.8. This "creek" crossing was knee deep, I tried to keep the bottoms
of my sweatpants dry but with no luck and within 10 minutes they were
frozen, as well as my shoes. Oddly enough this had almost zero impact
on me during the remainder of the race.

Leaving aid station 1, we started a 4 mile climb up to the Blue Ridge
Parkway and aid station 2, Petite's Gap. This section was on a very
good dirt road, I was able to run some of the uphill sections and I was
also able to turn of my headlamp and run by the light of the moon, once
again experiencing the ability to see beyond the beam of the headlamp
and see more of what was around me. Little did I know that by the end
of the race I would be less concerned with what was around me very
concerned with what was inside of me.

Aid station 2, was at 8 miles and was the first opportunity to meet up
with my crew (Mom, Dad, and my youngest daughter, Abby). It was a quick
stop, I picked up my camelback for the next 2 long sections and was
off, it was 0135. I was supposed to meet the crew at aid station 4
(23.4 miles) but the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed due to icing
conditions so the next available crew stop was at aid station 5 (30
miles). The leg to aid station 3, Camping Gap, was 7 miles, the last 2
of which were a climb of 1200 feet. The temperature at Camping Gap was
in the low 20's with a 10-15 knot wind. Leg 4 to Headforemost Mountain
was the longest leg of the race 9.8 miles and was a great run on an
exposed grassy fire road. This leg required no light and offered great
views down into the valley below. I made good time moving into aid
station 4 and didn't waste any time moving on toward aid station 5 and
the chance to see my crew again. I left Headforemost at about 0500 and
started a hard 1.5 mile climb back up the mountain to cross the Blue
Ridge Parkway again. Once across the parkway it was mostly downhill
into
AS 5, Jennings Creek.

As I rolled into AS 5 I was starting to feel the effects of 6.5 hours
of running. I had covered 30.2 miles and the sun was about to come up,
I was tired, cold, and had not eaten anything since Camping Gap. My
stomach was really giving me fits, I never got sick but just couldn't
bring myself to eat anything. For the rest of the day I would subsist
on water and a little soda here and there.

Leaving Jennings Creek, I started a long climb up a good dirt road and
watched the sun rise. A short 2 hours later I got to AS-6 (37.8 miles)
and was doing OK. AS-6 to AS-7 was almost all single track on the
Glenwood Horse Trail. Leaves and rocks were definitely an issue but the
veterans said the leaves were not as bad as they had been in years
past, I could have done without them completely. This was a long leg
that took us to 46.5 miles and 10.5 hours. They were making hamburgers
at the AS but my stomach was having none of that. Onward and Upward to
AS-8, Bobblets Gap. After the first 2 mile climb up Purgatory Mountain
the rest of the leg was actually a very enjoyable run. This was almost
all single track trail along the ridgeline and once again offered some
great views of the valley below.

AS-8 to AS-9 was called the "Never ending leg" and boy was it ever. A
long 2.5 miles downhill followed by 3 very steep and long uphill climbs
covered 7.8 miles and ended at the last aid station (60 miles, 14.2
hours). It was great to see the crew for the last time before the
finish. They were doing a great job of keeping me moving, the calorie
deficit had taken its toll and I was beat. The last leg is the perfect
ending for a David Horton race, 3 mile, 1500 foot climb followed by a 3
mile, 1500 foot decent. I had to dig deep to get up the mountain and
oddly enough had to dig even deeper to get down the other side to the
finish. I had a burning desire to walk on the downhill section but
managed to push through the negative thoughts and keep running all the
way back to Camp Bethel and the finish.

It was a great feeling to be met by David Horton at the finish and told
that I had officially completed the Beast Series. 15 hours and 37
minutes to cover 66 miles of beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain trails, why?
Hard question, which has many answers. I was told once by another ultra
runner that people that run this far must be running from something.
She then asked me what I was running from. My answer to her was that I
didn't agree that you had to be running from something and that
contrary to that I had the feeling that I was running towards
something, at that time I didn't know what. I still don't know exactly,
but I do know that over the last year I have lost 20 pounds, I have
made an effort to see old friends and corresponded with others that I
have not been in touch with since college. I have a new sense of how
important family is and believe that my extended family has become
closer as a result of this endeavor. I have been able raise funds and
contribute to an honorable organization that is taking care of our
wounded Marines. And personally I have seen my Faith strengthen and
take my body to physical levels that I would have once thought
impossible.

My deepest thanks and gratitude go out to all of the great volunteers,
other runners, and to Dr. David Horton. I would like to give a special
thanks to my wonderful family and ultimately thank God for all of the
wonderful blessings that He has bestowed upon me. I am a lucky man.

God Bless and Semper Fi,
Michael Huff
LtCol USMC
http://ultrafaith.blogspot.com/