Sunday, October 12, 2014

Race Report: Army 10 Miler, October 12, 2014

I ran the Army 10 Miler today, finishing in an official time of 67:10.  Still a good bit off of my PR, but I'm decently happy with it - I'm making progress.

Army's always a bit of a logistical challenge.  The most common (and recommended) way to get there is by metro, but the metro stop at the start isn't large enough to accommodate a large group of runners (and Army is a VERY large race).  Plus, once you get there to the starting area, you still have to go through a security checkpoint to get to the corrals.  And then there's really no good place to warm-up pre-race.  And they make you get into the corrals very early.

I live in Ballston, which means that I'd normally take the orange line metro (which was running a train once every 20 minutes) to the Rosslyn station, and then swap there to the blue line (running once every 6 minutes) to go two stops to the race start.  But....I had a bit of inspiration.

Where I live is about 2.5 miles jog from the Rosslyn station.  So....why not just jog to Rosslyn, and use that as a shakeout and the bulk of my warm-up?  (and also save myself the aggravation of waiting for a train that was running 3 times an hour).  So that's what I did, and it worked perfectly (except for the bit of chafing on my shoulder from my bag).  I left my house at 6:15, and the combo of easy jog plus blue line got me to the Pentagon station at 6:55.  Of course, it took another 10 minutes to actually exit the metro station, but I had planned for that, and had time.  Between getting to the surface, doing bag check, hitting the portapotties, and jogging the half mile to my corral, I ended up at my corral around 7:35.  Did a few quick strides and drills, and then hopped in to wait, chatting with friends.

We stood around for a long time (long enough that I think everyone in the corral with me lost the benefit of any strides they had done), and then we were off.  This course is always crowded, and I needed a lot of time to warm-up, so I took the first mile pretty slow (7:11), and then started nudging the pace down.  Even with such a cautious start, I still felt like I was in a bit of oxygen debt from the get go, which was annoying.  But nothing to do but work with what I had.

My breathing was a bit tough the whole race, like I had cotton wadded in my upper chest.  This was was frustrating.  But it also makes me feel even better about this race - I was able to run a decent race despite the fact that it wasn't my best day (not the weather's fault, BTW - it was perfect racing weather).

This was never going to be a PR race for me - I'm just not in that shape right now.  The whole reason to do it was to get a good race effort run in and to practice racing skills, and I did just that.  By mile 5 I was hurting, by mile 7 I was swatting away buzzing fantasies about dropping out (we've all had those, right?) and by mile 9 I had no freakin' clue how I was going to make it to the finish. But I held it together, focusing on my form and relaxing and positive thoughts, and somehow my last two miles were my fastest.  And that's a confidence boost.  The next time I'm REALLY hurting, it will be good to have in my mental back pocket the knowledge that I can really hurt and hold it together.

Splits were:

Mile 1: 7:11
Mile 2: 6:45
Mile 3-4: 13:31 (6:46)
Mile 5: 6:38
Mile 6-7: 13:25 (6:43)
Mile 8: 6:38
Mile 9: 6:33
Mile 10: 6:31

Other notes:

  • They really need to offer space blankets at the finish if they're going to have bag check over a mile from the finish area.  October is late enough that the clothes that are comfortable for racing are not the ones comfortable for standing around in after.
  • My stomach was pretty sour, so I ended up not taking any gels during the race, just a bit of water during the first mile.  I usually take a gel during a 10 mile race - not sure if that would have made any difference here.
  • Used Dulera in the morning, and then when stuff still felt tight I used my albuterol about 10 minutes before the start.  No full out asthma attack, but my lungs were definitely not great today - far worse than they were during the Navy Half.  I'm guessing this is some combination of my weed allergies, standing around in the corrals for a bit of time before the start, and maybe the bug I had earlier in the week.  As I do every year, I'm crossing my fingers that this will end once we have first frost (I often struggle until then).  If not, back to the pulmonologist.
  • Every year, someone describes this course as "fast and flat" - they're right on the first part - this is a very fast course.  But it is NOT flat - there's several gentle inclines/declines.
  • My gait still feels just bit off, despite all the work I'm doing on it - still like one of my axles is bent, to use a car analogy.  More stuff to work on.
  • 6:15 was the absolutely perfect time to leave my house.  But....NO LATER.
  • This is the one year anniversary of getting the MRI that confirmed a tear of my left hamstring at the attachment.  It's so great to be here, and not there.


  1. Hot dang. You are speedy! Nice control of your pace, too.

  2. Interesting that you usually take a gel in a 10M - I have gotten to the point where I don't even take one in a half, and you're faster than me. Congratulations, nice pacing, and yay for running again!

    1. I think the gel may be partially mental, though not in that "I need it as part of my routine" sense. I think that when I hit a tough mental point in a race, getting a sugar rush from a well timed gel helps me get over it. I read a study about something similar - cyclists doing a time trial gargled sugar water but didn't swallow, and their times improved anyway - the thesis was that just tasting the sugar gave them a boost.

  3. Congrats Cris! I am so happy to see you healthy and racing again. You paced this one really well and were flying by the end of it. I also like how you had a plan to battle the logistical issues you've faced in the past. Nice work!