Race Prep – Taking on the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler This Weekend

I’ve already mentioned it a million times (what can I say, I like to talk about races!), but for those that don’t know, I’m running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday. I’ve done this race twice before and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a crowded race, but also a fast and flat course. It travels by so many of the great Monuments and sights throughout D.C. that I get to take in on so many of my daily runs, so it’s not surprise I love it.

Cherry Blossom Race

Cherry Blossom Race

I technically don’t have plans to race this as it is supposed to be a training run along the way to my goal race – the Nike Women’s D.C. Half Marathon coming up at the end of the month. However, I’d like to run it at my half marathon goal race pace, which is 7:30, and that would actually be a 10-miler PR for me. I set my current 10-miler PR at last year’s Cherry Blossom race with a 7:40 pace. Seeing as this course is very similar to the half I’m preparing for, it will be a great test to see where I’m at.

I’m planning to pick my packet up Friday afternoon around lunch time. I know it’ll be busy then, but they did a good job of handling the rush at this time last year and it keeps me from having to get out to the Expo on Saturday when I’d rather be relaxing and getting my legs ready for race day. Before I even get to that though I’m treating my legs to a deep tissue massage after work today. They might hurt during the massage, but it sure makes a difference and leaves my legs feeling so much better after.

Race Shirt and Bib

Race Shirt and Bib

On Saturday I will get all my clothes and gear out and ready, and map out a plan with Ian for where he can see me along the course and how we’ll meet up after. I try to get some good carbs and protein in at dinner the night before a race too. I also like to go over the course map one last time and make sure I know where the water stops are. I drink a ton of water all the time, but I try to pay special attention to it on pre-race days.

On Sunday morning the plan is to get there early since I know it’ll be crowded and I want to get a good spot in my corral. My mantra for this race will be to START SLOW, FINISH FAST. I am the absolute worst at this and have never executed it successfully in a longer race. I know I need to get better at this so I don’t ruin my entire race in the first couple miles. I’ve always had a tough time with knowing my pace, but getting the Garmin has helped out a lot with that. I’m trying to decide whether to line up with the 7:30 pacer or not. Last year I did and we went out so much faster than that pace that I lost him at mile 2 and it really hurt me down the stretch. This is going to be a game-time decision for me. I might even try to find the pacer beforehand and ask him/her what the plan is for the first couple miles.

The Hains Point portion of the course definitely got the best of me last year, but I’ve practiced running on it so many times since then that I am SO ready to take it on. My biggest fear for that section of the course is a windy day. I really struggle running into the wind there. How do you all feel about drafting? If it is super windy and I tuck in behind someone bigger than me is this wrong since realistically there are not too many others I could return the favor for since I’m only 5 feet 4 inches tall!

Regardless of how I do I plan to have fun. I love running, but these are the days that I put in all the hard work for and I don’t want to let it go by without enjoying it!

Are you racing this weekend? Let me know where and hope to see you if you’re doing Cherry Blossom too!

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Lottery Luck

My first experience with trying to gain entry to a race via a lottery was several years ago with the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. I did not get in. I tried again the next year, but had the same result. Thanks to their policy regarding two failed attempts, I received an automatic entry to last year’s race. The email with my link to register said something along the lines of: looks like your bad luck has turned into good luck.

Well, my good luck didn’t stop there. I entered two lotteries for April races in 2013 recently. Based on my past experience I didn’t have high hopes of getting in. One was to again run the Cherry Blossom since I had so much fun in 2012, and the other was for the inaugural Nike Women’s D.C. Half Marathon.

Good fortune shined and during the past week and a half I found out that I got accepted into both races! I know a lot of people running in both races, which will make them even more fun. The Cherry Blossom on April 7 will make for a perfect training run for the Nike Half a few weeks later on April 28 as it appears the courses are almost identical with the exception of the beginning and end of the half to get the additional 3.1 miles.

Let me know if you’re planning on running either of these April races in D.C. next year!

On another note. I think I might buy a real lottery ticket tonight!

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In The Spirit: Holiday Fun in D.C.

Last weekend my Mom made a trip down to visit for a girl’s weekend. We kicked things off with a Christmas cookie baking day. Thanks to my Dad for FedEx-ing a package full of all the ingredients we’d need we were good to go! We put on the Christmas music station on Pandora and made dozens of peanut butter blossoms, chocolate peanut butter balls and attempted some snickers peanut butter bars.

