Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Army Ten Miler

The first race that I successfully completed this HY (that's Hannah Year, virtually the same as a Fiscal Year, since it runs from 1 October to 30 September) is the Army Ten Miler in Washington, DC, on October 21. I signed up for this one the very first day registration was open for active duty military, and so did my other friend Hannah (no, we are not related. But people still ask.)

This race has been on my list because, well, I'm in the Army. I'm a Signal Officer, stationed here in Augusta, GA. The Army Ten Miler is a big opportunity for servicemembers from all over the world to come together and run. A lot of posts sponsor running teams, who run in the team division, and they are good. The Army's World Class Athlete Program also sends athletes, who are also very good.

I'm not a very good runner, so I went it with minimal expectations as far as PRing. In addition, I worked 12 hour shifts, switching between night shift and day shifts, for the four weeks prior to this weekend, so, needless to say, my training was minimal for the last few weeks leading into this. And by minimal, I mean, I did half of a P90X video maybe every other day before falling asleep on my couch. Not much running.

 I actually hurt my knee in late September anyway, and was in a debate with my doctor over which was more painful: long slow runs, or short fast runs. I contended that the long slow runs were less painful and resulted in less swelling, but my doctor was convinced that short runs would be better, even though a short, fast, one mile run was enough to break me off for two days after. Needless to say, I decided that ten miles pretty slow should be fine.

The trip to Washington, DC, was going to be fast, quick, and to the point. Because my unit has been in the middle of exercises, I wanted to stick to just the weekend, rather than asking for a four-day weekend. I got plane tickets from Charlotte, NC, to Baltimore-Washington International with a departure Saturday morning and return Sunday night. Charlotte is a little over 2 hours from Augusta, but to me, flying on Airtran consistently is worth the drive. Flights out of the Augusta regional airport require a stop in Charlotte or Atlanta anyway, so I was just skipping an extra flight and saving a few dollars.

The night before I left, I made the decision to pack just my backpack for this trip. I laid out my race outfit, an emergency pair of extra running shorts/pajamas, my running shoes, and a few extra t-shirts, threw some toiletries in a plastic bag and grabbed the emergency makeup kit from my gym bag, and decided that should be good enough.

I got up very early (ahem, 5:30am) Saturday, and started the drive to Charlotte. Quite possibly the only memorable parts of the drive were a) listening to the Newsies Broadway soundtrack and b) seeing a deer Ranger-roll across four lanes of highway. I got to the airport with plenty of time before my flight, sped through the TSA PreCheck Lane (best thing TSA has ever done!! No taking shoes off for active military, cause we probably are't going to blow up the plane!) and grabbed some coffee. As I was settling in to wait for boarding, my investment in loyalty to Airtran paid off and I got upgraded to Business Class for my flight to BWI. And, surprise surprise, the in-flight magazine had a picture of my college town on the front!!

The plushy, wide business class seat and extra leg room were quickly wasted on my extra-short legs since I can freely swing my legs even in regular airplane seats and I fell asleep almost as soon as the plane took off. By the time we landed at BWI, however, I had adjusted the apps on my phone, checked my bib number, and was ready to hit the Expo! 

After picking up my bib and race t-shirt (long sleeve cotton, btw), buying a new sweatyband (one of those things I remembered forgetting as I settled into my seat on the plane), I headed towards the National Mall.

To me, nothing is more inspiring than just sitting on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and enjoying the view. No matter where you look, there is something that makes me smile. I love museums, but, since I was meeting up with the other Hannah, I refrained from going in to any, knowing I would get sucked in until closing. I navigated the under-construction metro, and headed toward Maryland to meet up with Hannah and her family for dinner. I was still carrying my one backpack, but everything seemed fine. 
I stayed with Hannah at her parents' home in Maryland, and we went to bed as soon as possible, due to a very early wake up. By 5 we were in the car and headed back towards downtown DC to get on the Metro and head towards to the Pentagon. We could already see volunteers setting up water stations, and got a little bit of a feel for the route around the Mall area. 
The weather was cold. I waited until almost the last second to turn in my cozy sweater at bag check, and then started praying for the run to start so I could warm up. 
Oh, and another thing. During the week, I had been working in an old warehouse, and my Friday afternoon, my eyes had completely swollen up from all the dust that I couldn't wear my contacts. I had to run the Ten Miler in glasses. No sunglasses, and no way to keep them on my face. Boo. Once the race did finally start, I ended up holding my glasses for most of the run, and putting them on just enough at the water stations to be able to see the mile marker, clock, and grab a drink without running into anyone. 
Unfortunately, I did miss a lot of the details of running through DC. The whole race, however, was amazing. Seeing everyone else running, as well as all the people cheering and volunteering, was worth the whole thing. The race route goes by the Pentagon, through Arlington, over the Potomac, around the mall, past Watergate and the JFK Center, down the other side of the Mall, and down Ohio Ave. I bet it all looked gorgeous. I finished right at 1:40, a ten minute mile, which seemed just fine to me. As I said, not exactly going for a PR here.
After the finish line, where you get your finisher's coin (an Army tradition-many units and high ranking people make commemorative coins to hand out to people for an outstanding accomplishment), you then go into the Hooah Zone, with tents from units and organizations all over the world. The USO is there, of course, with drinks and bananas, and the Commissary Agency also has free food. You can wander around to see reps from different units handing out swag, and meet up with friends. Here's a pic of my bib and the finisher's coin for this year:

The rest of the day was a complete whirlwind, grabbing brunch with Hannah after, showering, re-packing, and then heading to the airport for my flight back. I got home at almost midnight that night, and fell asleep in bed with ice packs on my knees. Sorry, husband. 

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