IRONwolf - whereabouts did you see him? If he was an elite or close to it, there are so few of them, I probably know who he is :) National 50K/World Cup qualifier is in a few weeks so likely it's someone training for that. In the 20K, you wouldn't be likely to be doing a workout where someone handed you Gu and water - possible but not likely.
The 20K guys are mostly off the ground if you view them on stop frame film, but it's hard to definitively see the space watching at full speed. And yeah, it is a lot like running, even aside from the time spent off the ground. You have to drive your arms harder, but the focus is backwards not forwards, which actually isn't a bad thing for runners to think about, either. This little youtube clip shows some of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO9dLqfaU-c
The guy in blue in front is Jefferson Perez, widely considered to have the best technique in the world. These guys are probably going 7:00 pace, but if you watch Perez even in slo-mo, you will not be able to see his feet off the ground. he has to get down closer to 6:00 pace before even stop-video catches him off the ground.
Once you arrive at the race, deposit your excuses in the same location as last night's pasta.