With the extension of Willet Drive and addition of “The Grove” apartments, beginning in 2013, the start/end of the Pilot Hill Race was pushed a bit further east. For 3 years we started a bit further east, at the end of Willet and that required another km of wandering in the flats to ensure everyone gets their money’s worth for a full 25 km race. In 2016 we’re moving again, to the new Spine and Injury Clinic and Altitude Fitness Center located on Grand Ave (3900 E Grand Ave).
New in 2016 we will start from Altitude Fitness Center on East Grand. A (very) short jaunt on Boulder drive before being dumped onto the prairie. As with the old course, expect a mile or so of wandering on the flats on dirt roads before hitting the trail that is mostly “two-track” on seldom used jeep roads across mostly (85%) private land.
At the start, runners wind through the sandy flats on the east end of town. After about mile, runners climb along hogback and pass through the hidden Yucca valley. Passed the yuccas, the first very mild climb begins through Owl Canyon (what a hoot!) and next to the duckponds 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, 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!