I went to packet pickup today for tomorrow's Annapolis Ten Miler. This is an awesome race with which I have a long-term love-hate relationship.
It's VERY hilly and usually VERY hot. It lures you in, chews you up quite thoroughly, and spits you out. It would be a challenging course for October or November, but it's held in the dog days of August - so relentless heat, humidity, and sun are big factors. Add on 1 to 2 minutes per mile to your usual ten miler pace and lots of blood, sweat, and tears and you have the Annapolis Ten Miler.
I've run it three times now. It used to have a lovely route through the United States Naval Academy, but since 9/11 it's been routed around it for security reasons.
One of the big lures of this event is phenomenal schwag, and this year is no exception. We received a very well-made wind vest with an embroidered logo at packet pickup. I was delighted to see when I picked it up that the back is mesh and it includes pockets along the rear side edge, like a cycling jersey. This is going to be a perfect foul weather cycling vest! I'll wear it a lot.
Other years I got a polo shirt and a pair of warmup pants. Nice stuff that gets a lot of wear from the happy recipients! Last year I also got a hand towel with the race logo embroidered on it that they gave out after the race. This year the finishers' premium is an acrylic sailboat.
The course is deceptively difficult. I'm pretty sure that negative splits are impossible on this course. Tomorrow we'll start at Navy Stadium and the first mile just takes you on a loop around the stadium parking lots. That's your warmup, enjoy the horizontal surface because that's the last you'll see of it.
Then the course heads down toward the old section of town. Take the roundabout around the Maryland state capitol, then head down the old cobbled main street. Literally down, because there's a fairly steep slope down to the harbor. Take advantage of it and pick up some time here. We'll need it later on.
Swing past the harbor and Ego Alley where the big yachts come in, past the statue of Alex Haley reading to children and the plaque noting that the auction of the famous Kunta Kinte was held near there.
Then swing over by the Naval Academy gate and begin climbing up that hill you just came down. Take some water from the Naval Academy midshipmen and thank them for their enthusiastic support. Take a right at the top and you'll be heading straight up the old Severn River Bridge. It seems to go on forever and it's impossibly steep - don't forget that it's tall enough for sailboats to go clear under it! Enjoy the climb, because you're doing it again soon.
Down the other side of the bridge, almost to sea level, and then take a right and you're heading back up a steep hill into residential neighborhoods in the cliffs looking over the Severn. Up and down and up and down and winding around through this neighborhood you go. Fortunately there's good support from the local residents and they'll be out cheering you on.
Finally you have a long steep haul back down the hill, and another tough shadeless climb over the old Severn River Bridge again. If the temperature is high (and it always is) you'll be scorched on this treeless stretch and working hard over the bridge. Lots of folks will be walking. But after you clear it you've only got only one mile to go - but it seems like the longest on the course. I'll be one of the stragglers at this point and the aid stations will be starting to clean up.
Keep trudging through a zig-zag, and finally you'll see the stadium up ahead. But the course has one last bit of nastiness to leave you with - you have to go all the way around the backside of the stadium, where you're presented with a horribly steep climb to get to the finish line.
Cross the line, congratulate yourself, and pick up your finisher's sailboat. Enjoy your trophy and display it proudly. You've completed one of the toughest ten mile road races in the country!
Fortunately this is a "C" race for me this year - just a 10 mile workout as I gear up for marathon season ahead. I'll use this race to test my longer distance endurance, try out a new running shirt I got at the expo today, and test some new flavors of Carb-Boom gel to see how my stomach likes them during races. My three times (on the two slightly different courses) have all been between 2:11 and 2:14. I'd like to beat those, and tomorrow promises to have the coolest temperatures of my four attempts, but also with the possibility of showers. Let's just get out there and run the best race we can!