This was my fifth Army Ten-Miler, although not consecutively because I missed last year. And for the previous four, the weather has been cold, usually in the 40s at the start. In fact, the first year I discovered the wonders of arm warmers instead of wearing long sleeves; they became required pre-race equipment after that.
But this year, not so much.
While Washington’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, the forecast a week out remained unchanged: overnight lows in the high 60s, highs near 80. Race morning, it was even warmer. The only saving grace was the overcast sky. And the fact that I was there with not only my usual ATM musketeers, but another friend and her teen daughter had come from Canada to run this race too.
Because of construction at the Pentagon, much of the south parking lot where corrals are usually organized was blocked off. Ten thousand portapotties were still there, but this time they were outside the security checks. We skipped them assuming we’d find many more near the corrals, but it turned out that was not the case. That meant a huge line for the 20 potties near the balloons marking the last few waves. We blew that off and walked to a different area with shorter lines, lamenting the planning that put so many potties outside the security area and so few where the majority of people waited to start. Legit runner problems, y’all.
So eventually we found our way to our corral as it moved toward the start line. Five of us were scattered through three different corrals, but unlike previous years no one was really checking. K and I finally started at 8:40.
The course was different this year too– due to construction on the Arlington Memorial Bridge, we were re-routed (away from my favorite view in road running) to the Key Bridge, through part of Georgetown, then back to Independence Avenue where we finished the second half on the familiar course.
The Key Bridge isn’t as impressive as the Memorial Bridge–no Lincoln watching over us from the far end–but as we made the turn and followed the Potomac for a while, the thousands of runners ahead provided a pretty cool scene.
I knew going into this I wasn’t running a goal race. When I PRd two years ago, temps were in the 50s at the finish, and I wasn’t training for a marathon. So even though I wanted to do well, I was okay with my slower pace. I did some run-walking, but ran through the walk breaks when I felt good. I also don’t usually wear headphones until the last three miles or so, but I started them from the beginning for some added motivation.
I didn’t mind skipping the Virginia Avenue leg–it’s got some rolling hills whereas this new segment was largely downhill. The guy in the Incredibles costume had moved from the Kennedy Center to one of the bridges, but the main thing I noticed was that it seemed like a long gap between water stops. It was really only two miles, but with the temps it felt a lot longer. I filled my handheld bottle each time, adding Drip Drop to it both as an electrolyte replacement and as practice for fueling during CIM. Without having my own water, I really would have struggled.
My Canadian friends (who started in a later wave) passed me around the halfway mark. They’d only hit ten miles (or 16K, they tell me) once during training, but they looked strong as they loped on by.
The crowd energy picked up as we passed the Washington Monument and headed to the Independence Avenue out-and-back. I love this section, running along the center of the road high-fiving runners coming the other way. My hand was sweaty and gross so I didn’t actually high-five anyone, but I love it all the same. When we made the little lollipop turnaround, a breeze briefly offered cool(ish) relief.
Then it was the 10K split, 14th Street past the Holocaust Museum, another water stop, and beginning the long trek across the 14th Street Bridge. Even this late in the race, even at my slower pace, I was doing a lot of weaving around people. The exit from the bridge into Crystal City was especially congested all the way through the last water stop.
With the final turn out of Crystal City I picked up the pace a bit, but I started to feel a little queasy. Some spectator shouted, “The flags are the finish! Just a tenth of a mile left!” which I suppose is relatively true, but more accurately the finish is about 100 yards past the 100 yards of flags. I know this, but I was still annoyed.
I pushed again, walked a few more steps, then hoofed it across the finish line. My time was unimpressive to say the least, but then again the last time I ran this pace here, it was also 45 degrees and I hadn’t run 16, 18, and 16 miles the previous three weekends. So I am okay with the results.
The finishers’ chute is long, so I walked for a while, then turned left to pick up my coin and meet up with the others. I still had some queasiness going on so I sat down on the concrete–creating an impressive sweat puddle–for a minute before beginning the trek to the car.
This involves climbing over not one but two concrete barrier walls, which the tall Canadian teen managed in one step; those of us who are height-challenged looked more like we were pulling ourselves out of a swimming pool. Which wasn’t too far fetched considering how sweat-drenched we were.
It was a mile or so back to the car, plus a Frogger attempt across Army Navy Drive. But our parking strategy paid off and we were out of there in no time. We were all showered and sitting in our favorite Thai restaurant within the hour, I think. And then it was time to fly home.
Hope to see y’all next year!