I like this race because (a) it is in the neighborhood where I lived in 1999-2000 and (b) it's a great way to start out Thanksgiving Day - on a day where I'm going to overload on food, at least I'm starting the day off by burning 700 calories!
I hate this race because my times have consistently been slower than I know I am capable. There are a lot of hills in the first three miles and this normally tires me out. In 2006, seven months after posting my 10K PR of 56:14, I ran a 1:01:20 (I later realized that I had donated blood less than a week before that race...oh well!). Last year, I ran a 1:02:16 (the weather was a lot warmer than expected - in the 60s!). I was hoping to finish under an hour this year, but I my mileage had decreased over the past few weeks due to bronchitis, feeling icky, and bad schedule karma.
I threw away my goal last week and just decided to run a smart race. Start out slow. Pick up the pace later. Enjoy the run. Unlike many times that I went into the race with a similar philosophy, this time I actually followed it! And by doing so, I nearly met my original goal.
The weather this morning was bright and sunny with not much wind, but it was still cold. I believe the temperature was around 30 degrees. I don't mind running in this weather, but I sure hate waiting around for a race to start in it.
I got to the race location around 7:45am for the 8:30am start. I caught up with my friend Jamie who used to work at Nortel with me. We stretched out, took a jog around the adjacent neighborhood and tried to keep warm. I was looking out for fellow blogger Not Born To Run, however, I did not see her in the mass of 8,000 or so people there. Go figure.
I wandered over to the starting line and nestled in with the 10:00 to 12:00/mile pace group. This group was supposed to start 4 minutes after the gun time, however, it was more like 9 or 10 minutes by the time we all got to the starting mats.
The first quarter mile or so is slightly uphill. The big consolation is that race ends here in the opposite direction - nothing like a fast finish going downhill! I thought my Heart Rate Monitor may be giving me false readings here as I felt like I was going rather slow, but the watch was showing I was already in the 150s. I got it back into the 140s while going downhill and continued going at this pace. The first mile marker came up and my split was 10:37. A bit faster than I was anticipating...perhaps my HRM was giving me correct readings after all!
The second mile included some pretty big neighborhood hills - both up and down. It finishes coming down one of the largest hills on the course - Pooks Hill Road...luckily, we were running DOWN this hill and not UP! My mile 2 split was 10:39. Right on track.
Mile three was on Rockville Pike passing in front of NIH and the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Again, there are a few hills here - I rarely noticed them while driving, but when you are on foot they are very noticeable. As I was running up one of these hills, I felt really strong - especially my upper body. I think the push up challenge that I am doing is starting to pay some benefits in my running (I wasn't planning for it to help in running, but I'll definitely take it!) As I was pumping my arms to get up that hill I almost felt like it was somehow pulling myself to the top. The mile three marker was before the last big hill crested - 11:04 split.
As soon as I crested the hill, I knew it was my time. We were heading into downtown Bethesda, so the hills would not be as prevalent. I had conserved my energy and I felt strong and ready to pick up the pace. This was now my race.
The first water stop was right around here and I just blew by it. And I started to pass a lot of people. The thought came into my mind that the past two years I ran this that I was the one being passed - not the one doing the passing. It's a nice feeling to be doing the passing, I must say.
However, passing people is not always the easiest thing to do. The race officials had coned off one lane of the street, so there was a pretty narrow lane to fit all of the runners. I ended up doing a lot of weaving; I tried to stay to the left and pass on the left most of the time, but many of the runners were plugged into their iPods and oblivious to their surroundings. Heck, I'm 170 pounds and my running shoes squeak a little with the Superfeet insoles in them - you should be able to hear my footfalls if I'm coming up behind you...
Mile 4 split = 9:05. Mile 5 split = 9:14. I still had a lot of energy left. It was time to run like crazy to the end. The song "Lose Yourself" by Eminem started going through my mind - it's got a great beat to run to. For the next mile I was burning it up and passing tons of other runners. I felt like I was running a 5K - and this was mile 6 of a 10K! I got to the mile 6 marker and checked my split - 8:14. Holy cow!!!
I did the last 0.2 mile in 1:39 (an 8:15/mile pace) and crossed the finish line. Watch time of 1:00:33. Still not near my 10K PR, and not sub-one hour, but a course PR nonetheless.
The after-race events were a bit chaotic. I don't think the race organizers knew how to handle so many people (this was their largest crowd to date). I had checked a long sleeve t-shirt and sweatshirt at the bag check, and I went to go get that, however, the line was really long. By the time I got through the bag check line, there were no more bagels - and that was the only food they had for their "spread". Bagels and water. And not enough bagels for all of the runners. Grrr... Plus, Sherry and the kids had come to see me at the race and we did not meet up. We missed each other at the finish line and then could not find each other at the post-race festivities. I did get a really big reception from all three of them when I got home which was very sweet.
Post-race issues aside, I had a great race. What a wonderful way to start the holiday!!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!