Capitol Hill Classic 10K: Last year the hill ate me up. I was having a pretty good 10K til I hit the race's namesake hill in the sixth mile and it chewed me up and spit me out. My early sub-eight miles zoomed to a post-nine final mile. I felt lucky to finish in 48:44 (7:51) last year. (Left: The hill wasn't kind to me last year.)
This year I ran up the hill after every Mall run. I worked it. It's .35 mile and it's steep. It's three minutes of hard work.
Today was a perfect day to run, cool and overcast with a very slight breeze. As soon as I lined up at the start, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was H. Oh, hi.
H was a 10K student of mine two years ago. She has never beaten me. I used to think I could jump in on her races, pace her a bit and help her out. Then she got a personal trainer and started training relentlessly. I ran the last six miles of the MCM with her in October, her first marathon. She did a 4:07. My first marathon was a 5:05.
I was extremely happy with my 1:45 at the National Half-Marathon in March. Then H went down to hilly Nashville last month and threw down a 1:47 at the Half Mary there. Yikes.
I ran with H yesterday for the first time since December, four easy miles on the W&OD. She told me she was running today, so I went after a little intel. I asked her what her goal was on the morrow. Break 48, she said. Yikes. Not PR, or break 50 for the first time, no, break 48. Personally, I just was hoping I could break fifty.
When the gun sounded, I went out fast to put as much distance on H as I could in the hope that she wouldn't overhaul me later. Running eastbound on E. Capitol Street, I turned the first mile at 7:00. Running around RFK, I clocked the second mile at 7:25. Westbound on E. Capitol Street I passed by the third marker at 7:40. I was definitely slowing down. I kept mentally checking my stored minutes in the bank, knowing that the looming signature hill would slow me up.
Milepost Four was way off. I passed it going down Capitol Hill on Independence Avenue at 9:32. I was momentarily fearful that I had just run a 9:30 flat mile in a non-marathon race but then I knew that there was no way I had slowed down that much. Still, I was too tired to make full use of "letting it flow" as I ran downhill.
On the bottomland below the hill, I got mesmerized by how long an out-and-back it was on Independence Avenue before we rounded a cone and came back for the fearsome climb up Capitol Hill. Suddenly in my reverie I saw H off to the side thirty yards ahead. Oh, had she been quiet going by me.
Decision time. Do I let her go, or do I HTFU? I found a reserve and powered up beside her. I looked at her and she looked at me. I can tell the look from a woman that says, Not now! I passed by her without a word.
But when you're ahead, you can't keep track of where anyone is who is behind you. Although I was worried about what finishing strategy H might have, all I could do was keep moving. I hit the hill.
Unlike last year, I handled it. I powered up half of it before it wore me out and the rest of the climb turned into a slog. But even during the late going I wasn't tottering along in a faltering shuffle like last year.
Hill surmounted, I tried to push the last mile in. Finally I saw Milepost Six. I got spooked that I would get caught in that last quarter mile and I passed the last .2 mile in 1:28 (7:20 pace). A friend watching the race from the finish line later said I was really flying at the end. She had no idea of what was driving me.
I finished in 47:41 (7:40) by my watch, over a full minute faster than last year. H broke 48 minutes, just as she had set out to do. She did a great job. But her beating my a**, probably badly, will have to wait til next time.
As I trudged off to the start line of the accompanying 3K race, I was really happy with my time and effort in the 10K.