Thursday, August 16, 2007

YMCA Loudon County Leesburg 20K

So, this race established a PR for me since I've never run a 20K and this is the only one in the area that I am aware of. I don't know that I'll run this race again, so this performance will stand on its own for a long time.

I find it funny that they always suggest that there will be long lines for packet pick-up the day of the race because I never have any problem at all. Every time I've done it, I've never had to wait behind more than 2 or 3 people. And, I've never not been able to grab a t-shirt in my size. I'd like to pick my stuff up in advance, but driving out to a running store in rush hour traffic on a Friday seems like a big waste of time since I can just get everything the morning of the event. In any case, I say this because I left my house early to get out to Leesburg so that I could grab my packet and not have to wait too long in a big line. Traffic was light, parking was easy, and I was back at the car, sipping my coffee, within five minutes or so.

The crowd was larger than I expected, although I didn't read up on the race and can't say my expectations were in line with reality. A 20K race in Leesburg at 7:30AM in August doesn't sound like an attractive event to me. Of course, I did it. The crowds were not all there for the 20K, though. They run a 10K as well and about half of the runners were doing that instead. And, the folks who ran the 10K were clearly smarter than me. They finished in time to get bananas and to eat the ice cream before it got gotten all runny. That's right. They had ice cream, among other things, as a post race snack. I like the idea, but I don't want freaking ice cream at 9:30AM. I definitely don't want runny ice cream and soggy chocolate wafers that I get to peel out of wet paper. So, I avoided that stuff when I was finished. I did have plenty of water and all that and I drank a Harris Teeter Diet Coke which tasted like carbonated toilet water. Wow, that was some seriously horrible soda.

I felt kind of funny before the race. Funny in a "I have to take a dump, but it might not come out" type of way. So, I stood in line for the PortaJohn with the hope of dealing with it. And, I thought I had. I mean, I certainly felt better afterwards, but it turned out that I was quite done. In any case, I jogged down the block and back as a warmup and elbowed my way through the crowd to a spot in the corral. The race started on time, but they had a water station right before the starting line. So, I stopped and had a cup of water before crossing the mat. I felt a little thirsty and figured it might help out. Then, I was off. We ran a for a short bit through downtown Leesburg, making a circle in some shopping center parking lot, and then headed out on the W&OD trail for the rest of the race. The W&OD trail was pretty cool, for the most part. Heavily shaded, which was really welcome, and I've never run it before, so it was nice to get the chance. It quickly veered off into what seemed like a much more rural area with older homes and farms (or what seemed like farms from what I could tell).

Like all races, the crowd was pretty thick for the first mile or two and I had to do a lot of moving around to get passed the slower runners. I prefer running close to a small group and am always relieved when I reach the point in a race that the crowds have thinned out. I stuck with a general pack for a while on the trail. I'd gain a little on one person, they'd pull away. Someone would come up close and then fall back. I think I was about 100 meters behind the same guy for almost 10 miles of the race. The course seemed like a slow uphill climb for most of the first half. There was a short and fast downhill segment that was just a tease. I ran a little too hard on the downhill and immediately regretted it as I then had to continue my climb until we hit the turnaround. But, the nice thing is that the majority of the return trip was downhill. So, I dropped ten seconds per mile from my pace on the way back, going from what looked like a 7:5x/mi to the eventual 7:42/mi I ran. Around mile 4 or so, I felt like I really had to pee. And, I also felt the beginning warning signs of diarrhea. Now, I wasn't too worried about that since I often get some sort of a cramp that feels like that during a race. And, it wasn't bad enough to concern me. So, I kept running...and the general sensations got worse. And worse. I actually ran off on a side trail to take a leak, but I didn't do a thing about the diarrhea. The cramps got worse and I started to think that I might actually experience the thing I had always joked about: crapping yourself during a run. From mile 8 to mile 12 was basically a race against the poop; a delicate balancing act between running as fast as I could so I could get to the bathroom, but not running so fast that I lost control. it got close, but I made it across the finish without an incident and quickly got that chip off my shoe. From there, I grabbed a bottle of water and carefully made my way back to the PortaJohns to handle my business. Or, maybe, the business handled me. In any case, it was quite a racket and one of those times when you really wish you had a place to wash your hands appropriately.

I used my Garmin during the race. Now, I may have started it too early or something, but it kept hitting the mile marks almost a tenth of a mile before I actually past the marker on the race route. In the end, the Garmin had a few extra tenths of a mile on my overall distance and have me running a pace that was two seconds faster than recorded by the chip. So, I don't know which system is more accurate, but I am not happy about that large a difference. There isn't much I can do about other than to assume that the numbers I see during my training are not quite what I will see during a race. If I run a test 5K in 21:50, maybe I should assume I will run a real 5K in 21:55 or 22:00.

On the way back to the car, some volunteers were just handing out the extra t-shirts. I guess they would rather give them away then keep them and try to sell them for cheap. In any case, I am grateful to have picked up a second t-shirt. Since they were technical shirts, I'm now stocked on tops for running until the temps really drop. I just wish someone would give out shorts or running pants or something like that. I don't have enough of either of those. Hell, I'd take a hat or some socks once in a while too. Of course, corporate logos on socks wouldn't really work out.

Overall, it was a nice enough race, but not so nice or enjoyable that I would be compelled to drive out to Leesburg at 6AM on a Sunday to do it again. Although, to be fair, nicer weather and less gastric distress would have made the whole thing much more pleasant and might have changed my mind.

YMCA Loudon County Leesburg 20K Bib # 563
Leesburg, VA
August 12, 7:30 am

Time: 1:35:40
Gender Place: 119/385
Overall Place: 153/672
Pace: 7:42

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