Hey friends! Today, I'm (finally) sharing my experience running the 2017 Army Ten Miler in Washington, D.C. It was one of the largest races I've ever participated in, and while it wasn't my best race ever, it was so much fun! I'm taking you through our whole experience -- the travel and lodging, the expo, pre-race, the race, and the finish line!
Travel and Lodging
My little family traveled by car, and drove 10.5 hours from Tennessee to D.C. We drove through the night, so Grace slept the whole way. When we arrived in Alexandria, Virginia around 6am, our AirBnB host let us right into the apartment we renter so Casey and I could get some rest, too!
D.C. traffic at 5:30am after 10 hours in the car. My husband is a rockstar.
We are huge fans of AirBnB when traveling with the baby. The extra space and full kitchen is so key! We also lucked out because we were less than 2 miles from a Metro stop. In D.C., the easiest way to get around is to take the Metro. It's very affordable, and drops at key locations all over the city. We spent $25 total for three days of riding.
If you're racing the Army Ten Miler, I HIGHLY recommend either staying in Crystal City (adjacent to the Pentagon) or close to a Metro stop. I stayed in the team hotel in Crystal City the night before the race, and we walked a mile to the start line in the morning. Casey took the Metro from Alexandria, and had a great experience. There are 3 stops you can use to get to the race: Crystal City, Pentagon Mall, and Pentagon. Driving through D.C. is, well, crowded and slow, and parking is at a premium. Your best bet is to take the Metro.
The Expo usually takes place at the D.C. Armory, which is on the East side of the city. Again, it's easily accessible by Metro. We rode from Alexandria, and it took about 35 minutes -- about the same time if we drove and somehow encountered no traffic!
First time on public transportation.
The Expo is easy to navigate. The packet pick-up table is huge and well-manned, but you need to know your bib number. You also pick up your race t-shirt after you get your bib. They have tons of Army Ten Miler merchandise, plus booths from other sponsors. Army units bring helicopters, trucks, and other equipment for kids (and curious adults) to check out.
Casey and I at the Expo -- the only picture I took while there. Whoops!
The Expo takes place on Friday and Saturday, and there is NO race day packet pick-up -- so this is one you have to arrive early for no matter what!
Race day is where it gets really interesting. The ATM starts and ends at the Pentagon, one of the highest-security facilities in the country. You can only imagine how a 35,000 person race on the Pentagon's campus could make some people nervous! Fortunately, the ATM guide I got with my race packet clearly showed the location of Metro stops, parking, security checkpoints, shuttles, sponsor tents, and the start/finish line. If you're racing, STUDY THESE THINGS! It will make it so much easier to navigate!
Flat Erin (clockwise from top left): Fort Campbell Jersey, Zensah Racey bra, pre-race fuel, Rymora Sport socks, Asics Gel-Nimbus, and Old Navy spandex.
I stayed in the team hotel in Crystal City the night before the race, so we all met in the lobby at 6am and walked to the shuttle. There were armed Soldiers everywhere directing pedestrian traffic through bag searches to shuttles. Most large bags (think backpack or larger) were turned away. Security was NO JOKE! But, it was smooth and fast. We were off the shuttle and at the Fort Campbell tent by 6:30.
The team tent area is a great place to kill time before the race. There are teams from all across the world, and other sponsors have displays. Many tents give out free food like bananas. The port-a-potties are abundant -- every runners dream! I think I used them 6x before the race started!
All the Fort Campbell ladies, pre-race.
We killed about an hour by the team tent, including a 10 minute warm-up jog. There was tons of space to get a warm-up in before the race.
We moved about 1/2 a mile from the tents to the start line. There were 8 corrals based on finish time, plus a wave of wounded warriors. Each wave is coded by bib color, so it's easy to find your people. After the national anthem and a flyover, the wounded warriors started at 7:50. Then, at 8:00 they started the fastest runners -- my wave! After that, another wave started every 8 minutes, so there's a good spread between groups.
The race course was definitely one-of-a-kind. You start at the Pentagon, then run past Arlington Cemetery; into D.C., past Watergate, and through the National Mall; then back across the Potomac River to Crystal City and finish at the Pentagon. There are water stops every 2 miles, and live bands play every 2 miles. Of note, headphone use is not allowed during the ATM, but the crowds are never ending. Always someone cheering you on!
I started running with my teammate Crystal, who was also pacing to finish between 68-69 minutes. Our first two miles were great: 6:35 (because, its the first mile, duh) and 6:46. After that, we both started tanking. The 80-degree weather plus humidity really got the best of us. I felt myself slowing down significantly, and my heart rate was soaring. Our next two miles were in the low 7's, but Crystal was cruising and I was struggling. Around mile 4, I ran past a teammate who was already a heat injury. He wasn't the first person I saw sitting off to the side, looking for medical attention.
That's when I realized I needed to slow down. Crystal had already taken off ahead of me, and I decided to walk for a minute. I knew I wasn't going to PR in those conditions, so it wasn't worth hurting myself just to go a few seconds faster. Walking helped SO much, so I kept up with run a mile, walk a minute for the rest of the race. It let me run decently fast, but also catch my breath and keep myself from pushing myself over the edge. Toward the end, I walked a lot more than I wanted to -- but I was also being passed by medical vehicles every few minutes, carting heat casualties to the ambulances waiting at the finish line.
Can you tell I was excited that the race was almost over?
Post race, I learned that at 10:08 -- about 40 minutes after I finished -- they shortened the course because there were too many heat injuries for the medical staff to keep up with! Yikes. To me, that was a good enough reason to cut myself some slack for not hitting my goal time of 69 minutes. I crossed the finish line at 82 minutes feeling healthy, happy, and slightly disappointed.
The post-race chute is LONG at the Army Ten Miler! We probably walked a good quarter mile before hitting the coin station. There, a volunteer gives you a commemorative coin as opposed to a medal. In the military, coins are given by superior officer to signify a job well done. It's only appropriate that the ATM rewards its racers with coins, too!
We also got a boxed meal, with plenty of calories, after passing the coin tent. Beyond the chute, the team tents were now full of spectators and fans mingling with racers. However, it was on a big enough footprint that it didn't feel crowded at all.
Family finish line photo!
The individual awards aren't posted until about 10:30, and team awards until after 11:00. While we wanted to hang out for the awards, Casey, Grace, and I had the chance to go to my brother and sister-in-law's baby shower in Maryland that morning. We opted out of the 1.5-hour post-race wait, hopped on the free shuttles, and went right back to the AirBnB to shower before heading to Maryland.
I honestly though that with my slow finish time, I had spoiled a possible podium finish for our team. Boy, was I wrong! ATM only counts the top 4 times (at least 1 male and 1 female in mixed gender) for scoring, so my Fort Campbell Team 1 ended up taking 3rd place overall! Not too shabby!
Overall, it was a really, really fun experience! I would have preferred better weather and a better finish, but as one of my teammates said, "That's why we race!"