My name is Vanessa Corcoran and in 2008, I moved to Washington DC to work on my master's degree in Medieval History and started training for my first marathon. Over 100 races, a master's, and a Ph.D. later, I defended my doctoral dissertation, "The Voice of Mary" at the Catholic University of America in 2017. With the Ph.D. in hand, it's time to embark on new adventures. Follow my new story at: VanessaRoseCorcoran.Wordpress.com
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Army Strong Remix: Army Ten Miler 2013
Fun at the Expo
Before the race
2012 was the first time I ran the Army Ten Miler. I absolutely loved it. I ran 1:06:10, then a PR in the 10 mile, and it felt like everything came together perfectly. In the spring, I went on to better that to 1:05:52 at Cherry Blossom, while that was more of a hunker down and scrap my way to the finish PR. But my mom, who became a runner in 2010 and completed her first half marathon last year, had heard me talk enough about the Army Ten Miler (ATM) that we both signed up for it this year. She trained at home in Rochester, and I trained here in DC (oh yeah, and that seven week stint in California). We have done a couple of races together, but never one of this scale. In 2011, we ran the NY Mini, which had about 5,000 people - this had over five times that!
My parents arrived late Friday night and we went to the expo together on Saturday at the DC Armory, which hosts many of the large scale DC race expos. Even though I had just went home the weekend before, it was great to hang out with my parents.
We didn't have dinner together though, as P and I were invited to a birthday boat party. No drinking for me (and the birthday boy was a runner too, so he understood), and Pat was willing to make sure I got home in time for my "curfew."
I couldn't decide if I felt ready or not. I had a really solid training stint since July - workouts went really well, and I didn't go too crazy and overdo things. My races leading up to the ATM were also solid - coach Sarah said I was ready to hit another PR. But a week before the race, I got some sort of stomach bug that turned what was supposed to be a 13/12 weekend turned into 13/0, followed by another goose egg and an easy run instead of my final track workout. I just felt awful and tired. If I had come across this in another blog, I would've commented and said "don't worry, it is just a few off days, you'll be fine for your race." But in my own head, I was freaking out and watching my race plan go down the toilet (which to be honest where everything else was going). But it was just a few days, it couldn't derail it all, right?
We met up the next morning and metro-ed to the Pentagon. My mom was super excited - this was a super big race for her, and I was excited for her too. My dad came along too, as sherpa and holding all of our stuff. It was a cold (about 40 degrees) but clear morning, with some wind. After we each got settled, I kissed my parents goodbye (my mom and I were in different corrals), and headed to the security line. Now, I am absolutely grateful for the thoroughness of that, but it definitely took more time than expected. So, my usual 2.5 mile warm up ended up being reduced to about .25 mile. I did some lunges, squats, and leg swings in my corral and hoped that that would loosen me up enough. A lot of negative thoughts raced through my head in the moments leading up to the race.
And with the boom of the cannon, we were off. I was back further back than last year, and went through the first mile in 6:55. Okay, this was going to be a few miles of warming up, and then I thought maybe I could hone in on the goal pace. I still needed to get rid of that last big of negative chatter. By mile 3, I was starting to feel better and hit goal pace. We ran next to the Kennedy Center at mile 4, and I passed my nemesis/DC running rival (come on, we all have one, right) with confidence and was starting to come alive.
I came through mile 5, the halfway point at 32:39. It was at this point that I remembered how good I felt last year at mile 5, and to be honest, I was starting to wake up and feel good. I was locking into my goal pace, starting to hit my splits on time, and believe again that the goal was possible. It was a beautiful day, and wonderful to be running along the Potomac. When we came onto the National Mall (which was thankfully open - I was so happy that the course didn't change because of the shutdown!), there was a huge surge in how many people were out there. So many people were cheering and that gave me a big boost. I was thinking about my mom and wondering how her race was going. She had come to my DC races - the National Marathon and Marine Corps Marathon - before as a spectator, but now she was competing in a huge DC race herself. I hit the 10k mark in 40:43 and was feeling like I could nail this for the final 3.8 miles. We got on the highway just before mile 8, the final stretch of the race. When I hit 8.5, a workout from early this month trickled back into my head - the crazy continuous 1.5 mile workout, where you do 1.5 miles on the track, changing the pace every 800 meters, and do the 1.5 2 times (for me it was 6:10 and 6:20 per mile pace). The goal is to get used to changing paces during the later stages of the races, and it was coming into play here. I had 1.5 to go and I just needed to lock it in. There was a woman who I had "let go" around mile 3 - I finally had the energy and kick to reel her in and pass with confidence. There's no reason to worry about passing people until the second half of the race, when it becomes evident who has gone out too fast. The memories of that workout were pulling me through, and I got to mile 9. Knowing I would see P and my dad soon was pushing me through. I kept looking at my watch and I knew I was close but didn't have a lot of room for error. I saw P first, so close I could've reached out and touched him, and that was a boost.
It was a while before the finish line came in sight (I don't know what's worse - seeing it dangle in front of you like a mirage for a while or wondering when is it ever going to show up), but finally the balloon arch surfaced, as did my dad. It was my last bit of energy to push to the finish line. I don't think there was a Bangle Pump - but there was inside when I saw the time:
1:05:41 (6:34 pace)
I was able to hone in and make it count on the big day, even when it felt like my goal was out the window. It was an eleven second PR and this was the highest I've ever finished in a super competitive race. That being said, Kerri Gallagher, the winner (and 5th place in the 1500m USATF Championship this summer) ran it in 54:56, so that's still a big gap between 1st and 36th place. Also, Olympian Julie Culley (5k) recently moved back to the DC area, and she came in third (she's training for the New York City Marathon) - pretty high caliber competitors! And this is a race without any prize money!
And then I doubled back, caught up with P and my dad and waited for my watch to come in. Because my fiance is super tall, he was able to see my mom making her way to the finish. And she did awesome! 1:35:35...and she (without revealing too much) is in the AARP club! She did so much training this fall, and it all came together on race day.
The rest of the day was spent swapping race stories. After all, we ran the same course and saw some of the same sights, but experienced it so differently. And we all met up to have a celebratory dinner - yum! And there was a lot to celebrate. My mom and I each had victories in our own races, we each ran army strong and got to be cheered in by our loved ones. And that deserves a big HOOAH!