After extreme cold contributed to a very disappointing race day at Rock ‘n’ Roll DC back in March, I was hoping and praying that the weather would be much more favorable for my redemption race, the Loudoun Half Marathon. In the week leading up to race day, I stalked the weather like crazy, and was frustrated to see that the forecast included lots of rain. While I don’t mind running in drizzle or light rain, running in a heavy storm is a whole different story. Thankfully, by the time that race morning arrived the forecast wound up being wrong, and it wound up being partly sunny and in the mid 40s during the race. The weather wound up being almost perfect for racing (perfect in my opinion would have been in the 50s).
With just over 500 people running this race, race morning logistics went very smoothly. The start and finish line was at a local high school, and e-mails from the race directors encouraged people to arrive early in order to park at the high school before road closures started. I pulled into the parking lot just after 6:00 a.m., and by 6:15 had my bib and was back sitting in the warmth of my car. I hung out in the car until about 6:35 when I headed towards the bathrooms at the football stadium (I loved having access to a real bathroom as opposed to a porta potty!), and then made a quick trip back to my car to take my coat off and get my Camelbak. I headed to the start line around 6:50, which was on the street right in front of the school. The start line was simple, marked with an arch of balloons, and because of the small field of runners there weren’t any corrals. Runners simply lined up at the start line.
After the singing of the national anthem, the race started. Within twenty seconds of the start of the race I crossed the start line. I had studied the course map enough to know that with the exception of miles 5-7 the course had lots of turns as well as slight rolling hills. I tried to remind myself of this and that I needed to not go out too fast if I wanted a chance of PRing, but the excitement of race morning got the best of me, and my splits for miles 1-4 were much faster than they should have been since I needed to conserve energy for the second half of the race. The first four miles of the course weaved through neighborhood roads before we ultimately had a sharp uphill turn onto a section of the W&OD Trail.
Splits for Miles 1-4:
10:03, 10:20, 10:06, 10:03
The trail portion of the race was by far the flattest part of the course. It was still early on in the race, so I had to remind myself to not push myself too hard in order to avoid potential burnout towards the end of the race. Although the course was very narrow on the trail, I never felt as though I couldn’t run at the pace that I wanted to. One of the many benefits of running local races is that the field is much smaller and much more manageable than compared to at the larger races.
Splits for Miles 5-7:
10:09, 9:56, 10:03
Despite how narrow the trail is, I never felt crowded
After exiting the trail, it was back to neighborhood streets for the rest of the race. The course weaved through a couple of different neighborhoods with lots of turns. Since I had prepared myself for all of the turns, I did my best to run the tangents, also trying to be respectful of the fact that I was using run-walk intervals and didn’t want to get in the way of other runners during my walk breaks. I continued to feel strong into the second half of the race, but during mile nine started to loose a bit of my energy. Thankfully some Gatorade that I got at a water stop and a couple of Clif Shot Bloks helped me to regain some energy.
Splits for Miles 8-10:
10:14, 10:39, 10:09
The last 5k was by far the hardest part of the race for me. Up until this point I knew that I had been on track to PR, but the rolling hills started to slow me down more than they had earlier on in the race. I was able to maintain my 4:15/0:45 run/walk intervals through mile 12, until sharp pain in my right hip slowed me down even more. I had to take a couple of extra walk breaks during the last mile. The closer that I got to the finish line the smaller my margin for PRing became.
Splits for Miles 11-13.28:
10:45, 10:28, 10:23, 2:46 (last 0.28)
I crossed the finish line at 2:16:02 (10:23 pace), a mere 20 seconds slower than my current half marathon PR. It was hard to know that I had come so close to that PR, but I reminded myself that I gave the race everything that I had, and even without PRing still met my C goal. According to my Garmin I ran 13.28 miles in 2:16:03 (10:14 pace). Even with a very small field of runners, all of the turns on the course made it difficult to consistently run the tangents.
After crossing the finish line I took advantage of a free post-race massage, and afterwards my hip felt slightly better. Hip pain is unusual for me, and I haven’t had any since the race, so I’m not sure where it came from. I’m just glad that it was temporary and nothing serious.
Overall, I had a great race experience, and the Loudoun Half Marathon will definitely be a race that I run again.
QOTD: Which type of race do you prefer, smaller local races or larger races?