Race review: Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler

Race Reviews

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I am about to throw cold weather the biggest welcome home party of all time.

Last weekend, as a way to get in one of our 20 mile runs – our Marine Corps Marathon training plan has three – John and I decided to run the Revenge of the Penguins 20 miler on the C&O canal.

The race – which offers a 20-mile and 10-mile race is put on by the Marathon Charity Cooperation, an absolutely fabulous group of folks who are simply delightful from packet pick up to finish line. Because of it’s timing – mid-way through September – it’s an ideal training race for runners in training for fall half marathons or full marathons.

We ran this race last year, the 10-mile version, to prepare for our half marathon – this year, we upped it to the 20. Another perk of this race is the windbreakers. Last year was red, as seen above, this year – maroon.

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It was a beautiful, crisp morning. John and I drove together to the start on C&O Canal Towpath. The race stars and finished at the Carderock Recreation Area between Mile 10 and Mile 11. The whole way is on a beautiful, flat shady path. Because it’s dirt, the run is nice and easy on the knees and much easier to recover from than a race out on the streets.

The race has old school shoe timing chips which are only available to be picked up on race morning. In most races, race morning pick up is a disaster, but because Penguins is a smaller event, only about 250 people, it was nice and smooth.

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The race route goes out 1.5 miles in one direction, circles back to the starting point and then heads out 8.5 miles in the other direction before the turn around back to the finish line. 10 milers turn around 5 miles earlier.

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On a personal note, I had been feeling pretty stressed about my pace. I don’t do well in the heat – not even remotely well. My running partner, on the other hand, does great in heat and humidity. Our long run times this summer have been almost a minute per mile slower than the pace we kept in the winter and I was starting to worry that something was wrong.

My worries were blasted away by mile 11 when I was feeling fabulous and strong going back at our old pace. The key? Cool weather. This race totally restored my faith in our training and got me even more excited for a fall full of races.

But back to the race:

IMG_2166This is what the starting area looks like. The 10 and 20 mile runners lined up in one group, took off up this little hill and went left. As the beginning of races always are, the start was crowded. The race is self-seeded so there were a number of folks who just plopped themselves in and didn’t realize there is a system to lining up. Regardless, by the first quarter  mile, everyone had sorted themselves out. The course was fabulous and shaded most of the way.

IMG_2168There were water stops every two miles, the 20 mile runners passed stops a total of 10 times throughout the run. There was plenty of water, gatorade and smiling volunteers at each stop. They were great at making sure you knew what you were getting too.

I felt wonderful for the first 15 miles and started to hit a bit of a wall between miles 15 and 18. The last two miles I was able to pick the pace back up and I ended with 9:17s. Definitely not my fastest, but John and I decided to look at this as a training run and not push too hard. Also, we had run a pretty hard 10 miles the day before.

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This race is fantastic for people looking to switch up their long runs. Great volunteers, water you don’t have to carry for 20 miles, official timing and shade make for a fabulous Sunday morning! The race does start at 8 a.m., which would be a problem for me in the summer, but because it was cool, the start made our morning relaxing.

Can’t wait for next year’s Penguins! I vote for a blue windbreaker.

 

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