Sunday, August 26, 2007

Heat Trumps Hills: the A-10 Report

Course map of the Annapolis 10-mile race, which treats runners to a stroll through downtown Annapolis, the Naval Academy, and the Old Severn River Bridge. From the Annapolis Striders website.

A couple things occurred to me today, while running the 32nd annual Annapolis 10-Mile Run:

1. Heat trumps hills
2. I don't like racing very much, at least not during the race.

The day started meeting Stephen Bardsley and his son Joshua at the Stevensville Park & Ride, and cruising to Annapolis to pick up another runner, John from Gaithersburg, and go pick-up packets at the Naval Academy's Marine Corps Stadium.

A year or two ago, Runner's World voted the A-10 one of the top ten 10-mile races in the United States. This is not without reason. Running through Annapolis and the Naval Academy is a great perk. The old Severn River Bridge is a rite of passage. And the folks who live across the bridge, as if to apologize for their hilly-arse neighborhood, are out in force with extra water stops, orange slices, and encouragement. That's the upside. The downside to popularity is that over 5,000 runners sign up to enjoy Maryland's capital city.

After a successful, pain-free packet pick-up, I snagged a pack of Clif Shot-blocks from a store set-up, talked shop and expectations with Stephen and John, and then each of us made our way through the starting gauntlet to find our place in the packing order. I wouldn't see Stephen again until mile 7 or so, coming back toward me on a turnaround, and would catch John after the race.

The silver lining to today's heat: we didn't run yesterday in the 90-degree-plus sweat box. The downside: Annapolis at the end of August is hot. Period. And heat sits like a howler monkey on my shoulders during races--it weighs my shoulders down, smacks the back of my skull, and laughs while I suffer.

Ten miles is not that far a distance for me to run, even these days, at the front-end of marathon prep. But it sprawled longer than advertised today. I hit the first few mile marks in the 8 minutes and 20 seconds range, which was where I wanted to be. I opted to carry an Amphipod waist bottle pack, since I needed the extra fluids in Chestertown this past May.

Funny, small-world running story: from about miles 2 to 6, I was running just behind and around an uber-tan lady dressed in black with an Amphipod waistband, black visor, etc. Through talking to folks around her, it became apparent that she was a triathlete. When I heard her talk, I recognized her voice, did the math, and picked her out as the same lady with whom I ran about 10 miles of the Holiday Lake 50K in February--Melissa Simmens from Columbia. I was pretty sure, but opted not to pipe up, since I figured I'd drop the pace before long. Checking race times, confirmed it was her. People look different when they aren't running outside in 12 degree weather!

Anyway, I stopped at aid stations, used some of my own Gatorade, ran in a trance through most of the middle of the race, then at about mile 7.5, had to duck into the woods as nature called and let me know I would enjoy the rest of the race more with an empty bladder. Consequently, I may be one of the few A-10 runners to get wicked leg scratches from thorns during the race.

The extra pit stop was a good call--the Severn River Bridge was not a problem, and I passed a fair amount of folks in the last mile of the race, with a will that felt bent out of shape by the heat, but thankfully legs that decided to run on their own. I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 25 minutes, and 23 seconds, corrected time, for a per mile race pace of 8:32. Official standings make that 1093 out of 4376 finishers. The good news here is that my hungover 6-year-old time was 1:26:59, so I accomplished my goal. The mixed news is that this means I won't be training for future A-10s by partying the day before the race.

Catching up with Stephen, he finished the race in 1:17:31, corrected time, for a pace of 7:45 (446 out of 4376 finishers). He was pleased with his race, and slugged down all the water he carried on a Nathan belt, as well as grabbing water at aid stations. I don't know John's last name to look him up. For full results, visit the Annapolis Striders website and click on "2007 results" under the race name.

The real race day highlight came as Stephen and his wife Lauren hosted a post A-10 cookout/pool party, complete with a moon-bounce for the kids. A great mix of kids, runners, teachers, and more than enough food, Corona and Miller Lite to put back on what we sweat out. Many thanks and mad props to the Bardsley family--the next post race, or for no reason at all, get-together will have to be in Talbot County!

A painful, hilly 10-mile race leaves me in an interesting spot for the next couple months of running. I have to take the mileage of my long runs and stretch it like salt-water taffy to get ready for the Baltimore Marathon and the JFK 50 miler. I really don't know what the hell I was thinking signing up for a 50-mile race!


stephen bardsley said...

The party was our pleasure, but all of that was laurens doing! It was great to meet Robin and the girls. Jon's last name is Pearlman. Im off to Tuckahoe to punish my sore legs...JFK is coming! later, Stephen

Nancy Toby said...

Well done!!!! Yeah, I have a love-hate relationship with that race. I always go out too fast (for me), overheat, die on the hills... and go back to do it again the next year. Except I missed this year because I thought I was doing a tri that I didn't do. Thanks for the report!

Anonymous said...

I just signed up for my first A10, and by reading your blog am somewhat regretting it! Yikes, I didn't realize it was THAT intense. I just hope that I can complete it and/or not get swept up by the 12 per/min bus! :)