Monday, April 2, 2012

Race Report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

I'm back from another exciting weekend getaway, this time in DC. Originally I was going to take the train down but during a group long run a couple of weeks ago, one of the other runners told me she was doing the Cherry Blossom race as well and offered me a ride. Who was I to say no to door-to-door service? After a fun trip down Saturday morning in her Smart Car, we got into DC early Saturday afternoon and went straight to the expo which was at the National Building Museum. The Museum is housed in the former Pension Bureau Building and has a huge main hall (316 × 116 feet!) which made for a much more inspiring feel than your usual convention center expo.

I spent the rest of afternoon leisurely wandering around Dupont, Adams Morgan, and Columbia Heights, before settling down with the book 2 of the Hunger Games for a couple hours. My host was one of my good friends from undergrad and since her parents were in town they took us both out to dinner, a big treat! We went to a nearby Italian restaurant where I ordered some of the best homemade gnocchi I’ve had in ages. Unfortunately the wait was long and the service was slow so I didn't get to bed until pretty late. If this had been a goal race I would have been pretty nervous, but I was relaxed and fell asleep quickly.

My alarm went off at 5am to give me time to eat my usual bagel with peanut butter. I puttered around my friend's apartment, killing time until 6:15 when I left for the start. Since it was only two miles away, I decided to "jog" (run slowly) as a warm-up. I passed the White House on the way, which made me remember how cool running in DC can be. The weather was absolutely perfect, high-40s and overcast.

At the start I met up with another Whippets Member and we did a short warm-up together. Since the lines for the port-a-potties and bag check were long , we wished each other luck and parted ways about 20 minutes before the start. I dropped off my bad and made my way to my packed corral.

The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler is a pretty big race with nearly 16,000 people and each "wave" (read: corral) has around 2,500 runners. This large field meant that when the gun went off we started somewhat slowly. That was probably a good thing, though, because I wasn't trying to race. My goal was to run the first 8 or so miles somewhere between half- and full marathon pace. The first mile was a 7:09 mile, but I would much rather have gone out too slow than too fast. 

Mile two involves an out and back over the Arlington Memorial Bridge so at this point we got a great view of the leaders flying by on our right hand side. I seemed to be settling into a groove at this point myself. As we came back over the bridge we turned left and headed north along Rock Creek Parkway. Mile 3 involves another out and back, this one a much sharper turn underneath the Kennedy Center. As we passed the official 5k clock it read 21 something and I was feeling great. 

The course then continued along the Potomac, going under the Arlington Bridge before doing another dog leg along Ohio Drive. It's at this point that you begin to realize what a large race this truly is. I had passed mile 4 and there were still thousands of runners on the other side of Independence Ave, just arriving at mile 1. We continued along Independence, running around the tidal basin, giving us glimpses of the Jefferson Memorial, though there weren't many cherry blossoms left on the trees. I passed mile 5 in 33:42, roughly a 6:44 pace, before continuing onto East Basin Drive. At this point I heard someone shout my name and I turned to see one of my runner friends, Brian, who lives in DC. I wasn't expecting to see anyone on the course so that was an awesome surprise.

The route then continued to East Potomac Park, home of the infamous Hains Point, basically an isolated peninsula island with a flat 3+ roadway. In the old days, this was home to miles 15 to 19 of the Marine Corps Marathon and one of the toughest parts of the course mentally since its emptiness followed the crowds of spectators along the mall. Yesterday, however, it was downright pleasant. There was a live rock back, a DJ, and I even saw some friends cheering on the sidelines. Once we rounded Hains Point and hit mile 8, I gave myself permission to start picking up the pace. I had a couple of folks say things like, "Looking good!" or "Finish strong." and I felt a little like I was cheating. 

As we got closer to the finish there was a sign marking 1200m to go. I starting pushing it now, keeping my eyes open for my friend Brian. When I heard him that gave me more of a reason to push up the final hill. I wasn't going all out, but I was no longer trying to bottle up energy. With the finish in sight I realized I could come in under 1:06 (I had been thinking that coming in under 1:07 would be nice) so I decided to sprint the final 200m or so. I heard them announce my name--"from Seattle, Washington"--I forgot that's what I registered under!

My net time ended up being 1:06:00 (a 6:36 pace--meaning I did the second half at a 6:28 average). It felt pretty good to know that I beat 22-year-old by almost 3 minutes and still had energy to spare. Some year I'll have to come back and actually race this course all out.

I made my way to the baggage pick-up and Brian came and found me. We ended up doing a nice 4 mile cool-down through Rock Creek Park, bringing me to 16 for the day. He still had some miles to do so he kept running but I needed a serious caffeine fix. After a hot shower, I met up with a high school friend for a leisurely brunch and then it was time for the drive back to NYC. This was definitely a great weekend getaway!

See my splits after the jump.

Mile 1 - 7:09
Mile 2 - 6:45
Mile 3 - 6:25
Mile 4 - 6:39
Mile 5 - 6:43
Miles 6/7 - 13:07 (forgot to hit "lap")
Mile 8 - 6:36
Mile 9 - 6:26
Mile 10 - 6:12

1 comment:

  1. i like how your "holding back" finish time is 1:06. damn, that's fast!

    i would love to go back and re-run that course too.