Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pilot Hill 25K, "The Oldest Footrace in Wyoming"

I always enjoy getting up to Laramie a few times a year to run events put on by the High Plains Harriers - an unceasingly friendly bunch.

Mike Hinterberg, Frank Praznik and I traveled up to the 34th running of Wyoming's 'oldest footrace' enjoying good conversation while checking out the great transitional scenery between Colorado's Front Range and Laramie's High Plains via Hwy 287.

Being the low key affair that the Pilot Hill Classic is I knew it was likely to be more time trial than race and I was absolutely fine with that. I was mainly focused on getting up the hill in under an hour after missing that mark by two and half minutes last year. With the slight tailwind on offer at the start, that seemed a reasonable enough goal. I wasn't too concerned about the trip back down, although I did want to push a bit to continue the Western States quad strengthening work.

The course starts with two to three miles of relatively flat meandering through sandy jeep track on the outskirts of town, before the climbing starts in earnest. The climb itself is about 1,600 feet over five to six miles, so not a major grade, but certainly steady. The footing varies from loose sand, to grass, to hardpack, to loose rock, to moonscape rock, to ruts, and back to sand; so a real mixed bag to keep you on your toes. The out is actually a bit longer than the back with the up being approximately 8.5 miles and the down approximately seven.

I got out at a hard, but comfortable pace and settled into a nice rhythm. Within a half mile it was evident that I probably wasn't going to have any competition, so I just focused on maintaining a comfortably hard effort, getting to the telecommunications towers at the top in 59:46, which was just under three minutes faster than last year. Certainly the tailwind helped, but then last year I was chasing the leader up the hill and not running solo like today, so probably an even trade. It definitely felt like I was moving easier today than I remember from last year, so another encouraging sign as far as general fitness is concerned.

Immediately on turning around for the descent, it was like being hit by a sledgehammer. The wind had really picked up and must have been gusting to 25 mph. It actually felt like I was working harder to maintain a solid pace down the hill than I had coming up it. I ended up about a minute and a half slower on the down versus last year and 75 seconds faster overall, finishing in 1:43:45.

Thanks to RD Jeff French for the homebrew post-race and the mighty fine spread of food. Really, this race deserves much better attendance, because for 20 bucks the value simply cannot be beaten.

Next weekend I'm on my home turf for the showdown with Mr Top American at the Horsetooth Trail Half. This is a tough one to call. I certainly have a massive advantage with course knowledge, but Justin is coming off a 2:29 in London, so where the ball will fall, nobody knows. Maybe we'll both get beat. That would shut us up!


  1. Nice run Nick - your climbing seems to be really solid this year.

    I don't know the course for next weekend but I would think the homefield advantage may work in your favor. Especially if it comes down to some fast downs at the end.

  2. Well done Nick! Is Hanson running next week or resting up for Bighorn? He is the only winner the half has seen in its 4 years and could crash your showdown with Mock if he shows. I believe he set a CR at Wyoming Double last week. If I run I'll just make sure to get out of your way if you lap me on the 2nd loop.

    Brother Pine
    BH100 minus 2 weeks

  3. You're lucky - I have an all-day date to RMNP the day before our race. I'll be tired.

  4. Aw, there go the excuses already! Top American is going to be busy chasing ass all day so can't bring his A game.

    I don't know where to put my money. Such a short distance. Um, I am going to head over to for the weekend race prediction. That crew is usually spot on (except for road marathons in Massachusetts) so I will put my wager where they tell me.

  5. Rob - haven't spoken to Corey in some time. I'd imagine he'll be there next weekend, but it may be a bit close to Bighorn. And, yeah, he's won every one of the two-loopers since they added it. That said, I'm thinking he'll have to go under 1:40 to five-peat. Hope to see you out there - or on Tuesday. If you fancy logging a few extra miles Tuesday night and dissecting Bighorn a bit, I normally park on the other side of Reservoir Ridge at 5:45 and run over to Michaud for 6:00.

    Justin - by "all day date,' you mean you'll be taking a leisurely stroll checking out beautiful scenery. Sounds like the perfect pre-race day to me. Sorry, you'll have to do better than that for excuses.

    Brandon - yeah, I was way off on Boston, but I'm thinking I've got your Leadville prediction close.

  6. Congrats! And how was the post-race spread, and did you get another spectacularly large beer?

  7. Scott - post-race spread was as good as last year. I ended up taking a doggy bag home! No beer prizes this year - a little disappointed about that - but Jeff's homebrew was definitely a winner.