On Capitol Hill: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

This weekend, I ran the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in Washington, D.C. This was my first time running the race, and it runs on a lottery system, so I was shocked and thrilled when we found out in December that Tracy, Lisa, Brian (Lisa's guy), and I had been awarded admittance to the race. Unfortunately/fortunately, the race photographers didn't manage to grab any photos of me (not entirely sure how—I swear, I was there!) so there aren't any terrible race photos for you to cringe along with me at while reading this recap.

A lot changed on the way to this start line. Namely, we found out with about two weeks to spare that my favorite race buddy Tracy would not be by my side on this run. Of course, I've run without her many a time, but any chance we have to run with each other is one to leap at. (And by "run with each other," I mean "run silently and without speaking and just intuitively weaving around other people yet magically coming back side-by-side and occasionally communicating with random nods and eyebrow lifts." It's our system and it works.)

Honestly, when I found out Tracy wasn't going to be running, I was bummed. Of course I knew Brian and Lisa would be running this race and sharing in the experience with me, but we three run such different paces that there were never plans to actually run together. Still, I was glad for a weekend together with Tracy and Ben who had other business in DC and Lisa and Brian.

The Lead Up:

As I've been bitching about in my Sunday Sweats posts non-stop lately, it's been more than a tad windy here in the northeast lately. Inching closer to race day, it became clear that it would be a BAD day for wind with gusts up to 50 mph and steady. Email after email from the race organization informed us of the risk, the chill, and that they'd be taking down everything—they all but canceled the race. No signage, no speaker systems, no pre-race hoopla or post-race party. I was getting scared, honestly. In case you weren't aware, I HATE RUNNING IN THE WIND.

I actually was nervous about a) my performance in such bad winds on unfamiliar turf and b) not enjoying the race overall, because the whole point of it was for us to all race and have a great day together. The 32º start line and bad weather made that seem almost impossible.

One note: The coolest thing about this race for me was that there would be elites there, as well as MEB! He's the first American to win the Boston Marathon in 27 years (2014). He was there to pace the 6:00 minute/mile group (which Brian was a part of, though he ended up outpacing Meb to the finish—craziness).

The Race Day:

Though it was horrifically windy (have I beat that to death yet?), the sky was brilliantly blue and gorgeous. As these things happen, the air warmed a bit as the sun rose and eventually I even got the feeling back in my fingers. (Not before seriously contemplating picking up every dropped glove for the first mile and a half—no lie.)

My Race:

I was nervous about the weather and my legs. I had an extra day of rest that I was relieved to realize helped ease my legs tremendously, but my training had been lacking. My own fault, of course. I wasn't totally sure what I would walk away looking like, but I was determined to at least try as hard as I realistically could.

I lined up with Lisa (don't tell the corral police I hopped into orange with my blue bib) and we shivered our way up to the line, bumped fists, and went our separate ways. By that point, the elites and leaders were on a section of the course I wouldn't run for 3 miles or so, but a lot of the course was out-and-back. As I closed in on my first mile marker, I saw the motorcade to my left leading the elites back in toward the city. A few moments later, I recognized Brian by his arm warmers and gait and gave a shout and wave across the median. What's cool about that whole thing is how motivating it can be to see these kick-ass runners just doing their thing. It's exciting. It helped me get my legs under me and clock my first mile at 9:23 while barely feeling it.

Next up we ran a bridge over the Potomac and back. I literally could not run in a straight line, the wind was SO heavy. This was also one of the only real parts of elevation in the whole race, so I slowed down some but still came in under budget. I banked some time early on which ended up helping me later when another surprise incline and some bottle-necking slowed me down.

After that, the miles just kind of flew by. There were more spectators out there than I expected, with some awesome race signs ("You run better than the government!") and high-fives for all. I hope I never forget to be grateful for the amazing volunteers and cheerleaders who stand out there all morning just to help support us runners. You guys are amazing.

At mile 5, I was really happy to see my pace on track. I took a quick Snap to let Tracy and Lisa (and anyone who was curious) know where I was, since Tracy and Ben would be waiting at the finish line and I didn't want them to spend any more time than necessary out in the cold, outside of the refuge offered by the nearby Starbucks.
Miles 8 and 9 would have been the best part of the race if it were any other day. I don't know what the section of town is called, but in my mind it's Cherry Blossom Row. Just a long, flat straightaway of cherry blossom trees...that were bald because the wind had taken all the blooms away. And it showed up again to beat the crap out of us runners. I put my head down, tried to draft behind some other runners, but the gusts off the water to my right made it really hard to plow through. Not impossible, but this was definitely my most significant struggle of the race.

