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!