Monday, June 7, 2010

Pilot Hill 25k

Pilot Hill 25k Trail Race
Laramie, WY

Billed as the "Oldest Footrace in Wyoming" at 34 years, the Pilot Hill 25k also has many aspects that really appeal to me: breakfast, beer, and cheap entry fee, to name just a few (and it just got better). Truthfully, they had me at breakfast, but that meant I had to run the darn thing.

So I had just mailed in my entry just over a week ago -- and promptly flown over the handlebars of my mt. bike. In my post-hematomatic condition, I hadn't run a step until the Thursday before the race, so I was quite nervous about being able to start the race, let alone finish it. I did a test run of about an hour on Thursday, though, and found that if I wrapped up my side tightly, and got past the initial pain, I was able to run without feeling like I was doing anything destructive, although my breathing was slightly constricted. I did another run Friday and figured I'd be able to do the distance. I just didn't know what sort of speed to expect, with a week off. 2 hours even looked like a great aspirational goal when I was healthy. Unhealthy, I figured a good goal would be to be the fastest runner wearing a Maxi pad, first-place in the Hematomatic Division for Males Age 34 and Under.

Anyway, found out about this race courtesy of Nick , who's done some great advertising for Wyoming racing events in the past (namely, by having fun there and winning them). We carpooled up with Frank Praznick from Fort Collins -- it was great to meet him as he's ramping up his interest in trail running. This race would mean I've done a race every month of the year so far, which in my limited running history is somewhat unusual, as I usually just focus on a couple per year, with another fun one or two thrown in. At this point, I guess I might pursue this all year: finding something fun/different each month, in addition to some key goal races.

About 40 of us lined up for a nonchalant start at the east edge of town. Since it ran partly across private property, that means you get to run "something different" for race day as opposed to the rest of the year. We were off, and took off on a beginning section of very gradual incline on sandy trail. Quickly, we were dispersed into Nick, first pack of 3 or 4, and second pack of 3 or 4, where I was trying to hang on. With no mile markers or visible reference, I had no clue about pace, so I stuck with what felt hard while matching pace around me.

Now, for a small race, they had great support of a cooler with Gatorade and water every 3-4 miles, when they could easily have had nothing or made us carry our own. With my injury, I decided ahead of time to grab Gatorade every stop, in case my body was slightly out of wack for any reason due to the blood loss, but I never felt light-headed or anything. Anyway, that cost me a little time I wouldn't have planned, but still felt good.

Like any out-and-back, the disadvantage of seeing the same terrain twice also has the advantage, of seeing the same terrain twice. The rocky, more technical sections were very solid, as the rocks were stuck tight in the ground. That is, although the bottom was sandy and loose, the rocky sections were not. The new terrain was fun variety and we weaved into some pine trees, before opening up into some nice views of Laramie, and finally getting close to the towers on top of the hill.

I was waiting to see Nick and the top few coming back down, and vascillated between wanting to see them as a sign of getting to the top, versus not wanting to see them (as a sign that they were way ahead!) Soon enough, Nick came flying down with a lead of several minutes, I finally reached the last steep section of switchback to the top, chased around the truck for a Gatorade, and headed back down, noticing the 2 guys that had been hot on my heels for a few miles.

The downhill greeted us with a fierce headwind. I got us horizontal as I could, but it would still stop me mid-stride, cartoon-like, in some of the bigger gusts, somehow blowing me back up the hill. As Frank said later, "Our hair speed did not match our ground speed." Very discouraging, but we plugged along. I was happy with the semi-technical downhills, and could actually gain some ground, but the other guys caught me and pulled away on the open flats. After them, though, I couldn't see anybody.

I figured 2 hours was out now, so I just enjoyed the rest of the run. In the last couple of miles, my bandage wrap became loose. I fiddled with it while running, and my Maxi pad flew off. Not wanting to litter, I turned around and chased it in the wind, then stuffed the whole assembly in my pocket, finishing the race with my big lump jiggling around.

I survived in around 2:04. I was enough with that in the conditions and post-injury, but really happy to enjoy breakfast, beer (great ESB homebrew from RD, Jeff), and a respite from the wind, while chatting with other runners. Various better runners in various divisions won some nice little prizes for such a cool, small race. I did not win anything "official", but went home with the coveted bloody singlet:


  1. Love the comedy dude, and glad you decided to tough it out. Fun morning.

    BTW - now that you've replaced concrete with dirt up top (great shot - Poudre trail, right?), can you please tell me the location of that previous trail you had on your header. Been bugging me for months.

  2. Thanks for the company, fun morning all around!

    Yes, Poudre trail up there now -- got some interesting light when I happened to have the camera last week.

    Like the Poudre trail, the previous shot is probably also one of the most popular spots in town, in HTMP: coming back from Horsetooth Falls, the uphill before the final downhill connection back to the upper parking lot. It was probably this time last year, when the falls were flowing and everything was lush and green.

  3. Wow - can't believe I couldn't place it. I only run there 5 times a week.