Run Army Strong: Army Ten Miler

As my marathon training winds down (it’s this weekend, guys!), I’ve sort of been struggling to keep my head in the running game.

Life gets busy sometimes, and priorities change. Motivation changes. I made the decision a while back that following the marathon, the next couple of months were going to focus less on racing and more on my other fitness goals. Running just isn’t giving me the same balance that it used to.

So, as I’ve been struggling through this “running is meh” mindset, I’m glad that the “I love running!” version of me decided to sign up for a handful of races as part of my marathon training. It’s definitely been a little bit more motivating to have events to go to and publicly accountable reasons to get my training miles in.

In the last month, I’ve done the Navy/Air Force Half Marathon (which I’ll re-cap soon!) and the Army Ten Miler. This is the cool thing about living in Washington DC: lots of opportunities to run really fun, well-organized races put on by different branches of the military.

Obviously, the big one that everyone recognizes is the Marine Corps Marathon – I haven’t run this one yet, but I have spectated it! It’s on my bucket list… maybe next season? If I feel less meh about running then?

But after MCM, the Army Ten Miler is probably the second most well known. At 35,000 runners, it’s the third largest ten miler in the world.

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Yesterday morning, all 35,000 of us descended upon the Pentagon to get things started. Because there are so many runners, ATM does a wave start, with eight waves that start roughly eight minutes apart. It works pretty seamlessly. Both times I’ve run this race, the start was smooth sailing.

The only downside to yesterday morning? It was CHILLY. Like 44 degrees by the time I got to the Pentagon. I had worn capris and a tank to run in (which was ultimately the best call), and had brought a sweatshirt to throwaway at the start, but because I didn’t want to have to check a bag o’ stuff, I decided not to wear anything else to stay warm.

Consequently, that also meant that because I got there STUPID early (I’m talking 2 hours early, folks. I’m an idiot. Or I just wanted to get there and get it over with.), I was faced with the prospect of standing outside in the cold for far too long. So, I decided to huddle in the Metro station until the security guards threw us out. Ultimately, that ended up being about an hour.

I was warm for an hour. And then I was banished outside to wait for the sun to come up and bless us with her warm, inviting rays.

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This is the face of someone who just wants to be warm.

I went to my corral, found a curb, and proceeded to sit on it with my knees up around my ears until it was time to start.

Fortunately, that happened quickly and as my wave rolled forward, I kind of scooted into the wave in front of me and ended up starting with them. Ultimately, this worked out well for me, because it was clearly the pace group I should have been in.

My race plan was to stick to my marathon training strategy: 5-1 intervals, pacing around 10:30-11:00 min/miles. But then I thought about  it some more. “It’s only ten miles.” “You can run faster than that.” “Why the hell not?”

So, I decided to push this race. I had a time in mind to finish by, one that I haven’t seen in a couple of years and knew I was more than capable of achieving. As we started, I kicked it out a bit, not going too fast, but hanging with the swifter-moving folks in our group. Turns out, I banged out the first two miles (without walking) in 8:20 and 8:14. Not mad about it.

After Mile 2, I decided to implement the intervals again, because I know they work for me. So I did. Stopping to walk for a minute every five definitely affected my pace, but I was surprised to see that I was still moving at a good clip. Miles 3-9 were all between 8:58 and 9:30 min/miles. And then I ran Mile 10 straight through, without intervals, to finish that one in 8:20, and ultimately meet my time goal for this race.

I don’t know what happened, but I was pretty stoked on it.

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Today, however, my legs are a liiiiittle tired. I’ll have to be nice to them this week as we go into marathon day.

Here’s to knocking out that last bit of training and looking forward to 26.2!

Guest Post: Mermaid Run in San Francisco

Last fall, I participated in my fourth Mermaid Run in San Francisco, which is hands-down my favorite event of the year for many reasons.

First off, the 2010 Mermaid Run was my first-ever 10k. The race takes place in my favorite American city, the course is stunning and the weather is perfect for running. The event has a small(ish) participant field and is one of the most organized runs I’ve participated in, the energy is amazing and swag is awesome!

Participant shirt, Finisher Necklace and my bibMy participant shirt, finisher necklace and race bib

2013 was an exciting year for the Mermaid Run San Francisco, as race organizers added a new distance, a 10-mile race dubbed The Sirena 10.

But even better than the new race length was its course, which would include an out-and-back trek on the Golden Gate Bridge. I could not pass up an opportunity to run across the bridge, so Sirena 10 it was!

