Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sandman Extreme Half Marathon, 1/17/2015, Wytheville, VA

Starting...I am to the left, purple shirt, grey earband and sunglasses.
Yippee! (Photo by Jerry Scott, Wytheville Enterprise)
What a fun way to spend a Saturday morning! Wytheville, VA is a little over 60 miles from my home, but curvy mountain roads make travel take between 1:20-1:40, depending on who you get behind on the roads.
Wythe County Schools Fund for Excellence put on the 6th running of the half marathon and 9 miler, with all proceeds going to benefit the organization's projects for students. The run started at 9am and was a loop with an out ‘n back in the middle where we ran up a dirt road up and back to reconnect with the loop. We gained around 1000’ in a little under 2 miles. It was quite chilly with a starting temperature in the high 20’s, yet it warmed up considerably and we ended with bright sunshine, no wind and temperatures in the 40’s.
course map: dog leg is up Sand Mtn, loop is the 9 mile version
 I stumbled across this event when browsing running calendars this past Wednesday while on an unexpected snowday from work. Sounded like a fun adventure. I expected it to be so because I knew it would be chilly, the climbing would make for “slow” times and since this was a local fund raiser, people would be out there solely for the love of running and spending time with good people. I was not disappointed.

This time of year, even with a half marathon we runners seem to always struggle with the perfect clothing choice. I laughed to myself as I heard people around me wondering ear warmers or hat? Jacket or vest? I was wondering the same thing and ultimately settled on: road shoes, low socks, capri’s, long bra tank, lightweight Patagonia LS zipT, Columbia Omni-Heat Earband, mittens and handwarmers. I figured if I got hot, I could always gypsy tie my shirt around my waist-which is exactly what happened around mile 10. Though I wasn’t planning on tracking my pace during the run, I did wear my Soleus Fit, in order to review data after the run.
This combo of suede and sheep fleece mittens
 and hand-warmers saved the day
The running field was relatively small. Though it had 100 person cap, I’d be surprised if there were more than 60 folks out there. This is a really neat event and when word gets out, I expect they’ll need to up their race cap. I met many runners from the Wytheville area, several from Roanoke, VA and a man from the Front Royal, VA area looking to run a half marathon every month for this year. I didn’t realize half marathons were so hard to come by in January?

My experience of running was joyful: perfect attire and warm hands, no body pains or cold weather wheezing.  I just ran with happiness and started to feel more in my element as we switched to dirt road and started our climb up Sand Mountain. Ahead of me, I could only see a man and a woman. There were others too far ahead to see. The woman caught my eye as she was willowy tall with an extremely graceful running form. We went back and forth a couple times and later after finishing, I learned she is a bit of a local celebrity-Brie Jackson and she is a reported with a Roanoke based TV station. I enjoyed a brief conversation in the recreation center as we waited for awards.
Brie and I shortly after finishing
Brie and her Roanoke peeps at awards
Because the run up the mountain was out and back it was super fun to cheer for and be cheered on by other runners. I was thrilled to see an ‘ole buddy, Nick Whitehead flying down the mountain in 3rd place. Nick and I have shared many trail miles together, not during recent years, yet we have had shared adventures and I certainly consider him a kindred spirit. Great to see him fast and healthy!
Nick and I after finishing...
There was nothing flat about this course. No chance of getting bored. Plenty of water, sports drink, signs and human’s pointing the correct way. Local law enforcement even gave runners the right of way during the couple intersections on the route. There was an itty bit steep hill at around mile 11 that was attention-getting, but fine.

My Soleus says I finished in 1:43:22 with a 7:49 average pace. Slowest mile was mile 4 at 9:01 with 285’ gain chugging up the mountain, fastest mile 7, loosing 242’ 6:30.

I was 9th overall.  Results here. The photographer/writer from Wytheville Enterprise missed me crossing the finish line, so a few minutes after finishing, he asked me to go back out and finish again. I expect it will look real, yet anyone who knows me might question as I had already removed my mittens... I was flattered and happy to do it.
Showing off my cool sand hourglass which I think will be a hit
 with students as they can play w/ it in my office while we talk.
 The 8th graders of the local Junior Honor Society hooked us up with hot chocolate and snacks after the run.
I highly recommend this event for folks looking for a challenging, yet very “runnable” winter mountain half marathon.

To make the day even better, when I arrived home and walked through the door early afternoon, this is what greeted me:
Georgio and kittio. Life is good.
To make a day even better, I am happy to say that Alison and Jason Bryant, both very accomplished ultra/trail/road runners and seasoned race directors will be taking over New River Trail 50k. Yay! I don't know details or dates yet, and I think they are considering adding some alternate distances too. Stay tuned and I will share as I know things...


(Mary) Shannon Johnstone said...


Marion Childress said...

Thanks for posting here in Roanoke Brie and excellent recap Annette,,it was such great fun along with a great challenge.Hope to see you somewhere outside soon.

aldo said...

Annette, So glad to see your blog again. I love your enthusiasm & reading your race reports. Respect you even more as a person. Aldo