ARMY IN ALASKA


Team Alaska performs despite oppressive heat, humidity

Last Updated :
Story by Mary M. Rall on 10/18/2017
By Mary M. Rall
U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. Alaskan service members demonstrated their readiness to perform by finishing the 33rd Annual Army Ten-Miler under extreme weather conditions Oct. 8 in Washington, D.C.
The Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Soldiers and Airman representing Team Alaska began the event in unseasonably warm temperatures at 8 a.m. on race day. However, conditions elevated to as much as 86 degrees with an average humidity of 87 percent by about 10:08 a.m., causing event officials to downgrade the competitive event to recreational status due to what they deemed unsafe running conditions.
"The safety of our runners is paramount. The Military District of Washington is committed to providing a world-class road race in a safe and secure environment," said Army Ten-Miler Race Director Jim Vandak in an Oct. 8 press release. "The decision to downgrade the road race was made in coordination with medical, safety and race operations personnel."
The judgment to change the status of the race was made less than 30 minutes after the last member of Team Alaska crossed the finish line, however, allowing the Alaskan service members to garner competitive times. As such, the Team Alaska Men's team placed fifth out of 33 teams, and the first-ever Team Alaska Women's team finished 13th out of 15 teams.
According to the press release, many of the approximately 35,000 race competitors were unable to officially place in the event due to it being downgraded to a recreational run and the route being trimmed by a full mile to mitigate the risk of heat injuries.
Team Captain Capt. Juan Bonnet with 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, said the team's training methods were paramount to ensuring the Alaskan competitors not only garnered an official time, but finished a place higher than the 2016 Team Alaska Men's team.
"We were able to get long runs, speed intervals and tempo runs in together at times, and that proved to be invaluable on race day. We put in good workouts so that we were fit as well," Bonnet said of the team's pre-race preparations. "It means a lot to know that our efforts resulted in improvement and besting last year's performance."
Men's team member 1st Lt. Japheth Ng'ojoy with Medical Activity-Alaska competed on behalf of Team Alaska in 2016 as well and affirmed how a sound training planned benefited the team's performance on race day.
"Our improved performance by [the] team placing even with unfavorable weather explains how serious our training towards this race has been," Ng'ojoy said. "Even on our individual level worst, we still ran better as a team than every team except the four teams ahead of us."
The extreme heat and humidity caused most Team Alaska competitors to run the Army Ten-Miler with times that were longer than their May qualifier results, with the exception of 1st Lt. Colleen Cooper of 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st SBCT, who shaved 1 minute and 34 seconds off her qualifier time to finish the Army Ten-Miler with an official time of 1:20:47.
"Despite the heat, I managed to keep a consistent pace up until mile seven. Around that point in the race, my body began to rapidly fatigue," Cooper said, who's a native of Arlington, Va. "It would be impossible for Team Alaska to prepare for the humidity that we experienced on race day. Growing up in Arlington, we rarely experience severe humidity during fall."
Women's team member 1st Lt. Calla Glavin with 5-1 Cav, 1st SBCT, said the best way to prepare for the 2018 Army Ten-Miler would be for Team Alaska to log as many miles as possible during the Alaskan summer, adding it was a privilege to compete in the event, despite the heat, humidity and how both impacted the team's performance.
"Being a part of Alaska's first all-women's team was an honor," Glavin said. "So many spectators and other runners commented on how far we had travelled to participate, and I was really proud to run alongside my USARAK teammates."
Bonnet said he's not content to wait until the summer to prepare for the 2018 Army Ten-Miler, however.
"If there are talented runners out there, the time to start preparing is now," he said, stressing it's not enough to attempt to place or get a better time when preparing for an event like the Army Ten-Miler. "I am extremely proud of our team. I always want to win, but we showed heart on that course."

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