I rarely "repeat" races. I prefer to try new ones. The Army Ten Miler race is different. This was the 3rd time I have run this race. I ran it in 2009 with my best friend, Michele, and I also ran it last year. Check out my eventful account here.
This year I was asked to run on a Masters Mixed team for Carlisle Barracks. My husband was also running, so I thought it would be fun. One of the runners on our team felt that we could possible place in the top 5 if we had a good running day. We had 8 people on our team, 5 men and 3 women. The top 4 times count toward the team score. I originally hoped to run somewhere between 1:20-1:25. Unfortunately, after my last long training run for a marathon I am training for, on Oct.12, I developed tightness and pain in my left hip and piriformis. After that run, I had to take a few days off and try to get the leg loosened up before the race. I endured a deep tissue massage on Wednesday to try to loosen things up. During the massage, I also realized that my hip flexors and quads were also quite tight. All the hill running of Ragnar and just the training for a marathon have taken a toll. I also had been rushing my recovery time after the long runs, needing to get my kids to activities on Saturday afternoons. Sometimes I would spend 5 minutes stretching, then showering and eating on the way out the door. No foam rolling post run, no ice baths. Not the best plan. I think I paid for it.
The two days before the 10 mile race, I actually contemplated dropping out completely. What was the point in running if it would cause further problems, and I wouldn't be able to run very fast anyway? What if I couldn't even finish the race? On Thursday I ran for 30 minutes, but the run was not comfortable. I felt a pulling sensation in my left leg with every step. We travelled to Centreville, VA on Saturday afternoon to stay with friends overnight, and I was still debating whether or not I should run the race. Not the best feeling just a few hours before a race!!
My husband, his friend who was also running on our team, and I went to the race expo at the Armory on Saturday afternoon. It was easy to find parking, and we were in and out in just a few minutes. We did stop by the Nuun booth to chat with Robert, who had run the Ragnar Relay NWP with me. Nice to see him again, and to fill my water bottle with some orange Nuun! I also was able to donate 2 pairs of running shoes to a veterans charity. It was a good feeling knowing that someone would benefit from one pair of gently used ones that I was done with, and with a pair that I had bought because they were going to be "extinct" and then realizing a few months later that I needed to size up to the next size, and change the type of shoe I was wearing after a gait analysis! They were never worn, so I hope there is a runner out there that will benefit from them.
Saturday evening was spent with our friends at their home, eating spaghetti and Italian bread. I did indulge in one beer, hoping it would "relax" me and allow me to get some sleep. I was very nervous about attempting to run the next day. I had decided by then that I would go to the race, start and see how it went. If I was in too much pain half way through, I would find a way to get to the finish and link up with my husband. I put aside my ID, $20 and my cell phone to bring to the race. Cell phones and any electronics are not allowed on the course, but I could fit the phone the back pocket of my Oiselle Roga shorts and I wanted to make sure I had a way of reaching my husband if I had problems on the run. He also planned on carrying his phone. Luckily, they again did not enforce this "rule" that is supposed to discourage people from having electronics on the course. As I have seen every year, people ignore the rule, listen to music, chat on their phones, and take photos while running. I have always carried a phone, but do not take it out of the pocket until I need to reach someone at the end. This is a very large race, with approx. 30,000 runners and it can be difficult to maneuver around people that are not paying attention, stopping to take pictures, etc.
Anyway, back to the evening before the race. The friend that we were staying with is a chiropractor, and she graciously offered to give us adjustments and treatments for our ailments. As a "masters" team, it seems that most of us had aches and pains that we had been dealing with in the weeks before the race. I was not alone in that. My husband was having knee pain, and his left calf had been cramping up in the days before the race. His friend, her husband, had injured one of his oblique muscles playing softball. We lined up for treatments, she pulled out her treatment table, ultrasound and KT tape.
She helped me by applying ultrasound to my piriformis, and helping me stretch out some of the tightness. She then applied some biofreeze, and I went off to bed. I was still nervous, but hopeful that I would be able to run the race.
