I knew my season was coming to an end…partly because of the calendar and partly because my injury was in dire need of some rest/recovery…but I HAVE to do the Army 10 Miler. I’m so bummed that for the past 10 years I’ve been in DC that weekend for work and DIDN’T race it (because I was an unmotivated fat body) but once I finally did it last year, there was no way I miss another one.
I will say that I went into this year’s race with no expectation. Finishing wasn’t an issue but finishing in a decent time was. I had no aspirations or vision of beating my PR, I just wanted to get through the race and be in decent shape when it was over. Luckily, this year (on J’s suggestion) the hotel I stayed at was only a 5 minute walk from the start of the race. A quick trip to the expo on Saturday (once you’ve been to a major expo like Boston or Chicago all the other expos are kind of lackluster) and then a chill day off the legs.
I never thought I’d say this, nor did you ever think you’d hear me say this, but I got to the race…too early! Since I stayed so close, it really only took 5 minutes to walk over to the start. I mean ya, it was great to be able to hit the porta-potty one more time but I literally had 40 minutes to stand around and wait. See the waiting part is what drives me insane (idle hands and all). As I moved up to my corral, not having anyone to chat with, I just kept thinking about the race “will it be slow?”, “how slow?”, “will I be upset with the result?” and my personal favorite “why didn’t I just stay in bed?”. Well, nothing to do now but wait for the cannon to go off and see how I felt.
Finally it was my corral’s turn and I made across the start. Even though there were somewhere around 30k runners, my corral seemed to get off without issue and I settled into a decent pace. Well, a little faster than decent…I glanced down at my watch at the ½ mile mark and saw I was running on a 6:35. Whoa, that is not a good idea. I keep this up and it’s gonna be a tough day and no sooner did I say that to myself did it feel like a hand grenade went off in my lower back/pelvis. Sonuva! Really?! The injury had to flare up now, not even a mile into this race?! It’s not like I can quit, or like I’m gonna. I’m at the start of a huge race filled with other former and current Soldiers, not to mention Wounded Warriors. Suck it up buttercup and keep running. The one “hill” of the course is running up the on ramp onto Arlington and then it was time to find a zone and run…and by find a zone I really mean “zone out” and try to get the run done. I figured the best way to go through the race was to see it in 3 mile chunks and then if I have anything left in the tank lay it out on the last mile.
Miles 1, 2, 3 – 6:47, 6:42, 6:35
I know the 1st mile went by too fast but after “zoning out” and focusing on just running…I noticed that I hit the 2nd and 3rd mile markers on a 6:42 and 6:35 pace respectively. Ok, maybe this isn’t too fast after all and I can hold this. Either the injury got better or I got numb to it but I started to feel ok.
Miles 4,5,6 – 6:42, 6:47, 6:42
As I kept glancing down at my watch I noticed that I was running a sub 7 pace…and then I had that conversation with myself. Yes, I might feel like garbage but…I might be on track for a PR. I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d run it in last year but I knew I hadn’t run sub 7’s. Really? My season has been ending on a bad note and I could set a PR at the Army 10 Miler? Ya, I hurt but not enough to lay off the gas and not shoot for a PR. I hit the 4 mile marker and saw that my GPS read 4.3 miles. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that .3 miles difference would throw off my mile/pace for the rest of the race but since I’m dumb and can’t do math I just forged ahead thinking I was knocking down a sub-7 minute mile and was gonna crush this race…unless the wheels fall off and my back exploded (on a side not, while I notice very little when I race I DID notice that gas was $4.69 at a gas station I ran by…good lord that’s expensive!). At the start, I did see some guys I served with back in the day. I didn’t say hello because I hadn’t seen those guy in over 10 years and I thought it would be awkward to just walk up and say hello…but I could’ve sworn I heard one of the yell “pick it up Dutch” when they went pace me at the turn at 6.5 miles. Well, I’m sure not gonna slow down now.
Miles 7,8,9 – 6:49, 6:51, 6:56
The way the course was laid out, you run by the 6 mile marker, hit the turn and then hit the 7mile marker. Although the morning was brisk it was now the sun was out and it was starting to get warm. Especially since there was no shade and that light Under Armour shirt I had on was making me even hotter. Well, good reason to run faster now…I wanted this to be over. At the next water station I grabbed a cup of ice water and poured it down my back. Sonuva that was cold! But it had the desired effect of cooling me off and it woke me up to boot. Now the last 3 miles of the race is on Interstate 395 approaching the Pentagon. It is boring, hot and on a highway that’s a steady climb but you can see your destination off to the right. I was excited to hit the off-ramp from I-395, the 9 mile marker and the turn onto Jefferson Davis Highway into the finish.
Mile 10 – 6:53
The last mile of the 10 Miler is not a fun one. You come off the “downhill” of the off-ramp and then have a climb back up to the last turn into the finish. While I thought I was pushing harder and running faster, the pace/split shows the opposite. I saw the speaker stand and ran as fast as I could thinking I’d finally hit the finish…only to realize that this year they moved the finish back a few hundred meters. I literally crossed what I thought was the finish line and slowed only to look up and see the finish in the distance and had to pick it up again and run to it. As run under the finish I saw I’d run a 1:12:01, a 7:11 average pace. I guess that .4 miles difference really threw off pacing. And really….1 second?! Crap that’s gonna bother me until next year! But…another race in the bag and a PR to boot. Unfortunately, once I crossed the finish I could barely stand and walking wasn’t particularly enjoyable. I guess all the adrenaline wore off as I crossed the finish and it felt like somebody punched me in the lower back wearing brass knuckles. I was in pain…but I was happy (as that picture can attest) and I could easily muster the walk over to get my finisher’s coin. I came into a race merely wanting to finish and not embarrass myself with my time and I knocked 1:30 of my 10 Miler PR. Not bad! I gladly spent the rest of the day prostrate, eating pizza, sipping coke and chewing on Advil. I have a few races left in the calendar year but I’ll be laying off running for a month or so and I’ll focus on pacing other people for those races (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself right now…).