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Katie St Pierre

Loudoun Lyme   (2015)

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A few weeks ago I ran in the Loudoun Lyme 10k at the Brambleton Town Center. This race's main goal was to educate and spread awareness about Lyme disease, and to also raise money to help find a cure. There was an information fair with health professionals and specialists, county officials, veterinarians, and local vendors to help educate the public about Lyme disease, its causes, symptoms and treatments. To read more about Lyme Disease, please check out this post!

The race started out with a cool drone flying over head taking video and pictures (but unfortunately nothing has been posted on the race website yet). The 10k race started first, with the 5k starting a few minutes later. This was pretty much the same course as the Brambleton Ribbon Run that I ran a few years ago. It is pretty flat, and I love running through all of the fancy houses in the neighborhood.

The race took place on a morning that was very humid. It was misting the entire morning, which made it especially unpleasant to run. All I wanted it to do was to give a good rain to help cool me off while running!!!

Regardless, I finished in 1:13:26, which is an 11:49 minute/mile pace. I actually felt a lot more tired, hot, and sweaty than I look in my finishers picture!

I was super excited to find a gluten-free snack bar along with a banana and water at the finish line! Hooray!

I wandered around the educational fair for a bit and checked out some of the exhibitors before heading home.

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John Niedzwiecki

Loudoun Half Marathon   (2014)

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Let's start with some brief notes of the stuff leading up to the race. First, I want to mention pre-race communications. The Ashburn Area Running Club (AARC), who put on the Loudoun Half Marathon and 8K, did an amazing job with communications. There were updates almost weekly updates leading up to the race for about a month an a half which was phenomenal. They were emailed to you and linked to the updates portion of the website. They talked about the course map, preview runs, a look at the shirt design, reminders and inspiration. This doesn't even include any additional small updates and pics from their Facebook page. Best I've seen for any races I've run. Yes, even runDisney didn't give this much contact leading up to their races.

Packet pickup was quick and easy. Walk up, find your bib number, next table get your packet, next table for goody bag and shirt and you're done The shirt was a nice quality tech shirt. Granted, it was a small race, so there wouldn't really be lines expected, but even at that they were set up to be amazingly efficient.

Race morning was good as well. Parking was ample at the school. It was nice being able to drive and park easily at the race site. The meeting area was right next to the stadium, which was opened up for the finish area and included real bathrooms, which was a nice added bonus. When I arrived there was zero line. Closer to start there got to be a short line (even in the men's room). Then it was just walk out the gate to the starting like and away we go.

This was a smaller race, so no corralling. Water stops were well spread out. They also FULL of people cheering, which was very nice. On a course that rolls through Ashburn, there wasn't exactly people lining the streets to cheer. There were people at time, still out as slow poke me came by, which was nice. All the water stations cheered and helped try to pump you up. Many seemed like they were being volunteered by local students, either from the track team or sports teams or other organizations, such as Boy Scouts. It was nice to see them out there. I have to also call out one specific group. Later in the course, way down at the bottom of a long hill there's a water stop. I see noone else ahead of me at this particular point. But I hear cheering. Loud cheering and hollering and clapping. Even though I was way in the distance, they were letting me know they saw me and they were there. There was a group ahead of the station, that I can only assume where cheerleaders, as they cheered a very rhythmic cheer. And they continued to cheer as I went off into the distance the other direction. It really helped mentally.

The weather was beautiful. Even as the sun warmed up, there was a breeze that countered it. As it wore on, I got a little warmer at times, but the breeze was usually not far behind. The course featured some rolling hills, but nothing too steep or difficult. Around mile 9 the course goes onto the W&OD trail. When I was at this point there was no problem. When the race pack was there, it may have been problematic. There are many bike riders who use that nice path in both directions and it isn't very wide to support the large volume of runners for a race. The course would follow the trail all the way to back by the school. While running on the trail, it was really encouraging. Many people, runners and bikers alike, would give me some encouragement as they ran in the opposite direction and saw my bib. I received a lot of "great job", "you're almost there" and "finish strong!" It felt good. The last small chunk of the race was on the track back at the school.

I was greeted immediately with my medal and congrats at the finish line. Even being the 4th from the end, they were still there for me. Heck, there were even 2 people there for medals. After my medal I got the 2nd most important thing: a cold bottle of water. I drank that and waited for the person behind me to cross because I knew they couldn't be too far behind. I clapped and cheered as they crossed, grabbed a 2nd bottle of water and headed for the food, and they still had plenty. I also liked it because it was different than other race, which often sports bananas, other fruit and maybe the occasional bagel. They had fruit cups, rice krispy treats, some cookies. It was a nice touch. Everyone was still there at the finish, caring about the back of the pack. It was a nice way to finish. Later, there were even high quality and FREE pictures from photographers that were out on the course, icing on the cake.

