For the third straight weekend I found myself lacing up my shoes for a race. This past weekend was the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, which I was particularly excited for since I’ve been denied entry through the lottery system into this one for the last few years. I love any race course that lets you take in the monuments of D.C. I’ve been running a lot recently, and I run most of the route for this course a lot, so I went in feeling pretty confident.
The expo was crowded even at noon on Friday and it took a little time to get through the packet pick up and t-shirt lines, but it was well organized. Unfortunately since I’d already burned through most of my lunch break time walking to the National Building Museum and waiting in line, I didn’t get to peruse the expo booths as I normally love to do and instead had to hustle back to work.
It was also one of the most crowded start lines I’ve been in, which isn’t surprising given more than 15,000 runners came out for the race and the narrow starting roads. I also might have contributed to the over-crowding by lining up in the wrong corral. I wanted to start near the 7:30 pacer and realized after a few minutes that everyone around me had gold bibs that did not match my red one. Sorry about that!
I do wish they’d let you sign up for your corral based on an expected finish time rather than your previous best 10 miler though. While I understand this keeps people from putting a much better time than they could ever run, I’ve only run one other 10 miler – this one in fact – that I hadn’t trained for, so the time didn’t really reflect my training for this race. Regardless, the start went off without a hitch for me, and all the people squished in there helped keep me warm while waiting for the start.
It was a little chilly at the start and a bit overcast, but overall, it was pretty perfect weather for racing. I headed out with the 7:30 pacer as the course started near the National Monument and headed down the Mall past the Lincoln Memorial and over the Memorial Bridge. We hit the 1-mile mark in about 7:20 so I’m not sure why, but our pacer either decided hey, maybe he could win this race, or that we were just much too slow for him to pace and took off. I kept him in my sight for a little bit, but as we came back over the bridge and into the out and back on Rock Creek Parkway I lost him for good.
I felt great as the race continued and hit the 5 mile mark in 37:15. Hains Point got the best of me though and slowed me down a little. I struggled during the Hains Point stretch at last year’s Marine Corps Marathon too, so clearly I need to get out and practice on it some more before this year’s MCM. It’s a tough stretch, usually pretty windy as it’s a wide open space along the water. There is very little crowd support here too, although I did appreciate the guy who set up the free beer and oreos table – it gave me a good, much-needed laugh. I was a little disappointed in the crowd support (other than the volunteers who were stationed at certain points to cheer on runners) throughout the race as well. There was one stretch I think around mile 6 that had a ton of people, but they were dead silent. Runners were actually yelling things trying to get the crowd excited.
I didn’t grab water at the last two water stops thinking it was a short enough race that I didn’t need anymore. This might have been a mistake as I got an awful side-stitch cramp just after mile 8. I was able to fight through it slowing down a tad, but was thankful this wasn’t a longer race or it could have really hurt my chances.
The finish line crowd was much more energetic and the slight downhill at the end made for a good final kick into the finish line. I crossed the line at 1:16:41 – obviously a PR for this distance since I’d only run it once before. The 7:40 pace was by far the best pace I’ve kept up for any longer-distance before too, so I felt great about it. All of my races and training this year are geared around improving my time at the Marine Corps Marathon this October. I can feel that my fitness level keeps getting better and seeing this kind of progress gives me a great confidence boost.
Next up is the Pacers Crystal City 5k Friday series so I can work on my speed (and have some fun too since I love these races)!