Sunday, October 9, 2011

Army Ten-Miler Race Round-Up

Today was a perfect day for a race.  It was beautiful -- one of those fall days that DC only experiences for a two-week window before winter weather prematurely sets in.  Overall, I enjoyed this race.  The course started and ended at the Pentagon and covered a lot of ground along the National Mall.  There are a few complaints about the race that I'll mention below; I guess most of them are just what happens when there are 21,000 runners on a course.  But, hey, I guess the race organizers can only do so much when the field is that large.

Miles 1-3 (Bunch, Bunch, Bunch)
The race organizers split the race into three waves to help with overcrowding on the course.  Wave 2 (my wave) started the race at about 8:15 AM.  My plan going into the race was to run the first half of the race around a 9:00 pace and the second half closer to an 8:00 pace.  Out of the gate, I started at a 9:00 (perfect!) but completed the first mile in 9:22. Even with the staggered start, there simply was not enough room for runners to find good space early in the race.  (In fact, I spent most of the 10-mile race bumping into people or being bumped into.)

During the second mile, I floated around an 8:30 pace and, to be honest, it didn’t feel like I was pushing myself at all.  (Hooray seeing improvement!)  The third mile was a little slower than the second, which was fine since I didn’t really want to push my limits until the second half the race.  I talked to a few people on the course, and it was incredibly humbling to run alongside active duty servicemen and women as well as with those who were wounded in combat.  It was a great reminder of the sacrifices that many men and women (and their families) make to protect this country.

Miles 4-6

I thought that the course might thin out a bit by this point in the race, but I was still locked in a pack. I didn’t feel particularly speedy during this portion of the race and, by mile 5, I started to become a little frustrated by my inability to hit 8:00 miles.

Miles 7-9

The crowd support along Independence Avenue (Miles 5-8) was great.  Miles 8 and took us across the George Mason Memorial Bridge onto Rte.1 into Virginia.  It was eerily quiet, except for the sound of thousands of shoes hitting the pavement.  But, there is something appealing about that too.  I don’t think any description I write will do justice to the fact that this type of unity is truly special.  

The Finish Line

Once I cleared the highway, I started my final surge toward the finish line.  There was a slight incline toward the bridge, but I was in a great place.  (The crowd support in this area was the best.)  Weaving around runners was an added challenge – as it had been for most of the race – but I was able to do it without much problem.  I sprinted across the finish line, making an abrupt stop before hitting the wall of runners that were bottled-necked in the corral.  It took forever to move across the finish line to the celebration area. And, unlike most races where you’re almost immediately showered with water and bananas, the water station was an eternity away from the finish line.  (Okay, maybe not an eternity but when all you really want is water and a banana -- never mind. Oh hey, first world problems.)

Previous Record: 1:36:39, 2011 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler 
Gun Time: 1:51:32
Net Time: 1:33:10
Average Pace: 9:19
Division: 239/627

Instead of a medal, each finisher receives a commemorative coin, and I think it's snazzy.

Side A

Side B

Plans for Baltimore

Baltimore is six days away, and I had been going back and forth for months about my strategy for running two long races in one week.  To be honest, I think I didn’t run this race as hard as I wanted to or as hard as I could have.  But, this might actually be a blessing.  At this point, I've made the decision that Baltimore is going to be my hard race. More on that later.  

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