Race Report – 2018 Army Ten Miler

Ten years.  I’ve been running this race for ten years.  That still feels absolutely insane to me.  I guess this running thing has become a bit of a lifestyle.

For much of the year, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run this race.  With my labral tear, I had two big race goals.  I wanted to be able to complete Rev 3 Williamsburg and I wanted to be able to complete the Army Ten Miler.  Honestly, I thought ATM was an even more remote chance, not only because of the distance but because of the time limit.  ATM has a 15 minute mile pace limit.

Unlike with Rev3 Williamsburg, when I registered for this race, I knew I was injured.  So as I prepared for the race, I really only had one goal – finish.  Sure, I wanted to be magically fast, but mostly, I just wanted to finish.  And that meant keeping a sub-15 pace.

Race morning came as normal.  I will admit, I wasn’t super motivated to run.  As has become my routine, I planned to arrive at a local parking garage by 6 am.  Definitely earlier than I needed to be there, but as roads are shut down, it’s just easier to get there and be ready to go.

Things were a bit different for the race this year due to some road construction.  It meant that the course was different and the start was a bit different.  They added two additional start waves to help thin out the crowds.  Typically, we would have gathered in grouped corrals in the Pentagon parking lot, and then led to the start.  Due to the construction, the corrals were lined up in a straight line from the start.  Since I was in the 9th wave, the brand new pink wave, that meant the start was a hike away.  Some people opted to not go to the corral and instead wait for the corral to come past them, but we opted to go to the corral and wait.

As per usual, the wheelchair racers were finishing before we started, and just as we got to race start, the race winners were coming in to the finish as well.  That’s aways a bit funny and a bit demoralizing.  Mostly, I was jealous they were done.

While this year’s race wasn’t as hot as last year’s, the humidity was ridiculous.  My weather app said the humidity was 90%; the race announcer said it was 100%.  Either way, it was disgusting.  The race started and I started my intervals and within ten minutes, I was dripping sweat.

I opted to run with a handheld water bottle for this race.  Nowhere near enough fluid to get me through the race, but more than enough to get me between water stops.  And I was definitely glad I had it.  The first water stop was around the two mile mark and they were out of water cups (though I believe they had cups of Gatorade).  Volunteers were pouring water into mouths, into cupped hands, and in my case, into my water bottle.  Due to the heat, people were taking multiple cups (not blaming them – it’s just what happened) which meant they ran out by the late corrals.  I had my bottle refilled and went on my way.

Due to the rerouted course, there was one spot where the race came to an absolute standstill.  I’ve never had that happen in this race before, even with 35,000 racers.  It didn’t last long, but it was certainly a surprise.

At one point, I ended up running alongside a vision impaired runner and his guides.  I was so impressed with their process.  The runner and one guide were each holding onto a large ring, and it was seamless how the guide would call out directions.  The second guide ran right behind them, blocking anyone from attempting to cut between them.  They moved as this tight little pack and it was so cool to see.

This race is always so organized, thanks to the amazing volunteers and the organization of the Army.  So I was really surprised when we got to mile 7 and there was no more Gatorade at the stop.  I don’t typically use it, but  was shocked that they were out.  That said, there was plenty of water everywhere, which was great since by that point, I was ready to pour it on myself.  Which I did.

This year, I was slow enough that I saw the cutoff after it was closed.  Around mile 5 or so, if you’re behind required pace, they divert the course because of roads that have to be re-opened.  This only cuts about two miles off of the race.  I’m usually enough ahead of it that I don’t see it, but this year, the diversion was in place by the time I looped back to that spot.  This unfortunately had an impact on my race.  At the beginning of a race, you’re always passing people and being passed, but by midway or so, things have usually settled out.  Sure, you are still being passed or passing, but not to a great extent.  However, when a group of slower people is diverted, that whole process has to start over.  For the most part, it wasn’t problematic, but I definitely got caught behind a few packs of walkers who didn’t realize they shouldn’t take up the whole course.

