Hogpen Hillclimb

Helen, GA - January 17, 2004

Race Report by Michael Sellman

Photos - - 17K Results - - 5K Results

Well, I lost my virginity at Hogpen, after fears of "not being able to get it up" .... to the top of the hill, that is. Thank goodness my performance anxieties didn't turn to any real performance issues, with the exception of a few very tough miles near the end of the course.

Heading up to Hogpen from Atlanta on the party bus, I found myself in somewhat unfamiliar territory, actually worrying about what it was going to be like, and wondering just how bad it was going to be. Hogpen is one of the two Georgia races that have nasty reputations as knuckle-scrapers. The other race, The Brasstown Bald-Buster, is "only" a 5K, but the winning time is often over 30 minutes. Hogpen, on the other hand, stretches out over 17K, and much of the net elevation gain of 2500 feet comes in the final miles of the race.

I had seen an elevation map on the trip up, so I had some idea of what miles 8 and 9 were going to be like, and as a result, started out very conservatively. I also carried a single-use camera to get pictures on the way, which I'll post after I get them developed. Everyone on the bus wrote down their predicted times before the race, and I had been told to expect finish times similar to a normal half-marathon time, so I wrote down a goal of 1:55, figuring the shooting a roll of film on the way would slow me down a little. My last two recent history halves were 1:47 and 1:50.

From what I've heard of previous Hogpen's, the weather this year was very good. The course is often detoured and changed to an out-and back due to icy roads on the upper half of the course, but this year, the report of 40 degrees at the top sounded almost dreamy. At the bottom, I would guess it was about 50 at the start.

The race started by winding through the quaint village of Helen, a quaint Alpine community most famous for its annual Oktoberfest. If the race had been a 5K, I would rate it as difficult and hilly, but the first three miles here was just a foreshadowing of what was to come.

I snapped a couple of pictures as we passed through town, and the splits were hard to figure out. Someone had said that markers were probably ill-placed, due to the fact that the race used to start in a different location, and perhaps some of the markers had not been adjusted.

Mile 1-8:59
Mile 2-9:22
Mile 3-9:58 (28:20 for 3 miles-it felt like it should have been way quicker than that.)

The main things I remember about miles 4-6 is that the uphill grades increased, but every mile at least had sections of flatlands or valleys, and I had no desire to walk...yet.

Mile 4-9:01
Mile 5-9:47
Mile 6-9:00 (6 miles in 56:09 with the worst yet to come. I was actually starting to feel pretty good at this point.)

By mile 7, the elevation was starting to bring the temperature down, and a light drizzle started falling. The forecast had called for afternoon rain, and I was hoping what was currently happening would stay a drizzle, which, thankfully, it did.

It was during mile 7 that I did my first walking, during one of those long steep uphill stretches, where you could see a long way, and it was all uphill. By walking with enthusiasm, the walkers at that point were pretty much keeping up with the runners, which was a pretty amusing sight. I wasn't really tired, but was definitely in conservation mode, still aware that the worst was just ahead.

Mile 8, simply put, was a cruel joke, and it was at that point that I figured that whoever mapped out the course was not a runner, but a very sick person. I started this stretch of walking at about 7.1, and didn't start up again until at least 7 3/4, where the climb became a little more gradual.

Mile 9 was only a little better, as the road finally leveled off and dropped down near the end of the mile. I probably walked more than half of it, and when I started running again, my legs did feel a little like jelly for the first few minutes. Now it was getting closer to cold than cool.

Mile 7-11:25
Mile 8-13:42
Mile 9-12:05 (Hmmmm, that 5K would have been about 38 minutes, but I knew at this point the very worst of the worst was over. Only 1.7 to go.)

The 10th mile still had some steep uphills, and I walked some more, keeping up with the runners still, and putting enough effort into it that between the exertion and elevation, I could feel a pulsating and elevated heartbeat throughout my body. There were now areas of thick ice along the cascades than lined the road, which I got some pictures of.

Just before 10 miles, I got a sudden burst of energy, and felt great. Also, I know that the distance between mile 10 and the finish was WELL less than 0.58 miles. I would guess it was closer to maybe 4/10ths, but I wasn't complaining.

Mile 10-11:55
Finish-4:09. (Total clock time 1:49:26. I was very pleased with the time, and actually, my legs felt pretty darn good for what they had just been through.)

I learned a lot this time about how to race it in the future. I would definitely take the first 6 miles much more aggressively, but would probably walk in all the same places I did this year.

Overall, it was a fun, and very long day. The bus first left for Helen a little after 8:30 in the morning, and by the time we all had dinner and made our return trip to Atlanta, it was 8:30 in the evening.

I also took a few pictures along the way. They can be viewed at: http://community.webshots.com/album/112360851MiDjHw

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