I had heard nothing but good things about the A10 race. Put on by the Annapolis Striders and now in its 35th year, the course takes you through the historic town center, along the water and through cute, wooded neighborhoods. I had heard talk of hills, but what else is new? Unless I’m on a treadmill I’m always tackling inclines of varying degrees and while I wouldn’t go as far as to say that hills are my strong suit, I felt confident enough not to worry or feel the need to adjust my training.
One of these days I will actually drive a race course prior to packet pickup the day before the actual race. Perhaps if I had known I would have to cross this not once, but twice I would have really focused on my hill training.
The Naval Academy Bridge (source)
I think my heart may have actually stopped for a moment as I drove across this bridge. It was high. And long. Luckily, it didn’t end up being an issue.
Sunday morning I woke up to my alarm at 5:20. I had set out all my clothes the night before so all I needed to do was get dressed, braid my hair and eat a bowl of oatmeal. I was on the road by 5:45 and made my way to the Naval Academy Stadium in Annapolis within an hour.
My first order of business when I got there (after a stop at the free coffee station) was to use the facilities. There was a long line of potta potties along the parking lot, but we were also able to use the Stadium bathrooms which was nice. Once that was taken care of I set out to find Kirk’s Uncle Paul who was also running. It took close to 20 minutes to hunt him down amid the 5,000 other runners, but we finally caught up to one another and talked strategy while stretching until the gun went off.
At the Baltimore 10 Miler in June, I had started between the 9 and 10 minute corrals while Uncle Paul opted to hang back and wait for the crowds to thin out. As we were lining up yesterday he mentioned that he was going to do the same this time around as he really enjoyed not having to weave in and out of the crowds. Seeing as we were all squeezed together like sardines – I couldn’t raise my hands from my sides to clap after the Star Spangled Banner was sung — I decided I would do the same.
It was around this time that I saw Jess from Run Girl Run standing with her boyfriend on the other side of the road. There was no way I could get to her but I made a mental note of her blue shirt and headband thinking that maybe I would see her on the course.
Uncle Paul and I waited over 9 minutes for the throngs of runners to make their way over the start line before we followed suit. I set my Garmin and we were off!
At the B10, my first 10 miler to date, I finished in 1:36:22. While I would have loved to run the A10 in under 1:30:00 I was really shooting for under 1:35:00. I knew I would need to keep my mile splits around 9:30 to make that happen so I made sure my first mile wasn’t too much longer than that. The first few miles were a little difficult. I had trouble getting into a relaxed groove and my stride felt choppy. It was also already starting to get a little warm (it was 65 degrees when I left my house at 5:40 so I figured it was probably around 75 once the gun went off two hours later).
The first crossing of the bridge took place at mile 4 and I was up and over the bridge before I knew it. I looked at my watch when I hit the top and realized I hadn’t even slowed in pace. I think the fact that there were no buildings or anything to use as a frame of reference made the bridge seem much steeper than it was. Stressing for nothing – story of my life. There was actually a small hill on the other side of the bridge that was far steeper than the bridge itself (though not nearly as long) that caused me more grief than anything. I had a good laugh over that.
Once we crossed the bridge, we spent miles 5 and 6 weaving in and out of some neighborhoods which were nice and shaded. A lot of homeowners had set up sprinklers and were handing out orange slices and playing music which was nice. Since my iPod has been acting up and I’ve yet to take it in to be looked at, I’ve been running without it for a few weeks. This is the first race in which I’ve gone sans tunes and while I did miss the entertainment, I really blame that more on my decision to start with the back of the pack than anything else. By the time I ran by any one group of spectators, they’d already be cheering from anywhere from 10 minutes (at the beginning of the race) to 40 minutes (by the end). Needless to say they were anything but encouraging. Most spectators were just standing there watching. I heard very little clapping, cheering or calls of encouragement. This was my one great disappointment in the race, but really I think it’s only because I started so late and I don’t think it’s a good representation of what the crowds were really like earlier on.
The most exciting part of the course was the out and back at mile 7. The runners were giving each other a lot of props and it was fun to scan the runners coming toward me for familiar faces. This is where I saw Jess again and shouted some kudos as she tackled the last hill before the bridge. Uncle Paul saw me here as well, and apparently shouted some support but I must have been in the zone, because I missed him completely.
I had taken my first Gu at Mile 4 and had another one that I was planning to take at mile 8. At the expo the day before I had picked up a 4-bottle hydration belt for $24 (score!), and was wearing that with only the rear two bottles filled. My idea was to fill one with water and one with Gatorade, but when I went to mix the Gatorade, I realized that not only was it not the real stuff, but that it was carbonated. Running while belching didn’t seem like the best plan so I stuck with water. I was excited to see all the Gatorade stops on the course and snagged a cup just before the 2nd go over the bridge at mile 8.
