Packet pick-up for the Loudoun County 5K Race For The Homeless was a breeze – once I found out to where it had been moved. After driving the race course on Friday afternoon, I arrived at the Stone Bridge football and track stadium within the 5-7 PM range to pick up my packet as per directions.
Parent volunteers and coaches were busily working all around the stadium and when I inquired as to where I should go, the only definitive answer I got was that it was certainly not being held there since Senior Night football kicked off at 7 PM. After walking all around the back of the school, I found someone who directed me to inside the front lobby to where they’d been moved.
Our race packets contained a white cotton t-shirt, backpack bag, water bottle, grip ball, bracelet, and of course, our all-important Loudoun County 5K Race For The Homeless bib.
I awoke on Sunday morning to 32° and worried that my planned shorts and tank wouldn’t be warm enough. After looking at the hourly forecast I decided to add my thin Brooks shell and an ear warmer and hope for the best.
At the track I saw the Chick-fil-A cow and got a picture while gushing that Holsteins are my favorite.
I met my Cruiser buddy Jerome about a half hour before the race started and we headed out for a short warm-up before running back to the starting line. Since the race was relatively small, I was able to park close to the football stadium and once I warmed up and realized I’d be too warm wearing my additional gear, I dropped my jacket and headband off at my SUV before returning to the track.
Back at the track, we dashed into the stadium restrooms before making our way to self seed at the starting line. Jerome said he planned to run around a 8:30 pace which disappointed me a little since I’d hoped to use him as my rabbit to chase throughout the race – something I’ve been known to do before when racing with him. I hoped to break an 8:00 pace, something I haven’t been able to do in a race since 2014.
In the sun, the temperature had warmed up nicely to around 40° and I was quite comfortable in my tank while waiting the few minutes for the race to begin. With a one-minute warning and them a ten-second count down, we were off!
Jerome and I started out together but as he pulled slightly ahead I looked at my watch and decided not to hang with him – we were running in the low to mid-7’s and I knew I couldn’t keep up that pace for long, especially with our first, and only real hill on the course just ahead. Slowing down to around 7:55, I felt good and decided to try to keep it around that pace.
Somewhere during the second mile I looked at my watch and I had slowed down briefly to a 9:15 simply because I’d gotten distracted watching some drivers trying to decide where they could go on the coned-off course. I picked my pace back up to around a 7:55-8:00, just barely keeping Jerome in my sights – at least for a few more minutes.
And then it happened… This speedy lady in a red jacket passed me and with a sideward glance I could tell that she appeared to be about my age. Ack! With a new rabbit to chase, I fell in stride behind her, determined not to lose her as I had Jerome.
We turned onto the street I’d been waiting for where I knew we’d have downhill sailing until our final two turns near the high school and flat terrain. My legs felt amazingly good and I allowed my body to glide down the hill until it was time to reengage my leg muscles for the final quarter mile to the track.
As the red-jacketed lady and I rounded the curve on the track and I could see the clock, I turned it into high gear and sprinted toward the finish line with all my might to the screaming cheers of Jerome and finished under 25 minutes, passing red-jacketed lady just before we stepped on the timing mat.
Exhausted, but nowhere near throwing up, I knew that I hadn’t pushed as hard as I could have; however, I was thrilled to see that according to my Garmin I’d finished the 3.15-mile course in 24:59 and at a 7:56 pace (official time was also 24:59, but based on 3.1-mile course my average pace was 8:03). My individual mile splits were:
- Mile 1 – 7:51
- Mile 2 – 8:27
- Mile 3 – 7:44
- Final .15 – :57
After catching my breath, Jerome and I said hello to red-jacketed lady and learned that her name is Darcy. Jerome immediately asked her what age group she was in (where else can a guy ask a lady how old she is?) and discovered that she was indeed in my age group and was very curious how old I happened to be as well. I knew that since she’d pulled up from behind me during the race that she’d most likely beaten me by at least a couple of seconds, if not more.
We chatted for quite a while and got to meet her husband Dan who had also raced. I invited her to look up the Cruisers and MRTT groups on Facebook and to ask to join if she was interested in joining us on any training runs.
Eventually, I made my way back toward the food table where I grabbed a Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit from the warmer.
Next, I gave the Chick-fil-A wheel a spin and won a gift card for a free dessert!
After wondering around the finish area for a while taking random pictures for my recap – this one of Poulin Chiropractic giving free massages, I found who I was looking for…
My next-door neighbor and friend, Rodney, had recruited me to run this race when he stopped by a couple of months ago to see if I wanted to get involved. I’m so glad he did because otherwise, it wouldn’t have been on my radar.
The wind started picking up as I said goodbye to Jerome as he left to go teach a yoga class. I walked back to my car to retrieve my jacket and then wondered back to the track to look for the race results before heading home. Darcy and I chatted a little longer and discovered that she had beaten me by seven seconds.
It wasn’t until I got home that Darcy texted to let me know that there was yet another speedier 50-59 year-old in our age group who had taken home the first place age group medal with a time of 23:02, beating us by almost two minutes. In all, there were 16 women competing in the 50-59 age group.
Darcy and I crossed the finish line as the 12th and 13th overall female finishers out of 93 women runners. The top three finishers were all teenagers, there was only one runner ahead of us in the 20-29 age group, and only one runner who finished before us in the 30-39 age group. I thought that was equally surprising and impressive.
And remember that I mentioned that Darcy’s husband had raced as well? Well, Dan won his age group! Also, congrats to my friend Jerome for finishing second in his age group!
If you are looking for a fun race with a small-town feel, the Loudoun County 5K Race For The Homeless is definitely a race for you. It was well organized and other than the packet pickup glitch, it ran smoothly from start to end. Expect to see me at the starting line of this race again next year!
- What’s your favorite post-race food?
- Are you in a competitive age group?
- What race had the most perfect race weather? ~ This one had to be up there at the top for me.
Please note that I was in no way compensated for this post, and registered and paid for the Loudoun County 5K Race For The Homeless on my own.