A week ago, rather than showing up at Gotta Run in Arlington for Saturday's long run, I went to Kensington, MD for a 10-Mile club race so I could be on hand for any Program member who wanted to run a supported 10-mile distance as we get ready for the Wirefly National Half-Marathon on March 29th. Although overall director Ed Grant and several members of the Marathon training group showed up at the race, no one from the Program came out. Instead, back on Pentagon Row, Matt and Sasha took out two Program members apiece on a ten-mile training run.
The race in Kensington was free ($5 for non-club members). At 9 am we lined up on the 8-foot wide bike path in the bitter 28 degree temperature and off we went on the hilly and windy blacktop trail. (Above: Another S curve. That's ice along the banks of the stream to the right,)
We ran into the rising sun the first half of the out-and-back course, along the creek bed that Beach Drive follows. This road is through parklands and a haven for groups of bicyclists, who stick to the road. Much of the creek was frozen over and the early morning sun glinted off the ice. The footpath was cracked and buckled by frost-heaves along much of its path and little up-and-down hills abounded.
A year ago I ran a major ten-mile race in 1:16:05. This low-key race was going to be very different and I lost over six-and-a-half minutes somehow in only a year.
The first mile went down in 8:06 and I knew my recent string of sub-1:20 ten-milers was in jeopardy. Speed up? How about an 8:11 second mile. I turned in my only sub-8-minute mile in the third mile (7:43), then fell off to an 8:07 fourth mile. By now I was running by myself in this sparse race run along a trail comprised of an endless series of little S turns. It was terrific for practicing running a straight line through opposing turns to shave distance off a route. (Above: The tall pointed spires of DC's "Magic Castle.")
The fifth mile (8:25) left the trail and ran uphill on city streets by the Mormon Temple and I hit the turnaround at 40:33, an 8:07 pace. It didn't get any better. (Right: This hillock is a daunting protuberance by the ninth mile.)
The second half of the race went like this. 8:01 running downhill back to the trail, 8:30, 8:36, 8:27 and 8:35 for a 1:22:44 finish (8:16 overall pace) as I tired and half a dozen runners went by me the last three miles. Only the race winner broke sixty minutes, by 18 seconds, and Ed Grant had a great time of 1:13:33 to take "Program" honors.
I finished 62/110, 52/81 among males, both rock-solid bottom-half finishes. I think I beat all the trainees though, at least one of whom captured an age group award. This was a hilly, curvy and nasty course, albeit pastoral and scenic too with its glimpses of the spires of the Mormon Church above the treetops. (Above: Race is done.)