My fourth running of The Army Ten Miler is in the books! While my mantra for last year was “save something for the bridge,” my mantra for this year was “run your own race.” That might have been harder to do if I had run with my friend, but when she decided to try to meet me there, I knew the odds of that happening were slim. With 30,000 runners, it is hard to find someone even when you have a designated meeting space.
Race day started calmly. I woke up before my alarm went off, and decided to take a shower–something I don’t usually do before a run, but like to do before a race. I still had plenty of time for coffee and my pre-race bagel with peanut butter, and traded a few text messages with my friends who also were getting ready to run.
I checked the weather and stuck with my plan to wear a long sleeve tech shirt and shorts, although I should have paid more attention to those full sun icons.
My husband and I left the house at 6:45 and got to the Pentagon in record time. We accidentally took a wrong exit and ended up in a Pentagon parking lot–very convenient if we were allowed to park there. We found a policeman who said that we could park at our own risk–he wasn’t sure if the parking patrol was going to be checking for permits. We figured that there was too much going on–and too many cars parking there–for the risk to be that great, so we decided to stay put.
My husband hung out with me while I watched for my friend, and then walked with me to the runner’s security screening area when I gave up on finding her. I was glad that I had figured out the new start area before the race, but still was surprised at how far we had to walk . . . and walk . . . and walk . . . before the starting line was in sight.
The weather was lovely–sunny, blue skies and a bit cool. The first wave started promptly at 8:00, and my (second) wave started promptly at 8:10. The announcer was good at getting us pumped up and there was party music to get us going. The start was crowded, but at least we were running when we crossed the starting line. I dodged a lot of runners trying to get enough space in front of me to find my own pace. Before the end of the first mile we had to go up an exit ramp, and that was frustratingly crowded with slower runners. My first mile split time was 9:00 even.
After that, the course opened up, and I got into a groove as we ran across Memorial Bridge and down Constitution Avenue. My spilt time for mile 2 was 8:27.
I enjoyed the shady streets as we turned up Virginia Avenue and headed towards my office. With that uphill segment, my split time for mile 3 was 8:45.
When we took the hairpin turn onto Rock Creek Parkway, I made sure I was on the shady side, under the Kennedy Center overhang. That whole stretch was shady and flat, and my split time for mile 4 was 8:04.
After passing by the Lincoln Memorial, we headed up Independence Avenue. The course was partly shady, but I was getting hot, and knew the sunny bridge was coming. I decided to strip down to my sports bra, which meant unpinning my race number, taking off my shirt, and pinning my number to my bra. I dropped my number once and my shirt fell off before I tucked it in to my fuel belt, but my split time for mile 5 still was 8:37.
People were celebrating being half-way done, but I knew the worst was ahead. We still had to run up to the Capitol, and we still had to make it across the 14th Street Bridge.
Mile 5-6 is the “out” of an out-and-back stretch, and the street was lined with lots of spectators. I hate it when people bring cowbells to football games, but I find them very motivating when I am racing–they remind me of the Tour de France and those speedy bicyclists! We were on the sunny side of the street, and my split time for mile 6 was 8:45.
As we looped around in front of the Capitol, a high school band kept us motivated for the last few miles. Thank you Paul IV–but I hope we beat you in wrestling this year! We had the shady side of the street now, and my split time for mile 7 was 8:48.
After mile 7, I knew the worst was ahead. I tried to pace myself while staying strong. I felt a slight knot in my piriformis, but knew it wasn’t going to hold me back. My split time at mile 8 was 8:44, and I tried to keep my spirits up knowing that I had over a mile to go in the full sun on the bridge.
Police were shooing away spectators, but a few runners who already had finished managed to sneak back on the course and cheer us on. Some crazy guys claimed to have “free beer” and swore they were “not kidding” but I was more inspired by the woman who cajoled a man who was walking to “Dig deep and run!” even if he went slowly. She got him going! My split time for mile 9 was 8:55.
We had one more incline to climb on the freeway, but I could finally see the downhill exit ramp ahead. Since I had studied the course map, I knew I still had a long was to go, so I did not try to push my pace. I was annoyed when I saw that we had to go up another ramp and over a bridge in the Pentagon parking lot–it reminded me of that last climb at the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon that everyone was cursing!
At that point, I felt like my body had taken over. I was powering up the ramp, but I had no idea how. My breathing was hard, my stomach was not happy, and I still could not see the damn finish line!
Finally, we came down the other side of the bridge, and I could see the black and gold balloon arch over the finish line. I didn’t have anything left to sprint to the end, but I tried to cross the finish line smiling, and even put up some jazz hands for Steena, who ran the Chicago Marathon today. My split time for mile 10 was 8:42.
My Garmin said I ran a total of 10.14 miles in 1:27:56, at an average pace of 8:40. It’s interesting that my Garmin read 10.13 miles last year. I don’t know if the course is off, if my Garmin is off, or if I just do that much dodging and weaving! I beat last year’s time (1:33:06) by 5 whole minutes, so I guess my short training program this year was at least as effective as my interrupted training program last year. 🙂
I got curious about my results from previous years, and found the official results on the Army Ten Miler website:
In 2006 my chip time was 1:29:57 and only a few minutes off the gun time–the race was much smaller back then!
In 2003 my chip time was 1:24:47 and probably will remain my PR for this event, since I was 8 years younger!
I got my finisher’s medal and a banana, and started the loooong walk back to where I was meeting my husband. It really was a ridiculous distance back to the exit area–at least 3/4 mile according to the Army Ten Miler website!
I recovered with my usual post-race Starbucks, an ice bath, a hot shower, lunch, and a nap. Now to plan my recovery week and map out my training program for the Hot Chocolate 15K in December!
Is there a race you keep doing even though you *hate* part of the course?
Do you shower before a long run or race?