Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Army 10 Miler Review - Part 1

Here is the start of my Army 10 miler review.  I'm going to split it into 2 parts so that it's not super long.  This first part will concentrate on things before the race.  Part 2 will probably be up next Wednesday and talk about the race itself.

Pre-race communication

I thought the race did a great job with the pre-race communications.  The information about the wave start, the timing for each wave, the expo and packet pick up, the maps for the start and finish as well as the course were all really clear.  This race was going to be different than previous years in that the metro would not be opening early.  The race did a good job of communicating this change and suggesting alternatives.  I feel like they also did a great job with social media and ramping up excitement for the race.
Example of the post-race map


 The expo was held the Friday and Saturday before the race.  There were morning hours open to members of the military and then later hours that were open to everyone.  As mentioned above, I feel like the race did a good job about communicating about the expo in advance.  The only think I couldn't find on their website was information about what vendors would be at the expo.  I thought that would have been useful.

I went to the Expo Saturday afternoon.  It was unfortunately raining so that put a bit of a damper on things.  The expo was held at the DC Armory so you have to go through security to get in to the building.  Security consists of bag check and a metal detector.  So there was a bit of a line to get into the building leading to us standing in the rain.  Not for long, the line moved quickly, but still something to be aware of.

Once we got into the expo, the packet pick up area was clearly labeled.  And it was split up by bib number.  There was no line at all here so I was able to pick up my bib as well as the bibs for 2 friends.  All I needed was a copy of their driver's license and the process was very quick.  Next, there was a separate table for shirts.  The bib had a tag for the shirts with the size listed on there.  So I knew exactly what size to get for each of my friends.  There was no line here either.

We moved on to the expo area itself.  I had initially wanted to look for some arm sleeves and maybe a headband.  But it was super crowded!  It was a surprise since the packet pick up area itself hadn't been crowded at all.  We saw that there were some cool things like a helicopter on display.  But the crowds were so bad that I just decided to head out since I didn't need anything that badly.

Blurry pre-race selfie, we'll just blame it on the wind!

As mentioned above, the metro was not going to open early for this race.  The race did a good job of communicating this in advance so we had time to figure out the best option.  There was no way that we were going to be able to get to Virginia on time for the race from Maryland using metro if it didn't open until 7am.  So I decided to get a hotel room for the night before with 2 friends.  The cost wasn't bad at all split between the 3 of us.  We couldn't find a room in walking distance to the race but we found one that was only a 5 minute drive away.  We stayed at the Key Bridge Marriott and it was a great option for this race.

We were worried about parking the morning of the race given that there were more than 30,000 runners and a lot of them were going to decide against metro with the late start.  Rightfully so it turned out because there was a huge wait to get into the Pentagon City Mall parking garage that was near the race.  So we took a lyft from the hotel to the race.  This was great because we could just have the driver drop us off in front of the mall instead of having to wait for the line into the garage.

But still leave early!  We left early knowing that some of the roads would already be closed for the race.  I told the lyft driver about the road closures in advance but she still ended up going that way and it did delay us a bit.  But it turned out fine since I knew we had left ourselves plenty of extra time.


 The race started at 8am and are wave was scheduled to start at 8:48.  We reached the Pentagon (where the race starts and ends) at 7:45.  We had to go through security to enter the area but thankfully, there was no back up at all.  I had thought we would have to go through metal detectors, but nope.  There was just people doing bag check.  I didn't have a bag, but runners were asked to open the pockets of any belts they were wearing.  I was wearing a flip belt so I just opened it a bit but security didn't seem to worried about seeing everything that was in there.  Also, headphones were technically not allowed during the race but no one seemed to be enforcing that either.

There was plenty of time to get to our wave's holding area.  It was easy to find your respective wave because it was marked by balloons that were color coded to match your bib.  So we looked for the purple balloons and other people that had purple bibs.  There was security stationed at the entrance to each holding area and they seemed to be checking bibs pretty carefully, which was great.  While we were waiting in our holding area, we huddled together for warmth (it was windy and a bit chilly) and listened to the announcer.  It was a little weird because the things he was talking about were on the other side of the building, where the start line was.  But because our wave was 2nd from the last, we couldn't see anything up near the start.  But we did get to see the helicopters that were circling, which was pretty cool.

The purple balloons for our wave along with a circling helicopter

And that's it for part 1 of the recap!  Long story short on the logistics, I would recommend getting a hotel near the race if at all possible, considering alternative modes of transportation such as ride shares, and leave yourself plenty of time for everything!  My race experience itself should be up next week.