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.
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
- 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.