Hello everyone! I’ve really been slacking on my blogging. I believe my last entry was about 4 weeks ago (!). That’s with good reason, though. I’ve had a lot on my plate lately between training, raising 2 children, and finishing up my application for both NJROTC and the police academy. What little free time I do have has been spent sleeping or indulging in my DVR. I did want to jump on here and recap my recent race, the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in DC, before I forgot the experience.
I didn’t have much on my race schedule for 2016 since I was trying to cut back on extra spending. I had the King Crab Challenge lined up as well as the Avengers Superheroes Half, both deferred from the previous year. I knew I wanted to run at least one more race and decided to enter the Cherry Blossom lottery. I had heard many great things about this race, the biggest draw being the beautiful cherry blossoms on the route. Being that we are now only about an hour from DC, as opposed to the 2 hours back when we lived in VA, I figured it would be a great opportunity to sign up. I entered the lottery on the day it opened, December 1, 2015 and hoped that I would make it in the first time. I promptly forgot about the entry with the busy holiday month and our huge Disney trip that took place a few days later.
I received the great news of acceptance into the race on December 16, on the tail end of our Disney trip. Talk about an awesome way to end a trip! I was excited and promptly started planning out logistics for the race.
I mentioned how close of a drive DC is earlier. It is fairly easy to just drive in race day morning and make it in time for the run. In fact, many women from the Moms Run This Town group I’m a part of did just that. I, however, hate leaving so many things open to chance. I’m a Type-A control freak and had to ensure plans were solid with very little room for things to go wrong. My husband stepped in and booked us a one night stay at the JW Marriot on 14th St, about a 15 minute walk from the Start/Finish line and 7 blocks from the race expo. We’ve stayed at that hotel in the past when I ran the Nike Women’s Half Marathon back in 2013 so I was very excited. It’s in a perfect location with a garage that connects to the hotel (really convenient when you get there before check in times!). The hotel itself is gorgeous and I especially love that they have a Starbucks in the lobby that opens promptly at 6 AM on the weekends. This makes it easy for me to attain my pre-race breakfast, I ritual I only partake for long distances.
We left for DC on Saturday morning around 11 and arrived around 12. We headed to the garage and luckily found a space close to the elevator. The garage is open to both the public and hotel guests and also serves as the lot for valet. It tends to fill up quickly, especially when special events go on, so we were happy to find something. It is pricey at $35.00 for the 24 hour stay, but given that valet is a solid $50 overnight plus tip it was the much cheaper option. Side note on valet: the valet drivers are insane. City parking garages are cramped as it is so I tend to take the turns carefully. Not these guys. They did about 40 MPH around the floors. Insane. We headed to the lobby to see if we could check in early. Thankfully our room was available so we checked in and headed up. We were on the 6th floor with a view out to 14th St and the Washington Monument. The room felt a bit more cramped than I remembered, but then again the last time I was there I had only 1 infant. We surveyed our room, fed and changed our son, then headed out to the expo so that I could pick up my bib.
The expo was held at the Washington, DC National Building Museum. It was a fair walk to it but nothing too taxing when both children were in the Thule. Once we got there, I headed up the stairs to the second floor where the bibs were being issues and my husband stayed below. Bib pick up was easy since the numbers were issued beforehand and I had the CUCB app on my phone. It was streamlined so that you picked it up and then head down a corridor and down the steps to the shirt pick up. The line for the shirts was insane although it moved quickly as all stations had all sizes. I think the line was just insane because people had no clue where they were going…some were pretty rude about other runners trying to figure out the line. I got a nasty remark about how the line this woman was in was the shirt line when I had bypassed it to figure out where my husband was. People (insert eye roll).
I grabbed my shirt, standard cotton as I didn’t want to pay the premium for the tech upgrade, and met up with my husband. We quickly looked at the race shop they had set up so I could get a good look at the NB items in case I wanted to buy some post race when they go on sale. I also stopped at the TAPS booth to inquire on about their race team. I’ve been wanting to run for charity for a while now and they seemed like a good fit for me. Plus, they partake in Disney races so it would be a win-win situation for me =). After I got the information I needed we made the trek back. We had originally planned to stop at one of the many great restaurants on the way but since we had the Thule, we decided to grab something at the hotel food court and eat it in our room.
