Hellgate 100k Race Profile

Best Blood award from 2010 Hellgate. Photo: Keith Knipling

“*Be prepared for this section!!  It is long and tough.”

“*Be aware:  This is the second toughest section of the race.”

“*** This section will seem like it goes on forever.”

These are footnotes within the course description written by David Horton.  When Horton says something is tough and long, you best be listening and heed the advice.

This is the 9th running of the Hellgate 100k.  The race starts Friday night, er, Saturday morning at 12:01AM, so everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the frozen ground, chilly water crossings, and 20 degree temps all while navigating through the pitch blackness, save for the ghostly hue from the full moon (given there are clear skies, that is).  Good for you if you’re fortunate enough to get some sleep Friday evening before the race.  For most, it will be a long time between rest from Friday morning until they finish sometime Saturday afternoon and into another evening for many.

The course is a monster point to point starting near Big Hellgate Creek in Rockbridge County, VA and traverses through the Jefferson National Forest, drunkenly following the Blueridge Parkway for 66 miles to the finish at Camp Bethel in (heh, heh) Wise, VA.  13,500 feet of gain and roughly the same amount of descent ensures you’ll have fond physical memories for days after the race.

Hellgate elevation profile. Credit: Keith Knipling.

For the men this year, watch for Frank Gonzales, Aaron Schwartzbard, and Jeremy Ramsey.  For the ladies, Amy Sproston makes the trip back East and should run uncontested.

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North Face 50 Preview: Geoff Roes’ Dreamscape

Corle and Geoff

In lieu of yet another nerdy list of possible contenders at the NF 50 that we normally try to provide here at Inside Trail, we think Mr. Roes has outdone himself with an obvious uncorking of pent up frustration with the granular over-analyzing of our sport.  Of course, he does it in his own dry, insightful sense of humor.  Read a classic post here:  http://akrunning.blogspot.com/2011/11/north-face-50-race-preview.html

Weekend Wrap: Alaskans Swoop Down and New CR

Geoff Roes presented Alaska to ultrarunning and its value for endurance training with his dominance of the sport.  Now other “unknowns” are making the long trip down to the lower 48 to serve notice that Roes is not alone.

Cedar Bourgeois leading the Mt. Marathon Race, which she's won seven times. Photo: Marc Lester

At the 29th running of the Quad Dipsea in Mill Valley, CA Alaskan Cedar Bourgeois, dabbling in her first ultra-distance event, took the women’s win by nailing a sub five hour time of 4:59:18.  Kim Holak from Minnesota ran a strong race for second with Luanne Park of Redding, CA showing how it’s done when you’re 51 years old, charging in for third.

Matias Saari, also part of the hit squad from Alaska, made a strong showing in the men’s event, running in second place for over half the race before speedy and consistent Gary Gellin overtook him for good with eight miles to go.  Of course, by this time, Leor Pantilat was closing in on one of the best runs of his young life and far out of reach of any other contenders.  Leor decimated his own winning time from last year by six minutes, dropping the course record, set by Erik Skaggs, in the process by over three minutes with a time of 3:48:58.  When one considers the 9,276 feet of climb shoe horned into this event’s distance, his performance is staggering.

"Leor was absolutely flying." Leor Pantilat equalling the coast's beauty with his dominance of the Quad Dipsea. Photo: Joel Lanz

In an email from Gary Gellin, he describes his race for Inside Trail:

Leor was absolutely flying.  He got to Stinson Beach in 53 minutes which would be a very good time for a single Dipsea.  I had a good day and ran a tactical race to finish 2nd in 4:10.  In 3rd place was Matias Saari from Anchorage, Alaska.  He is down here for the NF50 with his girlfriend Christy and another woman [Cedar Bourgeois] who won the women’s race today!  Matias took off after Leor from the gun.  I thought for certain he had no idea who Leor was.  I slowly reeled in Matias on lap 2, catching him finally at the Mill Valley turnaround.  We ran together to Cardiac with Matias pulling away a little bit on some of the climbs while I kept the effort steady.  I was finally able to drop Matias on the descent to Stinson Beach and gained a solid minute.  On the 4th leg I had some problems with adductor muscle cramping, but was able to increase the gap to 2:45 at the finish.  4th was Van McCarty – a very good result from him.  5th was Jonathan Kimura, and 6th was Victor Ballesteros.

