“Try a thing you haven't done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.” – Virgil Thomson
They say three times a charm. Well in this case, it truly is. My third Army Ten Miler came off without a hitch. Ready to dive into the nitty gritty?? Here we go!
Mrs Runners Bug (AKA MRB, AKA Jen) loves the Army Ten Miler expo. We always make it a family affair to drive into DC to pick up my race packet, and peruse the expo venders, this year was no exception. After a good drive down, we sat in parking lot traffic a good 20 minutes before finally getting a parking spot. From there, I got my packet while MRB registered the kiddos for the youth run. More about that later though.
After getting the required logistics out of the way, we hit the expo booths. The regulars were there, several stores, lots of sponsors, but MRBs favorite groups weren’t there, the Women’s Running Magazine, and the RunDisney group. She was disappointed. I did try out a portable TENS unit on my left knee, but there is no way in hell I’m going to pay $175 for that. Still, I enjoyed the five minutes of free stimulation
Next, we headed outside to the Army exhibits. First up was a Blackhawk helicopter, then several examples of combat arms were on display, along with a pontoon boat. The kiddos enjoyed playing around with them.
After that, we headed out of DC, hit up a few stores, and had the token pre-race pasta. Yum! We got home, and it was lights out well before 10pm.
Jolting awake at 4am by an obnoxiously loud alarm clock is never a fun thing, but on race day, it’s much more tolerable. We were meeting a coworker of mine at the DC metro station at 5:15 so it was a rush to get ready and out the door on time. MRB did not sleep well, so she was out. The kids were out, and I was feeling good.
At the metro station, the kids got their hair sprayed red while we froze our butts off waiting for the next train. My coworker, Christie, arrived just before I did, and we found her on the platform.
The ride down took about 45 minutes, and we chatted while MRB got stuff ready, and the kids fought to wake up.
The last two years, coming out of the metro station underneath the Pentagon was an awesome and overwhelming sight. My first year, it was the first time I’d ever done a large race, and just the experience was awesome. Last year, it was a total mess with racers not knowing which way to go and mass confusion. This year, it was simple. We arrived way early, making if far from crowded yet. MRB and the kids were freezing and I needed to visit a port-o-potty, so we said our goodbyes at the racer’s entrance.
Christie and I headed towards the corrals and hit up the potty. Looking at the watch, we had close to two hours to spare before race time. Fun! Standing in the cold wind without much to do but chat. There were several parachuters that jumped above the Pentagon, which took our attention away from the freezing cold. Soon, the National Anthem played, we hit the port-o-potties one last time and prepared for the start.
The Race Is On (Miles 1-3)
After the gun went off at 8am, we still had 20 minutes before our wave (5) was to start. Things went much smoother than last year. Each wave moved up at the appropriate time, and all was well. As our wave got to the starting line, the tension was building. everyone was cold, excited, and crammed in together. As soon as we crossed the start, we were off. Immediately, I noticed my feet felt frozen stiff. It wasn’t actually freezing, but boy did it feel like it.
Christie and I went out together chatting away and enjoying the race. About 100 yards into the race, and the “Pee’ers” were hitting the bushes. To be honest, I toyed with the idea of going myself, but I resisted. The first mile is a straight shot down the highway towards Arlington Cemetery then a tight circle around and over a bridge. until the circle, we were packed, but runnable. Once we hit the circle, everyone tightened in slowing us down, but it cleared back up (relatively speaking) once we were crossing the bridge with a straight shot towards the Lincoln Memorial. (A side note, MRB and I were debating the difference between a Memorial and a Monument while on the metro. We’ve not come to a definitive answer as to the difference. If anyone knows, please let me know!)
We were moving around a 10:00 pace, and I kept telling Christie not to feel like she had to stick with me. She, on the other hand, was saying the same to me. I wasn’t going slower on her account, I just tend to start off slow then speed up. Trucking along, we exchanged the camera for a few photos, but I could tell she was tiring. Shortly after mile 2, she started falling behind, and by around the 2.5 mark, I couldn’t see her. She was engulfed by the sea of runners.
Somewhere around this point was the first aid station. With my trusty hydration pack in tow, I headed to the far side of the road and enjoyed the ephemeral lack of runners allowing me to pick up the pace some. I was in good shape, the crowd was cheering, and I picked up the pace some more.
Just a Running (Miles 4-5)
Settling into a good grove when I hit Virginia Ave., I was steadily gaining ground. The pack thinned somewhat, and I stuck to the left shoulder, hopping onto the grass often to pass slower runners. This section is the most boring, in my opinion. Office buildings abound, but the one cool thing is passing by the Watergate. Not much else to say about this stretch.
