Friday, October 8, 2010


Since we moved here, neighbors have told us that on the second Saturday of December, just after midnight, if you look carefully, you'll see a series of dim lights ascending a rocky path on the James River Face. The ghosts of Arnolds Valley past, perhaps? I haven't bothered to stay awake long enough to confirm this story. This year I will.

In fact, my miner's light will be among the hopeful, at the beginning of a long day's trail run. Next to mine will be Larry's, I hope, who hasn't yet heard if his application has been accepted. Not only must you train for this event, you must apply and persuade the race director, the famous ultramarathoner David Horton, that he won't regret depositing your $150 check. Yesterday, October 7, he posted the application form on-line.

The post office kept its promise, because Dr. Horton emailed me around noon today, expressing concerns about my ability to finish. He asked how many ultras I'd completed and what my times were. The challenge is, you must finish the 66-mile course in less than 18 hours and you must meet two cutoff times: (1) you must reach the Headforemost Mountain aid station (21.9 miles) by 6:30 a.m. and (2) you need to get to Bearwallow Gap (42.5 miles) by 12:30 p.m.

I responded immediately. I've run three ultras: a Fat Ass 50K (4:48:08), a Fat Ass 50 Miler (8:29:28), and Horton's own 52-mile+ Mountain Masochist (10:49:50). I threw in 27 marathons, the fastest being 3:01:51. None of these were impressive, but he mailed back, "OK, you're in." To my blatant "I will finish," he added "Talk is cheap."

Actually, in this case, talk is pretty expensive, when you consider, for free, I could run 1 mile down the road to reach the start of this course -- the Hellgate parking lot. Hence its name, the Hellgate 100K (although it's longer than 100K).

"So that's why you've been bumping up your weekly mileage," says Virginia, "and disappearing for four or five hours at a time?"

Right. At first, I blamed it on Born to Run, which persuaded me it was all right to enjoy running at my advancing age. When Larry sent me the novel, Hellgate, about this ultramarathon run in my own backyard, I started thinking maybe I could enjoy running even longer.

My friends, you'll probably soon be groaning about another Hellgate training posting. On the other hand, next year you might be up there with me.


  1. Mary Pannabecker SteinerOctober 9, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    No, I won't be up there with you...except in spirit. I will, however, return to the race field soon and this year I'm doing the New Year's Midnight race if I have to go by myself. It's a matter of principle by now. Anyway, call me when it's over. I want to hear you still breathing. Just wish I could watch.

  2. Congratulations!!! I want to be a part of it (not the running part). Tell me what you need.

  3. I'll be there with you in spirit only. I can't think of anything more uncomfortable than running! I have to do little spurts when I go to my workouts, and I HATE it.