Hey guys it’s Christina! I’m super excited this is the very first POTR Guest Post!! Coming to you from none other than Mike. He’s a waayyy better runner than me, so I thought you guys might like to hear from a seriously competitive runner instead of just my ramblings.
Hi POTR readers, this is Mike, the sometimes mentioned boyfriend. I ran the Army Ten Miler last Sunday, so Christina suggested that I should write a guest post for the blog. This was my first time running the Army Ten Miler, after registering for it in 2011 and transferring away my bib upon finding out that it was the same weekend as Ragnar Pennsylvania. I had wanted to run this race for a couple years before 2011 too, but never managed to register in time, so I was really looking forward to it this year. They announced before the start of the race that it sold out in record time this year, at about 9 hours. Needless to say, if you’re interested in running this race you either need to pay attention to the registration date (and hour!) or go through the bib transfer system that the organizers turn on over the summer. I think there’s a special pre-registration period for active duty military people, and maybe other civil servants as well, but since none of those apply to me I don’t remember exactly.
I’ll do the “review” part first, and get back to my personal race recap. Registration this year was way back in May, with a total cost of $58.50 including fees. Normal for a race this size.
Expo, A: I went to the expo at the DC Armory on Friday night right before they closed while it was pouring rain outside, so I was in and out fast. To their credit, it was easy to be in and out fast, which earns the A here, but I didn’t stick around to see anything besides packet pickup and the booth selling cotton throw-away gloves. It looked like a standard big-race expo though with vendors selling shoes, gear, and gadgets.
Swag, A-: The race shirt was a long sleeve cotton tee, with this year’s design on the front, and the usual sponsor logos on the back. Since I’m a regular racer, I have more short-sleeve tech-tees than I know what to do with, so anything other than this gets extra points from me. I know many people like to get a tech tee though, especially along with entry fees that exceed $50.00, hence the minus part of A-. They also gave out hats to the first 15,000 people to use post-race trolleys, but obviously not everyone can get there in time to pick up one of these. The finisher coins didn’t have the ribbon that would turn them into a finisher medal, which was also unusual.
Course, A: The race starts and finishes at the Pentagon in VA, and spends about 60% of the distance in DC. It’s almost entirely flat, with the only “hills” being small and short. It’s definitely flatter than my Garmin elevation track (link below) makes it look, and is good for a fast race. You run past a number of other DC landmarks after the Pentagon, including Arlington Cemetery, Arlington Memorial Bridge, Lincoln Memorial, Watergate Hotel, Kennedy Center, Tidal Basin, Washington Monument, Smithsonian, and Jefferson Memorial. Other than the last 2 miles, there’s almost always something interesting to see.
Crowd Support, Mixed: The majority of the route had few spectators, with one big exception being the section of Independence Ave between 7th St. and 14th St. This makes sense, since it’s right next to both the Smithsonian and L’Enfant Plaza Metro stops. There were a ton of people in this stretch making lots of noise, as well as a high school band, and a water stop. It was a really nice boost around mile 7 or so when the tiredness is starting to set in, but this abruptly changes, since about miles 8 through 9.5 along Rt. 395 are the least spectator-friendly and least scenic of the entire course. I personally don’t mind having no crowds at all on a race course, so the Independence Ave stretch alone gives this category an A for me, but some people might like a more even distribution of crowds.
Course Support, A+: There were plenty of water stops (at least 5 I think?), with Gatorade also available at each, all staffed by Army personnel in camo pants and the race shirt. For me this was more than enough to cover a ten mile race, especially with the perfect weather, and I didn’t use every available station while also not carrying any extra fluids or fuel. At one of the last stations, I heard some commotion behind me just after I had passed it, and turned around to see some guy screaming his battle-cry while sprinting the (quite long) gauntlet of water-bearers with each one hurling their cup’s worth of water at his chest. Army race for sure.
Pre-Race, A+: The pre-race corrals were inside a fenced off area which required a race bib for entry. I think I’ve seen this before, but it’s pretty unusual. This was a very large race though, with 30,000 registered runners so I think it was a good idea to cut down on congestion. Since I had my own POTR spectator (hehe that was me!), I didn’t need to use the bag check. There were plenty of porta-potties, and with about 45 minutes to go before the start, I only waited in line for maybe 5 minutes at the most. Do this INSIDE the runners-only area, since there were only a few outside with very long lines. The first three waves were staged in the starting corral, and the following waves set up in a holding area inside the Pentagon parking lot. At about 7:15am the Army Golden Knights parachute team put on a show from above as everyone warmed up, stretched out, and lined up.
The call for the starting CANNON (not a wimpy gun) came from Gen. Ray Odierno, the current Chief of Staff of the Army, and the previous commander of all Coalition Forces in Iraq. After a big “HOOAH” from the crowd, the first wave of about 50 runners starting at 7:55am was the Wounded Warrior division, whose bios you can find on the race website. Almost all of them had lost limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they used a variety of prosthetics, wheelchairs, and hand-cycles to complete the course. It was impossible not to be inspired by everything going on at the starting line.
Transportation, B: The Metro Blue Line did not appear to have extra trains running as of 6:45am, so if we had missed the train we took it would’ve been another 20 minutes before the next one. The Pentagon station was a mob scene getting out through the exit fare, and it took at least 15 minutes to inch up the stairs from the platform and get through the gate. After the race, they provided trolleys running back to the metro from the finish line area. It was less than a mile away, but much appreciated after finishing the race.
Now I’ll get into my personal recap of the race. In the week leading up to the race, I started to have some trouble with my left Achilles and ankle on Tuesday, with the worst of it coming on Wednesday when I couldn’t run even one mile without pain. My goal had been to run a PR of 1:06 at this race, and the Achilles had given me some serious doubt in the last few days about whether this would be either possible or advisable. My real goal for the fall season is the Philadelphia Marathon, so I didn’t want to take a chance at causing a more serious injury in this tune-up race. To this end, I decided beforehand that if at any point in the race I started to feel even a little bit of acute Achilles pain I would stop, stretch out, and walk-run to the finish. Luckily with a little bit of extra rest, it was feeling at least pretty good on Saturday, and mostly-solid on Sunday morning before the race. I decided to go for it, and it felt normal for the first five miles or so. After that it started to gradually tighten up and feel a little weak, but that was all, just a tight feeling, and no pain while running.
The morning started out without a cloud in the sky, and temperatures in the upper 40s before sunrise – perfect racing weather. My first mile was the slowest, as it usually is in large races with a crowd, but it wasn’t a bad thing for me since it opened up pretty quickly and forced me to ease into race pace. By mile 3 or so I had a good rhythm going, and ditched my gloves near a roadside trash can. In miles 5 and 6 I was starting to wonder if my Achilles would hold out, but otherwise feeling easy and smooth. The crowds around mile 7 were encouraging, and by mile 8 it was pretty clear that my ankle would last at least to the finish line, with a PR almost locked in at that point. My previous ten mile best was at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler last spring, in 1:07:32, and I was running faster than my 1:06 goal pace. Before the race I didn’t really think 1:05 was likely, but when mile 8 came out of nowhere at 6:17 on my GPS with a barely noticeable increase in effort, it started to seem possible. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself though, so I waited until after mile 9 to start the real final push.
I wound up finishing in 1:04:49, good for (unofficially) 556th place out of 21,912 finishers, and a huge PR.
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Excellent race all around!!! Here is the link to the Garmin Connect entry
Me again… just can’t stop gushing about how proud of him I am 🙂