The hardest part of this race for a lot of people is the bridge near the end.  It’s the same bridge that destroys people at Marine Corps Marathon.  I don’t usually have an issue with this bridge.  Not so this year.  I was starting to get fatigued and I was just mentally tired of running, so this bridge felt so very long.  It felt great to get off the bridge.

I got my second wind sometime around mile 8.5, mostly because I knew I was getting close to being done.  Plus by that point, you’re back with the crowds again, which definitely helps motivate.

Finally, I made the turn to the finish line.  I really had hoped to have a sub-14 finish, but I just didn’t have it in me as I came to the finish and ended with a total time of 2:20:07.  Certainly my slowest Army Ten Miler, but also a finish I’m super proud of.  This was the longest distance I’ve covered since before my injury.  Six months ago, I couldn’t run a single mile.  So being able to race and cover the distance was so incredibly rewarding.  And I managed to do it without any pain from my labral tear.

 

Race Report: 2018 Giant Acorn Olympic Tri

This weekend was my second and last triathlon of the year, the Giant Acorn Olympic Tri.  Giant Acorn was my very first olympic distance triathlon back in 2014, and I love the races put on by Kinetic Multisports, so I was looking forward to the race.

I was also relatively unsure of how it was going to go.  My left leg has been bothering me lately, thanks to my pesky labral tear (though after a week of some solid foam rolling, things were feeling better), and I’m well aware that I’m still not back to full strength.

I haven’t done this particular race since 2015, though I did a different race on the same course in 2016.  I had glanced at my previous race results, but really hadn’t focused on how I had done specifically on each leg.  I just wanted to get an idea of how I felt about the course.  I was also aware that depending on how I felt, there was a slight chance I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.  So going in, my only real goal was to try to finish.  Of course, I also wanted to finish and feel like I had crushed it, regardless of finish times.

Rather than stay close to the race site, I opted to drive down race morning.  At that hour, it’s about a 1:45 drive from my house, so it’s not insignificant, but much better than trying to sit on I-95 after work.  I got to the race site in plenty of time to check in, setup transition, drag stuff back to my car, and not stress.  I wasn’t too nervous about the race, and my leg was feeling pretty good, so I was ready to go.

The swim for this race is a giant rectangle in Lake Anna.  It looks deceptively short from the shoreline.  Typically, this race is wetsuit legal, but thanks to our recent weather, not only was the water very high, it was also very warm.  Just over 80 degrees.  Clearly no wetsuits.

While I was expecting some chop from the boats, I swear there was more of a current than I was anticipating.  I felt like the last bit of the swim out to the turn buoy took much longer than it should have, and I swear I was being pushed towards the shore on the swim back.  Maybe I’m just crazy.  Ether way, it was nice to feel like I was being pushed in the right direction.

I was expecting a swim somewhere around 40 minutes based on past swims at this course.  I was pretty spot on.

Swim: 40:03

There is a lovely long run up to transition for this race.  It’s mostly on a sidewalk, which is nice, but you have to watch for rocks.  I jogged up, got to my bike, hosed off my feet and got ready to ride.  I felt like I was really wasting time here, but based on previous results, I did pretty well.

T1: 3:12

I started the ride by shoveling a cookie in my mouth, something I reminded myself to do in my last race report.  Thanks for the heads up, past self.

One thing I did not do before this race is look at the bike elevation chart.  Because I had completely blocked out some of the hills on this course.  While I have been training like crazy on the bike, I haven’t been doing a lot of outdoor riding, just a lot of indoor riding with power.  Not that I haven’t TRIED to ride outside, but weather kept thwarting my plans.  That said, a power based workout is no joke, so I was certainly feeling strong.

I felt pretty good climbing the hills and even made the drastic and often terrible decision to pass people on the uphills.  Later on the run, a woman commented to me that she was impressed by my hill climbing – apparently she was chasing me and I kept dropping her on the uphills.  That was a huge compliment.