I slept horribly. I just tossed and turned the entire night. Before I knew it, my alarm went off at 5am. I ate a bagel with peanut butter, drank some orange juice, and a cup of coffee and then we were off to the Metro station. We arrived at the Pentagon shortly before 7am. It was cold, probably in the 40's. I had worn old running pants that I planned on tossing at the start and an old race t-shirt. We found the porta potties, checked our bags and headed to the corrals. It wasn't crowded yet, and we were able to easily find our way to our starting corrals. My husband and his friend were in the faster corrals, so I let them go ahead, and I found a position in the front of the red corral. I had opted to not wear my watch. This was the first time I had ever done this in a race. I was feeling pretty discouraged and worried, so I was going to just run by feel and "see how it goes". Waiting in the cold was the hardest part. I was shivering even before I took off my throw away clothes. I chatted with a few people around me. We were positioned right before an underpass. We were astonished by the number people that were going just above the underpass on the hill and relieving themselves on the stone bridge. At first it was just a couple of guys, then before you knew it, they were lined up to do it, just like in a porta potty line!! I felt like yelling "We can see you! Just because you turn your back to us, doesn't mean we can't see you peeing!!!" But I didn't. I just found it ridiculous. There were enough port o potties at the race. This was unnecessary. There were even a few ladies that went to the other side of the underpass and I saw them squatting. Come on!! Even the Army guys that were monitoring the corrals were shaking their heads. I heard one guy behind me, apparently from another country say "You only see Americans doing things like this. Disgraceful". Wow...
Next, we heard the announcer introduce the singer of the national anthem. The singer sounded like he had a nice voice, but there was such an echo, that it sounded like he was singing over his voice. Then, with the sound of a cannon, the Wounded Warriors were off first, 10 minutes before the first corral. I was in the second corral, so once the first went, I took off my throw away clothes and we moved ahead to our start. At 8:05 we were off!
At first my legs felt quite tight. I just told myself to take it easy, try to find a good pace and that my legs would feel better after a few minutes. Several people passed me, but I just let them. I was going to run my own pace, my own race. I just wanted to enjoy the experience as much as possible. This race is always so inspiring, seeing all the Army units running together, the Wounded Warriors, the charity runners and the whole Army community. I passed a few Wounded Warriors with prosthetic devices for legs, and I told myself "If they can keep going, so can I. I have NOTHING to complain about".
Sure enough, 20-30 minutes into the race I started to feel better. I could still feel some tightness in my leg, but I was finding my stride and feeling okay. The course runs by several monuments, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Kennedy center and Jefferson Memorial. I took the time this year to enjoy the views. It can be difficult, since you are continually trying not to trip on your own feet, or someone else's. You have runners around you for the entire course. Some people can be pretty aggressive and pushy. I got elbowed a couple of times by a couple of guys trying to get around me. That was pretty annoying. I was running an appropriate pace for the corral I had started with, so I just let them go past me. I stopped for sips of water at the 4 mile water stop. At the 6 mile water stop, I took a Gu gel with some water. I was still feeling good, and went over the 10K mat in about 54 minutes. There was a race clock there, and I subtracted 5 minutes off that time for my time. I was running better than I expected, so I decided to speed up my pace a bit. I was feeling okay, and I knew that I was going to be able to finish. Miles 8-9 were the toughest. It is the only part that is "hill". It is actually a long bridge that you go over, the George Mason Memorial Bridge. Many people slowed down, and I was able to pass several runners here. Without having a watch, it was difficult to judge how far away the finish was once we got off the bridge. I could hear the finish line, but couldn't see it for the longest time.
Finally, I spotted the black and gold balloons over the finish line. I sprinted the to the end, and was happy to see the time as 1:31, which means I ran approx. 1:26. I wasn't sure what my PR was for 10 miles. I had not checked before I left home. It wasn't until I arrived home that I realized my previous PR was 1:27:16 at the Cherry Blossom in April. I PR'ed when I wasn't even trying!! That means I did a negative split, running the last 3.8 miles in 32 minutes, 8:25 pace! Awesome.
Walking through the finish chute took a long time. It was very crowded. I grabbed some water that was being handed out, and finally made it to the place where they handed out the finish coins.
here. This is a similar uniform that Jim Thorpe wore when he was an athlete for the "Carlisle Indian School" which much later became Carlisle Barracks. It was our way of honoring him. There were 2 other ladies on the team, but unfortunately, we did not link up with them for this photo.
We did find out later that our team place 4th in the "Masters Mixed" category. The top 4 times counted for our team score. My time actually counted, with the 3 fastest guys. I'm glad I was able to run as well as I did.
I was able to link up with a few Army friends at the race, including my best friend, Michele, who had travelled from North Carolina for the race. After spending some time with her, I was starting to shiver, and it was time to head to the bag check to retrieve some warm clothes!
We saw the long line for the shuttle buses, and decided to walk the mile instead to the bag check. My legs were tired and sore, but it was good to be moving. Getting our bags was quick and easy and I was "happy" to put on my Oiselle Happy Hoodie- pun intended! We made our way to the Metro and worked through the crowds before finally getting on a train.
We made it back to Centreville, and met our friend with our kids and hers at Tropical Smoothie. We enjoyed yummy smoothies and wraps before headed back to their home for warm showers.
After a quick foam rolling session and packing our things up, we were on the road to home. It was a great weekend, and turned out much better than I expected! This a race that I enjoy every year. I hope to be able run it for many more!