Ah, the Army Ten Miler (ATM), you broke me down last year, but this year I kicked your butt!
Packet Pickup and Race Morning
First we had Paige’s second soccer game Saturday morning. She’s in first grade and the program she’s playing through had issues getting started so she’d had a total of two practices and one previous game (which the won). Today didn’t fare so well. They played a stronger team, and they just didn’t play as hard, especially Paige. She was off in Lala land a lot. Oh well, she’s only 6. After the game we drove down to DC for race packet pickup.
Packet pickup went quick and we were able to register Paige for the kids 100m race. She was so excited. From there we hit the expo, didn’t find much. I wasn’t looking for anything and Jen found a few items. The Women’s Running booth peaked her interest and she started looking at their Arizona HM next fall to run with my sister that lives in Phoenix. They’ve both soft committed to run it together now! Awesomeness. But I digress. We left the expo, and outside there were some Army booths with guns and vehicles, even a Blackhawk helicopter that the kids were able to hop in. They loved it.
We headed back towards Baltimore and stopped at an Olive Garden for dinner. This is becoming the traditional pre-race meal for us. I’ve started having allergies, so was fairly sneezy and feeling crappy. Yeah, that appears to be tradition now as well, me feeling crappy the night before a race. Yuk!
We awoke at 4:45 yesterday morning for the race. About a 45 minute drive to the metro, with a coffee and donut stop, and we missed the first train by about 3 minutes. After about 15 minutes of waiting, we got another and quickly found out we’d need to change trains twice due to track maintenance. Nowhere did we read anything about stations being closed. Stupid MTA!
Finally, we made it to the Pentagon stop, yeah, it was crowded as heck. It took awhile to get out of the metro station and from there, the organizational mass confusion kicked into high gear. We couldn’t make heads or tails of where to go. Everything was changed from last year, and we needed to hit the bathroom. Everyone was standing around, confused, and not sure where to go. Finally, we figured out that it was the racers checkpoint and I said my goodbyes to head on down. By this time, it was about 20 minutes before my wave was to start. I hit the “Don’s Johns” line and had to wait about 10 minutes. There was no toilet paper (Thankfully I’m a guy!) and the seat was a gross mess. Yuk! From there, I headed towards the starting line.
Last year’s race was well organized, Each wave was corralled behind a loop of colored balloons, We were able to hear the National Anthem, and each wave went off without a hitch. Not so this year. I got in line where my color was (the back) and everyone was just walking. It was about a 15 minute nonstop walk to the starting line. There wasn’t any distinction between waves, or at least none I could tell. Just one massively large 30K sea of people slowly making their way to the starting line.
Finally, I crossed and the race began. With so many people, it was impossible to run at a specific pace, let alone do run/walks. I was stuck at the mercy of the crowd. No big deal, it was VERY slow for the first half mile or so. There must have been a ton of people that either forgot to pee or do to the confusion, just didn’t have time. I came across this site about 3 minutes into the run. When you gotta go, you gotta go! I didn’t suffer such fate! Mile was close to the Lincoln Memorial. I tried to get some photos, but they didn’t turn out too well. I did get the Washington Monument. Not bad of a pic either. I was having fun. I was trying to maintain a lose 12 min/mile pace, but mainly I was enjoying the crowd, the sights, the other runners, just all of it.
This section of the race was along the water, near the infamous Watergate and the Kennedy Center. A nice section to run on Somewhere during mile 5 I noticed some pain in my left knee, not as sharp as the HM two weeks ago, but enough for me to be worried. I slowed it down some more, took some painkillers, and applied some Biofreeze.
Although I was going slower and worried about the knee, I loved this section of the race. It was along the mall near where I used to work. The crowd was huge, and the course double backed so we could see the runners ahead, then behind us. My leg continued to have the slight pain. It wasn’t noticeable at the beginning of a running interval but was by the end. I was playing it safe, no rough surfaces or sharp turns, just slow and steady.
This section took us back over the bridge towards the Pentagon. Most people consider this section the worst of the race. Not much good scenery, and running over a dull bridge. I personally like it. My knee cleared up. No more pain, and I slowly started speeding back up towards my 12 min/mile pace. There was a possibility that I could still make it under 2 hours, but I needed to make up some ground. I cautiously started increasing the running ratio. It seemed that 75% of the runners near me were walking. I did a lot of passing through here.
Mile 10 and a long finishers shoot
When I hit the 9 mile mark, I calculated I’d need a sub 10 min/mile to make the 2 hour goal. Nothing doing. I wasn’t about to injure myself and run the risk of not finishing or worse, cause long term damage. I just kept it steady. At the last turn, there was about 200 yards left and I started kicking. The last 50 yards, I was going full speed and crossed the line with a 2:01:55. Much better than last years race, but nearly 45 sec/mile slower than two weeks ago. I was done, yet we had to walk about 10 minutes before we could get out of the shoot. No water was provided to us, although later I saw a ton of empty water there. Thankfully Jen and the kids were at the exit where I got my finishers coin and some Gatorade Jen got for me. I was feeling great actually. Only during the sprint at the end did I really push myself. Otherwise I was following Mr. Bingham's advice about getting your money’s worth. It was a great way to run the race.
This was a HUGE fiasco. It started nearly 30 minutes late. We had to walk about 15 minutes to the start and were sandwiched in the finishers shoot. There was no way the parents could get out. We were told to put the kids up front and we were to run behind them. An industrious guy was able to break the zip tie and some parents got out, Jen included. I stayed behind. We only registered Paige, but there were a bunch of other kids without bibs, and Connor really wanted to go with his Sissy, so we let him. When the gun went off, Paige ran with Connor hand in hand, I was behind. I told her she didn’t need to stay with him and she took off like a bolt of lightning. I finished with Connor, and both of them got medals. Now these were no kiddie medals. They were actual metal, better than some I’ve received for real races!
With the race over, we had a fiasco meeting up with my friends that live by there because the metro bus station at the Pentagon was closed. Again, nowhere was this stated! Finally one of them picked us up and we hit some yummy Mexican food for lunch.
Overall, the race was great. Yeah, I had some pain in my knee, and I’m going to need to address that now, but it didn’t last the entire race. The race was far less organized than last year, and from the complaints on Facebook, I’m hoping they change it back.
Now I’m off to enjoy Columbus Day sitting on the patio in 70 degree weather!