Give it a rest with the Mole Hill already, right?

NOTE:  Real molehills, not THE Mole Hill.
I hear you, but it put its hooks in me.  Did right from the start and never let go.

Was thinking recently that I'd be curious if there is another name for that hill, trail, ridge, what it might be and who got to name it in the first place.  Doesn't matter, really, as I'll never consider it anything but the mountain I've made of it and have been busy, busy cementing its newly christened name to any and all who will listen.

I've tried on numerous occasions to take photos and/or shoot video there but justice cannot be done.  Frankly, the hill's just not all that pretty and there aren't long enough lines of sight to even provide much visibility of what lies above or below at any given point. It's not very tall and between knowing that and not being able to see the crest above or the bottom below through the trees, Mole Hill just isn't all that visually foreboding.

The actual measurements?

At the base, the hill is a pedestrian 571 feet above sea level and at the tippiest top you aren't likely to find yourself throwing wide your arms and bellowing out any DeCaprion "king of the world" proclamations.  The full height is only 1019 feet.  BUT, you do get there in a hurry.  

Let me modify that.

You don't necessarily GET there in a hurry but the distance between point A and point B is a mere .41 miles.

Meaning what?

Meaning that in well under half a mile, you will have gained 448 feet of elevation and done so with rocks, leaf litter, logs and downed limbs adding further obstacle to the ascent.  That's a healthy grade of over 20% and there aren't any breaks along the way, no "whew, at least that part is behind me" sections to be had.

It took me somewhere in the vicinity of 1.5-2 years to finally run the whole thing from top to bottom and I screamed with joy with what little air I had left in my lungs the first time I topped out on the move.  I've been up and down that trail many, many times since and have only seen 2 other people run the whole thing and only 1 of those 2 convincingly.  I've been stoked for both of those friends and will be for everyone else who gets there too.

That's not meant to pat me on the back, but it is offered as evidence that I'm not making claims of a secret location that no one has ever visited to back my claims.

Mole Hill is real and if it wasn't for my peculiar fixation on it, I don't think I'd have made ascending it on the run such a regular part of my routine.

I honestly don't have many love/hate relationships but whatever is going on between me and that ridge definitely qualifies as such.

I usually like to include an ascent of Mole Hill in longer runs rather than just settling into that one spot.  Like I said, it really isn't all that long and I often want to log more mileage than I possibly can by staying just in that one spot.  The surrounding area is beautiful and offers up prettier trails of varying length, technicality and distance.  The many trails of Camp Mack and Pumping Station are less than a mile away and the climb up Mole Hill connects directly to the Horseshoe Trail.  Throwing Mole Hill in the mix ups the difficulty factor and adds intrigue but there's usually plenty of great running to be had away from the Hill too.

But, a couple of nights ago, I grit my teeth and decided to see how many laps I could churn out, how many miles I could manage at one go.  I didn't have all night, as I'd promised to bring back Benadryl for my wheezing, sniffling allergy-suffering wife sometime well before sunrise so she could at least eke out a few hours of drug-induced sleep before I departed for work in the morning.  As muggy a night as it was, she didn't have to worry...the time I could survive on that hill was unlikely to be measured in hours.

And it wasn't.

The first ascent was ugly.  The heat surprised me and I think I went at the climb too aggressively for wanting to do repeats.  I topped out running but was far more gassed than I wanted/needed to be that early in the effort.  Of course, topping out means getting to turn heels into a balance-challenging/quad-thrashing downhill but does allow for the catching of breath and the overall calming of the cardiovascular system.

At the bottom, I felt good.

I downed a salt tablet and some Gatorade to stay ahead of any unwanted cramping and headed back up the way I'd come.

This second ascent was a little more measured and went far easier than the first.  I remember little of it except an improved confidence after my shaky start.

Before I knew it, I was down again, spun around and into my third ascent.  This proved to be the strongest, steadiest climb I've ever managed on Mole Hill.  My legs felt strong, my heart rate was tempered and I was at the crest of the hill in a time that made me wish I'd put a stopwatch on just that climb.

The subsequent "down", however, proved to be that both figuratively and literally.

I didn't trip, but my quads were quivering and my ankles weeble-wobbled and very much threatened to keel all the way over.  I may have hammered the preceding climb but I not without consequences.

I'm sure I had been perspiring the entire time, but on that descent it felt like every pore was a sweat-faucet and that every contour of my body was a spout aimed right for my eyes.  I was determined to maintain a solid pace on the downhill but my burning eyes and rubbery legs were suddenly clumsy companions in the narrow beam of my headlamp.

But I got down.  All the way down...

...and just couldn't walk away with three lousy laps.  Not after the last climb had been so strong.  Still my resolve was shaky and didn't strengthen fully until I'd downed another salt/Gatorade cocktail.

Up I went.  One last time.


Slowly but in a fashion faster than walking, dammit.


I made it the whole way but am glad there were no actual witnesses to my whimpering and gasping.  I tend to be a chatterbox during runs (as opposed to the rest of the time when I'm church mouse quiet) but I couldn't have possibly mustered an audible word and continued to pick up my feet at the same time.

But I made it.  The whole way.

Yes, barely.

And down too.  Though that was equal parts comic farce and act of faith.

Some higher power smiled upon me and I'd like to think it was the pileated woodpecker that rat-a-tat-tats his displeasure at me on Mole Hill during the day.  It doesn't sound like he's pleased to have me invading his privacy, but I like to think he can sense my respect for him, his endeavors and his place in the world.  I'd like to believe that my presence qualifies as one of his few love/hate relationships.

Take it as a testament to Mole Hill or an indication of the elite runner that I am not, but I was ecstatic to have cranked out 4 laps and the short to-and-from the car in under an hour.  I was equally ecstatic to take off the t-shirt that was defying gravity by seemingly containing pounds and pounds of sweat and more ecstatic (Ecstaticier?  I know a band name when I see one) than that to get my legs out from beneath me and into a non-weight-bearing position.

Surely, there are far, far more demanding ascents to be had than Mole Hill.  And the air "down here" is blissfully rich in oxygen compared to the climbs to be had at higher elevation.  

AND Dog knows there are far better runners than me.

But, in a world of mountains (and a world of molehills or wantitumps, as they were once known), this one is mine.


  1. Interesting.. I'm considering doing the Run With the Devil in New Jersey in July... 3, 6 or 12 hours up and down a sky resort... this would be a good way to train for it!

  2. Make that a *ski* resort, though it appears to almost reach the sky!

  3. Hey, Marcus! I'm considering doing Run With the Devil too! I did the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase in Park City, Utah last August that was 8 miles up/8 miles down at the resort and hope to do it again this year. I've got a thing for "sky resorts", I think :)