The Fellas
1. Leor Pantilat, 27, San Carlos, CA, 3:48:58 (new course record by 3:18)
2. Gary Gellin, 43, Menlo Park, CA, 4:10:05
3. Matias Saari, 41, Anchorage, AK, 4:12:45
4. Van McCarty, 41, San Luis Obispo, CA, 4:16:24
5. Jonathan Kimura, 31, Cupertino, CA, 4:20:02

The Ladies
1. Cedar Bourgeois, 35, Seward, AK, 4:59:18
2. Kimberly Holak, 42, Duluth, MN, 5:06:29
3. Luanne Park, 51, Redding, CA, 5:10:04
4. Amy Burton, 38, San Jose, CA, 5:12:59
5. Jennifer Pfeifer, 40, El Dorado, CA, 5:19:00

A familiar view for Leor's competitors (though perhaps not so close). Photo: Joel Lanz

Quad Dipsea – Stairway to Heaven

How do you improve the oldest trail race in America?  You run it four times, of course!

The Dipsea trail race began in 1905 and is still going strong after 106 years (missing only four years due to economy and war).  It starts in Mill Valley, CA and finishes at Stinson Beach.  With 671 steps leading up the side of Mt. Tamalpais to the highest point of Cardiac Hill, the course is challenging, to say the least.  A unique aspect of the race is the ability to choose from a variety of connecting paths to reach the finish, so familiarity with the area trails pays off. Lovers of the event were likely sitting around in November pining for June to roll around and the popular event to take place, so they came up with the Quad Dipsea in 1983, held initially as a fun run in ’83 and ’84.  The race is directed by UltraRunning Magazine publisher, John Medinger.

The Quad Dipsea, 28.4 miles, runs the Dipsea course in an out and back fashion, beginning in Mill Valley.  If you can believe it, there are 9,276 feet of climb packed into the bloated marathon-ish length course.  Imagine bounding down wet, wooden stairs after 4 hours of climbs and descents with your quads humming with fatigue.  Three men have run under four hours: Carl Anderson (four times), Erik Skaggs (twice), and just last year Leor Pantilat. Leor’s time of 3:54:29 was good enough to be the fourth fastest time in the event’s history, which has seen big named runners compete throughout the years.  Caren Spore, from Davis CA, broke the women’s record in 4:38:33 last year, a year that saw the additional challenges of a muddy, slick course.

A few of the 2,684 total steps in the race with Leor Pantilat. Photo: http://pantilat.wordpress.com/

This Saturday’s race will see both Leor and Caren returning to defend.  Last year’s 2nd place finisher, Gary Gellin, will again be in the mix, likely gunning to strip away the 2 mins 32 secs from last year’s finish to reach the coveted sub four hour time.  Consistently fast Leigh Schmitt should keep it interesting but the structure (CLIMB) of the course doesn’t play into his normal strength of fast, rolling courses.  Rumor has it that Leigh will pass up Quad Dipsea to be fresh for the North Face 50 the following weekend.

Unlike her “runaway” race last year, Caren Spore should be challenged by fellow Californian, Jennifer Pfeifer, and by midwesterner, Kim Holak, as long as Kim is healthy and fit.  She hasn’t raced much this year but is a fierce competitor when she does.

Happy Thanksgiving from Inside Trail to our American readers.  I’m thankful my resting month is almost over and I can begin training and racing again!  Have a great weekend on the trails.

 

Gear Review: SALOMON EXO II WINGS TW SHORTS

Running shorts.  There are few features of most shorts that require consideration.  Most shorts are like Honda Accords.  They look fairly average, are reliable, and serve their mundane duties admirably.  Then there’s the Salomon EXO II Wings TW shorts.  They are as exotic as their name is long.

First time I pulled them on I noticed they are tight.  I wear size medium and have other compression shorts.  The Salomons fit tighter, consistently tighter throughout the legs and rear.  The material is a four-way stretching, perforated nylon with a grid pattern that Salomon named “Sensifit”.  There is an over short that is sewn in a way where they don’t cover everything, yet are attached at the inner thigh both in front and back, exposing the inner thigh and crotch so that only the compression tight is left, eliminating any additional material bunching.  This is an interesting design that reduces friction, increases ventilation, and adds a modicum of discretion in public.

The tights are long, reaching just above my knees and thus supporting all major muscles in the quads and hamstrings.  The idea of compression makes sense when one thinks about the vibration and shaking of muscles with a normal running stride.  That creates a lot of stress at the connecting points of the muscles and, over a long distance race, can reduce fatigue and micro tears in the muscles.

Wearing any compression gear can take a little getting used to but once you’re comfortable in it, you’ll feel naked without.  I’ve put these shorts through the wringer, bounding over slickrock in the desert, zipping through long stride intervals on level singletrack, and careening down long, rocky descents.  I’m a proponent of compression products and the Salomon shorts performed in a way that only solidifies my allegiance.

