On Friday I posted a preliminary “thoughts going into race weekend” knowing full well that going all out on the Annapolis 10 Miler this weekend was probably not the smartest move since I’m only a week away from runDisney’s Dumbo Double Dare, a 10K and half marathon back to back. This 10 miler was the longest distance I’ve raced since the Brooklyn Half in May, and the Disneyland Half will be my first half marathon since then (obviously). I was doing one or two a month for the first half of 2014, and kept it kind of quiet this summer, but now that fall is approaching, I am so excited to be back in race weekend mindset again.

Granted, runDisney is a way bigger affair than our state capitol’s annual 10 miler, but the Packet Pickup festivities and exhibits were still a happy welcome back to racing.

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Easy breezy line for packets

There were a fair amount of local exhibitors, and I was tempted to take them up on all of the Maryland flag gear and Annapolis pride paraphernalia being offered to commemorate the race. Being our state capitol, Annapolis definitely rolled out our kickass state flat on just about everything it could find, and I also appreciated the big nod to Annapolis as a very maritime seatown.

Easy breezy line for packets
Easy breezy line for packets

I ended up settling for a few small souvenirs to save some money for Disney next weekend, so the haul I took home, including the (admittedly kind of lame) participant hat looked like this:

10561605_10100386250542793_6270133260906949836_nI’m a big fan of commemorative pint glasses (note to race directors!), and I couldn’t resist the little bumper sticker for just 2 bucks. I had a feeling, whatever my time, I was going to have a good time at the race and I was feeling a lot of state pride after the Expo. Especially since my Pop Pop attended and graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1951, and the stadium at which the Expo was held and the race started and finished was part of the Naval Academy. Before departing Annapolis, I looked everywhere for something from his graduating class, and kept finding graduating years all over the timeline. Finally, I was beginning to drive away, I saw the number “1951” peek out at me through some trees and I made a quick (but safe!) turn into a random blocked off driveway, climbed over a little hill, rooted through some trees, and found this:

PicMonkey Collage2After that I grabbed lunch in the Annapolis Town Center, got my turn signal light bulb replaced at the Annapolis Koons Ford, and ventured home pretty exhausted from navigating around Naptown in the pouring rain we had yesterday. Which then reminded me: the forecast! I hoped upon hope it wouldn’t be raining like it was Saturday for race day, and luckily, the stars (and storm clouds) aligned just right to leave Sunday morning in perfect weather. (Still warm, but hey, it’s August. Could have been way worse.)

It’s a good thing I picked my packet up the day before because Sunday morning was tough getting into the stadium. When I finally got close enough, I saw that one whole area for parking had already been blocked off as full so I pulled off into a side street and hoped that “no parking during stadium events” signs didn’t apply to the race, since the event was only really happening in the parking lot and not inside the stadium itself. I was rushed, and ended up – GASP – leaving my water bottle with my NUUN and my GU’s in my car! AND I left my arm band that carries my phone when I run too!

I was a little panicked when I realized that, having no time to go all the way back to my car to get my fuel and electrolytes, but I remembered my B, C, and D goals and figured worst case scenario, I’d find out how badly I really do need gels and in the meantime, take full advantage of aid stations, which I usually blow through. I found my friend Jescie (who you may remember from racing the Virginia is for Lovers 14K with me) but couldn’t find my Team RWB eagles, so I missed the team picture pre-race. But giggling a bit with Jescie before the race began calmed me down to just go with whatever the race brought, even if I’d be carrying my phone in my hand the whole 10 miles and be gel-less.

10367694_10100386250343193_1450013390480432694_nThe race began and we were off. I was zigzagging through people right at first since Jescie and I had started toward the back of the crowd, but the first mile went by like a breeze and, knowing my overall pace goal was 10:30, was glad I decided to go out fast when my first mile ticked off around 9:30.

Second mile, through the pretty streets of downtown historic Annapolis, clocked even faster at about 9:11! I knew the really tough hills were in the last half of the course so I was purposely going out fast to bank time. I was feeling strong and I knew that if I paced myself too slowly, I’d just feel more tired from more time spent running by the time the major hills showed up.

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Good morning Annapolis!

And boy did those hills show up. After a 9:42 mile 3, the famous Naval Academy bridge loomed. I could see its incline from a good quarter mile away and mentally prepared myself to push through. I had already taken my first walk break after 25 minutes (again, trying to bank time in the first half of the race, negative splits be damned) so I told myself to run the whole damn bridge. It was getting tough, when all of the sudden I felt a tap on my shoulder.