Registration opened up right around my birthday so my son gave me one of the best gifts ever, registration for this run… thank you Rob!

before the race

before the race

The 2013 race was held on Sunday morning so I arrived in San Francisco early Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the Sports Basement Presidio to retrieve my race packet which consisted of my bib, participant shirt and a Mermaid Run headband.  Packet pick-up for this race is always well organized and efficient, so I was in and out in 15 minutes leaving me with plenty of time to enjoy the city before grabbing some Korean hot pot for dinner and turning in early to ensure I would be well rested for my run in the morning.

Sirena 10 Runners lined up at the start

Sirena 10 Runners lined up at the start

My hotel was a little more than a mile from the start at the Marina so getting there in plenty  of time for the 7:30 am start was a breeze for me – a 15 minute walk on Divisadero Street and I was there. It was chilly and windy waiting for the race to start but runners and spectators were having a great time chatting, snapping photos and enjoying the stunning vistas the Marina has to offer.

The three event distances (10m, 10k & 5k) had staggered start times to account for the difference in the course for each distance, right at 7:30 the Sirena 10 runners set off.

We headed out Yacht Road and on to Mason Street towards Crissy Field, right away I noticed  that there wasn’t any crowding on the course and was extremely thankful for those staggered start times. Before I knew it, I passed the first mile marker and we veered left on Crissy Field Avenue toward the Presidio.

I’ll admit it. This is the part of the course I had been dreading. While the next two miles would get me to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, it also meant one thing, running uphill.

I wasn’t excited.

Once I made my way up to Fort Point Historic Site and caught my first glimpse of the iconic bridge, those rotten hills were forgotten.

first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from Bay Trail

first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from Bay Trail

Many runners stopped mid-stride to capture the amazing view of the bridge before continuing on to mile 3 and our run across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I’m not going to lie, this is what I had been waiting months to do.  

I walked across the bridge years ago. Last summer my son Rob, boyfriend Tony and I rented bikes and rode across the bridge, from San Francisco to Sausalito.

And of course I’ve driven across the great Golden Gate countless times.

But I wanted to run across it. And I was about to…. well, after I took in the absolutely AMAZING view, snapped a handful of pictures which included a shameless selfie or two.

The view right before mile 4 was breathtaking.

The view right before mile 4 was breathtaking.

I found my happy pace around mile 4 and headed for my happy place as I started to make my across the bridge.

I was in awe of not only the view but of all the amazing women who were already making their way back across the bridge toward the finish.  I happily clapped and cheered on the lead runner and several of  the others behind her as I made my way to the end of the bridge, Vista Point and mile 5, the halfway point and turn around.

The view from Vista Point.

The view from Vista Point.

Running back to San Francisco we were running toward traffic. Quite a drivers waved and honked as they passed by. And I got rather excited when the Bacon Bacon truck passed me, which, in turn, made me start planning my post-race bacon-centered meal.

The run back felt effortless. I was truly swept up in the moment and loved taking it all in. Before I knew it I reached the end of the bridge and mile 7.

One fabulous perk of having to run hills at the start of the race is that those same hills become your best friend on the return route. DOWNHILL!

I ran back down Bay Trail and Long Avenue before we merged with those running the 10k on Marine Drive, we made our final turn at the Warming House at Fort Point and ran those last two miles to the finish.

I am a Mermaid Athlete.

I am a Mermaid Athlete.

2013 was by far was my favorite Mermaid Run!  The course was stunning, and I kept thinking to myself while I was running is how lucky I am to get the opportunity to run in such an amazing city with such magnificent views and have perfect running weather in early November.

With the hills, I was concerned I would fall off pace and slow way down, but much to my surprise that didn’t really happen. I was only 5 minutes off my normal 10 mile time. And I paused more than once to snap some photos!

I definitely rode my runner’s high well into the day.  The Mermaid Run San Francisco remains my favorite event of 2013 and you can bet I’ll be back next year! I hope the Sirena 10 will be as well.

2014 race info

Are you interested in running the 2014 Mermaid Run? Registration is underway for the Nov. 9 event.

Early registration fees end May 31 and range from $40 to $70 (depends on which distance you pick!)

Can’t make it to the San Francisco run? There’s also a Mermaid Run in East Bay on May 10. That weekend series includes a 5k, 10k, half-marathon and 18-miler. Registration is between $45 and $75 through May 8.

Oh and in case you were wondering, I did have that bacon after the race. Like the run, it was perfect.

Heather is a mom, runner, crossfitter and contract administrator. She blogs at Heather in the Middle and can be found on Twitter at @hsb0372.

Do you have a favorite annual road race? Have your ever run across an incredibly large bridge? (That’s a hill in itself!)