I decided a year ago, nearly to the day, that regardless of circumstance I would run Hellgate in 2014. It is a very special race--this gets said quite a bit in the weeks surround the event but that may just be the best way to describe Hellgate simply. I skipped last year in order to crew Rudy and end my year a little earlier than normal after my focus on the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile in November. Watching the race unfold that night and day, driving along the parkway with good friends, I decided I would come back this year, and possibly every year from then on. Hellgate simply has some special atmosphere about it that is nothing short of intoxicating.
The course is the brainchild of Dr. David Horton, and in trying to describe it to some friends (of varying levels of attachment to the sport and even just mountains) I came to the following few conclusions:
- Years after he could not create the exact Mountain Masochist course he wished (The gnarly Appalachian Trail section from the James River to the Tye River, he discovered the subtly brutal Glenwood Horse Trail
- The entire event is designed to be as difficult as possible. It starts at midnight. The climbs are road; the descents are tight, rocky trail barely visible through the thick of leaves strewn across it. You hit the highest, coldest, windiest section of the course (Camping Gap through Headforemost Mountain) at 2-5 a.m., the coldest part of the night.
- The course becomes extremely runnable after Bearwallow Gap, but is so mentally jarring (see "Forever Section") that it takes whatever will you can muster after so many hours of forward travel to do so.
That describes the thing pretty thoroughly.