Test run

Originally, my only goal for next week’s Army Ten–Miler was to beat last year’s finishing time–reasonable, considering The Winter of My Discontent. But I worked hard all summer and secretly hoped I could shave five minutes off last year’s time to take a shot at a 10-mile PR. Then, after my surprising success at last Sunday’s ’80s 8K, the little voice in the back of my mind urged me to aim higher than that. How about finishing under two hours? Yikes.

But I had no way of knowing if my 57-minute 8K time on a hilly course could translate to sub two-hours for twice the distance on a flatter one. And no real way to test it due to the fact that I’m relying on cooler temperatures in D.C. to help me out. Until this morning, when I woke up to 53 degrees. Much like race day. Hmmmm.

I didn’t want to run the full ten miles a week before the race, so I decided I’d try to run eight miles at the pace I’d need to maintain for a sub two-hour finish. It wouldn’t be a perfect predictor, but at least the results would allow me to ballpark whether this crazy notion is even feasible.

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I put on last year’s Army Ten-Miler training shirt and a couple of blinky things, fired up my race day playlist, and headed out into the pre-dawn morning.

The first mile, I almost chucked the whole attempt. My pace was too slow–I couldn’t even do it for one mile. How could I manage eight? Or ten? But I reminded myself of two things: one, the first mile always sucks. And two, at a race I tend to start off too fast, so a slow first mile today doesn’t automatically spell doom. After a water stop, I soldiered on.

The next two miles traveled the same hills from last week’s race. I didn’t look at my watch a whole lot, but I felt like my pace improved. Downhill, uphill, down, up, down. I stopped briefly to cross a busy street with the light, then continued down the sidewalk to the water stop and turnaround point. By the time I got back to the crosswalk, I had finished five miles and felt pretty strong. From here it was mentally easy–right turn, left turn, up the hill, final mile. I can do anything for a mile.

Not only did I finish well below the average pace I need to break two hours (almost 30 seconds per mile faster!) my last 1.27 miles were my fastest–almost a minute per mile faster than mile two and 90 seconds faster than that first mile.

Can I do all that, plus run 1.7ish more miles at that pace? Over the last part of the 14th Street Bridge, up an overpass, through a spectator-light chunk of Crystal City, and around to the finish? Well, it looks a lot more possible than it did a year a week ago.

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