Around mile 4, we made the turn along the Potomac, and the Kennedy Center. The scenery is wonderful here, and I’ve always enjoyed this section. Today, this is where I started noticing some aching in my left knee. It wasn’t bad, just enough for me to notice it, but it didn’t slow me down at all. Cautious with the sidewalks, but I was moving fine.
The Mall (Miles 5-7)
The Mile 5 marker was just as we were hitting the mall area, my favorite part of the race! Running down Independence Ave. we passed the Washington Monument (or is it a memorial?), the Smithsonian Castle, and several other Smithsonian buildings. Bringing back fond (and not so fond) memories of my days working this area, I was reminded of just how much I lOVE my current job.
Part of my love for this race is the flood of emotions I get when running the course. I work for the Army and have a huge attachment to it, but I had some rough times working in DC. Running this section always makes me think of just how thankful I am where I am today.
Ok, enough with the sappy emotional stuff, back to the race!
Running along Independence Ave. with loads of spectators cheering us on, it reminds me of a ticker-tape parade. At the 14th Street intersection, an added bonus. the road is divided with Eastbound and Westbound runners. It’s fun to watch my fellow runners pass by. Along this section, I passed not one, but two Captain Americas. One was running holding an American flag.
A disappointment with this years race was the turnaround. Two years ago, the course had us run right in front of the Capitol building. Last year, we ran by it, but on the other side of the reflection pond (still a good view). This year, we didn’t even come close! Before even hitting the Air & Space Museum, we headed south for a circle around a block. Boo! Bring back the Capitol next year!!
The Bridges (Miles 8-9)
Right after the Mile 7 marker, we took the left at 14th Street, for a near straight shot across the Potomac River and back to the Pentagon. For many, this section is the worst part of the race. For me, I like it. It’s more or less a straight shot. The abrupt turn off of the Mall area gives it a sense of completion. The huge crowd section is over. We’ve made it, now we just have to return to the Pentagon. The last two years, this section was fairly sparse, pack-wise. I was hoping the same would be true, and I’d have an easier time picking up some speed. Not so this year, the pack remained constant.
Around mile 8, I ran past a group of medics attending to someone. As I approached the scene, I saw a fellow runner laying on a stretcher, blood smeared everywhere on him. His neck was in a brace, and the medics were prepping him for transport. Poor guy! My only thought is that he must have been booking it hard and had an accident (been there, done that)
The Finish (Mile 10)
Hitting the Mile 9 marker, I was anxious to gain some ground. I was feeling good, a little too good for being 9/10ths of the way done. I needed to speed it up, but it was virtually impossible. The pack was tightening up. We knew it was almost over. Coming off the exit ramp, I knew I still had a good 1/2-3/4 of a mile to go. At this point last year, I thought I had one more turn and done. Not so. The finishing line was moved last year from previous years. I wasn’t prepared for that in 2011, but this year, I was. I hit the hair-pin turn, dropped it into second gear (so-to-speak) and started passing people hard. The pack was getting even tighter, but I was dead set on gaining as much ground as possible. Up, over the last bridge, and the finish line was in sight. And then, it was over. I crossed the line at 1:35:24 and spent the next 5 minutes walking to get out of the chute. This has got to be the longest finishing chute of any race! I picked up my finishers coin, and hooked up with Jen and the kids. Shortly after, I got word from Christie that she finished under 2 hours. Yay!
I shattered my original goal of 10 miles at 10:00 pace by nearly 30 seconds per mile. I was going strong the entire race. I didn’t even stop at aid stations. I didn’t get the chance to speed up those last three, like I wanted, but I still rocked it. My knee was irritated around mile 4 to around mile 6-7, but it seemed to clear up after that. I PRed and quite happy with the results. Next year, I’m hoping for a sub 9:00 pace!
Jen had signed the kids up for the youth run, and we had awhile before it started. Shortly before, Jen asked me to head to the finishing line so I could get good pics. It didn’t happen. Me, and several others got there early to get a good view. Unfortunately, a couple of minutes before the race, a ton of parents filled the finishing area, obstructing us civilized parents that were waiting behind the fence area.
The race started, but I was unable to get any good pics of Paige or Connor. Quickly, it was over. No pics of them, Much to Jen’s dismay, but they did come away with some awesome medals. Seriously, the youth run medals are better than some I’ve gotten for real races! Finally I found them, and we headed out to meet some friends for yummy Mexican food.