These shorts have a few specific features I’d like to point out.  The waistband isn’t a traditional crimped elastic band; it’s looser, riding nicely on the hips, and the shorts rely on the overall fit to hold them up.  For the first few minutes of running in them they slip down slightly but once you get a little warmed up and sweat a bit, they hold snuggly in place.  There is a convenient pocket at the small of the back that can hold a couple gels.  A zipper pocket here would be useful.  The compression material varies through the thigh and crotch.  Around the quads and hamstrings the material is perforated, enabling it to breath well and dry very quickly even with the loose over-shorts.  In the crotch and inner thigh the material is solid.  Without the over-shorts covering this section, it allows for smooth movement with no friction and breaths well.

At $80-$100 they are pricey but the quality and technology built into the Exo II Wings TW Shorts will change your perception of this piece of utilitarian but otherwise forgotten running gear.

www.salomonrunning.com

JFK 50 Race Preview

Photo from Running Times 2003 article

49 years.  Other than some participants, not much is older in our sport of ultrarunning than the JFK 50 miler.  The event began as part of a series of challenges created by JFK to… well, you can read the brief history here.  The history of this race is remarkable, right down to the legends who loyally return most years for this classic, including Eric Clifton, Ed Ayres (In the 1977 photo left in the back with green singlet and 70 yrs old this year), and Ian Torrence.

Over 1,100 runners will be pounding the pavement, gravel toe path, and Appalachian Trail, starting in Boonsboro and finishing in Williamsport.  Weather in Maryland this time of year is unpredictable, at best.  Forecast  for race morning is a comfortably cool 50 degrees with partly cloudy skies, near perfect conditions for a fast race.  Race-addicted Michael Wardian returns this year presumably focused on redeeming himself for last year’s 6th place finish in 6:12.  Coming off two quick marathons run within seven days (2:26 and 2:22, both 2nd places), Wardian will toe yet another start line with a self-inflicted handicap, which must scrub at least some of his raw speed off his performance.  Poised to take advantage of the situation is last year’s 2nd place JFK finisher, David Riddle.  Riddle finished one minute off the win in 5:53, one of only two instances when he’s finished with anything lower than a win in his ultra career.  Of course, David will have to contend with several other speedy dudes, including Andrew Henshaw, who handed David his only other 2nd place finish earlier this year at Mad City 100k.

For the ladies, let’s ride the wave of Meghan Arbogast’s impressive season.  She’ll have her hands full in the rematch with the Blue Ridge Mountain runner, Annette Bednosky.  They did America proud at the 100k world champs, coming in 5th and 6th respectively.  The last time they raced JFK in 2009 they duked it out for 2nd and 3rd (behind Devon Crosby-Helms).  With the bulk number of participants, there’s always openings for new “unknowns” to break out.  One of my dark horse picks is Cassie Scallon.  Not an unknown by any stretch, but faded off the scene a bit this year until just last month with her win (overall) at Glacial Trail 50k.

Gook luck to all the runners at this classic!

Weekend Wrap at Inside Trail: A Party of Course Records

Liza Howard‘s rabbit costume was, uh, fitting this weekend at Javelina Jundred.  After months of injury (broken foot), recovery, and rebuilding, the excitement to race again was uncorked to the dismay of her female competition and all but three of the men in the large starting field of 100 milers in Fountain Hills, Arizona.  Howard scampered into the lead from the start and held the torrid pace throughout, crossing the line in 15:47 and eclipsing the course record by 1hr 24mins.  Brenda Corona ran a great race but was still over four hours back in 2nd (19:57).

Hal Koerner ripped through the seven loops of desert trails, holding off a pesky Evan Honeyfield all day for a course record effort of 13:47.  Congratulations to everyone at JJ100.

Around the world in New South Wales Australia records were being buried as well at the Great North Walk 100mi/100k.  Four men crossed the finish under the former course record time with Andrew Vize winning in 22:02.  For the women’s win (and 7th overall), Meredith Quinlan showed everyone how it’s done in 25:03.

Jean Pommier Photo: his blog

Of course, Western States 100 opened up entry into its lottery on Saturday.  One must at least finish a 50 mile race in under 11 hours in order to qualify for the lottery.  The aptly named Last Chance 50 took place Saturday in Granite Bay, CA.  Jean Pommier continued his fast wins, crossing the line in 5:43 (CR and PR for him).  For the ladies, Beverly Anderson-Abbs returned to racing with a bang, finishing first in 7:00 (CR).  Oh, and 89 people finished in under 11 hours, so they qualify to enter Western States.  They would likely have a better chance at beating Mr. Pommier in a 50k than getting selected to run WS.