Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sheriffs, Shotguns, and Goats: Robert Wehner's 2009 Hellgate Report

BAM!!  No, it wasn’t the starter’s pistol of the Hellgate 100; it was a shotgun blast from someone’s front porch.  To shut up his barking dogs.  Dogs that were barking as Brad and I walked past his shack.  The shack right next to the pen holding a big pig.  With a pack of goats free-ranging about.  The only thing missing was the sound of banjos.  I guess we weren’t in Wisconsin anymore Toto.

Brad and I were helping the RD, David Horton, with trail marking before the race, as the race doesn’t start until midnight.  David is definitely a type “A” person, and the ride out to the start was quite a trip.  David drove with one hand on the wheel, and two eyes everywhere but the road (and the speedometer).  He loved pointing out all of the features of the Blue Ridge mountains, and talking about all things running.  This led to being stopped by Virginia’s finest, and a speeding ticket.  Looks like he’ll need another line item on the race expense report.

Helping out also gave us a chance to check out some of the trail conditions we would be encountering that night.  At the start, there was the dead deer carcass; okay, don’t step over here to take a last-minute leak.  At the river crossing about 3 miles into the race, we plotted out the best route across; the water was cold, deep, and moving fast.  On the next 4-mile climb to Petite’s Gap, there were patches of ice and snow higher up; won’t need screws though like 2005.  We also checked out the last few miles of the course as well, and arrived back at Camp Bethel with plenty of time to get gear ready for the race.

I had had some GI tract issues the past 2 years at Hellgate, which slowed me down a bit, so I was itching for a better run this year.  Getting knocked out of Voyageur by bees in July had also left a chip on my shoulder.  So I ran the first third of the race fairly aggressively, staying ahead of splits from previous years.  Temps at the start were in the teens; lows during the night were expected to dip into the single digits.

With the relentless up and down of the course, and miles of rocky single track, you can expect some low points during the race.  This year was no exception, but I was able to keep moving fairly decent most of the time.  10+ hours into the race, I had a good stretch, and caught 5 runners in a short period of time.  Halfway through the second to last section, Helen Lavin popped up behind me, and we ran together for a little while.  Helen eventually pulled away, winning the women’s division.

While I had been able to stay ahead of past years’ splits, the aggressive running I did earlier in the race was starting to catch up with me.  I was not able to run the final section as fast as before, but did mange to PR by 4 minutes, finishing in 9th place in 13:29.  Finishing this race is no gimmie, so it feels good to be 6 for 6.  Brad had a phenomenal race, bettering his PR by an hour and 24 minutes, good for 23rd in 14:57.

Hopefully I’ll be motoring around in Horton’s truck again next year, and standing once again on the starting line of the Hellgate 100 at midnight.

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