This race had been cancelled in 2011 due to a hurricane…
Pre Race: Prior to the race I received a number of emails from the race directors. The first was a change to the traditional 10 Mile course. Having never run the old course, I had no idea if this was a good or a bad thing. I also received an email reminder about the Expo on Saturday and a note to get to the race early on Sunday.
We meandered over to the Expo around 4pm (they were open from 10-5) and it was pretty quiet. Many of the vendors were already starting to tear down and the lines were almost non-existent for the packet pickup. I walked right up and received my number, race chip and as a special gift an Annapolis 10 Miler hat which was pretty nice. They had the race premium (a short sleeve technical shirt) on display to remind you what you were racing for. According to the website, only finisher’s receive the premium and all racers must maintain a 12 minute mile or be removed from the course. I have no idea how carefully they enforce this rule. I would be curious to hear of people being removed from the course or not receiving the premium.
Race Day: It was like deja vu all over again. The weather may not have been calling for a hurricane but it seemed like one had arrived. I left at 0530, mindful of the possible crowds and heeding the race director’s warning that people miss the race every year because they are running late. Lightning seemed to be crashing directly over Annapolis as I drove in. From 0600 to 0730 I sat in my car, checked Facebook, read on my Kindle and kept checking the radar app on my phone. Magically at 0730, 15 minutes before the race started, the rain tapered off. I had just enough time to wander over to the port-a-potties, take care of business and stand in a (sort of) line for the race to start.
The Race: I read some another review of the race and I have to agree that the starting area was a little ambiguous. Starting corrals may have helped. Not a big deal but worth mentioning.
Just as we crossed the starting line, rain came. Gentle at first but it started to rain harder and harder. By the time I got to the first bridge it was either raining so hard it hurt or it was hailing. Either way it seemed ridiculous to be running in this weather with thunder still booming overhead. I started to laugh aloud which probably made me seem a little nutty but the whole race seemed surreal at this point. I was soaked from head to toe, weighed an extra 5 pounds of water weight and it was only the second mile.
It did finally taper off again and I was able to get in a groove. I knew it was a hilly course so my goals were: no walking & be less than 12 min/mile. I just focused on staying relaxed and not getting caught up in racing. I think it was the first time in years I ran relaxed. My breathing was only slightly labored going up the hills – and there were lots of hills. Here is my advice to first time runners of the A10: practice in the hills and heat. If you think you have gotten to the last hill, you are probably wrong. It was a constant slight uphill with a few downhills thrown in. I swear we went uphill the whole race and yet somehow finished at the same place we started. It was like the Escher painting of the stairs that never end.
I felt there were plenty of water stops and the crowd was pretty good for such a rainy day. I am not sure how this would have played out on a hot humid average August Annapolis Day. There is not a lot of shade out there on parts of the course. I think I lucked out having a rain-soaked event. I survived my first A10 and finished in 1:34:33 which had me below 10 min/miles.
PostRace: Ice cold towels. The greatest after-race treat on a hot day. Ever. Awesome. I would suggest them to anyone who runs a summer race. They also had water, Gatorade and other treats. You had to wait in line to get your premium shirt but it went much faster than the mess after the Frederick Half Marathon last year. I grabbed my stuff and got out of town before the traffic could pick back up.
Goodies: You got the A10 hat and you earned the A10 shirt and ice-cold towel. No medal but a nice premium makes up for a medal. I have come to expect one or the other with the price of some of these bigger events.
I would give it four stars. I had a very memorable time running in that weather and I won’t forget those hills and the Severn River Bridge. The difficulty of this race will attract those looking for a true challenge. If you are a newbie to the distance you need to prepare. Nice premium and the Striders did a great job with all the things you expect race officials to cover.