Before we left for DC and at the expo I learned about the weather situation and race changes as a result. Although the weekdays had been absolutely gorgeous, as well as that Saturday, Sunday was going to be a different story. There were wind warnings issued as well as a cold weather advisory. I saw something in the news about possible snow fall and I laughed. No way. Still, I made sure I packed my beanie and gloves in case I would need it. I knew I would wear tights and long sleeves as the temperatures were supposed to be in the 30s anyway. I sure was glad I decided to bring those extras, though.
I had set my alarm for 0530 so that I would be able to get dressed and grab my food at 6 AM when the Starbucks opened, hopefully before the runner crowds got there. When my alarm went off, I quickly checked to see how the weather turned out. You can imagine my shock when I saw snow showers. Oh, boy. I was prepared for the 32 degree weather but not snow. Thankfully, it was a light flurry that stopped after about 30 minutes. The winds were just as predicted: 20 MPH with gusts up to 40. Yuck. I got dressed in my outfit of choice for the weather: black Athleta running tights, my Baltimore Marathon long sleeve tech tee, a Nike pullover 3/4 zip, my Baltimore finisher beanie, and gloves. I had worn my hair down the day before so I decided to do a simple braid as opposed to a low pony tail so that my hair wouldn’t turn into a rat’s nest with the wind.
As I stepped out of the bathroom, our son woke up and started looking for me. I ended up nursing him for a few minutes before my husband took him and I was able to run down and grab my food. Turns out it was a good call to get there as they opened because when I left the line was 12 people deep. I paid for my (overpriced) latte and oatmeal and headed back. (Seriously, though. $1 uncharge for soy?! Ridiculous). I nursed Jake again once I got back and left him with my husband in the bed. I finally sat down to eat. I went with my go-to meal: oatmeal with nuts and almond butter swirled in and a soy latte. It’s been my pre-race meal since I ran Shamrock back in 2013 and has always faired well for long runs. Once 0645 rolled around, I grabbed my things and headed out.
Corralling and Start
Like I mentioned earlier, the start was about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. It was a cold, windy walk. However, it wasn’t as shockingly cold as everyone was making it out to be. Seriously. Some people did the trash bag bit (wearing a trash bag to stay warm) or wore some seriously warm fuzzy jackets (think North Face and PolarTec). Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to kick myself for not bring my amazing Brooks winter jacket but I knew deep down I wouldn’t need it. I actually felt great walking to the corral. I should also point out that I’m an all-weather runner so I’m used to running in snow, rain, heat, humidity, high winds, etc. That’s probably why the cold and wind didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.
Once I reached the Washington Monument, I noticed that not all the changes they declared were done. They had a PA system set up so we were all able to hear directions (thank you!). They did keep with not setting up the Start/Finish arch and canceling the kid races which were a bummer. I went over to my assigned corral once I figured out where the corrals were. I was in the red corral which was the second wave to start. It was only 0700 so I had a good 30 minutes before my corral took off. While I waited I looked for the elites (Meb was there!) and I chatted with a few other runners there. I was glad I got to the corral as early as I did because once we were about 10 minutes from the start, the corral got extremely crowded. We were pretty much crammed like sardines right before we started. Talk about horrible scenarios for my agoraphobia. After what seemed like less than a minute we heard the warning and then the pop of the start gun. Off we went!
Originally I wanted to go into this race with a put up or shut up attitude and give it my all. I wanted to aim for a 7:30-7:45 pace as a goal since I have yet to run that pace in anything longer than a 10K. My fastest half to date was at an 8:00 min/mi pace. However, because it was so windy I settled on the plan to run with an effort that felt good and not exhausting. As we made our way through the first out and back, I just focused on my running form and breathing. I don’t run with music anymore so I can focus on my running. I know most people find that dull but honestly I don’t notice it anymore. I was surprised by how easy it felt to run against the wind. There have been many early morning runs where I’ve run in similar conditions so I think that helped out a lot. After the first mile I heard my watch beep. Imagine my surprise when I saw a 7:30 split. Wow. I smiled but wasn’t too sure how long that would last.
