October 6, 2008

Army Strong

The Army 10-Miler on Sunday turned out to be one of the best races I've done yet, both from an experience standpoint and a performance standpoint. I wasn't sure how my foot and leg would hold up so I went with no expectations. I just wanted to enjoy it and finish.

We got up at 5 a.m. and were on the metro by 6:15. There were runners everywhere - on the platform, on the train and at every station we stopped at. Who else would want to be out that early on a Sunday morning? It was dark and we were all tired, but we were already having a good time. When we arrived at the Pentagon I was surprised by how huge the start/finish area was. I'm not sure what I expected, I knew there were 26,000 runners registered, but because it was just a 10-miler I was picturing it smaller. There were all sorts of things going on including guys jumping out of planes, a military helicopter flyover and a nice performance of the national anthem. It was also great to be doing a race with my sister.

There were 4 of us running and we were all in different start corrals so we picked a post-race meeting place and said our goodbyes. I settled into my start area and my foot started cramping. Great. I stretched and walked around a bit and it was hard to step on at times. After a few minutes I tried to jog and it seemed ok so I figured I would start out slow and see how it felt. I somehow (again) got placed in a slower wave than my pace so I went ahead and jumped in with one of the groups ahead of me. My leg and foot were feeling good, but I didn't want to celebrate too early so I tried to pay close attention and adjust my pace as needed. I did the first mile in 8:23 and worried I might be going too fast. The second mile was a few seconds faster so I deliberately slowed to 8:30 for the third.

But then I got stuck next to the heavy breather. And I'm not talking about normal heavy breathing I'm talking about loud, labored breathing with a very forceful exhale. I had a choice - either throw myself into the Potomac or drop the guy so I picked up the pace and tried to get away. It took me over a mile and I ended up dropping my time to just over 8:00. I was able to settle into an 8:13-8:19 pace pretty consistently for the remainder.

There was an incredibly positive feeling in this race and inspiration pretty much everywhere. There were a lot of amputees running, many who seemed to just be learning to run with prosthetics. All of them were way too young. There were tons of people running in honor of a friend or family member who is either still serving or who died serving and seeing the thousands of faces and names was very moving. And the energy level was unbeatable. Several Army band groups, other bands along the route and groups doing cadence calls all helped to keep up the momentum. It also didn't hurt to have the cute Army guys handing out water and Gatorade.

It was also fun to do a non-marathon race with such a huge field and adequate room along the course. I especially enjoyed a stretch along Independence Ave where the faster runners had made the turnaround and were running on the other side of the street. I desperately scanned the crowd for my sister but just couldn't find her. She was wearing a pink sleeveless top and so were about 5,000 other women.

I was somewhat amazed when I reached mile 8 and my legs and feet weren't giving out on me so I picked up the pace and pushed it to the end. The last couple miles covered the bridges we started on so there were some challenging hills. I was sure my pace had died off, but was surprised to see my 9th mile was just over 8:00 and my 10th was 7:59, my fastest of the race. I was thrilled with my finish time. I was in the top 10% of females overall and my age group, which is the best I've ever done in my 9 years of running.

My sister finished 15 minutes faster than she did last year so it was a great race all around. Everyone agreed that it couldn't have been better.

After a lot of coffee, a nice long nap and some wine in the backyard - the perfect lazy Sunday if you don't count the 10-mile run at the crack of dawn - we ended the day even more perfectly with dinner at Citronelle. My sister went to Citronelle a couple years ago and I've been dying to go ever since. We made the reservation back in June and I've been looking forward to it ever since. It was incredible from beginning to end, but even moreso because we ran a great race and had such a great day.

Distance - 10 miles
Time - 1:23:19

1 comment:

  1. Nice race!

    Great to hear you're feeling strong.



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