Monday, April 8, 2013

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Recap

I did it! And I beat my A+ goal! Here's how it all went down. 

My mom and Dan came to the race with me for support! We all camped out at a hotel in DC the night before and definitely did not sleep enough. Oh well. I had made sure to get a fair amount of sleep Friday night in anticipation! I think we were all up when the alarm went off at 5:45 am. 

I ate half a PB&J on wheat (normally I have a piece of toast w/ PB&J pre-run, so this was a good make ahead option for the hotel) plus a banana. Plus coffee of course! 

We took the metro down to the start at Smithsonian. I couldn’t believe how crowded it was--considering this was only my second race ever and my first “big” race, I was really overwhelmed! 

Waiting for metro at 6:30 am. That thumb wins the
supporting actor award for this recap.
First priority upon arrival was BATHROOM. We had a bit of trouble finding them, and once we did the lines were fairly long. But luckily, after learning the challenges of race portapotties at the 10k, we had planned in a good chunk of time for them! I actually made it to my corral on time, whew. 

Waiting in my corral with a nervous smile-grimace.
It was FREEZING at the start of the race, but I knew I had a tendency to overheat while running. So I kept the jacket on until the last minute and then ditched it. So glad I had my mom/Dan there to take my stuff so I didn’t have to screw around with bag check. 

Panic levels (and corresponding manic face) increasing.
And finally the corrals started to move forward (I was in a slower one) and after a fair amount of walking/waiting...we were off!

The Race
I’m having a hard time remembering all the details from the race, but I’ll do my best to document it!

Miles 1-2: Man was it crowded. I was honestly shocked at the amount of people and how packed it felt--was not prepared for that. My first mile pace was almost a minute slower than my others due to the crowd! I also probably was doing some weaving here--I ended up about .2 miles over 10 according to my phone.

I found the 10:30 min/mi pacer and stayed around her for a while. The bridge at mile 2 was nuts--sooo crowded and hard to run. I was having a hard time settling in to a comfortable pace.

Miles 3-4: We ran up to the Kennedy Center and back. I wasn’t super big on all the turnarounds on this course--I think I just prefer a bigger loop. We went under some overpasses, which were like mini-tunnels and kind of fun. I was still hanging around the 10:30 min/mi pacer at mile 3 but still wasn’t really finding my legs. We went down a downhill and she kind of started pulling back, whereas I was ready to kick it in. I decided to pull ahead of her a bit and see how that felt. What a difference! My legs were ready to go a little faster and wanted to hold their own pace (as opposed to following someone else). I was nervous about this decision at the time (going out too fast!), but it ended up being the right call.

Focus face. My on-the-course pictures reveal that I  put my thumb
up when I run, even when I'm not trying to. Perpetual thumbs up!
Miles 5-6: I got a text from Dan telling me they were near the midpoint of the race. I looked and looked and...didn’t see them. Such a bummer! I know they were bummed to miss me too. After that I started texting them intermittently to let them know what mile I was on so I wouldn’t miss them again! [Next time, I’d do this earlier!]

I started to feel the rumbles of hunger at mile 5, which is earlier than normal for me. As I’ve mentioned, I never take in water or fuel during my normal long runs, so I was a little wary of trying anything out on race day. I kept focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. 

Half-way split: 51:42 (10:20 min/mi pace)
10k split: 1:04:12 (5 minutes faster than my 10k in October!)

Miles 7-8: Hains Point! I was excited to reach it because I had never run along Hains, and I know it is considered sort of a “athletes’ paradise” in DC. I think I’d agree with that! Beautiful, serene surroundings and a flat, long stretch. The only issue with it was the wind coming off the water! It was the only time during the race that I got chilly, but I was still glad I opted for no jacket overall. 

I was feeling pretty good but hungry. I knew I had some time in the bank to work with for my goal, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and try some Gatorade at a water stop. Man did it taste good. I just had a few sips, but it stopped my stomach from rumbling and seemed to give me a boost!

I remember along this stretch having to constantly remind myself that I was racing. My legs kept wanting to fall into a normal run pace of 10:30-45, but I was feeling good and could give more--I just had to remember to do so! I found a girl that was keeping relatively my pace and tried to keep her in my sights for the rest of the race (thank you, off-white long-sleeve girl! Sorry if I was creepy!). Some good crowd support during this leg of the race--loved the drum groups!

Intentional thumbs up. Feeling good!
Miles 9-10: ALMOST THERE. I wasn’t feeling too rough physically, but I was just ready to be done. I started to pick up my pace for the last mile and a half. The hill at the end is a little brutal after a (mostly) flat race. I actually slowed down a bit toward the finish line because Dan and my mom were supposed to be there! I was scanning the faces in the crowd desperate to see them--and finally, 20 feet from the finish line, I saw them! I was so happy to see them and be done:

Dan is a really good photographer! Love this picture.
I ended up finishing UNDER my A+ goal time!! Official time/pace was 1:42:13, for a 10:13 min/mi pace.

Splits according to my phone:
Runkeeper claims it was more like a 10:03 min/mi pace to account for the total distance of 10.2 miles that I actually ran. Either way, I’ll take it. I’m SO THRILLED with how the race went and truly astonished that I finished that fast. That was close to a full minute per mile faster than my 10k just 6 months ago!

The Aftermath
After the race I was so ecstatic about my finish time! I seriously couldn’t believe it. I think I probably annoyed everyone all day with continuing to talk about the race. :)

We wandered around for a bit trying to find me some nourishment. I was fairly famished by that point, but that weird queasy hunger that made me not want to eat a ton of solid foods (I got over that pretty quickly). Gatorade tasted awesome.

So happy!
I wasn’t super in to hanging around at the post-race activities...just wanted to shower and get off my feet. My mom made the executive decision that if we could find a cab we would take it, and we got lucky and found one pretty quickly!

We met up with the rest of the fam back at the hotel. I am normally not a big shower person, but man that shower felt fantastic! After I got cleaned up, we had lunch at the (very nice) hotel buffet. All you can eat brunch buffet (with really really good food) post long run = exactly what I wanted.

And then the fam had to get on the road (sadface), and Dan and I headed back to VA. We rallied to get some groceries, which is where he surprised me with these!:

Beautiful congratulatory flowers! And drying dishes.
And then the rest of the day was spent pretty much like this:

Shirt of success. Pose of awkward.
With a 1.5 hour nap thrown in there too. Even with the nap, I crashed hard at night and slept for 8 hours...I was so exhausted. My legs are hurting quite a bit today (more than normal)--likely because I didn’t really stretch after the run and didn’t ice like normal. Oh well--not a big deal if I need to take it easy this week--I’m not training for anything anymore!

Final thoughts
The 10 mile distance was a lot of fun to run. Long enough that real “training” was required, but not so much that training took over my life. I found it a little challenging to race that distance--I couldn’t figure out how much to hold back--but I think that’s more from general racing inexperience than anything else. 

The Cherry Blossom 10-miler is a great race. Mostly flat (though not QUITE as flat as I expected) and a pretty course (though minimal cherry blossoms during this particular year!). I was shocked at how big it was though--I honestly don’t know if I really love big races. It was so crowded and overwhelming. But then again, it was very well organized, the expo was fun, and the course was well-staffed with support. I think I’ll have to try out a small local race before I decide which I prefer!

Most importantly: I was SO HAPPY that my mom and Dan were able to be there. It really made the day 17 times better to share it with them. They were both so amazingly supportive and proud that it makes me tear up! So a big THANK YOU to them!!! Love you both!

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