One big thing I’ve been working on is not just coasting down the hills, but actually pushing through them so that I’m getting as much speed as possible.  This certainly worked in my favor during the rolling sections of the course.

I didn’t glance at my watch to see my final bike time, but I thought it was probably somewhere around 1:40, which was my goal.  Turns out, I was actually way faster than I thought.  I definitely crushed this bike course and cut off 7 minutes from my previous time.

Bike: 1:34:41

The bike mount is on an uphill, which means that the dismount is on a downhill.  Both are equally cruel, and I wonder how many people completely wipe out at the dismount line.

T2: 1:53

On to the run.  In training, I had run a max of about 5.5 miles.  I had run 10k once before this year – at Rev 3 Williamsburg.  So this whole run was a big question mark.  It’s a two loop run course, with a giant uphill at the beginning.  My plan was to walk that hill, because hills are what gives my leg the most frustration, plus I can probably walk the hill faster than I can run it.  For the first loop, I was going to stick to the two minute walk, one minute run pattern that I’ve been training at (my goal is to build up distance, then work on speed and cutting down that walk).  Then, if I was feeling good, I would drop to a 1:1 pattern for the second loop.

The run starts with an uphill, but it’s basically all a slight incline for the first 1.5 miles, then a decline for the second half.  I really enjoy the run course.  It loops and doubles back on itself so you get to see a lot of people, and this means a lot of cheering for strangers.  I got tons of compliments on my Coeur Sports kit, and let’s be honest – I did look fabulous.  I’m pretty sure that I had a smile on my face for most of this run.  There was even a guy at one of the turns giving power-up fist bumps to everyone.  That volunteer was awesome.  As were most of the volunteers.

I did have a not so great moment with a volunteer though.  There was a teenager out volunteering and she was doing her best to pump people up, but probably doing it in the worst way.  She was getting up in people’s faces and telling them to run, not to walk, and that if she could do it, they could do it too.  I watched a couple of people brush her off, and when she tried it on me, I told her that I was following my plan, and that not everyone was going to be running.  She kept pestering, and I tried to kindly tell her that she should just tell people to keep going, not try to make them run, because she couldn’t know what they were going through.  It didn’t help, and honestly, it was kind of a dark spot on an otherwise great race.  I know she meant well, but I think people don’t realize how crushing it can be to hear things like “Come on, keep running, don’t walk!” when they’re just following their plan and really having a great race.

Somewhere around mile 2, I looked at my total race time on my watch and started doing race math.  I was pretty sure my fastest running of this race was just under 3:50, and I realized that if I could keep to a sub-15 minute mile, I had that in the bag.

Loop two, I was feeling good, so I dropped to a 1:1 pace without any trouble.  My left leg started to stiffen up, but I realized during Williamsburg that this was a familiar issue, and probably an indication that I had been dealing with this labral tear for much longer than I realized.  It didn’t hurt though, mostly just an annoyance.  And my pace was great – I wanted a sub-15 for this race (since that’s what I’ll need for Army Ten Miler in two weeks) and averaged sub-14.  No, I’m not breaking any speed records, but given that just a few months ago, I couldn’t run one step without pain, I’m so excited to be out there and making progress.

Run: 1:22:32

Keely caught me just as I was heading to the finish.

My run was faster than Williamsburg, even with the hills (though Wburg was super hot), so I’d say that’s progress!

Total: 3:42:20

When I finally saw my watch, I knew this was a HUGE course PR for me.  My previous PR on this course was 3:49.  It was basically all progress on the bike, which is a great feeling.

I went to check out the results, not expecting much and it turns out that I had also won the Athena category!  Completely unexpected, but ending the season on the podium always feels incredible.

This definitely wasn’t the season I planned for next year, but I can’t complain one bit.  I had two phenomenal races.  I’m clearly showing progress in rehabbing my injury, but I’m also showing improvements on the bike (and somewhat on the swim too).  It makes me very hopeful for the 2019 season.  Now what races should I choose?

