Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Running DC: Training for the Army Ten Miler

This past spring, shortly after I set up my $5 bet with Mr. Helen and was having some weight loss, and around the time I was thinking I wanted to increase my running mileage, the thought popped into my head that the only race I'd never run, that I said I wanted to back when I was racing all the time, was the Army Ten Miler. It was my unfulfilled bucket list race.

Having done two marathons in Washington, D.C., I had an idea of what the race course might be like. I also knew that October in DC is generally pretty good weather - neither hot or cold, or snowy or wet.

As an added bonus, I have a friend who lives right outside of DC and of course, my daughter and son-in-law are in DC so there would be support and camaraderie if Mr. Helen couldn't get the time off.

All of this meaning that with those nearly prime conditions, if I was ever going to try to race again, now was the time.

So, when the race opened up, I signed up for it with the proviso that if anything at all happened and I ultimately could not, or did not, want to run I didn't have to.  I also knew I'd have the out of bib transfer which this race allows for a few weeks in August - i.e., I could transfer my race entry to someone who wanted to run but was unable to get in. So, I kept the fact that I was planning on running it a secret.  The only people in the whole world who knew my plans were Mr. Helen and Little Helen - and they were sworn to secrecy. Ultimately, I think all of this helped free me of a lot of agony over "race performance" and just allowed me to plan to run it.

While I have been running consistently for all my non-racing years, I knew I should approach it a bit more strategically, so I put together a ten week training plan and got to work.

The first hard thing was remembering that training for a fall race in summer heat and humidity is freaking hard - and we had an extra warm, extra humid summer this year. While I love that kind of weather for the beach, it's tough for running. And when you are facing a long run in those conditions, it sure is easy to want to give up, especially when you're running alone - no group, no friends.  The only person I had to be accountable to was me.

The next hard thing was my weight loss stalled at the end of June, and suddenly I knew I wouldn't be anywhere near where I thought I'd be physically by the time the race rolled around.  I'd be lying if I didn't admit that really messed with me mentally.  It's hard to explain but I just know from experience, the lighter I am, the faster I'll run, and I was facing the reality that I probably wouldn't run this race at the pace I'd originally thought. When you haven't raced in many years and therefore are not in racing shape, every little advantage counts.

But I managed these things and just kept running, always giving myself permission to not participate in the race if the time came and I was truly unhappy. Even with getting up early to try to get my longer runs down before the sun was beating down, I was feeling pretty good about my running and had eased into acceptance of my pace.

August came and went and so did my chance for a bib transfer so now I was looking at either running, or simply giving up the $70 race fee and not running.  But I'd also committed to visiting with my friend and my kid so I knew at the very least I was going to have a very nice trip to DC.

What is that saying about the best laid plans of mice and men?  I think it should be the best laid plans of runners and racing....

On September 24, exactly 2 weeks and 1 day before the race, I rolled my ankle on a chestnut hidden under a leaf and body surfed a sidewalk.  My ankle and shoulder took the brunt of the fall and were bruised and swollen.  The untold story here is that when I got home, I cried for about an hour because I just made up my mind that it was a sign I shouldn't do the race, never mind if I could do the race as I had no idea how bad it was - bad enough that I couldn't even run?

I rested for a few days then walked, then ran, and by the following weekend was able to run 10 miles with minimal swelling so I knew then that I could at least get through the race.  At this point my mindset had changed from maybe I shouldn't even do it to DAMN IT, I did all this training all summer, and I deserve to take part in that race!

Then Hurricane Matthew formed and the race began sending us alerts that they would update us on Friday as to whether or not the race was even going to happen - rain yes, hurricane no.  Perfect.

So, I actually left my house Friday morning to drive to DC not evening knowing if I would be running or not.  Honestly, at that point, I figured it was in the hands of Someone Bigger Than Me.

Finally Friday late morning they announced the race would be held and I decided that was a sign that I should be running.  And so, I did.

Next post: The Race Report from Expo to Finish Line.


  1. I don't know when it was during your training that I started to think you must be training for a race - I think it was when you ran 8 miles, maybe? Just because no one runs 8 miles for run in the heat and humidity of summer, LOL...

    And your fall just goes to show how tough runners in general are, and you in particular...most people would opt out of doing anything while they recovered and healed up, but nope - runners will get back out there to test things out way quicker than mere mortals. So glad you were able to run your race!

    1. *for fun* - see, my default is always to type in "run" haha.

    2. I am lucky that I wasn't hurt worse. When I ran 10 miles the week before, I knew I'd make it through the race and happily, my ankle just has the teensiest amount of swelling every day by the end of the day, but the run didn't make it worse. Honestly, my shoulder is giving me more issues now - may have to give up and go see a PT.

  2. I am so glad that your fall didn't keep you from running the race!

    I was wondering also about all the mileage you were running in all that heat and humidity! Morning or not.

    1. I wanted to ramp up my mileage so that I could run 8-10 miles on the weekends this fall anyway, but if I'd not been racing, I probably would have delayed the ramp up a bit. Honestly though, any runner around here who wants to run a fall race has to run in the summer grossness. When I was marathon training, I did 20 milers in August heat and humidity. Yes, it sucks and we called them survival runs because you just couldn't pay attention to pace.

  3. Isn't it crazy how we let our minds race - thinking that a slip and an swollen ankle meant that the universe didn't want you to race. I was so happy to see the pictures on Facebook - and can't wait for part 2!

  4. Girl you are really good at keeping secrets :)

    I have been impressed with your consistency in running during the Summer and now I know why.

    So happy a hurricane and a fall didn't stop you from running.

    Congrats on finishing and well done.

  5. Wow! That's a big secret to keep for such a long time. Such a great lead-up story to the race--can't wait for the next edition :)