Friday, April 17, 2015

Cherry Blossom 10-miler recap...

If you missed my earlier post about my history of running and the crazy idea I had about running the Cherry Blossom 10-miler, start HERE.

90% of my downtime the week of the race was spent stalking weather apps and texting back-and-forth with my running buddy about our chances for beautiful weather and/or the possibility of the cherry blossoms actually being out for the race.  Ironically, the blossoms only open for a few days a year and the last time that the race coincided with peak bloom was back in 2007.  Last year it was apparently cold, miserable and flower-less.

Have I mentioned yet that I am a fair weather runner and only believe in running on sunny days???  Hence, the forecast below looked IDEAL to me!

Packet pick-up was scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the National Building Museum in downtown DC.  Deciding that Saturday cherry blossom traffic would be crazy, we opted for a Friday pack-up.  When we arrived,  the line was wrapped around the block.  Luckily, it was a warm evening so we didn't mind standing around chatting with people as the line quickly moved and we headed inside to check out the race expo.  We grabbed our bibs and t-shirts (and the free beer!!) and wandered around for a bit to check out the vendor offerings. 

We decided that dinner downtown was required in order to properly start the carb-loading process.  Jenn's new rule of running - always have a buddy who will drink margaritas and eat copious amounts of guacamole with you 36 hours pre-race!

Saturday's email report from the race organizers encouraged the runners to hydrate, eat a good pasta dinner and stay off our feet as much as possible.  I did well on the first two suggestions, but staying off my feet was a struggle, especially since it was a beautiful day.  We ended up buying all our summer plants, veggies and mulch to prepare the yard for spring.  I did my best to just "supervise," but failed miserably and ended up on my feet a lot more than I anticipated.

Nick taking a well earned break from his mulching duties

After a pasta dinner, I headed upstairs to outfit prep.  I'm always cold at the beginning of races, so I knew I would have to start with long-sleeves.  A lot of texting with friends and other running buddies led me to my final outfit choice...

My outfit of choice - running capri tights, a short sleeve and long sleeve shirt, as well as my spi-belt (I planned to carry my car key and a packet of GU to "eat" around mile 5-6, as needed).  I also wore my phone strapped to my upper arm.

I was a total bundle of nerves on Saturday night and knew that I would sleep horribly.  I took a warm bath to relax, triple-checked my bag, had Nick fill up the car with gas, made sure all my devices were charged, ensured that my parking in DC plan would work on a weekend and headed to bed around 10pm with my alarm set for 5:15am.

As expected, I slept poorly and was already wide awake by the time my alarm went off.  I got dressed, grabbed my breakfast (banana and Cheerios) and headed out the door to pick up my buddy.  I sipped on some coffee, but was nervous about drinking too much before the race.  We made great time and pulled into the city right around 6:15am. 

Parking tip - The Reagan building has weekend parking for $13 and was just a one block walk to the starting line. 

After the car was inspected by security (expected when parking next to the White House), we parked and sat in the garage for awhile prepping our spi-belts, eating our breakfasts, and delayed heading out into the frigid morning for as long as possible!

You can only delay the inevitable for so long, so we headed out to the Washington Monument grounds right around 6:45am.  You know it's early when the moon is still clearly visible in the morning sky.  It was fairly chilly and I was glad I was dressed in long-sleeves.

The Cherry Blossom trees were absolutely amazing as they were in peak bloom.  Everywhere you looked, people were taking pictures by the trees. 

We managed to hit the port-a-potties twice before the lines got crazy long and we headed over to our corral to await the start of the race.  I quickly logged onto timehop to see what I was doing the year previously and realized it was my race-versary from my dismal performance at the Clarksburg 5K the year previous.  I hoped that wasn't a sign!  I kept scrolling down and saw this:

It was the sign I needed.  Just like that, most of my pre-race jitters were gone.  I had survived bigger battles than a 10-miler!  For me, the race and everything else just fell to the side.  I wanted to run to make my kid proud of me.  One day when I'm old and can't walk a few miles without huffing and puffing, Georgia can remember that at one point, her Mom was young and strong.
The elite runners were about to take off, the National Anthem was sung and then a weird announcement was made... the course was going to be shorter than planned.  Apparently an accident involving a pedestrian occurred on one of the course roads and the race would have to be re-routed around the "crime scene" since Park Police were on the scene and investigating. Overall, the course would be about 1/2 mile short.  I can't say I was devastated to hear that the course was going to be shortened vs lengthened!!  But, I was also disappointed that there would always be an asterisk next to this race.

The corrals ahead of us were released and we inched forward.  At that point, I launched the RaceJoy app on my phone, which was going to alert Nick to my progress.  However, due to the re-route, it only worked for the first few miles of the race.  I was wearing my Garmin watch, so I started that as we crossed the start line.  Gold's Gym had pace runners in the race and the 11:30 pace runner was right in front of me.  Mentally, I did the math and knew if I could keep him in my line of sight then I would cross the finish line in about 1:55 and beat my 2 hour goal.

Here we go... 10-ish miles!

The first few miles were tough in terms of picking up any speed.  With 18,000+ runners, it was just a wall of people as we headed down Independence Avenue towards the mile 1 marker at the Lincoln Memorial.  We also knew that running around people was just going to add mileage, so we tried to settle in and just enjoy the pack.

