Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pilot Mountain Marathon 2013

What do you do a week after running 126.2 miles in overseas?  You could go for a easy sight-seeing tour for the rest of the trip, commence training for the next race, start your no-more-training regime for a month to recuperate, or in my case, choose an easy marathon to make your trip to USA more worthwhile.  Frankly speaking, I was not sure if I made the right decision then.  But when I was signing up for the 2 races, I reckoned either (1) I should recover by then to do a recovery marathon, or (2) I might have DNFed in the Rouge-Orleans race and would have energy to run another marathon.  Since Renoh was studying in DC, I asked him if he wanted to join me for some trail fun.  He agreed and gave me a list of trail races "near" the DC area - somewhere that we could easily drive there and back.  I checked through the list and decided on Pilot Mountain Marathon in North Carolina - a State that I had yet to run a marathon.  :)  So I registered for the marathon distance while Renoh registered for the half.  When the day finally came, I had completed the Rouge-Orleans Ultramarathon in a piece, though it didn't help with the 1 1/2 days of traveling by bus from New Orleans to Washington DC, and another 320 miles drive from DC to Pilot Mountain.  After more than 7 hours of driving (including rest time and traffic jam), we arrived safely at Pilot Mountain at around 9pm.  We decided to have fast food for dinner in the small town as it was late, before returning to the hotel to rest.  :)

We woke up early at 6am plus and changed into our running gear.  As car parking facilities were limited, we decided to check-out of the hotel early even though the race start was at 9am.  The drive to the race start was uneventful although we did manage to get lost!  Luckily, we spotted our mistake and managed to arrive by 7:45am.  The weather was a cold -1 (minus 1) degree celsius.  As this was a small race, there was no expo and runners had to pick up their race pack on race day.  :)  We reluctantly got out of the car to collect our race pack, before returning to the car to keep warm.  The race pack contained our race bib, a set of arm warmers and a magazine.  Full marathoners received a copy of Ultra Running magazine while Half marathoners received a copy of Trail Runner magazine.  We got ready our bib in the car and only joined in the rest of the runners about 10mins before the race start.  When we stepped out, we realised it was snowing!

Collection of Race Pack and Race Start!

After a short brief, the race director flagged of the race for both the full and half marathoners at 9:00am sharp.  There was a stream filled with water just less than 100m from the start and majority of the runners decided that the dry route (by jumping from dry surface to dry surface) would be a better option.  I did that too before finding myself running on a slight incline.  By the first 10mins, I had dropped to the back of the pack as usual as I had spent too much time to take in the nice views and photos.  By then, Renoh was long gone together with majority of the runners.  The only worry was that Renoh would have to wait for me since he was much faster than me and not to mention, running half the distance shorter!  But I was confident that when I warmed up, I would start picking up my pace.  :)

 Flagged Off for the Pilot Mountain Marathon and Half!

The cut-off time was a generous 7 hours for the Pilot Mountain Marathon.  I thought I should have sufficient time to make it, though not necessarily easily.  I enjoyed running the early portion of the race (about 7 miles from start to the Half Marathon turn-around point), which comprised a series of long, rolling hills with a few road and stream crossings.  There was no traffic for the road crossings and the runners could just leap over the small streams.  The first aid station (more like a water point) was about 2 miles out and unmanned, containing plain water.  As it was early in the race, I didn't stop to refill my water bottle.  As I stopped and took photos of the scenery, I passed some runners but then realised that they were only doing the half.  This meant that I should run faster.  The second aid station was another 2 miles away.  This was a fully-stocked aid station with sports drinks and bananas.  I stopped to say hi to the volunteers.  It was lovely of them (especially the kids) to came out early in the cold morning to support us.  :)  Shortly after I left the aid station, I saw the first man and first woman for the half marathon running back towards the start/finish before 10:25am!  This was kind of depressing because I had not even reached the turnaround for the half marathon distance and something I didn't like about when the half and full marathon distance shared the same route.  :(  I spent some time to take photos of the half marathoners when they ran past me on their way back.  I then saw Renoh at around 10:40am and he told me I was near the turnaround point.  I thanked him and pressed on, but still continued to take photos of other returning runners.  :p

 The Aid Station; Numerous Stream Crossings; Runners Running the Half; Renoh!

I reached the half marathon turn-around point about 10 minutes later at 10:50am. After refilling the water, a volunteer pointed to a path across the road. I asked him if that was the mountain I was supposed to head towards. He said "not to the top of the mountain but somewhere near". I thanked him and headed towards to mountain. This part of the route was tough not so much of the elevation but terrain. It comprised of lots of roots and rocks / stones and I wasn't able to run at all. The area also seemed to be burnt.  Luckily this was a short stretch wasn't that long before I caught up with a lady.  At a split junction, a volunteer directed me the direction to run towards.

 The Mountain that Appeared Near the Top-right Corner in the above Photo!

The Rough Terrain (Left); The Volunteer; The Runner Whom I Passed Earlier!

I reached the top of Pilot Mountain at 12pm.  The aid station was next to the car park.  After I refilled my bottles, I check-out and left.  I went straight to a trail.  After a while, I saw a volunteer guarding a Y-Junction of the trail.  I was required to do a loop around Pilot Mountain before going down the trail.  The view of the rock formation was very unique and I ended up taking a bit of time to admire structures and to take photos for remembrance.  The loop took me 20mins to complete before I bombed my way down the mountains.  Luckily, it was a different way down and except for some stairs near the top of the mountain, the rest of the route was very runnable.  I reached another aid station 35mins later.  I had a banana, a quick drink and refilled my water bottle before I went off.  This part of the trail was just as smooth and after another 25mins later, I reached the turn-around point for the half marathoners at 1:30pm!

The Terrain On The Way Up Pilot Mountain and Aid Station @ Top of Pilot Mountain!

Rock Formation @ Pilot Mountain!

Way Down To Aid Station!

After refilling my water bottle for one last time, I picked up my pace and run as much as possible.  I managed to catch up with 2 other female runners.  I continued to push myself to run.  I felt very surreal running in the woods all by myself.  All I could hear was my own footsteps and breathing.  Up and down (but mostly down) I followed the rolling hills and how I wished I could run all day long in such terrain and weather.  But every good thing must come to the end.  And it did for the Pilot Mountain Marathon, which I eventually crossed the finishing line in 6hrs 20mins.  Renoh had already cool down by then.  He helped me to get some drink before the Race Director presented me my Finishing Mug!  It was great to receive something totally different.  Something that I could use instead of display.  I was delighted to have completed another trail marathon and to strike off North Carolina as another state where I completed a marathon.  :)  Mission accomplished.

At Turn-Around Aid Station; Caught Up With 2 Ladies; On The Way Back; The Finishing Line!

My Hard Earned Finishing Mug!

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