Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Race Recap

Yesterday’s race was awesome! I had such a good time and felt really good about my finish. The only bad thing is that I really don’t have any photos because I didn’t want to carry my phone or camera while I ran, and I didn’t have any non-running spectators there taking photos. Andy came with me and he was running the 5K. He did bring his iPhone, which is on the fritz, so I just have this one dorky photo of me before the race:

We used Capital Bikeshare to get to the starting line near the Washington Monument; that is definitely my favorite way to travel around the city. Unfortunately we got there so fast that we had a lot of time to kill, and that part of DC is actually pretty low on human-scale public spaces and amenities, plus it was pretty cold (40 degrees). None of the museums are open that early, you can’t get into the federal buildings without a government ID, and there aren’t any coffeeshops. So we walked around and tried not to freeze. I ended up wearing capri pants that are practically as long as regular pants on me, with several layers on top and a pair of cheap gloves. I couldn’t wait for the race to start so I could warm up.

Finally, it did. I was so excited and nervous. I had been warned about how crowded the race was, and there were a lot of people, but having staggered start times in the corrals helped a lot. The first mile or so was pretty slow as I tried to find my pace and not trip over everyone, but I kept telling myself it was better to be slow at the beginning anyway, so I wouldn’t crash later on. I love doing races, but I will say they are a lot more stressful than a normal weekend run. I’m constantly looking out for other people, avoiding elbows (and I did get elbowed a few times) and monitoring my pace.

After a mile or two I found my groove. The sun was up and it was an absolutely gorgeous morning for running. I had studied the course map ahead of time because I learned in the St. Patrick’s Day 8K that I don’t like not knowing where we’re going in races, and that helped a lot since this course also had some funny hairpin turnarounds. Also, I was running on roads that I run on all the time, and it helped me that it was familiar. Finally, the route was so beautiful: the cherry blossoms were out, the sun was shining, and the views of the Potomac and the monuments were as inspiring as always.

The crowd support was awesome.  There were so many fans at all parts of the course.  Hains Point is the longest stretch with not many fans, but the route was lined with cherry blossom trees, and I ran on Hains Point a lot during marathon training, so I was fine with it.  At the end of the point (you run to the end and back, so it’s halfway through the hardest part of the race) there were people giving out free beers and Oreos.  I didn’t take any, but it was funny.  I also saw some funny signs from spectators; one said “If you think this is hard, try dating me!”.  Haha.  There was also a person dressed as a mustard bottle holding a sign saying “Muster up!” next to someone in a ketchup bottle holding a sign saying “Catch up!”.  And I saw someone holding the ubiquitous “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan, appropriate for a long race.

I loved having my Garmin on so I could track my pace. My average pace was 10:07, which is slow to some people but for me, it’s faster than I was back when I started running, and the fastest pace I’ve ever maintained for that distance. Over the first 6 miles or so I was in the 10:15 to 10:30 range, and by mile 6 I started to bump it up into the 9’s. I felt so good at this point; I loved being able to pass people, and the sense that I was going to finish strong and fast was exhilerating. Also, I mostly avoided the water stops; I think I got Gatorade twice, but ran past the others because they were such clusters. I really don’t need to drink that much when I run; I know some people do but I just get cramps, so I try to take in a minimal amount.

The last few miles felt truly glorious. After the mile 9 marker the streets were lined on both sides; I’ve never experienced such great crowd support in a race. I finished in 1:41:09, and I was really pleased with my time. It’s my first 10-miler, so it’s an automatic PR! I didn’t hit my reach goal of 1:40, but given the setbacks I had in March I’m okay with that. Right after I crossed the finish line, I thought about how numbers are so arbitrary. I like to track my time and mileage to measure my progress, but it’s important to remember that what really matters is how you feel, and the effort you put into it. I put in a lot of effort, for sure, and I felt great.  I also had no knee, IT band, or ankle issues!  I guess my combination of new shoes + rest + strength training + yoga is paying off.

And now, that’s my time to beat next year!

After the race I met up with Andy and grabbed a water, banana, and muffin. I wasn’t thrilled with the post-race refueling options. I really wanted Gatorade; I might not drink much during my run, but every reputable source I’ve read says that after an hour or more of exercise, you need sports drink, not just water, to rehydrate. Bananas are great, but the muffin was some horrible pre-packaged thing and I only had about two bites. Races never have protein afterwards, and protein is so important for rebuilding muscles. Oh well. It was still an incredible race and I really hope to do it again next year.

Andy and I were both absolutely freezing, so we hopped on the bikes again. I made a quick stop at the Dupont Farmers Market for some produce; I got apples and spring greens, I can’t wait for more spring produce to start appearing. I also picked up a soy latte (protein+ caffeine!) and went home to drink that and a Gatorade, stretch, and shower.

The rest of the day was spent eating lunch, avoiding the tourist crowds, reading the New York Times, and drinking a few beers outside with friends in a new beer garden on 14th Street.  A perfect Sunday, that ended far too soon.

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