After a full year of less-than-desirable race day weather (and plenty of whining about it on my part), Mother Nature gave all of us running in the Andiamo 45 miler a picture perfect day for running yesterday. That weather, combined with the beautiful countryside of the W&OD Trail, made for one of the most enjoyable runs I've had in quite some time. What a treat!
Andiamo may be a small race, but the co-race directors Carolyn Gernand and Joe Malinowski did such a great job with the organization. First and foremost, they offered to meet some of the runners at the finish line just south of DC before the race and give us a ride to the starting line 45 miles to the west. This allowed those of us from DC to leave our cars at the finish and only have a 5 mile ride home after the race - Talk about service!
My carpool consisted of Jim Moore (Thanks for driving!), Lou Jones, and Mark Zimmerman. All great guys and perfect folks for me to meet as my first VHTRC friends. The ride out west to Purcellville, VA went quickly as we chatted about all things running. We met up with the rest of the small group (maybe 20 of us?) at the western end of the W&OD Rail trail, and with a quick group picture and Carolyn's course directions ("See this trial? Follow it to the end!"), we were off! I didn't anticipate pushing the pace on this run too much, but the combination of the weather and the fact that this was my first race in a long time had my adrenaline kicking in right from the start. I took off in the front right away and never looked back.
The trail was great to run on from a mental standpoint as we ran past descending mile markers (posted every .5 mile) the whole way. After 10 miles I looked at my watch and saw I went out WAY too fast for what I had planned (6:45/mile splits), so I did my best to try and slow down a bit before my first fuel stop. As always I ran with my fuel belt and hand-bottle from the start, so my first stop for water wasn't until mile 17. Carolyn was there waiting on the side of the trail to top off my hand bottle and I was off in just a few seconds. A few miles later I passed the half-way point (mile 22.75) averaging 7:28/mile splits, and I crossed the marathon mark shortly thereafter at about 3:15.
Now that I had settled down to a quick-but-comfortable pace, I started doing some math in my head to see what a good time goal would be for finishing. Going into the race I figured somewhere around 7 hours would be my aim, but the weather and sudden realization that I'm already in much better shape for Texas than I thought called for a change in plans. I decided that breaking 6 hours would be the goal, and aside from a few street crossings to deal with as I got closer to DC, I kept a solid and steady pace to reach that goal.
As I counted down the final miles with the markers on the side of the trail (I can't overstate how helpful they are when you're starting to get tired!), I checked out the time on my watch to see how close I was to meeting my goal. As it turned out, my legs never gave out on me, and I climbed the last hill and bombed down across the finish line in 5:51:34 - about a 7:40/mile pace. Carolyn was just arriving herself and setting up the finish line refreshments (it's always nice to run a race "too fast"!), so we chatted for a bit as I drank my Endurox and enjoyed the cool shade under a tree.
All in all, just a great day of running across Northern Virginia...and while it's not impressive to win such a small race, I was fairly proud of my finishing time. Not a course record, no, but not too shabby considering this run was at the end of a full week of training for Texas. If nothing else I'm extremely encouraged at how my training for the 24-hour Championships is already paying off. ...but now isn't the time to celebrate - It's back to work for the two big peak training weeks ahead. Gotta keep my eyes on the real prize!
One more note on the race: I'm starting to take them for granted at this point, but I do need to mention that I finished this race with no blisters or hot spots thanks to Drymax Socks. I wore the "Maximum Protection" version for this race since they have the full-length friction-free fibers on the bottom. If you've ever been on a long run or walk on hot pavement and felt like your socks turned into sandpaper by the end, you really owe it to yourself to read about these socks.