Race Report – 2018 Rev3 Williamsburg Olympic

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be writing a race report for my first race of the year.  I got to race Rev3 Williamsburg and it was absolutely, completely amazing.

Most importantly, I raced smart, and after the race, nothing hurt that shouldn’t hurt after racing (if you finish a race and absolutely nothing hurts, you’re doing it wrong – or very right).

Heading into the race, I wasn’t nervous, which surprised me.  I was excited and ready to go (and worried I would forget something) but in general, I was ready.  I think not having a real time goal for the race helped in that regard.  I was just trying to race smart and race healthy.  It probably also helped that the course was just enough changed from last year that the races wouldn’t be an exact comparison, so I didn’t feel that pressure.

Race morning dawned bright and early and I was ready.  This race had a half and an olympic distance racing at the same time, so the half racers set off first.  We watched them go, then lined up for our start, scheduled for 7:20.

And then we waited.

And waited.

Rumors started flying about what was going on.  The timing mats were under water (we had to jump off a doc and the water was high so the doc was partially submerged).  There were unauthorized people on the course.  The half swimmers were “enjoying the paddleboard support” and we needed to wait for them.

Whatever it was, our race started nearly an hour late.  And that set off a lot of people’s nerves.  I was lucky to be standing with some friends so we just had a good time talking and trying to keep stress levels down.  I was a bit worried about my nutrition, but I knew I had an extra fig cookie in my bike bag (they come in packages of two, I only eat one on an oly bike, but had shoved the second one in because I was too lazy to do anything else with it – good thinking self).

This year was the first year they had us jump off the dock and swim to the boat ramp.  Previously, the race was in the other direction.  The water was ridiculously warm (something like 84 degrees, so warmer than the air) which made the jump easy.  When it was my turn, I walked up, leapt in, and started swimming.  There was a definite current assist, but there were also some sizable waves due to the wind.  I wasn’t expecting the chop in the water.  I found it mostly annoying.  I tried to stay tight to the buoy line, which was easier said than done with the buoys moving all over the place.  I got clobbered by one at one point.  Maybe too close to the buoy line.  The race had one turn, and once I made it around that buoy, I couldn’t see the buoy line for anything.  I’m not sure if it was the sun, but it definitely made for a tough last length.  It felt like a long swim, but my time was excellent, so that current assist definitely helped.

Swim: 26:19

And here started the fun part.  There was a quarter mile run to transition.  I didn’t want to screw up my left side this early in the race, so I forced myself to power walk the majority of it.  I finally got fed up with walking and gently jogged it in once I got off the blacktop and onto the grass, but it still took forever.  FOREVER.

T1: 6:43

Onto the bike.  This course was the same as previous years, so I had goals.  I’m still not back to where I was this time last year FTP wise, but I knew I had a good shot at getting near last year’s time.  For the first time, I tried to pay attention to my power as I raced.  Of course, I forgot that while in aero, my watch sometimes drops my power meter, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared.  (Should I get a dedicated bike computer? Probably.)  I set my watch to alert me when my goal power was low and this was a stupid idea.  I struggled to hold that power on the flats, so my watch was constantly yelling at me.  This did make me push harder, but maybe I should have set that alert a bit lower.

As with any race, there is a lot of passing early on in the bike leg.  And I started to notice a trend.   Women would call out when they passed.  Men would not.  So I started counting.  My final tally was that five men called out when they passed. The rest were silent.  Three women stayed silent and the rest called out.

Obviously, this isn’t an “all men” or “all women” thing, but come on, people.  Just a quick “Left!” is a huge help.

I called out every time I passed someone, and always thanked people who called out to me and told them they were doing great.

I felt like I was pushing way harder on the bike than I had in previous years, so I’m really pleased with my final time.  I was just over a minute slower than last year, and given all that has happened in the past year, that is amazing.  I put in the work and it’s showing.

Bike: 1:35:48

T2 was pretty cut and dry, one second faster than last year.