Until I reached the last incline, which started and ended within a half mile of the finish. I put my head back down, told myself I could breathe after I hit the mat, tried my best to show gratitude for the tunnel of spectators that lined both sides of the road, and ran, ran, ran until I could see the Washington Monument again, waiting for me down at the bottom of the hill. As I write this, I'm realizing how bummed I am that I couldn't find any race pictures—would like to know what I looked like crossing that finish, as I'd put EVERYTHING I had into my last two miles of that race, which ended up being my fastest two of all 10 at 9:17 and 9:07.

My predetermined race goal was 1:37:00, or 9:45 average pace per mile. This race is part of my training cycle for the NJ Half Marathon on May 1, and my goal for THAT race is to PR. To do that, I need to beat my 2:08:11 from last year's Rock 'n Roll DC, and run 13.1 miles at 9:45 pace or faster. If I could run a 10-miler at HM race pace, I'd consider that a good sign.

My adjusted public race goal became to have a good day. Don't get blown over the side of the bridge by the 50 mph gusts. Don't get injured. Break the long run barrier I haven't broken in months and kick my HM training into gear. Come in around 1:40:00, or 10:00 average pace per mile. Adjusted private/actual race goal: average 9:45/mile or faster—no change in plans.

Actual race stats:
Watch: 10.11 miles, 1:35:52 (9:29 pace)
Chip: 10 miles, 1:35:48 (9:35 pace)

Any way you slice it, that's a smashed goal and an unofficial AND official PR! This was my first measured 10-mile race so new distances are always official PRs either way, but it was also faster than any 10-mile split I've run in previous races or training runs.

Congrats also to Brian for his PR, and mad props to Lisa for getting herself to the finish despite an unhappy hip and knee on legs that were cranky to begin with. Get it girl! And tons of gratitude to Ben and Tracy for braving the elements to cheer us all into the chute. All in all, despite the conditions that couldn't be helped, I give Cherry Blossom two big thumbs up. BEAUTIFUL and fast course, great crowd support, stellar volunteers, and lots of love for us runners. 10/10, would run again.

Comments

  1. I feel like any race run in the city atmosphere, especially running through our nations capital is the coolest!! I saw MEB the year he won and actually snapped a picture of him in motion as he flew by our house!! So amazing to witness all those elite runners! Great job with your PR! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

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  2. Congrats!!! Way to earn those PRs. Why didn't Tracy run? Also, where is the NJ Half?

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  3. As always, congrats on finishing and finishing in the wind (literally) is even more impressive. Go you!

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  4. WOOOOO!!! Congratulations! One of my friends was in that race, too! And seriously, as someone who lives in Maryland, I know how crazy windy it was that day--you are a champion!

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  5. Congrats girlfriend!!! :) So glad you didn't get completely blown over- I can't imagine running in that kinda' wind! You're inspiring me to consider another race post-baby ;)

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  6. Congratulations! If you ran better than your goal pace in those conditions, you're going to crush your half marathon! I live right outside of DC so I was thinking of all of the runners as I was cutting my dog's walk short so we could get back inside.

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  7. Yay, congrats!!!!! PR's and beating goals is always awesome. Sounds like you could have done without that wind though, yikes! We are lucky it didn't take away our favorite runner with it! So cool that you all got in the lottery for it!

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  8. yayyyyyyy!!! sorry about the wind and tracy not being able to run. congrats on the PRs though, i have no doubt you'll smash your half marathon as well :)

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  9. I want to do this race all the time. With less wind, more cherry blossoms, and more Meb touching. Gushing happiness for your smashed goals and amazing PR. And THANK YOU for literally holding me up when I had nothing left in my legs. I wouldn't have been able to finish without knowing you and Tracy were at the finish line.

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  10. Insert crying laughing emoji for your description of our running "together"! So bizarre but so true. I'm so bummed we didn't get a chance to work on our head nods and eyebrow lifts this weekend but I mean...I got to see Meb finish and wouldn't have ever even seen him otherwise, so I would be lying if I said that not running completely sucked for me ;)
    I am so unbelievably proud of you for gutting this one out, especially considering the conditions! And I have no doubt you'll be able to repeat it and best your RnR time next month. And you know, if for whatever reason it doesn't work out...DC seems to be good luck for you and there will be plenty of races for you to choose from if you want to try again ;) Oh and I read that this was Meb's first 10-miler too so I mean...you guys basically ran a 10-miler together for the first time. No big deal!

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  11. "50 mph gusts"? Girl, you're crazy. Especially on a bridge! But major congrats on smashing your goals!

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  12. I've been so anxious to read this recap and am so, so proud of you and your awesome PR! I don't think it's possible it could have been more windy- at the airport I was trying to roll my bag through the parking lot and literally could hardly walk because it was so windy so I don't know how you managed to run 10 miles in that crazy wind. So glad it's a race you want to run again :)

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