The thermometer's above-freezing reading this morning was misleading, as became abundantly clear up on the ripples of the Blue Ridge. Fortunately, I was ready, thanks to my son's suggestion that I wear one of his Under Armour shirts. I thought I'd be too warm with long-sleeved Under Armour under a Nike wick fit shirt. If so, off would come Nike and on another light shirt that had been keeping my cellphone from bouncing in my bottle belt. At times, nestled in a hollow with the sun shining, I was too warm, but as we climbed up to its ridge a howling wind made me grateful for the thicker layer. At one point, we heard what sounded like a semi-trailer grinding down a winding double-track road and saw it smoking circles. Then we realized it was a windstorm spinning dust and leaves.
Eleven runners showed up to experience the third and final leg of the Hellgate 100, now only two weeks away. While we waited for someone to say, "I'm getting cold; let's go," I noticed an oval sticker on the back window of race director David Horton's car -- "Hellgate 66.6." "Aha," I said, "so you admit it's over 100K." Horton smiled and nodded, "in fact, if you finish the run, you'll get one of those stickers." "I'm cold," said someone, and off we went for the day's 21 miles.
I've written this before; the best part of any race is the training runs. Today all of us stayed together (except for the two speedsters who hurried ahead to hang yellow streamers along the course; after the first two minutes, we never saw them again). If someone lagged behind, we waited at the next big turn. If someone got ahead, he'd wait or regret, as happened once, just after Bobblets Gap, "whoa Scott, you missed the turn." Because we were close, we could check each other. Our leader kept up a running commentary. We should have given him a microphone and hung a speaker on his back because he was hard to hear over the leaves swooshing around our feet and wind whistling through the trees.
"There's Purgatory Mountain," the leader pointed. "What?" yelled someone near the rear. "Purgatory Mountain," "Purgatory Mountain," passed by, as if we were playing a parlor game. Most us fell once or twice. "You okay?" "You okay?" Now and then we'd stop to clear fallen limbs off the trail. "Better today than trip over them two weeks from now after running 50 miles." "Look at that," and we'd slow down while we moved our eyes from the rocky trail to a stunning overlook.
"What did you think of the 'forever section?'" asks Virginia.
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