The course was GORGEOUS and the trees were amazing.  I debated grabbing my camera to snap some pictures, but I really just wanted to get comfortable and into the running zone while watching my feet (lots of potholes!) and avoiding collisions.

Mile 1 time - 11:51 (we knew it was going to be slow-going for awhile)

We crossed the Memorial Bridge into Virginia for about 2 minutes before returning to DC on the other side of the bridge.  The weather was perfect and the Potomac was calm, flat and glistening in the early morning sun.

**Sweep bus sighting as we crossed back into DC - it was just starting on the other side of the bridge!!  RUN!!!!

Mile 2 time - 11:19 (inspired by the sweep bus)

We headed north on Rock Creek Parkway and ran right under the Kennedy Center before looping back again. 

Mile 3 time - 11:01 (fastest mile of the race for us)

My Garmin registered our first 5K time as 34:21 (11:03 mile/min).  Definitely not close to my fastest 5K time, but I was okay with that knowing I was in this for the long haul and I felt great. 

After mile 3, we started warming up.  The sun was up and we quickly regretted wearing the long sleeve shirts on top as we ran directly into the sun.  My buddy was the first one to transition to short sleeves, which required some yoga moves on her part.  We were running well at that point and didn't want to pull over and waste time on fashion!  Once her contorted moves were finished, I switched to my short sleeve.  The hardest part was getting that stupid bib re-pinned.  Luckily, with a buddy, it only took about 30 seconds.  Lesson learned - next time the bib goes on the leg.

Memo to self - Go with the throw away clothes for the start of this race - I was jealous of the people who did that and the clothes got donated to charity.  I'm sure Walmart had a clearance xmas sweatshirt that I could have rocked.

Mile 4 time - 11:04 (Not bad - would have been under 11min without the bib swaps/fashion emergencies)

As we approached the halfway point, we realized that we passed the point where the re-route occurred.  My Garmin no longer matched the road sign mileage.  I grabbed a water as we passed a very crowded water table and we were in awe at how many people were lined up to use the very few port-a-potties along the course.  If only those people waited another mile or two, there was no one lined up further down the course.

Mile 5 time - 11:13 (I was THRILLED with how this race was going!!)

BUT... I knew the race was just getting started and the longest stretches were coming up.  Everyone warned me that the run to Hains Point and back was going to be long and brutal.  Flat as can be, but boring.

Mile 6 time - 11:34

Again, my legs still felt pretty good.  I ate some gummy GU chewy things that didn't taste amazing, but for psychological purposes, I forced them down hoping that they would keep me chugging along.

The cherry blossoms heading down towards Hains Point were awesome.  It was like running through a canopy of flowers.  I can't imagine this race without the blossoms, which seems to be the norm.

We had a great view of the Potomac and Reagan National Airport and the comings/goings of lots of Sunday morning flights.

According to my Garmin, our 10K time was 1:10:03 (11:16 mile/min).

Mile 7 time - 11.31

Still chugging along!   

Mile 8 time - 11:55 (yup, definitely getting slower!)

And then mile 8 happened and my legs hit a wall.  They just didn't want to turn over as fast as I wanted them to go.  Around the 8.5 mile marker, I just felt sluggish. 

Mile 9 time - 12:11

I purposefully slowed down a bit for mile 9 knowing that the final push was going to be up a hill.  The crowds were amazing as we approached downtown again.  Both sides of the road were packed with people, funny posters ("Ryan Gosling is waiting for you at the finish line... with a puppy!"), and cowbells.  There was a great drum band around the mile 9 marker and music was blasting from a nearby van.  Unfortunately, more tourists downtown also meant a few moments of FROGGER as I dodged people pushing strollers seemingly oblivious to the race going on in the middle of the street behind them!

Mile 9.54 time - 6:10

And then the hill came into view.  At this point, I knew I only had to run for 5-8 more minutes since the race was short by 1/2 mile.  I put my head down, pumped my arms and charged up the hill as fast as my body would let me.

I looked down at my Garmin and saw 1:49 on my watch.  I was determined to finish the run before the seconds ticked away and I had to look at a 1:50.  Head down.  BOOM.  Done. 

According to my Garmin, my official time was 1:49:48.  To say that I was ecstatic was an understatement!  I knew that even if I had another 1/2 mile to go, I would have finished in under 2 hours. 

According to the official time released later that night, I finished in 1:49:46 and they estimated that my final time would have been 1:58:13 if the course would have been the full 10 miles.  I don't think it would have taken me another 9min to complete a 1/2 mile, but it didn't matter because I reached  my goal.  I finished!  And I finished in less than 2 hours.  WOOT WOOT.

I have never been happier to come in 15,000 place in a race!!

My Garmin also broke down the race for me:

I immediately text Nick to let him know I was alive!  Within seconds, I received this reply, which made my day.  I love that I "won" the race in her eyes. 

We immediately went on the hunt for water and snacks.  The water was an easy find, but we walked forever trying to find something to eat.  Apparently food was a hot commodity because we couldn't find anything except a banana, which wasn't on the top of my list, but I scarfed it down anyhow. 

Next stop... medals!!

Overall, I loved the race. For the most part, it was extremely well-organized.  If I had the chance to enter the lottery again and win an entrance, I would definitely run it again.  I hate the unknown, so I think I could do even better now that I've seen the course and know what to expect from the run.  Besides, now I have to run it again so I can ACTUALLY run a 10-miler!!

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