Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler

Yesterday I ran the Revenge of the Penguins 20 Miler.  It is billed as a low key race that is really a training opportunity for the Marathon Charity Cooperation members.  The focus of MCC is to support charity runners who are raising money for underprivileged children.  They have an organized training group and a couple of events during the training cycle.  Sunday’s was for those who are prepping for fall marathons, mostly Marine Corp.  They offered a ten mile course and a twenty mile course option that was held along the the section of the  C&O Towpath around Carderock, MD.   (Until just now, I had no idea that the towpath is almost 185 miles long!)

Registration, Packet Pickup, SWAG

Registration was $54 and we received a $25 gift certificate to Potomac Runners store if we carpooled so it was an extremely inexpensive event.  Registration was a breeze but the event was not highly publicized.  Luckily, someone who ran it last year clued me in so I was able to get in before the SWAG cut off.  The first 250 registrants received a nice wind jacket with their little penguin logo on the front.  It’s nice to have a change from the usual shirt.  The race began at 8 am.  Packet pick-up was available the day before but you could not get your timing chip until the day of and we had to be there by 7:00 if we were carpooling so I think most everyone waited to pick up their things.  It was a pretty uneventful pickup, other than me losing my timing chip in the grass!  Thankfully, I found it before the start.  It was pretty chilly while waiting for the start – I’m not sure of the temp but I could see my breath – but I knew that the sun would be in full force so I savored the feeling.

The Race

A total of 305 runners were present for the race – 108 did 10 miles and 197 completed 20.  We had a joint start, self seeded.  I was with a woman who was pushing a stroller so we were at the far back, which was fine with me.  The course consisted of two out and backs.  The first was out 1.5 miles and then back to the start and then out in the other direction 8.5 and back to the start/finish.  It was all along the packed dirt tow path with some gravely spots.  We had the canal on one side the entire time and some glimpses of the Potomac River through the foliage on the other.  It was extremely pretty!  I wish I had gotten pictures but I didn’t feel like messing around with my phone.  Quite a bit of the course was shaded (except for a few miles towards the end of the second loop) and it wasn’t too uncomfortable, weather-wise.  The best part was seeing the old wood and stone locks.  Very cool!  The course was entirely flat, except at a few of the locks where there were short hills.  The course was open to regular use and the bikers whizzing by were annoying at the end but it wasn’t too bad.

Course Support

There were five aid tables that we hit a total of 10 times.  Each one offered water and Gatorade.  The water was even cold for me, bringing up the back.  It was greatly appreciated!  There were bottles of water right at the finish line but we had to walk back to the park pavilion for the food.  They had pizza, bagels, chips, cookies.  I think there was fruit earlier but that was gone by the time I arrived.  The food was good and plentiful.

The nature of this course did not lend itself to spectators.  It was a bit lonely around mile 16 but some of the bikers and runners coming from the other direction shouted out encouragement.  Again,  greatly appreciated!  There were also two (maybe three) volunteer bikers who were doing regular sweeps and they would shout out encouragements as they passed me.

Overall

This was an excellent training run.  The event was well organized and supported.  My only quibble is they were over by about .5 miles according to my Garmin.  Several others reported the same discrepancy.  I give this race an A-.  I would definitely do it again.

Pros

Super friendly, low key environment

Great course support

Inexpensive

Nice warm up jacket

Cons

Late start. Not starting until 8 and being a slow runner means you lose your entire day.

The course mileage wasn’t accurate

Only one set of port-a-potties at one of the locks – but plenty of nature…

I wore my MCM training shirt, capris, and a newer pair of wool socks.  I was a bit hot at the end and was kind of wishing I had worn a tank and arm warmers.  I did not get the odd blister on my toe so my old woolies are the problem 😦  I guess I know what I will be using my gift certificate to purchase!  Thankfully, I grabbed my visor at the last minute.  We were in shade a lot so wearing sun glasses wouldn’t have worked for me but I definitely needed the visor when were in the sun portion.

I also wore my Camelbak to hold my fuel and some extra water.  I only filled it half-way and wished I had filled it completely.  As much as I hate it, I think I’ll have to wear it for MCM.  Even through I was drinking two glasses of water at the later aid stations, I was still feeling dry.

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