Monday, August 20, 2012
Leesburg 20K Race Report
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.