Sunday’s race is one that I won’t forget for a long time. It was an incredible experience, a race that I felt strong and powerful during, and one that I’ll definitely be returning to.
Most people dread long runs during the summer, especially in the DC area. This area is well known for its summer heat and humidity, especially in the mornings. That didn’t deter me from signing up for this race, and I’m so glad that it didn’t. It was surprisingly cool Sunday morning when I first got up, so much that I actually wore a long sleeve shirt while we drove to the race. By the end of the race though, it was in the low 80s, which isn’t surprising given that it is August afterall. I ended the race drenched in sweat from head to toe, more than ready for a shower.
The race was staged in downtown Leesburg at Market Station, which is a quaint area filled with shops and restaurants. As with all the other Potomac River Running races that I’ve run, bib pickup was super easy. Because of other things going on last week, I opted to pick up my bib the morning of the race. I waited no more than five minutes to get my bib. One of the new perks that Potomac River is offering its runners at some of their races is a $10 gift card in lieu of a race shirt, which I took advantage of. I have plenty of things that I could put a $10 gift card towards!
One of the things I was looking forward to about this race was meeting up with several blogger friends. After I picked up my bib, I easily found Jenny from Run Jenny Run, Deb from Deb Runs, and Deb’s friend Erin. We snapped a quick picture, and then Jenny and I decided to make our way towards the porta potties.
As we were getting in line we spotted Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC and Julie from Diving Into The Gene Pool. I’ve been wanting to meet Courtney in person for awhile now. You may recognize Courtney’s name from the weekly Friday Five linkup that I participate in with the DC Trifecta. We’ve tried to meet in person previously, and I’m so happy that we were finally able to connect at a race!
We finished up at the porta potties only a couple of minutes before the race started. Since Courtney and Julie had gotten caught in traffic we parted ways – Jenny and I headed to the start line while Courtney and Julie headed to bag check. Jenny and I got to the start line with only a minute or two to spare, and before we knew it we were off!
This course was an out and back course, with most of it on the W&OD Trail. Because most of it was on the trail, the majority of the course was shaded, which was perfect on a hot and humid August morning. The out and back course allowed me to see blogger friends multiple times. We were all able to encourage one another, and I even gave Courtney and Jenny a high five the second time that I saw them. In addition, to seeing blogger friends, a Dopey Challenge runner was also running the race (he was wearing a Dopey Challenge shirt, which of course led me to ask him if he had completed Dopey). We chatted for a few minutes about our race experiences back in January, and he jokingly said that this race was harder than Dopey was since the majority of the crowd support for this race was at the start and finish, whereas at Disney there is crowd support throughout the entire race.
During the first couple of miles of the race, I felt strong and kept thinking that reaching my A or B goal was entirely possible. I had done my research prior to the start of the race, and had mentally prepared myself for the hilly and challenging course. Although all of the hills were in the first two thirds of the race, I also knew that since it was an out and back course that all of the hills that I was running up I’d eventually run back down, which would help me complete the race with negative splits. The last hill on the course ended at the mile 8 marker, which left me with four miles to speed up my pace.
Up until mile 8 I had been running 2:1 intervals, but because I was still feeling strong I ran the last four miles in 3:1 intervals.
Around the mile 10 marker I knew that my B goal was definitely attainable, and that depending upon how fast I could push myself that maybe my A goal was within reach. I decided to run the last 2.5 miles a bit on the conservative side though since, after all, this was a training run for Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach, and I didn’t want to risk injury only two weeks out from the race that I’ve spent all summer training for.
I continued to feel good as I neared closer to the finish line. Around the mile 11 marker we passed a series of townhouses, and on the deck of one of them a guy and his baby were outside cheering everybody on, and I could hear “Eye of the Tiger” blasting from his deck. It was just the motivation I needed to push myself through the last part of the race.
As I rounded the last turn towards the finish line, I had one mental slip, and allowed myself to walk a few extra seconds. Given how mentally strong I had been the entire race, I’m not at all disappointed in myself, since I was still able to cross the finish line strong. As I neared the finish line I spotted Preston on the sidelines, and his cheering gave me the final push I needed to sprint to the finish line.
My finish time was 2:25:47 (11:44 min/mile pace). I had finished smack inbetween my A goal (11:30 pace) and my B goal (12:00 pace). This is a huge accomplishment, and has left me feeling very well prepared for Virginia Beach.
After the race I received my medal and a bottle of water. I met up with Preston, and we waited for Jenny to finish. We briefly shared our race experiences before we parted ways. We both agreed that, once again, Potomac River Running had done a fabulous job with this race, especially since there were plenty of water stations, Gatorade was offered at some of them, and Gu packets were even handed out at both mile 6/mile 7.5 water station. There was plenty of food after the race for runners to refuel with, and of course the free photos are another great perk that few other races offer.
This is one race that I won’t forget. Although most people don’t like running long distances in the summer heat and humidity, the majority of the course was shaded and the water stations were well placed. I will definitely run this race again!
QOTD: What unique race distance(s) have you run?