T2: 1:51

Onto the most mentally challenging part of my race, the run.  I needed to be smart here.  I hadn’t run much over 4 miles since November.  I had been keeping a 3 minute walk, 1 minute run pace in most of my training.  When I ran hills, I had a tiny bit of pain (as compared to the no pain on flats).  So there was a lot to consider.

I started out at my 3/1 pace, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to work.  Why?  I wanted to RUN!  So I decided to try out a 2 minute walk, 1 minute run, see how that felt.  And it felt good!  I basically walked all the uphills, just to be safe, but there weren’t that many.

I felt so freaking fast, compared to my recent run times. I held a sub-14 pace.  That’s huge, coming back from injury and surgery.  And the best part was that nothing hurt.  I did notice that immediately off the bike, my entire left side was tight and the first thing that popped into my head was “Oh, this is familiar.”  This was something I had been dealing with for a while, and it makes me wonder just when this labral tear really happened.  I did loosen up eventually, but it was slow going.

This wasn’t as mentally challenging as I thought.  Yes, I got passed constantly.  But I didn’t care, because I was out there getting it done.  Yes, it was slower than last year.  And the year before that.  But I was finally getting to race, and that was incredible.

Run: 1:25:31

Total time: 3:36:11, less than 10 minutes slower than last year.

I am so pleased with how this race went.  Immediately, I wanted to race again.  This has been my goal race for so many months, and my hard work has paid off.  I do still have a ways to go with my recovery, but I feel great!  And of course, it was amazing to be out there with my friends and my Coeur Sports teammates.  I am so lucky to be surrounded by such phenomenal people.

Race Report – 2017 Space Coast Half Marathon

I made it!  All five years of Space Coast!  When we first started this series, I really didn’t know if I’d make it all five years, but I definitely wanted to.  I love the space program and I really wanted to get all five shuttle medals.  I typically don’t race for medals, but I’m not going to lie, this time, I raced for medals.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the bling.  It’s also a great time for me to go to Florida, and I had so many friends doing the series that it was always worth going.  Definitely one of the most fun trips of the year every year.

For this race, my main goal was to run with Kim, and we talked about a general goal of running sub-3, but really, just having a good time.  She raced the prior weekend, I was dealing with hip tightness, so who knew what would happen.  I knew that we would end up talking through the entire race so either way, it would be awesome.

And it was!  The weather was pretty darn perfect, not too hot or too humid, which is a rarity for this race.  I was feeling some tightness in my hip, mostly in my piriformis, but nothing like I had dealt with while running the previous weekend, so I wasn’t too concerned.  Kim and I ran along, keeping a pretty steady pace (save for the bathroom break we both needed), and basically enjoying the day.

Around mile 8 or so, my piriformis started to make itself known, nothing big. And then at mile 12, the soleus on my other leg froze up.  I think I yelled “CRAMP!” and Kim tried to catch me.  I wasn’t falling though, just hobbling.  I tried to walk it off, but every time I went to run, it hurt, so that meant we were walking it in.  Kim was awesome and didn’t seem to care that we were walking, so we just made our way to the finish line.

Not my best finish, not my worst finish, and I had a blast. Racing with friends is so much fun.  Some races are for pushing and trying to PR, but some days, it’s nice to just get out there and laugh through the whole race.

So that’s that.  Five year series complete.  I’m leaning towards racing again for the next series, or at least starting it out.  I like being in Florida after Thanksgiving and having a vacation to start the holiday season.

Now to get this hip/piriformis/glute thing fixed!

 

Race Report: 2017 Army Ten Miler

Army Ten Miler Beers

Photo credit: Shannon

Year nine for me for the Army Ten Miler.  And while this wasn’t my slowest time (that came when I ran and caught up with a friend), this came pretty close.  It was definitely one for the record books.  But I’m not complaining at all.

I’ve been saying all year that I’m due for a bad race.  I have been nailing it all year, maybe not setting PRs, but really racing strong.  Given that this past month, my goal has been to get more rest and really recover from tri season (and go to Disney World), I figured my training was a bit off for this race, and I shouldn’t expect a PR.

