An 8:00 AM race is a good thing. It means I can sleep in. And with plenty of nearby parking, this was going to be a good day.
Morning temps at 5:00 AM were in the low 50s. The dew point was at 56. Humidity was at 86%. Winds were very light. A great morning for a run.
I made my way to Pentagon City to park and then meet my corporate team. I was there early and they weren't allowing anyone through the pedestrian tunnel (odd?) and instead had to walk a couple of blocks crossing traffic to get to Fern or Eads Streets to get through the Pentagon bag check. So I never saw my team with the interest of finding my new route and a porta pottie. I had an hour before the race start so I wandered around looking for any kind of signage for the start corrals. I was already familiar with the finish area, which oddly enough, was where they were feeding us into. So after walking around with the dual purpose of warming up and scouting the area, I eventually wandered to my corral which was red and up on Rt. 27 quite a ways from the general start and finish area.
At 7:10, the Golden Knights parachuted in right after the Canadian team. It was an amazing display of aerial skill. Each of the Golden Knights landed perfectly 50 meters ahead of the start finish line in what appeared to be near-crash speed but all was well.
At 7:45 the Star Spangled Banner was sung and there was a simultaneous flyover by 4 Blackhawk helicopters. This part always makes my eyes water, just a bit.
At 7:50, the handbike and wounder warrior start went off. There were lots of cheers. Lots.
Promptly at 8:00, the first wave started and that included the yellow, green, red, and blue corrals. It was a fairly slow start but within a half a mile or so people were moving pretty good and within a mile it seemed pace was where it needed to be.
I was cranking along at 7:20-ish for a good part of the race focusing mostly on avoiding people, manhole covers, curbs, and any errant unladen swallows. My plan was to see if I could keep up the 7:2x pace for a while, fall back to 7:4x for a bit and then try to finish at 7:30. The first 4 miles went by pretty fast. They were a blur of runners. Miles 4-6 were a little tougher and I remmeber hitting mile 5 and saying, "Well, at least I'm half way." By mile 8 I was starting to struggle but each time I ran past a guy with one good leg and a prosthetic I told myself I had to keep moving. If he could run, I could run. The bridge came up at mile 9 and reminded me how much I a hate it. It's all psychological but I hate it nonetheless. It's long, slow, uphill climb for the most part. With few people and little to see.
As I came off the bridge and hit the penultimate corner one of the soldiers shouted, "One more turn!" and then I realized it was time to really step on the gas. So I did. I started passing people at will as I sprinted to the finish line which was maybe 200 yards ahead of the last turn. As I crossed the line knowing I had met my goal of 75 minutes (plus, perhaps, a few seconds), I was happy. A 10-mile PR by more than 3 and a half minutes and 11 minutes faster than last year.
I turned in my chip, grabbed my finisher's coin, snagged some food, and headed for the exit. There weren't many of done but it was crowded with family and friends. I headed back to the car to make a hasty retreat from the confines of the parking garage before the mass exodus created a backlog of cars idling like hungry dogs waiting to fight over a single steak.
I never saw Craig although we were in the same corral. It's difficult when there are 20,000+ runners.
On the plus side, there was plenty of water this year. Plenty. But then again I was a lot faster and I didn't run out last year either but just from what I could tell, the later runners should be just fine. The Army seemed to do well and get lucky with the weather to fix that from last year. Signage sucked. OK, so the big colored balloon arches were pretty good but unless you knew the general direction to go to get to the corrals, it was just about wandering aimlessly to find your starting spot. The food was plentiful at the end. Muffins, bagles (albeit packaged bagels that tasted a little stale), cookies, bananas, and some other treats. There was also plenty of water at the end too.
At the end of the day, I like the Army Ten Miler better than the Cherry Blossom partly because of the bling but mostly because of the association with the soldiers and specifically the wounded warriors who have the courage, strength, and determination to go out there when there are so many "whole" people who just sat on the couch this morning.
Obsessed with running and racing. It's all about the bling, baby! Suck it up and RUN!