Yesterday I got up earlier than anyone should on a Sunday morning, and headed over to meet the rest of the running group for the Army Ten Miler (note to self: we should meet about 15-20 minutes later when doing this next year, assuming I’m still in DC, that is).
I ran the Army Ten Miler for the first time last year (before I officially had a blog, but the mini-recap can be found if you scroll down to October on this page), and just like this year, it was super crowded and surprisingly disorganized. The expo is still one of the most plain I’ve seen, considering the size of the event (there are 30,000 runners). The start line has two corrals, where people are separated by color (different “waves” though there is no separate start time for the each of the waves), with not much reason to where each person is placed. Last year, Karl was in the second to last wave, even though he had posted a 8 min/mile at his predicted finish time (he ended up running faster than that). This year, he was put on the second wave (he is still injured though), while Gray, one of the guys from our running group who is a bit faster than Karl, got put on the 4th wave.
This was the course we would be running today — I think it’s the same as last year. Despite hating the last two miles at the bridge (yes, mile 9 through almost 10 is at the bridge, even though the map doesn’t show, the bridge goes well beyond the river), I loved the rest of the course! (Click for a bigger image)
Some of us early birds: Angela, Kathy (as “where’s Waldo”), Jen, me, Kristy and Gray super early in the morning…
After leaving our things on bag check (including our jackets — it was a cold morning!), braving the porta-potties twice, we finally made our way to the start line. And as always, I started taking pictures.
I was on the “orange wave” but there was no way to get there from the security point we had to pass. It was already super crowded, so we settled into the white wave, which was one before ours, as it was the only one we could reach (the waves were placed on an overpass, so there’s no other way to get up there). That was a lucky move though, as we were passing people the whole way — I’m glad we weren’t stuck where they had placed us!. We waited, and 8am came and went and we still hadn’t moved. See the picture below, on the top left side all those people under the bridge, behind the bushes? Yep, that’s where everyone was peeing since we were just waiting for so freaking long for it to start. And Jen and I finally had to succumb and join the group behind the bushes too. Classy.
At 8:15, 5 minutes later than it was supposed to, we finally heard the gunshot for the second corral to start, and we slowly (sloooowly) started moving.
I think it was around 8:30am when we crossed the start line. But off we went, on a super crowded course, on our way to the Memorial Bridge into DC…
Kathy was meant to keep me company, so I could get my PR goal of 1:45. So far, my previous PR had been 1:54:34, at last year’s Army Ten Miler. Since I had run 10 miles faster than that during my training runs, I knew that I could push it, but I had no confidence that I was going to be able to finish in 1:45. My second, but more realistic goal, was a 1:50 finish time. I knew that I could do.
I was feeling tired, I had gotten little sleep over the weekend, the course was super crowded (as you can tell by the picture above), but I figured I could pace myself and at least try. I could also take unflattering pictures while running, of course…
Jen, Kristy and Hugi, all decided to run with me as well. They had a “less than 2 hours” finish time goal, but none of them wanted to run alone (neither did I!), so they planned on sticking with me and Kathy for as long as they could (spoiler alert: they stuck with me to the end!!!).
Of course, it was hard to miss Kathy, since she was dressed like this…
At mile 3, Kathy finally removed the hat “it’s too hot” — and I still wonder what kind of chafing her jeans (yes she was wearing jeans) caused. Kathy planned to run the Marine Corps Marathon with this outfit (since it’s on Halloween), and she was testing it out today.
As the time passed, it was getting warmer and warmer. By the second mile, it was already too hot (not Chicago Marathon hot, but hot nonetheless).
Angela passed us shortly after I took this picture, but we caught up with her again around mile 4, and lost her for good around mile 4.5, when she slowed down a bit.
Kathy also abandoned us at 4.5. She complained that her knee was killing her — as much as I wanted company until the end of the race (remember, at this point, Kristy, Jen and Hugi were still planning on keeping up with us for as long as they could and had no idea that they’d be crossing the finish line together), I told her to be smart: run until mile 5 then walk the rest. She would still make the cut off time of 2.5 hours, get her medal, but her knee would only get worse if she kept pushing it. So she took off, and we didn’t see her again. (I caught up with her after the race, and she did walk most of the way after that, and her knee is now very swollen. She probably won’t be running the Marine Corps Marathon…)
After around that time, I also stopped worrying about myself. Until then, I kept going “we’re going too fast” and so on. I just stopped caring, and figured if I burn myself out by going too fast, I only had 5 miles to go, so I could still finish with a PR even if I had to slow down later.
