HELLGATE 100K, Eighth Edition, The Special Race: December 11, 2010

By Dr. David Horton

Starting a 100K at 12:01 AM in the middle of December is a unique starting time.  That, along with many other factors, makes this a very SPECIAL race.  A 12:01 starting time means everyone will run 7 hours in the dark, regardless how fast you are.  In fact, this means the front runners will run a greater percentage in the dark compared to those who are slower.  

As usual, it does not get cold and we donít have any precipitation until the week before Hellgate.  This year, it was no different.   Snow and our coldest temperatures of the year hit the weekend before the race.  Because of this, some areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway were closed which added more fun to race logistics.

This past summer, there was money funded by the Recovery Act to improve some of the Glenwood Horse Trail, the trail that Hellgate uses.  Most runners didnít notice it, but the footing was better than ever in some sections.  The weather turned out to be the best we have ever had, temperatures in the low 20s and highs in the mid 30s with NO wind.   After the race, many runners were not too pleased with my comments that this was an EASY year for Hellgate.  They thought I was just kidding . . . I wasnít.    There was other evidence that this was true.  One hundred and eleven runners out of 126 starters finished (88 %).  The highest percentage before was 78 %.  I donít know how many runners set PRs, but I think this was also the highest percentage ever as well.

The course really divides up logically into thirds.  The first third is from the start and has the most climbing and comes at your bodyís toughest time to run, between midnight and 5 or 6 AM.  The second third has the worst footing, including the infamous Devil Trail section that goes from AS 4 to AS 7, Bearwallow Gap at 42.5 miles.  The last third is the easiest and most runable, but this is when runners are most tired.  It also includes the Forever section, the miles between Bobblets Gap and Day Creek Parking area.

We had three aid station crews that worked three aid stations each.  These crews were made up primarily of Liberty University students who were in the middle of final exams.  They were extremely excited about working these aid stations.  According to the runners, the crews did an OUTSTANDING  job.   At most aid stations, there was hot food and hot liquids for the runners and I understand that the students were extremely helpful!   Thank you LU students for a job well done.

With Hellgate being the last event in the 6-race Beast Series, a stellar field of runners was assembled.   There were 21 males who had finished the first 5 races of the Beast Series and going after a finish of the 6th event and receiving the coveted Beast finisher award.   There were NO ladies still in the Beast.  Last year, there was only one lady (Dorothy Hunter of Cary, NC) who finished the Beast Series.  I guess it is too tough for ladies to finish the Beast Series?

The menís field of runners was the best we have ever had.  The evidence of this was demonstrated by the fact that the 10th place runner finished in 12:51.  That time would have placed 3rd last year and 4th in 2008.  I want to mention four runners of note who were present.   Karl Meltzer of (Sandy , Utah ) was fresh off his speed record on the 2,000+ Pony Express Trail.  Locally, Jeremy Ramsey, was out to redeem himself from a DNF at the MMTR in November.   Jeremy won Hellgate in 2008.  Chris Reed (Allentown, PA) was becoming the second loser in many events.   He has been second in all three years of the Grindstone 100 and was second last year at Hellgate.  David Goggins (San Diego, CA) is a famous runner who had wanted to run Hellgate for many years.  Helen Lavin (Minneapolis, MN) won Hellgate in 2009 and was the prohibitive favorite to repeat again in 2010. 

You canít tell much about how things are going to go until AS 3 (Camping Gap- 13.1 miles).   Ramsey checked into AS 3 exactly on record pace, 2:15 AM with Reed and Patrick Garcia (Denver, CO) just two minutes back and Keith Knipling (Alexandria, VA) another two minutes back.

The section from AS 3 to AS 4 (Floydís Field-22.3 miles) is the longest section with no aid and a very tough section with lots of climbing.  This is the downfall of more runners than any other section and this year was no different.  Ramsey ran this snow-covered section very well staying on record pace and gaining a 15-minute lead over Reed and a 20-minute lead over Meltzer.  Ramseyís lead grew to 22 minutes over Reed by Bearwallow Gap (AS 7- 42.5 miles) and 25 minutes over Garcia.  Ramsey was 2 minutes under record pace but did not seem to have the eye of the tiger in terms of chasing the record.    He also knew that Eric Grossman had set a blistering pace from there in when he had set the course record of 11:03.  

Ramsey ran well on in to finish first for his second victory with the 3rd fastest time ever in 11:24:20.   Reed continued in his second place finish with a PR on the course in 11:48:50.  Garcia took third in a fantastic time of 12:05:18.  

