Monday, October 22, 2012
RACE REPORT: Army Ten Miler
I got to the Pentagon well before sunrise and there were already thousands of people filing through the tunnels that poke into the concrete jungle surrounding the defense department. I found Sam and Beth and began to nervously "half stretch" while waiting for the rest of the team to show up for a warm up. After the warm-up and a chaotic shuffle to the starting line, I found a place near the front of the line and squeezed myself in. By this time the sun was shining brightly in the east and I cursed myself for neglecting to wear sunglasses. Aside from that, the conditions were perfect for a ten-mile stroll in and around DC/NoVA.
The howitzer fired and over 30,000 runners started forward. I found a clear path through the mayhem and settled into what felt like a good pace. I saw my college buddy Stump and we exchanged pleasantries. I turned my head the other way and found teammate Dave Burnham, who said "Don't worry, I'm here." I nervously glanced at my GPS a handful of times in the first mile to ensure I wasn't going out to fast. Just before the mile marker my GPS beeped: 5:10. I told Dave, who seemed to "okay" the pace with a nod. My pace quickened, but I was in control. Dave and I strided on towards Memorial Bridge. Ahead, the evil "Benedict" Sloane chugged along. He'd gone out conservative and now was eating up real estate. I took a few more glances at the GPS, but after mile 2 (5:03) I stopped checking. It was time to race. It was on. Mile 3 was hit in 5:02. Burnham was right on my heels and Sloane was still just ahead. We passed a runner here and a runner there and just kept steaming forward. I was much faster than goal pace, but having some experience with this distance, this didn't scare me. Mentally I was ready for Army and I secretly thought I might be able to surprise myself so instead of fretting or easing off, I went with it. I surged ahead of Burnham and hit 5:08 and 5:01 for miles 4 and 5. I chased down two more runners just before the halfway point (25:24) and I continued to ride in Sloane's wake. The GRC team were strung out on the sidelines just after mile 5 and I motioned a "quiet" sound while raising my index finger to my lips. I didn't want Sloane to know I was coming. He'd just work harder knowing I was gunning for his back. I threw in surge after surge but could reel him in. I felt bad. He was all alone. I wanted to help him. I wanted to use him...but first I had to catch him.
After a number of quick miles, I settled and never let the distance between Sloane and I increase or decrease. I had stopped looking at the watch long ago (aside from quickly checking splits at each mile) and now ran entirely on feel. The crowds on Independence were fantastic and I felt myself surging as a result, but I was probably not racing as fast as I thought I was. After that strange square-like U-turn somewhere around mile 6, I found myself experiencing some minor GI discomfort. Damn it. Not now. Not now. It would come and go, but in all honesty, it wasn't that bad yet. A runner in a white singlet came up alongside me just before we made that left hand turn towards the bridge. I tried to go with him, but each time I dug, my stomach would push back. There was a USA flag on the back of his singlet, smack between his shoulder blades. As we crested the first of many rolling hills I pulled the American flag back in, then surged ahead. After perhaps relaxing a bit over the last couple miles (2 x 5:12), my legs found new vigor. The American flag came back up behind me on the straights, but I pulled away again on the hills. Sloane now came back to me too. He was still working solo, chasing imaginary ghosts somewhere ahead of him. I still had some capital in my legs and I intended to spend it, so long as my stomach held off. The GPS beeped a 5:06 - that's more like it. The US flag was buried somewhere just behind me and Sloane was within striking distance, perhaps 5 seconds. The hills or the back-and-forth or a combination of both upset the tummy a little and I reeled back. The flag passed me back for what must have been the umpteenth time he started after Sloane. I watched them both pull away. I hit mile 9 in 5:18 and at that point I decided to just go for broke. Again, the flag and Sloane came back to me, but much slower this time. More importantly I was off that damned bridge and in the final rolling last mile that circumnavigated the Pentagon's parking lot. I took advantage of every tangent I could in order to make one last, all-out assault on Sloane and flag man. Finally, I could hear the emcee's voice barking through the distance speakers and shortly after that I spied the beginning of the end. I turned the last corner and my GPS beeped - some 30 seconds from the finish line. This underscored what I thought all along: the course was long. Still, ahead, the clocked ticked away. I threw in one final push to get in under 52:00, knowing I'd likely already accomplished my goal. Burnham, who had missed some training due to a sore leg, had rallied over the past few miles and finished right behind me (or ahead of me due to chip time).
I love this race, but it's frustrating to run a long course. Since getting a GPS watch last Christmas (something I wouldn't have bought myself), it's been interesting to compare the GPS distance with the race distance. For every big race I've run since last winter, the GPS has been dead on - Cherry Blossom, Kentlands, Pikes Peek, USATF Half Champs etc. Certain mile markers might be off (short or long), but by the time I finish the distance on the watch matches the intended race distance. The Army Ten Miler course has a history of being "off" (usually long), mostly because the course keeps changing (due to what I assume is construction, permissions, security etc). I hate quipping like this, because it seems quite petty, but it'd be great of they got the distance right. While walking around after I came upon a friend who ran around 61 minutes. We were talking about the course and he said "Yeah, if you're running for a time, I suppose that is frustrating." Thinking about it some, it occurred to me that maybe many out there are simply running an event, not racing a distance? Pettiness aside, Army is a great race. It's quite inspiring to see all of the Wounded Warriors out there running on prosthetics or pumping along on hand-cranked chairs.
This fall, I've been trying to practice, to a degree, Renato Canova's training style - race races/workouts at goal race pace and, over time, try to increase the distance I can cover at that pace:
- I ran the same pace (5:08) yesterday for 10 miles that I ran in early September for 5k
- My 4-mile split essentially equaled the tempo I ran a few weeks back with Texas Paul
- My 5-mile split was faster than I raced for 5 miles at the Run Geek Run 8k on Hains Point
In conclusion, knowing I ran circa 51:22 for ten miles yesterday is a great confidence booster and really puts me within striking distance of where I was pre-injury. I've said this over and over again on this blog (which is a good thing!), but this was my best race post-injury.
GPS splits below:
1. 5:10 - 5:10
2. 5:03 - 10:13
3. 5:02 - 15:15
4. 5:08 - 20:23
5. 5:01 - 25:24
6. 5:12 - 30:36
7. 5:12 - 35:48
8. 5:06 - 40:54
9. 5:18 - 46:12
10. 5:10 - 51:22
Finish - 51:57
Marathon training commences today - Monday, October 22.