October 5, 2009

Army Ten Miler or bust!

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:50 pm by Lauren

Where to begin? I ran the Army Ten Miler yesterday.

I have such a jumble of thoughts and memories about the race that I can scarcely decide what details to include in my retelling of the event. And – not to be dramatic – but it was an event. In mid-April, when the 30,000 bibs of the ten miler sold out in just days, I still hadn’t run my first 5K and couldn’t conceive of running ten miles. I did not register. In June, in an effort to schedule exercise into my summer, I signed up for Army Ten Miler training with my friend Regina, thinking I’d just see how far I got. By the end of July, I knew who’d be selling me their bib, and when we transferred the registration to my name, I’d completed a 10K (6.2 miles) pushing a jogging stroller (and a two-year-old). All that is just to say that this race has been on my mind for a long time – and for most of that time, it felt like an unattainable distance.

Out of the 12 weeks of the Army Ten Miler training program with the DC Road Runners, I attended maybe 4-5 weekend long runs. I was on vacation for three weeks (and five weekends) this summer. My tonsillectomy came with a two-week ban on exercise that encompassed another two weekends. I skipped right over all the long runs between 6 miles and 10 miles, and the two consecutive weekends of 10 mile long runs were rough after all that time off. During those runs I managed to run about 8.5 miles out of the 10, finishing both in exactly the same time: 2 hours, 13 minutes. At least I then knew I could cover the distance. The cold I thought I had during the second weekend of 10 miles turned out to be bronchitis, and I stayed home for three days and took the next weekend off. But I ran 4 – 4.5 miles twice the week after that and came back from 8.7 miles last Saturday feeling like something had clicked into place. Those 8.7 miles were easy, and I could have kept running to 10 miles without hesitation. My doubts were gone.

I was so excited leading up to the race. I bought a few new pieces of running gear at the race expo, got my “I run this town” training shirt, gobbled my pre-race pasta dinner at Sette Bello, and laid out all my gear and sustenance the night before. I was up at 6 am, and Allen dropped me and my co-worker Molly off at Pentagon Row near 7 am. The crowd and layout were overwhelming; we were trying to meet Regina and her other running friends at the DC Road Runners tent (which we never found, and which we heard from others was actually just a table in the end). Fortunately, Regina and Jamie saw us walking past, and we all went to the bag check together.

Then was the line for the port-a-potties. There’d been just a few people standing near them when we arrived, but more than half an hour later and less than that to the start of the race, hundreds of people criss-crossed in front of the toilets. As we waited, a boot camp instructor marched around with a megaphone, “You call that a squat?! PUSH!”

My bib was green, indicating that I should line up in the corral behind the elite runners. Obviously a mistake! I went back to the purple corral with Regina and Jamie. Another half hour, and we were in front of the starting line with Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” blaring uncomfortably in our ears, so we knew it was time to start running.

The first mile seemed short. I must have just been distracted by all the men and women running to the side of the trail to use the bushes as a bathroom. During the first mile? That’s something I hadn’t seen in shorter races.

We crossed Memorial Bridge, passed the Lincoln Memorial, and started down Constitution Avenue in the second mile. The first water stop came shortly after we turned onto Virginia Avenue, passing Regina’s and my alma mater The George Washington University, and we continued the tour of my life by passing Western Presbyterian where Allen and I got married.

Running with Regina and Jamie provided comfortable conversation. We saw some funny t-shirts (that were meant to be funny) and some funny running gear that was not meant to be funny. I liked, “Slow and steady wins the race (except the real race),” and “Military wife: Don’t confuse your rank with my authority.” More touching was one based off the Mastercard commercials, “…Deployments: 8. Running the Army Ten Miler together: Priceless.” Then right at the start of the third mile, we turned around to find a multi-person flag outfit advancing on us. 

We curved back around the waterfront under Memorial Bridge and headed up Independence Avenue towards the Capital. This is where the spectators really picked up. I ate my Sports Beans at the 4 mile water stop, as we continued through the monuments. What a great course! When we passed the fifth mile (with no worries of being swept from the course for not maintaining the race’s 15 minute mile pace minimum), we saw a friend of Regina and Jamie’s – and a woman holding a life-sized cardboard cutout of Edward Cullen with a sign pasted to his chest that said, “I dumped Bella because she couldn’t run.”

