Sunday, August 16, 2015

Leesburg 20K - Tune Up for Fall Racing Season

Today's Leesburg 20K is a course that I just despise. It's a pretty center of town, but it is run mostly on the W&OD Trail on usually a warm day in August. It has a long incline that messes with your head. One of my earliest races in my running career was the Leesburg 20K in 2005; I went out too fast and paid dearly, stumbling in at 1:45. It took me many years to return, and when I finally did in 2012, I put up a solid 1:24:06. This year, off no taper except to take Saturday off and a starting temperature almost at 70 degrees, I am pleased that I had a solid race and came in just shy of 1:24 at 1:23:53, a course PR by 13 seconds.

The start of the race

For those that are familiar with the course, the first two miles are around a shopping plaza, a neighborhood, and a school - not too much to see. It starts on a downhill making it tough to set proper pacing if you are not focused. I ran pretty smart the first two miles, holding a 6:44. My coach wanted me to hold a conservative pace in the 6:40s. My job was to judge the effort on the hills, try to run 6:30s on any flat segments, and stick to 6:20s on the downhills at the end. At around the two mile mark, it hops onto the W&OD Trail and goes up for about four miles.  I began to get frustrated looking at my Garmin and noticing that my steady pace was dropping off as I struggled to keep it under 7.  I dialed back to recall the Mad Marathon five weeks earlier and the strategy I employed: don't kill yourself on the uphill but survive and save it for he downhill.  Survive then thrive.

Around the first mile

In the sixth mile, it begins with a final push up and onto an overpass as we cross a highway then it loses elevation quickly.  At the turnaround, the decline ends and another uphill begins, but that is the last uphill.  I hit the 8th mile marker, finished that final ascent, took a moment to get my legs back, and began about a four mile dash to the finish, aided by the downhill.  I passed a few guys along the way, including one that tried to keep pace and surged to meet me pace, but he faded.  With a minute to go, I turned on the finishing kick, caught one more guy, and slipped in under 1:24.  I was beat.  My cool down effort was hampered by a cramp in my left midsection - a small price to pay for a solid effort on a hot day on a hilly course that I don't even like.  Of course, sneaking away with a good race brings a smile to my face.  And, on my way to my car, we passed a small brewery: the smell of beer brewing is a wonderful smell.

Final kick in the last mile

My splits and results:
6:43/44/54/7:01/7:17/6:42/42/7:11/6:42/22/21/05/ 3:09/5:53 (.54) 43:00/40:53 Split - Course personal record by 13 seconds. 25th male, 29th overall, 8th age group 35-39.


Also, solid efforts by Alex Albertini and Matt Anderson, both running the course for the first time.

A pin and a medal for my efforts (photo credit AA)

I'm now five weeks from the Mad Marathon in Vermont and five weeks until the Bismarck, North Dakota Marathon (September 19).  Also this fall's race calendar includes Army Ten Miler Columbus Day Weekend (October 11), New York City Marathon (November 1), and a Turkey Trot (TBD) on Thanksgiving.  My work is participating in a 5K on October 3 to benefit the Children's Hospital (any interest in donating, please contact me), and I may run my gym's 5K in November.  Plus, my club's Snowball Series commences with the Bread Run 10K and Gar Williams Half Marathon in December. It's a full fall calendar, so I hope I am able to run each of them well.

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