Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Army 10 Miler - 2010

This was it - last race of the season! (probably.)  Hang on to your hats, folks, 'cause we're off!

Why I wanted to do this race:  I've done the Army10 before, in 2008 and in 2009.  Despite the hassle of getting in to DC (see below), it's a really well-run event.  I also like the ten mile distance - long enough that it's tough, short enough that I don't have to kill myself training for it.  Plus, I like supporting the cause.  Army-10 runners approach the race with fun (there are usually costumes out there) and a sense of awe (just look at the wounded servicemen and women who come out to run the course).

The Prep:  Coming off the marathon training, I was more prepared for this race than I'd ever been.

The Taper:  I took a few days off after Baltimore to soothe my legs, and just extended the taper.  I swam one day, ran another (felt tired), and then relaxed until Sunday.

The Gear:  I wore my good old Asics-2150s.  They've got holes in them now.  Don't worry, I did score a new pair on discount at the expo.

Race Morning:  Dawn broke clear and cool.  I know, because I was up to see it.  I met the Sixes at 5:10am, and we made good time to the metro.  We got the first train, which actually left the station at 5:45 (opening time was 6am).  Metro was kind enough to run the Yellow line all the way out to Greenbelt for that early hour, so we had a straight shot to the Pentagon.  Really, getting there was no problem at all.  Once there, we hydrated, checked our bags, and enjoyed the starting line sights.  Breakfast was a soyjoy bar and diluted cranberry juice, around 5:30am.

An awesome thing: they had water stops in the start corral, to make sure runners were hydrated.  Are these guys good or what?

Goal:  So what happened was... the plan had been to run nice and easy.  I just finished 26.2 miles.  Before Baltimore, I wasn't sure if I would be able to run ten miles the next weekend; however, I was feeling pretty good.  Dare I say... cocky?  I decided to start with my wave instead of hanging back, and found myself by the 8:30 pace group ('group' = one dude with a little sign).  I had wanted to look for the 8:00, but it was so crowded I just stayed where I was.

The Race:
  • The start was intense, as always.  The Army10 hosts one of the largest fields in North America.  There is no running over the line.  You shuffle, run, shuffle, walk, hobble, walk, and then you can run.  But people are laughing and waving to cameras, and we know the Warriors are just ahead of us - such a cool thing that I, at least, only felt happy to be there.  
  • Miles 0-3
    • Mile 1 felt fast - too fast.  I hit it when the race clock was at 12:00, but I had no idea how long it had been since I'd actually started.  Some dude behind me was yelling at the pacer for running a 7:50 (I don't think it was a 7:50, but it was probably faster than 8:30).  I ignored him and decided to keep going with the pacer for a while longer.
    • We crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial by Mile 2.  It was a beautiful day - sunny, comfortable.  Amazing.
    • Right around Mile 2-3, I saw a few people go down.  I guess the streets were rough.  I heard the pacer warning about rougher roads ahead, decided to keep an eye out, and pull ahead.  I grabbed some gatorade at that stop, felt good, and turned up the pace a bit.
  • Miles 3-6.5
    • Right around mile 4, I realized I was holding 8s.  This would be a personal PR for me, especially at this distance.  I was psyched.  Now I just had to hold it for 6 more miles.  Helloooo gatorade.
    • I tried to entertain myself by picking people off ahead of me.  That seemed to work pretty well.  There were also military bands and lots of spectators, and no shortage of thing to look at.  
    • We passed the Washington monument around mile 5, and I realized it's been years since I'd been to see it.  I can barely remember.  I live 30-40 minutes away.  Kinda sad.  After that is a straight-away, where you can see faster runners heading back.  Wow.
    • In this segment I passed some warriors.  I can't say enough about how inspiring these people are.  There were runners with double prosthetics, runners in wheelchairs, etc.  They had a palpable affect on the people around them, kind of like...
    • The Air Force dude at Mile 6, who was running while playing tunes on a recorder.  Srsly.  He was cool.
  • Miles 6.5-9
    • I must have missed the mile 7 marker, because I was getting tired and there was no end in sight!
    • Mile 8 took us past the Jefferson memorial, but I didn't really appreciate it.  I was crunching numbers in my head, trying to figure out what time I wanted to see when I came in to the finish.  In retrospect, I wish I hadn't been so worried about it.
    • We crossed the George Mason Memorial Bridge, also the location of the mile 9 marker.  There were people with a cooler on the bridge, pouring beer for runners.  Win... though I didn't stop.
  • Mile 10
    • The last mile is a little deceptive.  The overpasses make these little rolling hills, and it curves so it's hard to really gauge how much is left.  I definitely started to slow down this mile.
    • I focused on my stride, shortening it for the 'inclines' and leaning into the down-slopes.
  • The finish
    • The route curves around sharply, and then there's the finish!  Awesome!  I turned the gas on the best I could and ran through the finish.  
    • The announcer encouraged people to keep walking, so I tried to.  The process was really smooth.  Within minutes I had water, my finisher coin, and food: bagels, muffins, bananas, granola bars, cookies, and more water.  
    • What was more amazing?  In the post race entertainment zone, they had even more food - sandwiches, etc - and people who walked around making sure that runners had water and gatorade.  They really seemed to anticipate the needs of the crowd.  There were even bags of extra bananas at the bag pickup. These guys run a tight ship.

The Results:  I'm so glad that I ended the season on this note.  I blasted my PR by about 8 minutes, coming in at 1:19:29 (6.5 mile split = 53:31).  This is the first time I've had a sub-8 pace in a race of any distance.  I was tired when I was done, but I felt really good.

Post-race:  I already talked about the post-race events, but I walked around for a while and stretched.  Then the 6s, Sean M, and I went to Chopp't for some salads and soda, and metro'd back.  My legs hurt later, and my feet, but I think that was just because I put a lot of effort out after not fully recovering from the marathon.  And sadly... I think it's time to retire the shoes.

Thoughts on the Race:  I can't say enough about how well run this race is, and about how inspiring it is.  The expo is large and well-run.  The course is beautiful, the people are friendly, and I'm glad I got the chance to run this year.

Will I do it again?  Well, it kind of depends on what fall marathon I choose... but yes, I would very much like to do this race again.  And since it sold out in about a day and a half this year, I'll be sure to get in quickly if I do.