This entire course was a series of out-and-backs, not exactly my favorite type of course. I dislike them because there’s always a bottleneck at the turnaround point. I stuck to the outside for those turns. I know it’s not the most efficient tactic but the one time I did stay inside at Mile 4, I got stuck behind a girl that literally stopped and walked around the cone. That was frustrating. Surprisingly, outside that one turn around, the out-and-backs weren’t as horrible as I thought they were going to be. I recognized the northbound stretch for Mile 3 on Rock Creek Pkwy from the Nike Women’s Half. That made me smile because that was a great race for me. As we crossed the 5K mark, I noticed my clock time was around 23 minutes. Not bad. I was averaging 7:15ish paces at this point which I was happy with but also guarded about. I was pretty confident that as we approached Mile 8 I would feel the fatigue and my pace would die down. 8 miles has been the longest I’ve run since Jake was born. I should have known better than to underestimate myself.
The next few miles went by as a blur. I clocked my 10K time at about 46:30 so I knew I wasn’t running as fast as I did in the Wicked 10K but I was extremely close. Mile 7 and half of Mile 8 were all tailwind so that was a breeze to run. Miles 7-9 were also a recognizable loop around the East Potomac Park. I clearly remembered that loop from the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon. Miles 7.5 to the end were all into the wind and it had felt as though they had gotten stronger. It wasn’t pleasant but I pressed on as best as I could. At this point I was averaging 7:40ish which was completely understandable because of the headwind. Once we were near the Holocaust Memorial, I tried to pick up the pace as best as I could. I could see the Washington Monument in the distance and really wanted to try to clock a 1:15 finish. Without the finish arch, I really didn’t realize I had reached the finish until I hit the timing mats. I looked at my watch and saw 1:15:XX. I didn’t get just under that like I wanted but it was close enough. I was very happy.
The finisher’s chute was quick due to the race day changes. They were encouraging all finishers to grab their water, food, heat blankets, and head home. All the post race activities were canceled, unfortunately. I collected my blanket and food then made my way to the medal area. I had pre-purchased one and was glad I did because I thought the design was very pretty. After a quick medal shot I recollected my gear and headed out. A guy stopped me and complimented my pace, something no one had every done before so I was flattered. He apparently paced off of me for the last few miles and helped him push through at the end. I congratulated him on his finish and bid him a good day. I think it was funny he paced off of me because I paced off of a girl wearing a 7:30 pace group bib. It was a group effort indeed.
The walk back to the hotel was uneventful. I was ready to shower as I could feel the salt on my face. I was happy to note that I wasn’t sore at all, but I did notice that my allergies were bothering me a little. I made it back in time to shower, feed Jake who thankfully slept until 8 (I got back around 9), and pack up our things to head out. The instant results showed that I had finished in 1:15:16 and paced an average of 7:32. Not bad! I also slightly negatively split the race, something I’ve never done before. I was very happy with my performance. I celebrated by having a delicious meal at Eggcellence with my family (a delicious restaurant, BTW).
The Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run was a great race. It was as scenic as I thought it would be, although I wish the blossoms hadn’t bloomed early as most were gone on the route. I felt that this was a fairly flat course, to be honest, and aside from the weather it was a great race to run fast in. I’m not sure if I’ll sign up for the lottery to run this again, though. I dislike out and back courses and dislike crowded races in general. I know that this being a popular race I should have expected that but I didn’t. It was one of those “I’m glad I ran it” races, though. I’d definitely recommend it to someone looking for a scenic race with a decent course.
The best thing I took away from this is that I’m stronger than I thought. I always underestimate my abilities and this race showed me that I shouldn’t. This was definitely the confidence boost I needed to reassure me that my training is paying off. I’m excited for great results at my next race, a half marathon in Frederick next month.