The weather definitely helped that goal.  We had a bit of cool fall weather, but then things shot back up again, and it has been stupidly warm.  To the point where most people still have their air conditioning on.  The temps heading into ATM weekend were looking okay.  Warm, but not terribly so, probably in the upper 70’s.  There was a possibility of rain, but that turned into a possibility of light showers, which I’m okay with.

When I walked out of my house on Sunday morning to pick up Shannon, I knew it was going to be a bad race.  It was 75 degrees and so insanely muggy.  So gross.  To compare, last year, it was freezing before the race, and we stood around in trash bags in an attempt to keep warm.  (That’s the typical ATM race morning.)

This race is huge.  35,000 people.  As per usual, I was in the second to last wave (the 7th), so my wave started at 8:48.  They set off waves every 8 minutes, and let me tell you, those waves go off exactly on time.  Would you expect any different from the Army?

I started out and was doing well, but I was literally dripping sweat.  I was pushing myself pretty hard for the first two miles, but my body told me to slow down.  My heart rate was too high, and I just didn’t feel great.  So I slowed down.  I tried to find a good balance between speed and temperatures, and did a pretty good job of it.

At the water stops, the cadets were amazing.  They had enough water that they were offering to pour or throw it on runners, and I took them up on it.  It was refreshing to say the least.  They had fun with it too – threw the water so hard my hat flew up.  But it felt great and I think that’s what saved my race.  I was wearing my Coeur aero top, and while I’ve done non-triathlon races in it, it clearly also functions well when wet, and I definitely think that helped keep me cool.  What I really wanted was ice to stuff in my bra, but well, you can’t have everything.

This race does attract a lot of newer runners, which is awesome.  It was one of my first big races, and clearly I loved it enough to keep coming back.  But unfortunately, that also means inexperienced runners who aren’t sure what to do when the weather is super humid.  The race organizers were saying all weekend to make sure that you hydrate.  I’m not sure everyone took that to heart.

Apparently, the number of people who were attended to by medics due to heat-related issues was incredibly high.  I heard someone say that 135 people were transported to the hospital.  Of course, that could be for non-heat related issues, but that’s a lot of people, given the medical treatment available at the race (including breathing treatments and saline IVs to rehydrate).

I heard people saying that they never stop at water stops because it slows them down.  That was the wrong thing to do during this race.  I have never consumed so much water during a race.  I carried my handheld and filled it at every stop.  The water stops were mobbed too, which just meant slowing down in general.

At 10:08, the organizers decided to turn the race into a “fun run,” meaning that anyone who hadn’t yet crossed the finish line was no longer eligible for awards.  They also rerouted part of the race, cutting off a mile.  I was past this point, so I did all ten miles, and didn’t actually hear about the change until I was in the finishers chute.  Obviously, I wasn’t going to be winning any awards, and had already decided to not push for a PR, but I was surprised that this wasn’t communicated out on the course.

The initial word from the organizers was that anyone who finished after 10:08 wouldn’t have an official time.  That changed after the outcry.  There was a timing mat that was cut, so anyone who missed that mat but still hit the others and finished would be listed as a finisher with no official time.  (This protects the people who are trying to streak the race, to have 6 finishes so they can register early, and who were racing for their employers – they can show they finished, and it wasn’t their fault they didn’t get the full 10.)

I have run races in worse conditions, so I was surprised to see this change made, but I’m not complaining about it.  I can only believe that with the information in front of them, the organizers felt it safer to shorten the race.  I suspect it was due to the number of heat-related injuries they were seeing.

I finished in 2:17:38.  Given that my 10 miler PR (with my post diagnosis reset) is 2:07 and change, I’m pretty pleased with this.  I slowed down about a minute per mile and found a good spot.  I didn’t feel awful when I finished, and while I was exhausted the rest of the day, I never felt sick, which tells me I did everything right.