Even though I knew at times I was going too fast, I was still feeling pretty good, so I didn’t care… Kristy still had a smile on her face too!
We were approaching the Capitol, which meant that once we passed it, we would be towards the end of our run!
Hugi kept complaining we were going too fast (but everyone knew I had a time goal!), but she never gave up either, despite the heat! At mile 6.5 she was still looking strong!
I was also doing pretty good!
Kristy and Jen were doing ok!
Oh, you need more proof?
Finally in front of the Capitol — so many of our training runs were near here!
We finally passed mile 8 and reached the bridge. I looked down at my Garmin and saw the time 1:21. By then, I knew that even if I slowed down to a 12 minute mile, I would still make my 1:45 goal! That was a great feeling! Then I started thinking… My PR was 1:54:34, maybe my new goal should be at least 10 minutes faster so I can say I took off a minute per mile off my pace? I knew I could do it.
The bridge is BRUTAL. It’s two miles on top of concrete, on the heat, with nothing to see but the crowds in front of you. The right hand side is also open to cars, so you hear them zooming by. It’s miserable, and I knew that and was ready for it from last year’s race. It’s also the only true elevation we had on this course.
I didn’t let that stop me and with Kristy (who really got a second wind, but later she admitted she wanted to pee so badly that she HAD to run faster) I kept on going. It was around this time I lost Jen and Hugi!
We were able to run the last two miles below a 10 minute mile pace. It was good to look down and see the “9″ on my Garmin. I was tired, I wanted to walk, I wanted to give up, but Kristy definitely help me get through it and pushed me to the end!
We crossed the finish line holding hands with our arms up in the air (I hope they caught this picture!). Turns out I finished 14 second faster than Kristy, since it looks like I crossed the start line first. I feel bad! I really thought we were exactly the same pace!
So how did I do? Official finish time of 1:41:19 — a whole 13 minutes 15 seconds faster than my previous PR! That means I took 1:20 off my pace!
I was SUPER excited (and later a bit peeved, as my Garmin registered 1:41:11, so I was hoping the official time was a bit less, since I started it a few feet before the start line). Hugi and Jen were just a minute behind us and also finished in spectacular time! (Remember, they both started hoping to finish in less than 2 hours! How’s that for blowing their goal out of the water?)
Kristy was tired, but happy! And to think she only made the decision to run at 5pm the day before, after one of my friends decided not to because of injury!
I was also super-sweaty, but DONE. And could not freaking believe my finish time!
We grabbed our finisher’s coin then caught Jen and Hugi at the finish line (so so so crowded, I think it took us a few minutes to get across it and grab our coin). I think Hugi is liking this running thing, and is starting to get addicted like we are!
Here am I with my finisher’s coin (I really should take a better picture of it to post it…)
Though the coin is cool, and a very military thing, I really wish I had a medal instead — it’s much easier to store it, specially now that I have a proper medal holder. (I was creative, and was able to balance the coin on top of the holder — I post a new picture once I add the Marine Corps Marathon medal to it!) Plus, I was afraid I was going to drop it and had no way to carry it.
Of course, the four of us who stuck together until almost the very end, deserved a picture!
And after we met up with a few more people from the group, we had to take another one!
Since Kathy had picked me up, I now didn’t have a ride home. Jane and Tatiana tried to convince me to go out for brunch, but my stomach was starting to make itself noticeable (luckily I didn’t feel a thing during the run!), and I also had to get home in order to clean our place up, since my friend Gabriela was coming over later to (attempt to) teach Karl and I to dance, so we don’t look like nervous junior-high kids during our first dance. (Have I mentioned that I’m the messy one, not Karl? So there was no way of me skipping out of cleaning…)
So I called Karl up, told him how excited I was about my finish time, and made him walk towards me so I’d have company for part of my walk. The one advantage of having a race that ends at the Pentagon, is that it’s a mile from my apartment… And the walk is not too shabby, since I even pass the Air Force Memorial on the way!
The rest of Sunday went pretty well. I was exhausted though, and had two failed attempts at a nap. Then later we embarrassed ourselves by dancing, and went off with Grant and Gabriela for some delicious Thai food (where I promptly replaced all the calories burned during the race).