Saturday, January 7, 2012

Race # 19 - Pilot Mountain Challenge 5k

Pilot Mountain Challenge 5k
9:00 AM
Pinnacle, NC
Time: 30:36
Placed 16th Overall

I never got around to writing a report for this race so here goes nothing. I registered for the PM Challenge 5k excited as this was the inaugural year for the race and it runs almost from the bottom of Pilot Mountain, to the summit, via the Grindstone trail. I've ran these trails numerous times so I knew them very well.

I didn't know what to expect on race day but there were a lot of people who showed up for this race, including Jason and Allison Bryant, both LaSportiva runners. Jason has won all three Pilot Mountain Payback trail marathons that have been raced on these trails. He's a super nice guy and would have been a favorite to win. However, he informed me after the race that he broke his arm back in the fall and was told not to run for 6 weeks. Luckily, that time frame ended right before this race. So he was game.

We all lined up on a chilly Saturday morning, me donning the Hoka Mafate's as I was still having some achilles issues from the November marathon. Actually more like the week I didn't take off after the marathon (stupid mistake). So I was nervous about how my foot would react to a mostly uphill race.

I started near the front and made my way through the crowd to get out in front of the mass. I wasn't going to win, but I didn't want to have to weave through the crowd by starting in the back. I settled in to a pace that was quick, but it's only a 3 mile race so I knew I just had to give it all I had for those 3 miles. Since I knew the trails, I made it through some semi-technical sections easily. It was mostly up and down until one big hill, and then it was all uphill from there.

This is one of those races that you just put your head down and go, without looking up to see how far ahead you have to go. So I did just that. I ran with a couple other guys and we made our way up. Once you get to the split where the Ledge Springs trail forks to the right, that's when the real fun starts. Man-made steps always give me trouble on this trail. I tried running around them so not having to 'step' each one. There was one water stop on the steps but I passed and kept going. I started power hiking while the guy in front of me was running. He did not gain any ground. So I decided to conserve energy and continue to power hike. Once the stairs were over, I picked it up again and we entered the summit parking lot.

The last section we headed around the Pilot Mountain knob. We passed the leader, and Jason was in second about 10 seconds behind. That's where he'd finish. Not bad for taking 6 weeks off. As we headed around the knob, I was the middle man in a pack of three. We stayed this way and I had planned to make a pass about 200 meters from the finish. This was thrown out the window as this section was crowded with people starting their run around the knob while we were ending our run around the knob. So I didn't have a chance to pass. We ran up some steep steps in the same order, and once we got to the top, the guy in front of me started sprinting. My legs were like jello. I started sprinting too late when I saw the finish and knew I couldn't catch him, I just hoped I could hold off the guy behind me. I did, and finished in 16th place with a time of 30:36. Most importantly, no achilles pain!

I enjoyed some homemade chili and then headed home. It was a good race and I look forward to doing it again next year!

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