Thursday, September 20, 2012

USAF Marathon 10K

15 Sep 2012
My alarm was set for 5:00 AM, and I didn't even need to use the snooze. I'd been going to bed at 10:00 all week and getting up at 5:30 or 5:45, running in the dark. My bib was already pinned to my shirt, and it didn't make much sense to take a shower. All I really needed to do was cook a pancake for breakfast and get dressed.

I'd been thinking about this morning every day for 9 months, so it was kind of hard to believe it was finally time. I double-checked that I had my minimal needed items (wallet, keys, phone, camera, bottled water) and headed out into the dark morning. I pulled onto the grounds of the Air Force Museum about 6:15 and followed the traffic to a parking spot, from where I saw the following view.

Thousands of cars filed through three gates. I got all my things together and began the long dark walk towards the start line, first through wet grass, then on a gravel road, across a runway, along a crumbling former taxiway, and around the Museum itself before passing through the security checkpoint. I found the portable toilets and walked through more wet grass towards the other end where the lines weren't as long. Managed to one that was on such a slant that the door wouldn't open all the way. On my way back to the gear check tent, this was the view.

30 minutes to go. After talking to Evren on the phone, I checked my warm-ups, phone, and camera and waited near the gear check tent. After 7:20 and the National Anthem, I thought I should make my way towards the start corral. Evren saw me walking away and got my attention. At 7:28 the B2 Spirit flew overhead.

Before we knew it, the gun went off and the front racers were gone. It took about 2 1/2 minutes to make it up to the start gate where an Air Force chopper was revving its engine. I started my watch and turned right at a nice slow (crowded) pace with a view of thousands and thousands of runners in front of me, stretched out at least a half mile. This was really a warm-up mile, but I knew I needed to speed up a little to make my goal of 60 minutes (had to average 9:40/mile or less). Continuing down the road which used to be a runway, we passed a band playing some oldies off to the left. Shortly after I came up behind one of the units running in BDUs and carrying flags. I noticed one of them was a former student and said Hi to him as I passed.

By the start of the second mile we were already starting up the hill. I wasn't worrying about my pace. I just wanted to make sure to keep moving and not get worn out. I didn't pass anyone going up the hill. Just tried to maintain. Rounding the corner at the top of the hill, guys were running in and out of the trees...a mile and a half into what was probably a 26 mile race for most of them (10K and Marathon started at the same time). I guess they didn't have time to use the portable toilets before the race started. I later heard it wasn't just guys making a stop. It couldn't have been more than a half mile after the top of the hill when we hit the first water stop (including toilets). I grabbed a water and drank what I could, knowing the hardest part of the run was now behind me. Even with the hill my second mile had a slightly better time than the first, but still over 10 minutes. I knew I would make it up soon. I mostly stayed with the pack, passing someone occasionally, but racing the clock, not them.

We passed another band, this one with a full horn section. The road was pretty level, but started to gradually slope down until the end of the third mile where it became a steep downhill. One of the things I learned when I was "relearning" to run in May and June was how to run down hills. Most of the people around me were sticking their heels way out in front of their bodies and using them to slow themselves down....but not me. I used gravity to my advantage, kept my feet under my body, and strides fast and short. Essentially I flew down the hill, hitting a 5:26 pace at my fastest, giving me 8:21 for the mile. It was also at the bottom of this hill where the Marathoners split off to the right for another 23 miles...while I was now half finished.

A left turn out the gate revealed the next water stop. I grabbed a Gatorade and choked down what I could, barely missing the trash can with my cup. Another quick left found us now running on OH Rt. 444 with two lanes blocked off for runners. I stayed to the left and remember passing a couple more people. Then the second downhill segment took us under the bridge to Springfield Street where the only clock on the course was located (that I remember) and back to the entry gate for Area B at the end of mile 4 (8:42).

I knew it was flat the rest of the way, but I still had 2 miles to go, so I decided I needed to rest a bit. 9:27 for mile 5 kept me under my 9:40 and past the final two water stops. We could also hear the finish line announcer from this point, and he was calling out the names as people crossed. Rounding the corner at the end of mile 5 I was side-by-side with a woman who asked if I was going to get water. I wanted to, so we switched sides. After I sipped a bit of water I tossed it and for whatever reason felt myself speed up for the return course on the old runway. Most of us were really spread out at this point, so there wasn't much passing going on. I didn't want to push myself too early, so I decided to wait until I saw 6.0 on my watch.

As it turns out, the final 0.2 miles is just the home stretch to the finish line. I already knew I'd make it under 60 minutes. This was it. This was the culmination of every step of the past 300 miles over 8 1/2 months, every salad instead of fried chicken, every shin splint, ankle pain, and muscle ache, and nearly 40 pounds gone. I could see the finish line and wouldn't be satisfied to hold anything back, managing to dip below a 6-minute pace for a few moments along the way. I think I passed 2 or 3 people down the final stretch. I don't think I saw much except what was right in front of me. I remember being confused about the first chip reader on the ground until I realized that's how the announcer was calling out our names. Just before the actual finish I heard my mom cheering for me and smiled without looking. I saw the clock above me head still under 60 minutes, even though I didn't start running when the clock started ticking.

I stopped my watch at 57:07. Then I was awarded my finishers medal and had to pose for a couple pictures.
Passing through the food tent, I didn't get any food (anticipating Smashburger later) but ended up with water, Gatorade, and chocolate milk. I went back to find mom,

and waited there for Evren.


I was really happy with my results relative to the rest of the field, though I imagine it's because most of the "real" runners who didn't finish ahead of me were doing the longer races anyway. But given that my goal in January was just to cross the finish line without having to walk part of the course, I'll take it.

View AF 10K in a larger map

1 comment:

Ebus said...

Congrats! I am so glad that we decided to run this race and we made it. The traning part was hard, your shin splits, my knees..But the happiness at the finish line was worth everything.. I hope we can run the ORRC half marathon in March 2013. Maybe a marathon afterwards.. Now you are too fast for me to train together. :)