To no oneís surprise, Helen Lavin had the lead at Camping Gap, 13.1 miles.  To everyoneís surprise, local runner Rebekah Trittipoe was only one minute back at this point, along with Sheryl  Wheeler (Rhinebeck, NY).    By AS 4, Lavin had increased her lead to 11 minutes over Trittipoe.  Lavin continued to pull away to win Hellgate for a second time in a row finishing over an hour ahead of Wheeler with a time of 14:05 with Wheeler second in 15:18. Zsuzsanna Carlson (Jesesy City, NJ) finished strong in 15:27 with Trittipoe ( the oldest female finisher ) taking fourth place in 15:40. Trittipoe was also the grand masters winner.

Meltzer took the male masters win in 12:47, ninth overall , with Wheeler taking the female masters in 15:18.  Jerry Turk (Guilford, CT) took the grand masters win in 13:59.  Doug Blackford (Todd, NC) won the super masters with a time of 15:39.

There was a battle for the overall winner in the Beast Series.  Going into Hellgate, Keith Knipling had about a half-hour lead on local runner Frank, the TANK, Gonzales.  Throughout the race, Keith was ahead of Gonzales and said he wasnít the least concerned about Gonzales.   The TANK put on his usual move in the second half to close, but Gonzales finished 5 minutes behind Knipling in Hellgate, thus making Knipling the overall winner of the Beast.   There will be more battles from these two in the future.

Six runners entered Hellgate this year, having finished all previous 7 Hellgates:  Aaron Schwartzbard, Jerry Turk, Jeffrey Garstecki, Ryan Henry, Dan Lehmann, and Darin Dunham.  All six finished.  Who will be the first one of the group not to finish?  I feel sorry for that person, but it WILL happen sooner or later.

Four runners received the coveted Eagle Trophy for 5-time finishes at Hellgate:  Daryl Smith, Jack Kurisky, Jordan Chang, and Doug Blackford.  That is a lot of running for the 8- and 5-time finishers in mid December in the middle of the night.  I donít think they have any regrets about doing it either.

I started the Best Blood Award many years ago.  It is the award that you donít really want to win.   This year, I presented the award to David Krekeler (Cincinnati, OH).  With just over a mile to go, David tripped and fell into a gate breaking his fall with his forehead and the corner of his eye.  When he finished, his shirt, face, and forehead was covered with blood.  I normally like good blood; however, this was hideous looking and David was just laughing.  After a trip to the hospital and 17 stitches, he seemed to be fine.  He will never forget the 2010 Hellgate.  It was the best (worst) blood I have ever seen.   Not to be outdone, Goggins broke his foot 46 miles into the race but went on to finish.   He did not win the best blood because he had no observable blood.

Our event could not be what it is without the help of our sponsors:  Montrail, Clif, Frank Villa, GU, Lynchburg Amateur, and Patagonia.  We have given out the best awards of any race on the East Coast, and according to many, this is true.  We owe much to Patagonia, as we have given Patagonia products for many years and everyone knows the quality of their products, the best there is.  This year, the national Patagonia representative George Plomarity came to the race.  George rode with me on Friday as we finished marking the course and with Clark Zealand and me throughout the race.  I think he really enjoyed his time with us.  I am sure he would like to do the race but I donít think he is tough enough being a California surfer dude!!

Hellgate is a memorable run for each runner every year.  If you want to read some of these stories, go to extremeultrarunning.com and click on Hellgate stories.  At last count, there were over 20 stories.  It is a very SPECIAL and UNIQUE event.  I think most runners would agree with the quote on the back of this yearís shirt, ďDonít wish it were easier, wish you were better.Ē

Last year, Hellgate started 116, this year 126 started.  I do not plan on letting the race get bigger than that.  This yearís runners agree that the field should be kept small.  I agree with that for many reasons.  Although I hate to turn anyone away . . . I had to turn several away this year.  I know I will turn away more next year.  What does this mean?  Just because you ran and completed the race this year does not mean you will be automatically accepted to participate next year.  First preference will be given to those who have entered the Beast and are still in it at the time the applications are sent out.  When will that be?  Sometime in October.

I feel blessed to have started and direct Hellgate.  I hope to be directing it for many years to come.  I read every single story submitted about the race.  I know how special it is to me and I understand why it is so SPECIAL to each runner.

There was a special victory tunnel at the last aid station that meant a lot to many runners.  What is a victory tunnel?   You will have to finish Hellgate to find out.

In Christ, David Horton, Race Director