In 2016 we once again moved the start/finish of Pilot Hill course. We will maintain the same location for 2017 — from Altitude Fitness Center on East Grand. Runners will get their ~25 yards of obligatory pavement on Boulder Drive before being dumped onto the prairie. As with the old course, runners wind through the sandy flats on the east end of town. After about mile, runners climb along hogback and then pass through a small canyon–gain a bit of elevation only to give it all back as the course curves around to the mouth of Owl Canyon. At this point, runners cross the wash and climb through Owl Canyon (what a hoot!) and next to the duckponds and finally to the fenceline and the first (lower) aid station.
After leaving the lower aid station, the course turns into a steady climb. The next couple of miles are on low grade, very runnable sand and dirt two track, climbing to middle aid station. The middle aid station marks the halfway mark up the hill distance-wise, but only about 1/3 of the way in terms of vertical. The climbing becomes more serious from here–climbing up the Devil’s Staircase and through the gap (from below it appears as a saddle, but sadly once reached the climb continues).
After the gap, runners are greeted by near-views of Pilot Hill and great views of the Rawahs to the south. Here is the point on the course where one may see elk or in years with cool, wet springs, runners may also find some lingering snow drifts across the trail. Another couple of miles and runners reach the last couple of short switchbacks up the final ascent to the top.
The top aid station provides runners a chance to replenish their supplies and take in some quick views of the Sherman Mountains to the east before the descent. The race down is a whole ‘nuther ballgame. In places, runners are greeted by fast, soft runnable surfaces and others are covered with ankle-busting limestone. It’s full speed ahead for the downhill descent!