A race report in three parts.
Prolouge -- This has to be about as low key as any race out there. It's put on by Charlottesville's local running store, Ragged Mountain Running Shop, primarily as a test "race" for their fall marathon training program participants. It's open to anyone, though I had to call the shop to find out when it started -- 7 AM (ouch). There's no entry fee (donations to Meals on Wheels are accepted), no splits being called out, no road closures, and the water stops are self serve. Mile markers and directions are simply chalked onto the road.
What it does have is an incredibly scenic course in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, with some challenging hills. It's a fun course and a great test.
Part 1 -- I started out easy, planning on keeping the pace under control for the first four miles. Mile 1 slid by in 7:24, and I was feeling pretty smooth, so I decided to stick around there. By mile 3 I was on my own, with one runner about 200 yards ahead, and nobody in sight behind on the curving roads. Mile 4 was a long downhill, and I stretched it out to pick up some time.
Mile 1 -- 7:24
Mile 2 -- 7:27
Mile 3 -- 7:39
Mile 4 -- 6:58 (downhill)
Part 2 -- As the course turned onto a gravel backroad, I kicked it up a gear. This stretch was tougher, with some long climbs, and some short, steep ups and downs. I started making time up on the runner who was ahead of me, and concentrated on keeping my tempo up on the hills. Around mile 6 I was overtaken by a group of 6 post-collegiate runners, members of the Ragged Mountain team. Not sure why they'd ever been behind me, since they were running effortlessly as they passed. Around mile 7, I caught the runner I'd been chasing, then we turned back onto the main road with a long downhill. I took the opportunity and picked up the pace as mile 8 finished.
Mile 5 -- 7:57 (uphill)
Mile 6 -- 7:38
Mile 7 -- 7:44
Mile 8 -- 6:50 (long downhill)
Part 3 -- Now it was time to take it home strong. I had about 3 miles of long gradual ups and downs, then the course turned onto the final stretch, a mainly couple of miles back to the start. I paid for the downhill on mile 8 with a long uphill on mile 9, but then settled into a series of smaller hills. I kept my tempo well, and settled into a counting rhythm -- 100 steps, then switch the gloves I was now carrying from the right hand to the left. Another 100 steps and switch again. It kept my mind totally focused on the mechanics of running.
With the last turn onto the relatively flat ending stretch I started to pick it up. Still counting, but picking up the tempo for the first 20 steps of each 100. Mile 11, then picking up the tempo every 50 steps. Mile 12 came and I went for broke, finishing feeling pretty strong.
Mile 9 -- 7:50 (uphill)
Mile 10 -- 7:11
Mile 11 -- 7:10
Mile 12 -- 7:02
Mile 13.1 -- 7:57
1:36:54, 7:24 pace. Knocked about a minute off of my PR time from last year. Pretty good morning, all in all.