Friday, November 2, 2012

Race Report: Army 10 Miler

The race began with a bit more stress than I would have liked. It was a mess to get to the start (for a seemingly organized person I often come eerily close to missing the starts of races) and when they started the wheelchair race, I learned I have a small heart attack when I hear cannons go off. But after another cannon (and another heart palpitation) we were off.

I felt pretty good for the first few miles, with the exception of the cobblestone on the bridge. (No wonder the London Olympians complained!) We had a ton of support, GRCers, Coach, Fiance; everyone was out cheering us on. Despite being the same pace as the early miles of Philly, it seemed significantly more maintainable. But a little before mile 4, reality sank in and I started to slow. L asked how I was feeling, I think it came out as “eh.” I felt bad because I thought she must be slowing down to be nice and stay with me. But by the next mile marker, realizing we were off pace, she told me to go ahead without her. Apparently she was struggling too, and thinking I was the one holding back! We had a laugh about it and continued to stick it out together. Clearly it wouldn't be the day either of us imagined, but we’d see what we could do.

The next few miles I felt pretty good. We had lowered our expectations, and I was happy to know I wasn't holding L back and I’d have a teammate for a few more miles. And the miles were flying by. Captain Obvious Fact: The faster you run, the faster the miles tick away. (Of course it helps if you’re feeling good and not more and more like wanting to throw in the towel with every step.) But by mile 7.5, I needed a pick me up. I was struggling to get Gatorade at water stations. (Some had Gatorade cups before water cups, some after the water. Other stations had only water, which I didn't realize until I was past them and realized there were no other options. This may seem like a minor detail, but water stations can be stressful moments in a race.) I made sure to get some at the next stop to swish around in my mouth. (Nerd Fact: Studies have shown that even if you don’t swallow the Gatorade, the receptors in your mouth trigger your brain to think you have and you feel like you have more energy. It’s sort of a placebo effect.) But at the water stop, I lost L. And just like that she was gone. (No wonder professional runners use water stops to break away!)

I kept her in my sights as we headed over the bridge and just tried to maintain pace, because the bridge is LONG (close to 2 miles.) I saw her trip on one of the gratings and as I watched from behind I felt like a helpless mother, wanting to run towards her with my arms out to catch her (hadn't I already been running towards her for the last mile?) I wished I was still with her to see how she was doing, but she recovered her step and soldiered on. (In fact, despite a twisted ankle, she would go on to destroy her last mile.)

I had been warned mile 9 was a doozy, but somehow as soon as I hit it I was delusional and started thinking the finish line would be right around the corner. But the course keeps looping around a highway, up on ramps, down off ramps. You can’t see where you’re going, so a few times I sped up thinking the finish line must be close, only to make it around the loop and see no finish line, but runners clearly still marching ahead. Finally I heard the announcer, including his announcement that L was finishing after her blazing last mile, and knew I was close.

I finished way off my goal time, but it was an optimistic goal given the last few weeks. It was a PR, although the only other ten miler I ran was when I wasn't at my best either. (Hint, hint: Hey Brother, want a rematch?) Most importantly, I didn't feel as terrible as Philly, probably because I went in with different expectations and less pressure on myself.

Fiance realized later I also set a 10k PR en route. (I didn't even notice!) Clearly it’s been a while since I've run a 10k. The good news is I've got two 10ks this month, and I’m excited to reset that PR again!

Dream big,

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