I felt like bagging this race. The weather was blustery and cold, 38-40*F at the start with the wind piercing through us all. I got up at 0500 (0400 if it weren't for the time change) and drove to the start just to get one of the few parking places, and sat in my minivan trying to stay warm for an hour. No cherry blossoms are in evidence, though there are lots of daffodils and a few pink magnolias getting blown around in the cold gusts of wind. I even thought about an exit strategy - at two points the race loops fairly close to the finish in the first 3.5 miles, so I decided if I felt really lousy during the race I could walk away at either of those 2 points. I find my friend *jeanne* in the portapotty lines - it's reassuring to see a friendly familiar face again! I wore a garbage bag to the start, trying to cut the wind and stay a bit warmer, but my teeth were still chattering in the portapotty lines. The National Anthem starts while I'm in the blue room. Try to seed myself towards the back, but the crowds prevent much movement.
We start out, as always, from the field adjacent to the FDR Memorial. A big field, 10,000 of us today! I'm over the starting line at about 6 minutes into the race. The road is densely packed with runners. Concentrate on not going out too fast, keep it comfortable and steady, and let the people around you burn up their nervous energy by jockeying for a few yards of position.
Mile 1: 11:17: Hey, that's a reasonably brisk pace for this BOP runner, and I feel pretty good! I'm getting warmed up and take off my gloves while trotting along and stuff them in my pockets, then tackle the tricker task of removing the garbage bag from over my head without stumbling or weaving. Done! Deposit it with a cluster of volunteers and stay on pace. Amazingly - no aches, no pains, no stiffness, just a comfortable running stride well within myself but keeping it up in the "brisk" range. Up and around a sharp turn to the highest point of the course, passing the Bureau of Engraving and the Holocaust Museum. Cheer for the fast runners coming through in the other direction on my left.
Mile 2: 10:44: Huh? Where did that come from? Sub-11 pace doesn't normally feel this relaxed and easy for me, but I'll take it! Past the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial through the trees on my right. The road is still densely packed. Pull out a Gu approaching the water stop and suck it down - replenish and caffeinate early and often is the plan. Manage to avoid people cutting in front of me abruptly at the water stop. There's a lot of people here who don't do many longer races, and they're trying to go out fast. Up a little hill and around through the road construction next to the Lincoln Monument, and head out onto Memorial Bridge. Amazingly, the gusts aren't too bad atop the bridge. Quicken my tempo a bit going uphill to maintain pace.
Mile 3: 12:34: Ooh, that water stop must have slowed me down. Can't be helped. Try to run the tangents going into the traffic circle in front of Arlington Cemetery. Wonder why everyone else just follows the lanes and takes the long route. Glance over at the rows and rows of white headstones leading all the way up the hill to Robert E. Lee's front porch a mile away. Head back over the bridge and try to maintain pace on the uphill and downhill. Take a sharp left at the Lincoln Monument and head down the hill to the Potomac waterfront. I'm amazed I'm still feeling quite good!
Mile 4: 9:46: That can't be right. Someone must have positioned a mile marker wrong. I'm still trotting along, staying at the top edge of my comfort zone. We head under the cantilevered overhang at Kennedy Center. Watch the fast runners again heading towards their finish on my right, in an increasing stream.
Mile 5: 11:21: Another water stop, another tricky maneuver through dense crowds. Jog past most of the crowding to the last table, taking a chance on missing fluids - no, they still have a cup of water for me! Pull to the side for a powerwalk while drinking, and pick up the pace again.
Mile 6: 11:19: Up into the Rock Creek Park out-and-back, past the hillsides of daffodils and under the big bridges arching overhead. Pick up the pace a bit on some long downhills, but keep a little in reserve for the last few miles. The big hillsides seem to channel the wind right down the road. The crowd is finally thinning out so that I have some running room, but I'm happy to see that I'm not back with the stragglers like I have been in this race before. Another water stop, suck down my second Gu and turn around for home.
Mile 7: 11:53: I'm starting to get fatigued now, mostly in my lower back, though my feet and legs still feel fine. Hey, this direction has downhills too! How can it be downhills in both directions?
Mile 8: 11:19: The same time as this same mile heading out! Ratchet up the effort level for the home stretch. Start seeing runners walking back from the finish area. We go under several bridges and the wind whips us around wildly.
Mile 9: 11:33: Back to the Potomac and underneath Kennedy Center. Try to maintain a high effort level now, but it doesn't result in more speed - I'm getting to the "just hanging on" stage. Try to crank it out for the home stretch! People on both sides cheering for us for the last 500 yards. One woman yells at us to pick up the pace - but as I gasp to the other runners, this *is* my picked up pace! Fortunately, the strong wind is now at our backs.
Mile 10: 11:11! Strong finish mile for me! Woo hoo, I love finishing when the official clock still starts with a "1"!
Finish: 1:53:01 watch time for 10 miles - woo hoo! My second 10-miler at a sub-12 mpm pace. That's a PR by 6:13 - that's 37 seconds per mile! I'm VERY happy to see that!! I never seem to know when PRs are going to happen, because my training doesn't indicate I should be getting any right now, but I'm certainly always delighted when they occur!