Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mission Report: Army 10 Miler

My latest mission was the Army 10 Miler down in DC. My training has been sporadic to say the least due to a lingering leg injury. It was getting better and I was ramping up my mileage again slowly, but then I was sick for a week, and when I returned to running, the leg pain started coming back. I opted for a new pair of running shoes and tried some taping during the week. It seemed to keep the pain away so I had my fingers crossed for the race. My longest run going into it was ~7.35 miles so no matter how you slice it, this was going to be a tough race. The last two miles are tough to begin with, but if you are covering them with a lack of run fitness, it has the makings for a brutal morning.

Friday night Wingman and I departed for Washington, DC. We got in pretty late and went straight to the hotel and to sleep. Saturday morning we got up and made our way to the expo to pick up our race packet. I also had to think about what weapons I was going to use for this race. Would a standard military rifle do?

Or should I bring the rocket launcher?

Or do I just go with a simple Black Hawk?

The Black Hawk is very impressive in person

Instead I just opted for a simple pair of Asics:

Weapon of choice for the Army 10 Miler

The race changed slightly this year. The start and finish lines were moved to different areas of the highway. Just getting to the Pentagon was a near nightmare. The Metro was hardly running any trains so we had to wait almost 20 minutes. Once we got to our stop, we had to wait almost 15 minutes just to exit the station. Once above ground, we dropped off our bags and made our way down the highway to the start. It was crowded so I gestured to the Wingman to follow me. 

Once we got up to the race start, I relaxed knowing we were now settled in.  Since I haven't trained 100% for this, it was just going to be a 'Sunday run' and not a race. The problem is, once that cannon goes off, I can't control what the HOTS will do. I knew that I could get to the 6 or 7 mile marker comfortably, it's the last 3 miles that had me worried. 

After the Star Spangled Banner was sung, the cannon went off and my mission began. I went up the road about 1.5 clicks and turned off on an exit ramp to get onto the Arlington Memorial Bridge. This bridge is like a minefield for me. I had to watch every step I took. The bridge is all cobblestone and one wrong step could tweak my shin splint and end my mission right there. I followed a 1.5 foot wide solid cement border along the edge of the bridge. Once I secured the bridge, I circled around the Lincoln Memorial. I know this part of the course like the back of my hand. I knew which lanes to be in to prepare for the turns. I made sure not to follow anyone to closely so I could see the pavement at all times. Last thing I needed was a pothole or rough road surface. I also avoided stepping up onto curbs. I turned onto Constitution Ave and ran past the Federal Reserve building. After a sharp left, it was an uphill climb towards the Watergate Complex. I swear I shed a tear every year I go past. 

Another sharp u-turn and I came around the back side of Watergate and then along the Kennedy Center. I was 3 miles in and was making good time so far. I started to think that if I could put in a few fast miles, then maybe I can minimize the damage late in the race. But for now, I just kept my focus on feeling good. 

Before I knew it my Garmin buzzed I noticed that I was 4 miles in and that each mile time was almost identical which means I was running very even splits. I knew I would be able to rendezvous at the 5 mile time check with plenty of time to spare to keep the mission alive. Once I crossed the timing mat I was running down Independence Ave and along the National Mall. The streets are heavily lined with spectators so I knew I had to keep moving fast. I turned at the American Indian Museum (seriously, there is a museum for everything in DC, so PC down there) and made the turnaround. The only glitch so far was not being able to open my gel packet. I fought hard with it and finally got it open and swallowed it down quickly. 

By now I was 7 miles in and entering no-man's land. It's a slight uphill back up Independence Ave so I made sure I didn't gun it. Every step now was in uncharted territory. Fatigue, my enemy, was waiting for me with every step I took. It was getting warm out and I could feel my eyes burning from the salty sweat running down my face. Would my mission be in jeopardy? With each buzz of the Garmin, I reviewed the split. I was still making decent time, but I knew the dreaded highway awaited me. This highway is tough because it's constantly rolling. You're up, you're down, you're up, down, etc. It really wears away at you if you went out really hard (or haven't run more than 7 miles in a few months). 

Mentally, I was calculating how many more minutes I had to run. After you cross the George Washington Memorial Bridge, you have 1 mile to go. I knew this was almost over. I finally made my way up the last hill on the highway and then raced downhill to the Pentagon. In years past, this means your race is almost over. But with the new course, you still have ~ 1/2 mile to go. This was the longest half mile of my life. I was doing the math and looking for visual contact of the finish line. Once I had it in my sight, I ran hard to try and salvage a course PR. I flew across the line and managed to set a course PR by 16 seconds. It was nowhere near my 10 mile PR, but the lack of running and this being a tough course made that impossible. 

Wingman and I flew back to NY tonight and for the most part my legs feel fine. The only thing is it feels like I was hit in the calves with a baseball bat. Go figure.........

My race season has officially come to a close. The rest of the fall season are short, fun races to help me get back some speed and fitness. I need to sit down with myself over the next few days and figure out what I want from next season.

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