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Daniel Watson

Dulles Day 5k/10k On the Runway   (2016)

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This race is an experience everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. You are running on one of the runways at Dulles International Airport (IAD) while the rest of the airport is still operational. You get to see planes taxiing, taking off, and landing on other runways while running the entire length of runway 1R and back.

Parking is provided for free at the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum in Chantilly. Make sure to get there with plenty of time since you are running on an active airport you will need to go through security screening. For runners this means being scanned with a handheld wand but it still takes time to get through security, through the museum and out to the start line. Spectators are allowed but only at the start/finish line not along the runway itself.

Since the race is on a runway it is the flattest course you will ever encounter. In fact, both time I've run it I've set PRs for the distance: 1:01:09 in 2015 and this year 58:14. The race is limited to 2,500 runners total for the 5k & 10k.

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Daniel Watson

Leesburg 20K/5K   (2016)

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I've run the Leesburg 20K for the past two years and it was actually the first race I ever signed up for after getting back into running. Packet pickup is at Potomac River Running located off Route 7 and easy process. It allows you to pick up some additional gels/nutrition if you need some last minute supplies or other running items.

The course starts/ends right across from Tuscarora Mill on Harrison St SE in downtown Leesburg. There is a town parking garage right across from the start/finish, however beware it does fill up quickly. Otherwise you can find free parking on the street in downtown Leesburg. The starting corral is semi-organized with placards listing anticipated paces however it is basically scouts honor that you line up in the correct area of the corral. Both years I've run it I've had to navigate around people who lined up further up than they should have running at slower paces at the start.

The course starts off on surface streets through Leesburg heading to Loudoun County High School. After doing a loop around the high school the 20k veers on to the W&OD trail heading towards Purcellville. The W&OD isn't closed during the race so you will have to be aware of cyclists, however the race organizers do their best to keep everyone safe. The section on the W&OD trail is about 9-10 miles, an out & back, which can be brutal if you aren't careful. If you look at the elevation profile the first half of this race is all uphill. It isn't a crazy incline, and in fact most of it doesn't even look uphill visually, but the fact it is all uphill the first half can really wear you out if you don't properly pace yourself.

The 20K has 6 water stations throughout, with 4 of them also having gatorade for you. There is also one gel stop at mile 6 of the 20K. There is a 3 hour time limit for the course (~ 14:30 pace).

While I enjoy this race and do it yearly, the fact the majority of it is on the W&OD means there aren't many spectators to cheer you on. You have to have the mental toughness to continue until you get near mile 12 when you get back near downtown Leesburg and there are sporadic spectators along the trail and streets to the finish line.

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Alexis Reed

Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon
   (2016)

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Overall, I enjoyed the race experience. The race itself kicked my butt, but the post-race festivities definitely made up for my struggle to the finish line!

I attended the expo the evening before the race. It is a very small expo, but they had maps of the course, the pacer reps, and a few shops set up. The expo is not in the same location as the race (Doukenie Winery), but the expo was at the beautiful Landsdowne Resort in a spacious ballroom. At the expo, I picked up my race bib (which was in the shape of a wine barrel), shirt (which I've actually worn since, since it's cute, comfy, and a good material), and a little bag. At the Destination Races table, I was given a sweet Camelbak water bottle with the race logo on the outside. Score!

There were ample aid stations at the race, which I appreciated. It was definitely hot racing weather, and with all of the hills, bugs, and humidity, I took full advantage! I will say, I had never tried the Gu beverage before, and accidentally drank it (I thought I took a water cup, so this is totally user error!), and it was NOT. GOOD. Yuck! But, I didn't have to drink it, so I stuck with water after that.

There were some beautiful farms along the race route. A woman that was running my pace kept stopping to take photos of different farms, especially the horses on the farms. Because it was a smaller race, there wasn't much of a crowd, so in areas without much scenery or people, the race got a bit mundane.

The unpaved portion of the race really crushed me. From around mile 5 until about mile 9, the course was on unpaved, dusty, gravel roads. Needless to say, I was totally unprepared for this much unpaved surface! Definitely make sure you train on this type of surface before the race!

Race management was pretty good! I took away one star because I felt like the finish line could have been organized a little better. It was confusing to figure out where I was supposed to go once I crossed. This was compounded by the fact that I'm a slow runner. We didn't get much love at the finish line!

The wine festival was fun! I wish that this was included for runners, though. Nevertheless, my friends (who didn't run the race) and I got to sip on some sweet Virginia wines, which went well with the warm weather! It was weird to me that some of the wine festival activities were hidden. For example, I got to try out the compression boots, but I didn't see them until the very end. If I hadn't participated in the wine festival, I never would have even seen the massage tables and compression boots!

The bathroom situation for the festival could use some work. There was a really long line in the Doukenie Winery barn, as there were only two bathrooms. I think they could have some more entertainment after the wine festival, also, since it ends so early in the day. On a nice day, I think people would probably like to hang out longer.

Check out my full race recap here: http://www.flecksoflex.com/2016/06/the-hardest-race-ive-ever-run-so-far.html

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