Monday, August 20, 2012

Leesburg 20K Race Report

I'm midway through my 20-week distance training program with Potomac River Running, and it was about time to have a practice race in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon on October 28th. Luckily, the brilliant minds at =PR= have this all figured out - that's why they scheduled their Leesburg 20K/5K race for this weekend.

In previous years this was a 20K/10K race, but permitting problems necessitated changing the 10K to a 5K. I've run the 10K twice before, and both August races were stifling hot. Not so yesterday - the weather at the 7:30 start was overcast and 64 degrees, just about perfect conditions.

I created an elevation profile through Log Your Run, and what I saw shocked me (left) - it appeared as though I'd be climbing a mountain for the first 6-7 miles, before descending back down the "mountain" to the finish. Upon further research, I determined that it was more of a gradual incline, but still it looked rather daunting. I had run the middle part of this particular race in a 5K back in 2009, and remember there being quite a hike at one point, but at that 5K I set a PR, so I had hopes for this race.

For race prep, I used the carb loading/fueling strategy I referenced in my previous post. I'd be running 80% of what I ran last week, so I didn't carb load as heavy as I did last week. Also, my breakfast was a tad bit smaller. For in-race fueling, I used my Fuel Belt, drinking lemon-lime Gatorade, and planned on consuming 3 GUs during the race, at 3 mile (or so) intervals). My race plan was to do the first 10K at a 9:30 pace (my MCM goal pace), then on the downhill return, seeing how I felt and taking what it gave me. I hoped to finish in about 1:58.

At the start line, both the 20K and 5K runners started simultaneously, so there were over 1200 runners lining up on Harrison Street in Leesburg (about 60% were 20K runners). And as the gun went off, my pet peeve again came to fruition - slower runners/walkers lining up way too far forward in the queue. It was very congested until about a mile into the race, and really didn't thin out until just after the 2 mile mark, when the 20K and 5K runners split. At this point, the race continued on the Washington & Old Dominion (W & OD) Trail, a multi-purpose path for bicyclists, runners, walkers, etc. The next 4+ miles were not as difficult as it looked on the elevation chart. It was indeed a gradual incline, but much flatter than I expected or remembered. My pace was steady at about 9:22 as I passed the 10K mark in 57:57 (by my Garmin).

The only difficult stretch was at mile 5 of the race (mile 38 on the W&OD), where the trail goes over Route 7 at the Route 9 interchange (Clark's Gap). This stretch of trail turns almost 180 degrees, and then back again as it winds its way steeply up the overpass. This was the hardest part of the race, but on the positive side, coming back was going to give me a nice downhill to get some momentum for the final 5 miles.

The turnaround was at the 6.75 mile mark of the race, and almost immediately felt the ease of going downhill. Again, the incline was very shallow, but my hill training must be paying dividends, because I wasn't struggling. (Editorial comment - at this point of the race, we were doubling back, and there was two-way traffic on the trail. Why recreational bicyclists felt it necessary to ride their bikes between the two lanes of race traffic was baffling. And to get belligerent when you couldn't get through is the typical attitude of many of the bicyclists on the W&OD). I felt the speed picking up for the next 4 miles, and my paces showed it - I was down in the low 9's/high 8's with my paces as I approached the last aid station.

By mile 11, I was still feeling fresh, so I decided to up the pace a little. I was running by myself at this point, and did mile 11 in 8:38. The final .4 was a little tougher as it was uphill to the finish, and I was at an 8:40-ish pace for the final mile when I crossed the line. My official finish time was 1:54:12, almost 4 minutes under what I had hoped, and a 9:13 pace. Heart rate was 150, or about 80% of my max.

What I learned from this race: A proper carb-loading and in-race fueling strategy is of the utmost importance. I never used to pay attention to that, and as a result, bonked at mile 10 or 11 in 4 of my previous 5 half-marathons. Also, running smart at the start of the race, not expending any extra energy trying to get free of the misplaced runners is vital. I had plenty of energy left to do that climb at mile 5, and much more energy at the finish.

So. with 10 weeks left until MCM, this race left me with a very optimistic feeling about hitting my goals in October. As my old pal Jack told me yesterday, "The key now is to just stay healthy".

Ain't that the truth.


  1. Dave,
    I appreciate you taking time to break down your races in a play by play mode so the rest of us can benefit from your trials by fire. Thank you for that.

    What does your fueling info say about fueling for races shorter than a half, or full marathon. I'm asking because I followed the formula for my 5k, but almost initially felt a little fuller than I would have liked.

    I also need to get busy formulating my fueling plan for Savannah's Half Marathon. You got any eat out, or eatting suggestions for me considering I'll be flying in, staying at a hotel the night before, and subjected to a continental breakfast at the hotel???

    Thanks for any suggestions and help in advance,


  2. I'm so excited for you, Dave, and SO SO SO happy that you had such a great race. I loved reading about your fueling strategy. I too try to eat at 3-mile intervals in races. I still haven't perfected my pre-race meal, but I'm working on it. Can't wait to see how MCM goes for you! Yay! The countdown is on!

  3. What do you eat for your typical carb load? My half is in less than a month and is like to change a few things nutritionallly.

    1. Wendy, here's a few of the foods I carb load with: macaroni & cheese, baked potatoes (plain), pasta/spaghetti, white rice, bagels, oatmeal, bananas, etc. The key is to eat normally (not overeating), trying to make sure that a higher percentage of your calories come from carbs than from protein & fat. It takes more work, but the payoff is worth it.

  4. Nice job Dave and great race report! Sounds like you've found a good fueling strategy - so key for the marathon! I have the same problem with the slower runners and walkers starting at the front. I don't understand why they do it as it must be annoying for them to get passed by everyone. I have to assume they're all first timers and don't know any better. I think a gentle reminder from the race director would help. It's a shame a few arrogant cyclists on the W&OD ruin it for us all. I hate cycling on the W&OD - too crowded and dangerous - and much prefer the road.

  5. Hello Dave,
    Just a quick message to ask if you would be interested in a 'mutual' following on twitter. I am currently following you now and am awaiting for your follow-back. (#FYI I do RT's 'anytime' for all #Triathletes #Cyclists #UltraRunners & #Marathoners who follow me on Twitter and have something important they want mentioned...)

    All the very best to you and yours for the rest of 2012 and beyond Dave. Look forward to hearing from you...


  6. "Tax season is right around the corner. If you are looking for someone you can trust to prepare your tax return go to"
    For more information plz click this link
    Start-up Business
    small business help
    business success
    business entity
    tax help

  7. Great article! All the very best to you and rest of 2012beyond Dave.looking forward from you.