I’m not sure what came over me at the bridge, but suddenly I found myself doing my best to get people amped up and screaming “Bridge? What bridge? I don’t see no stickin’ bridge!” It was hot, we were nearing the end of the race and people were struggling. There was absolutely no crowd support and even when I tried to get folks excited no one hopped on my bandwagon. Sad times. I got a little deflated (and mildly embarrassed at my outburst) and right about halfway up the bridge my stomach started cramping up – I think from the Gatorade I had just downed. My pace slowed and one of the runners I had just flown by in my screaming frenzy came up behind me and said, “Comm’on yellow!” (I was wearing a lime green shirt, but I suppose after running for an hour and twenty minutes it could look yellow) and looked at me like I was the biggest slacker on Earth. I chortled and asked, “Are you calling my bluff?” and he returned, “Hell yes, I am!” and waited to see what I would do with that. Well, I couldn’t have that, so with my reputation on the line, I took off again. Really it felt like a crawl, but when I glanced at my watch I was running up that hill at a sub-9 min pace. Crazy. I did my best to keep him in my sights through the next mile, but it was tough. According to the elevation plan from the A10 website the last mile is downhill, but you could have fooled me. With my stomach acting up, I didn’t take my second Gu and I was fading fast.
One big difference between the B10 and the A10 was that I fueled properly. Not only did I bring my own water, but I popped a salt tablet before the race. I also brought Gu which I erroneously didn’t think I would need at the B10. The extra calories and electrolytes really kept me going much faster and longer that my previous race where I all but gave up at mile 8. Unlike the B10 where I sprinted effortlessly across the finish line with a huge smile on my face and making for the best race photos I’ve ever taken, it took everything in me not to grimace at the camera as I came through the finish this time around. This was a good thing. I was sorely disappointed in myself at the B10 for slacking in those final miles, and I really left it all out there on the course this time.
As for my time, I can’t be 100% sure as I had a small issue with my Garmin just after the mile 1 marker. Right around mile 1.5 I glanced at my watch to check my pace and saw it wasn’t on the right screen. I had failed to remember to lock the bezel and I must have hit it when I was reaching for my water. I tapped a few buttons but couldn’t find my way back to the training function I wanted and so when I hit the second mile marker I reset the workout. Because of this I didn’t have a running time, but at least I had accurate mile splits. After the race I discovered that Mr. Garmin had been continuing to time me even though the screen wasn’t up, so I added my time from the first workout (miles 1 and 2) and added it to the second workout (miles 3 through 10) to get an approximate finish time of 1:33:52, a PR by 2 and a half minutes.
I figured the 25 seconds at the end more than makes up for the .03 miles at the end of mile 2.
I woke up this morning to find that the race directors of the A10 have a posted an apology to the runners saying that the posting of finish times is going to be delayed. Apparently there was a problem with the bib numbers and the cataloging of those numbers in the database. Kind of a bum year for the A10 as the race premiums were also faulty and returned by the directors due to sub-standard materials and manufacturing. They’ve promised to mail the premiums to each and every runner in 6-8 weeks. We did get socks and a towel with the Annapolis 10 Miler 35th Anniversary moniker on them though.
All told I really liked this race. I think If I had started in the corrals it would have been a much better experience, but you live and you learn. After the race I ran jogged the 3 miles to meet my mom and aunts and uncle at the Metro Diner. My training plan had me scheduled for 16 miles, but I figured racing 10 with a 3 mile cool-down was about the equivalent. Brunch was a veggie omelet with fruit and toast which I followed up with a Rita’s vanilla and strawberry swirl custard later.
By the time I got home, I was feverish with a sore throat. Last night was rough and didn’t bring much sleep and around 3am I shot an email off to my boss saying I wouldn’t be in (hence the time to write this uber long and likely boring post). I think all the emotional work stress from last week, paired with all the physical challenges I’ve been enduring have finally caught up to me. I’m hoping that a day of rest will have me back up on my feet right quick. I just wish we had some spinach because I could really go for a Green Monster right about now.
Oh, last but not least I need to show you all my “medal”. When Kirk heard that the runners of the A10 weren’t given finisher medals he indignantly declared that I deserved one and presented me with this Adam Jones card:
Kirk is an avid baseball enthusiast, card collector and blogger. The card is now proudly displayed on the wall with all my other bibs and medals. 🙂
Edited to add: The A10 website finally posted our finish times. My offical time was 1:34:23 which, while not as fast as I had calculated, is still a PR by 2 minutes. I’ll take it!