It was my RWB teammate Caitlin, being a badass and carrying Old Glory on behalf of the team, and when I told her I was struggling up the bridge she cried, “this is it! This is the big mile 4 hill!” It was all I needed to feel part of something, representing the Eagle of Team RWB, and if Caitlin could keep running while carrying the flag, I could keep running period. Our Eagles would stand out.

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Caitlin on the Naval Academy bridge

I passed the 5 mile marker in under 50 minutes! I was amazed at my pace, and it wasn’t until mile 6 that I even had over a 10 minute mile. I really was just amazing myself, period. This whole marathon training process, sticking to my plan as much as humanly possible for me, is doing exactly what I hoped it would do. It’s not just about running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26 – it’s about 18 weeks, 9 of which are now done, of discipline and strength and focus. And it was absolutely paying off as I sped (for me) through a tough, hilly course.

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While I didn’t break 1 hour in the 10K, I did beat my standing PR from the Queens 10K, hitting 6.2 at about 1:01, staying on my just under 10 minute pace. ThenΒ I was running against runners going in the opposite direction, and I wondered how far ahead they were. I spotted more RWBers and high-fived my friend Carmen as she passed me in the opposite direction. I saw a mile marker facing them as they pushed up a hill I was about to leisurely fly down, and saw that it was the 7. Which meant just a quarter mile down the hill and a quarter mile back up it, but it was a bear on the way up.

It was this point that the song “Be Okay” by the band Oh Honey came on my headphones, and it was totally what gave me the umph to run the whole uphill without slogging. Highly recommended for your running playlist.

Finally cresting that hill, we rounded the corner of a road and started heading back to the Naval Academy bridge. I took a Gatorade from a small child, walked while chugging it and passing the 8 mile marker, and checked my watch. I could average 12:30 miles for my last two miles and break my PR. I was definitely tired, mostly in my quads, and there’s always that moment you think to yourself, “is it really worth the hurt? Worth the pain? Worth the effort?” I tried to think of something to propel me to run the whole bridge, but I no longer have the emotion toward any specific person to use as either positive motivation or revenge motivation. So I simply focused on the lamp posts. I’d run to that lamp post. Then to the next.

Naval Academy Bridge, part 2
Naval Academy Bridge, part 2

Finally, finally, the lamp posts I was counting were starting to dip down, and I had crested the bridge for the final time and was in the home stretch. Checking my watch I could still average 12:30 for the last mile and a half and break my PR by even more. It felt like I was running much more slowly for these last few miles than the first few, but actually, mile 8 was even faster than mile 6 and mile 9 was a blazing (for me in the final miles of a race) 9:53.

The last bit of the race I knew I could blow my PR out of the water. I had managed just under a 10 minute pace for the whole 9.75 miles, that when I was about a quarter mile from the stadium, though I’m sure it was all mental, I decided to walk just a little because I felt I was about to faint going up the last little hill. It was kind of embarrassing to walk a few steps in the finisher’s chute, but enough of the cheering crowds shamed me into kicking back up into a run and I ran threw the finish line with my arms in the air and a smile on my face. I knew I’d PR’d like crazy.

Victorious Eagles.
Victorious Eagles.

Just through the finisher’s chute they gave us sopping wet ice cold towels that got my shirt even more soaked than my sweat had gotten it, but felt amazing on my face anyway. As I glowed with runner’s high, I heard a few people yelling my name. It was the smiling faces of those above, waiting for every Eagle to cross the finish line. Most knew I’d been gunning for 1:45 and I told them victoriously I’d gone well under, with an official chip time of 1:41:29. Sweaty, gross hugs were exchanged and eventually I headed over to pick up my finisher jacket, a bagel, and a banana, the latter two which I inhaled.

I got to greet Jescie at the finish line and her first words were, indicating the icy towels, “these are AMAZING.” There were also popsicles being handed out by kid volunteers, but I opted mainly for my banana and bagel. I knew I had to go make sure my car hadn’t been towed so I decided to head out.

10635811_10100386249749383_3124112690738588049_nI felt this race was expertly organized and though I love my medals, getting a high quality running jacket for winter training was a refreshing change. While I will always want a medal for a half marathon, I’m totally fine with a different kind of finisher premium for 10-milers. I love the jacket and can’t wait to wear it (ok, I can wait, but if I have to run in winter, I’m glad I have a new snazzy jacket to do it in).

I highly recommend this race to anyone in the Maryland/DC area, especially if you’re training for a hilly fall marathon. I absolutely loved it and am so glad I took the leap to sign up and do it.

Did you race this weekend? How’d it go?

Have you ever run the Annapolis 10 Miler? What did you think?

Since one of the things that made me love this race is how pretty Annapolis is, how important is scenery on a racecourse to you?

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