Today I ran the Army Ten Miler for the third time. My main goal was to not be limping or cursing over the 14th Street Bridge. Apparently the bridge is tough for many runners, because others were commiserating about it before the race. Why does the bridge suck so much? It goes on forever (2 miles), has two serious uphill segments, is a battered concrete surface with no shade, and there are no spectators to cheer you on. It’s also the last 2 miles of the course, so it really tests what you’ve got left. Knowing what I was in for, my mantra for the race was to “save some for the bridge.”
Like most races, the ATM just gets bigger and bigger every year. This year there were 30,000 registered runners. I’m sure there were drop-outs but there were a LOT of people. I wasn’t able to find my friend near the start, and then it took forever to find my husband at the end.
The coolest thing about the ATM is the “wounded warrior” runners, and the saddest is the people running for “fallen soldiers.” There was one girl (12?) running with her mom, and they both had t-shirts on saying they were running for their dad/husband. Someone had a shirt that said “The greatest thing a man can do is to lay down his life for a friend” and that really gets to the heart of it when you are running with soldiers who do risk their lives for their friends and for the rest of us every day.
When I signed up, I predicted a conservative 10:00 min/mile pace, so I was in the first section of the second start wave. That worked out pretty well because I got a much less crowded start than if I’d been in the back of the first wave. This past week I set my goal at a 9:30 pace, and today I used my Garmin to monitor and control my pace. I had to slow myself down a few times when I got under 9:00, and speed up a few times when I got over 9:40, but mostly it was easy to keep a 9:10-9:20 pace.
I was surprised at how crowded it stayed the whole way. I think I caught up with the second wave around mile 3:00 and had to weave through some slower runners and road construction between miles 3 and 4. From mile 5 to almost mile 8 the course is an out-and-back with a loop around the front of the Capitol. This part of the course was great because there were tons of people lining the route and cheering everyone on.
Then came mile 8 and the 14th Street Bridge. I was feeling pretty good. My right ITB was tight, but not too bad. My calves gave me pause a few times, but I tried to loosen up and kept drinking Gatorade. I maintained my steady pace, and still had to weave through some runners. There was a final uphill stretch before the downhill exit ramp and I tried to push myself there, as my wheezing would attest.
The last stretch stayed crowded–both due to the course and the number of runners. After you come down the exit ramp (yeah, no more bridge!) you have to run around a turn that just keeps going. I wasn’t sure how far off the finish line was so I didn’t really do my “sprint to the end” until the very last bit when I finally saw the finish line balloons. I could have pushed more/sooner but it was still crowded and I was afraid of tripping if I was sprinting around other people.
There were two timing mats at the end and I stopped my Garmin at the second one, which read 10.13 miles on my Garmin. My total time was 1:33 and it calculated a 9:11 pace. There were a number of underpasses so I’m not sure how accurate my Garmin distance was, though of course the time should be right. My official time isn’t posted yet, but it should be close.
I feel really good except for my usual post-race GI issues. My toe was totally fine the whole way. My right ITB was tight but not too bad and actually felt OK at the end. I am really pleased that I was able to do so well despite the three-week interruption in my “training” plan.
Now, to figure out what’s next on my running calendar!