Runnin' with the Devil--and the thunder,lightning,and freezing rain
As I approached AS5-Colon Hollow, the ice cream station, stereo
speakers blared the Van Halen classic "Runnin with the Devil".
"Great song" I remarked to the guys writing down our race numbers,
"but isn't that more appropriate for Hellgate?" While showing an
agreeing smile one of them remarked--"but you never know." Less
than 5 minutes later when I was finishing my ice cream sandwich,
I saw the skies darken and heard in the distance a rumbling of
thunder---the Devil was soon to have some fun with us.
I was back in Virginia with my fellow SW Ohio buddies Dave
Krekeler( better known as Hellgate Best Blood Ever), Bob Jasinski,
and Todd Bumgardner for the third installment of the 2012
Beast Series. Our group has learned to love our treks to this
trail running haven, catching up with new friends we have made
in this area and looking forward to the usual charm of a Horton
event. The setting of the Promise Land Youth Camp ranked right
with Hellgate, Holiday Lake and Terrapin Mt for quality race
headquarters. After an evening of food, conversation and the
always entertaining Horton race meeting and gear giveaway, we
prepared for sleep--Bob and Todd did the camping thing while
wimpy Dave and I headed to our Days Inn in Bedford. Back at the
camp in the morning we checked in, sang a very weak rendition
of the National Anthem, and following Dr Horton's prayer, we were
off on the first of many climbs.
The are many good race reports that tell details of section
by section, and in particular the PHD of race reports--Keith
Knipling--has one for Promise Land that is excellent for
course insight, so I'll skip that minutiae. I will say I
was pleasantly surprised that there were more runnable sections
than expected, that the climbs were tough but I like to power
hike, and the mountain and stream views were amazing. I was
proceeding very comfortably section by section, staying within
5-10 minutes of target times I had planned. When I came to AS5
at just under 5 hours, I was starting to think I could be
much better than my 7:45 "goal time".
That of course is when we started Runnin' with the Devil. Initially
it seemed like it was going to be a light rain that actually
may feel good, but soon the winds picked up, rain came sideways,
thunder and lightning were way too close for comfort, and worse of
all the temps dropped like a rock. I mostly felt numb in my
hands, but lots of people around me were clearly struggling
from the conditions. The Dark Side climb to the falls would
be tough in perfect weather, but today it clearly became a
death march. I had to pull out all my tricks. I always carry
a picture of my 23 year old special needs daughter Alicia,
and this time I held it my hand for all 3 miles. I used my
mantras--relentless forward motion, shoulders back and down,
embrace the journey. I kept hearing the voice of my yoga
instructor Karen saying " breathe"--"soft face" and " relax".
With great relief I finally saw the tent for Sunset Fields.
As I saw many runners crowded in the tent trying to get
warm, I ironically thought of the runners I saw collapsing
from excessive heat at the Boston Marathon less than
2 weeks ago.
I fortunately was feeling well enough to attack the
remaining mostly downhill to the finish. The trails with
6 inches of standing water made staying upright a challenge
while pushing the pace. When I hit the gravel road at
Overstreet Falls I knew I could let gravity be my friend
and reached the finish at 7:55. Given the changing conditions
and making through the day with no falls, I felt very
happy with my finishing time.
Congratulations to everyone who finished--or tried for that
matter. Other than the Eric Grossman of the front pack, most
had some dealings with the storm. For those that spend
two hours or longer than me getting to the finish I have
As typical with a Horton race, the volunteers are a terrific
blend of long time Horton friends mixed with the bubbling
enthusiasm of the Liberty University students that make
every aid station a fun visit. I always enjoy conversations
with the spirited and well spoken LU students--very special
young people. I saw the experience of the older volunteers
as they assisted a poor fellow who badly injured his
shoulder in a fall. Finally the group that prepared our
tasty post race food, including Dr Horton's wife, started
our recovery process. THANKS TO ALL THE GREAT VOLUNTEERS!!!!!
Dr Horton, I was glad to beat my race " seeding"--thanks
for the motivation. But thank you most for being the
leader of another fabulous VA trail event.
I look forward (I think) to a return in October for Grindstone.