It was exciting to hit the halfway point, and now we could watch the throngs of runners coming back down Independence towards the finish. People lined the sides of the road, and the Paul VI high school band at the 6 mile marker was energizing. We walked through another water stop, where Army men offered “organic water” and “Gatorade light.” I swallowed some Gu to keep my blood sugar up. Next was the 6.5 mile split in front of the Capital, where we clocked in at just under 1 hour 18 minutes, an even 12 minute mile average.

We turned back on to Independence Avenue, waving at Regina’s mom, and at mile 7, Regina said, “Now all we have to do is run a 5K.” I was still feeling surprisingly good. When we turned the corner onto 14th Street, right before the 8-mile marker, I laughed out loud to see the sign, “Less than 10 miles to go!”

I’d heard some negativity about the 14th Street Bridge, which slopes up and down for the last two miles of the race. The friend that cheered Jamie and Regina earlier wasn’t running the race because she had a strong negative reaction to the bridge in the past. The training program’s coaches had spoken several times about crossing the bridge. But by this point, I felt strong. I was at the end of a race that I had trained for month’s for, and that bridge wasn’t going to get the best of me. I felt the preparation; I felt good. We sped up, if you ask our split time and our overall race average. I was running to the tune of “Yellow Submarine,” and feeling good (and rather punchy).

By the time we came down off the bridge and rounded the corner into the Pentagon parking lot for the finish line, I was ready for the burst I like to save for the end of the race. There’s something about doing strides at the very end that makes me feel like I could keep going, like I have more strength in me still. And then we were done (in 1:55:01, it turns out, which is almost 11:30 minute miles even), and I’ll admit that I cried a little (and it was ugly screw-up-your-face quiet sobbing, which was a little embarrassing and humorous at the same time because I couldn’t have held it back if I tried). Who would have thought that when I started running at the end of February this year that I’d be completing the Army Ten Miler and feeling good just over 7 months later? I never imagined that training for a 5K just to prove I could do it would snowball into the feat of a ten miler, and I don’t mind tooting my own horn about that.

But really I have to acknowledge the legions of support I had too. Regina and Shari shared their running and distance and racing experience. Cheryl got the training group going for that first 5K. Allen provided steadfast support, running the first 5K with me, driving me to races, listening to me go on and on and on about running, and even agreeing now to train for a half marathon with me. My family has cheered me on, including my sister- and brother-in-law (who also went so far as to loan me their two-year-old to run the 10K in August with, and Katie cheered me on too, with a “Go, Tati Lauren, go!” every time I slowed down). Rebecca and Brandi, my “body buddies,” have given unfailing encouragement (and helped me lose 20 pounds this year!). There are so many more people that I could go on and on.

So what’s next? I’ve got a few things lined up. I’m thinking about an 8K on October 31; it’s a distance I haven’t yet tried. Then there’s an Arlington Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning that I could walk to. (Let me know if you want to join me.) After that, I’m already committed to the Girls on the Run of NOVA Reindeer Romp 5K in Reston on December 5 (and we need buddy runners for our girls – I’m coaching!). And plans are in the works to run my first half marathon with Allen, Brandi, and Steven in Oklahoma City on April 25, 2010. I honestly can’t wait.

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2 Comments »

  1. grandma said,

    felt like i was right there w/you–i’m so proud! wish i could do that also–screwed up my knee either mowing the lawn sunday or slept wrong that night–can’t remember anything unusual–walked 3.7 yesterday and will try to walk this morning also, will do tai chi at the senior center this morning–i’m worried about the broncitis, it’s recurring–be careful! love you! will e-mail you later–

  2. Steven said,

    You are an inspiration, truly. We need to pick your brain about longer distance running (like what are these sports beans and Gu you are eating? Blood sugar? So THAT”S why I feel dizzy after a long run!), etc. I also have buying that half marathon training book on my to-do list.

    Congratulations and here’s to many many more runs!


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