Sunday, February 20, 2011

2011 Pilot Mountain

Got to admit I just don't get the name of this race.  I mean, Pilot Mountain had never done anything to me before.  I had no reason to 'pay it back' for anything.  But now I do.

I've driven by Pilot Mountain literally hundreds of times on my way to Tennessee and totally LOVE this mountain.  It must always cold on top . . .

But I've never run or hiked on it.

So I was definitely looking forward to this adventure.  I chose this race on the advice of my friend (now ex-friend) Jim Plant.  Jim ran the race last year and had rave reviews . . . such comments as "It's a keeper for sure!" and "Frank, you'll love this one!"  And perhaps my favorite: "It's got that one climb up to the top, but it's not bad at all."

So I decided to add it to my 2011 list.  There were two races going on Saturday - the marathon (just less then 80 runners) and what they called a heavy Half marathon (about 14.5 miles) (about 150 runners).

This race was no joke.  So . . . not a lot funny to talk about when remembering my day.  Sorry to the ten's of reader out there!!

Decided to get up early and drive to the race and save a few bucks.  Ended up getting there early and had time to see a bunch of folks. Weather was perfect!  Almost needed gloves . . . but not quite! 
Jade and Jim Wei with their dog Canyon
Mark and Jim before the start.
Aren't Lynne and Ken 'Stylin'??

The race really turned out to be three races for me.

One of 10-12 creek crossings.  The cool water was nice coming back!
After an immediate creek crossing and a steep 1/4 climb off the bat, things settled in.  The first 8 miles were sweet.  Nothing too hard at all.  Just rolling hills and a few shallow creek crossings.  I especially enjoyed these miles, running (and walking) with Jim Plant, Connie Howe and Lynne Evans.  Had a blast with these folks!  Loved how the returning half marathoners kept telling us the turnaround is just ahead!!

But after the 3rd aid station where the half marathoners turned around, things started to change!  The trail started to climb . . . at first not terrible but with an increasing amount of rocks.  And soon it just got bad.  Really steep with very tricky footing and TONs of rocks!  It wasn't long before Connie, Jim and Lynne were out of sight and I was all alone.

 I had decided that for this marathon I would try using my hiking poles.  GOOD CALL!!  Ever since my fall at the Medoc Re-Run where I broke my wrist, I'm just freaking out about falls.   And these poles definitely saved me several times!  But I've got to get a new pair because where the bear had chewed one of the pole grips was so rough it ended up really hurting my hands.

After the initial hard, steep climb the trail headed steeply down!  Crap!  After gaining all that elevation, I sure didn't want to lose it, just to have to gain it again.  These steep downhills proved to be every bit as hard as the uphills.  Again, so glad I had the poles.

Eventually, the trail headed back up . . . straight up!  Eventually the rough single track joined a nicely graded trail where the grade was not so ridiculous.  I heard voices behind me and surprise, surprise it was some marathoners catching me!  Huh?  I was pretty sure I was in last place.  Turns out these folks were finishing the loop around the summit and were soon to head down the mountain.

Me . . . well I had a ton more climbing to do!  The trail got steeper.  And the the steps started.  Hundreds of frickin' steps!  My legs were totally shot!  After what seemed like a mile of this torture, I FINALLY got to the aid station!  Chilly and windy so I didn't linger, but followed the trail around the base of the 'nipple' . . . seems like I was either going up rock steps or going down them.  Did I mention that my legs were totally shot?

 Lots of people up at the top of the mountain enjoying the beautiful day and the fantastic scenery.  But they all drove up here!! 

After making the circle around, the course designer had one final, ugly climb in store for us just when I had convinced myself it would all be down hill from here!  To call him sadistic is an understatement!

Some of the 'backside' cliffs
After that short killer climb on my totally shot leg (did I mention how shot my legs were?) we followed the base of the cliffs on the mountain's back side where there were literally hundreds of rock climbers out enjoying the day.  I would have liked to watch them climb.

As I was passing one group, a young guy (20s) called out to me, "Hey old man, aren't you too old to be doing stuff like this?"  I stopped, turned around and called back to him, "Aren't you too young NOT to be doing it with me?"  His friends enjoyed that!  But as I continued on, I started thinking that maybe he had a point.

This backside trail continued to be challenging . . . steps up and steps down.  Tricky footing.  Just a joy!!

But at about mile 13, the trail started to get easier as I started heading down the mountain.  No more single track!  But my this time my legs were totally shot (I believe I mentioned this!).  I was able to run the down hills (with just a few walk breaks) but I had to walk the flats and uphills.

For the last several miles I had been looking at my GPS and was some kind of disappointed to see how much further I had to go.  Coming in the the 5th aid station my GPS said I was at like 14.  But the guy manning the aid station told me that really I was at about 17.5 or so!  Finally something that picked up my spirits!

For the rest of the day I ran the downs, tried to run most of the flats (unsuccessfully I might add!) and I never even THOUGHT about running an uphill!  But I did enjoy looking back at what we had just finished!

So I finished.  DFL  (Dead F***in' Last).  Just over 7 hours . . . missing the cutoff by about two minutes.  Living up to my blog's name . . . believe it or not . . . I really was hurrying!  That's just sad.

This was a HARD marathon.  Very hard!  For the marathon distance, In my memory it was second only to the Leadville Trail Marathon (which I DNFed).  Glad it's done!  Oh . . . and Jimbo . . . thanks sooo much for talking me into this day of torture!  :-)

And I'm still thinking about what that guy said . . .

PS - February 22 - The race posted results today and I see that a was the last finisher . . . but 4 people got disqualified due to running an alternate course and three DNFed.  So I guess I BEAT seven people!!!


  1. nice recap Frank...being my first marathon, I sure hope they get better...

  2. Ha, that brings back memories of the Pikes Peak Marathon. 'There's only just the 1 hill.'

    I tried to explain to people just how hard the -downhill- is. Good job gettin' it done...I'll have to put that one on my watch list. (Cuz I guess we are gluttons for punishment?)

  3. Great Job Frank, nice recap. Though, I must say I don't think I'll be doing this one anytime soon :)

  4. Nothing wrong with a dfl. You were certainly doing more than the little 20 year old kid. I bet you go back next year. You just love a challenge.

  5. That kid was just the devil spewing lies. Rise up and beat down the enemy! ;-)


  6. Pilot Mtn is a beast. Good luck in the future. Way to finish. THats all that matters. We shot a little video at the finish of the race.

    Gotta Run,


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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.