National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree

The cookies were mostly a success. The snickers peanut butter bars came from a recipe I found on a blog I follow, and it seemed like there might have been a liquid ingredient missing from the recipe. There was nothing really holding them together, so they didn’t make the cut and ended up in the trash. The others were delicious however, so I stuck most of them in my freezer to keep me from eating them all at once! We also took advantage of the leftover chocolate to make a bunch of chocolate covered pretzels. Check out the recipes below.

On Saturday night, we enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather and went into D.C. to check out the National Christmas tree. Somehow in my six years here I’ve never done this. It was of course, very crowded, but also very fun. We took a quick spin through to check out a couple of the state trees and then got up close to see the main tree and all the train sets around it. They really do a great job with it, and it’s a fun holiday thing to do. We capped off the night at one of my favorite D.C. restaurants right around the corner from the White House – Old Ebbitt Grill. It was a great weekend and a fun way to get into the Holiday spirit. Only 8 days till Christmas!

Peanut Butter Blossoms:
½ cup veg oil
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Shape into balls and roll in sugar. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 for 8 minutes. Put in hershey kiss and bake another 2-5 minutes (unless you use peanut butter cups – they melt much faster!!).

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
2 ½ cups peanut butter
½ cups margarine
2 cups confectioner sugar
2 cups rice krispies

Shape into balls and place on wax paper.

To make chocolate coating in a double boiler mix and melt:
¼ bar parifin wax
18 oz plain chocolate bar
16 oz pkg chocolate chips

Cover cookies, return to wax paper and refigerate or freeze when cooled.

My Favorite D.C. Restaurants

Last week I wrote about my favorite Arlington restaurants, so I figured I’d share my favorites in the District today. It’s hard to pick just a few, but the ones I find myself going back to again and again are RFD, Buffalo Billiards and Match Box.

RFD has a beer list that numbers in the hundreds so it’s a great spot for happy hour that turns into several hours plus dinner! They usually have a few ciders on the drinks menu that I like to try, but more often than not, I find myself ordering the “get real Miller Lite” – yes, that’s actually how they list it on the menu. What can I say? I like my Miller Lites! They have decent pub food to complement all the drinks with good nachos, good burgers and good sandwiches/wraps.

Located in Chinatown right near the Verizon Center it’s a great spot to go to before or after games. It’s huge so even when it’s packed you can usually find room. They also have a nice back room for parties or watching games.

Buffalo Billiards is admittedly nothing special, but I love it. It’s the perfect spot for watching sports. You can grab a table and see a bunch of TVs all around from any angle. They’re great about putting the game I want on if I ask them to change the TVs (Syracuse games of course!), and they have really good specials.

I haven’t met many buffalo chicken wraps I don’t like, but theirs is great as are the french fries. If you’re bored with the games on TV, you can entertain yourself with shuffleboard, darts or pool as well. It’s always a good time here.

Last but not least is Matchbox. They have several locations, but the Capitol Hill one is my favorite. Given my love for pizza and burgers, a place that is known for it’s amazing sliders and pizzas had to make this list. You can order the sliders to share (or for just you!) in sets of 3, 6 or 9 with a choice of several cheeses – I usually go with gorgonzola. They’re also served with onion straws – the only way I like onion rings – making them the perfect app.

At most restaurants I have one go-to dish that I get everytime I go. At Matchbox I always have a tough decision. Even their sandwiches are great, but I almost always go with the pizza since that’s what they do best. My favorite pizzas I rotate between are the matchbox meat, spicy meatball or four cheese white. You really can’t go wrong!

Similar to my Arlington list, my favorites here fall in the pub food and pizza categories, but there really are a lot of other great places in D.C. to eat out at as well. Let me know your favorites in the comments!

Too Old For Kickball?

Deciding you’re too old for kickball is probably something most people do sometime during their elementary or high school gym class years, but in D.C. kickball lives on into adulthood. Well, I guess that’s if you consider 20-somethings playing kickball on the National Mall real adults.

Kickball post-game fun at the Irish Times

A get-together with a few friends last week to see a former DC friend who was in town for work got us reminiscing about our kickball days. In 2007, our team captain brought together a rather eclectic group of friends he’d met throughout the years that one way or another all ended up in the greater D.C. area. That first season we quickly bonded over pitchers at our post-game bar, The Bottom Line. Team D.O.B. (a Zoolander reference that I think only we understood) was born.

Team D.O.B. had its ups and downs over the years mixing near championship runs with well, some more challenging seasons in there, but we steadfastly adhered to our no bunting rule, because really, it’s kickball… so kick the freaking ball. The bars changed from season to season bringing us to Irish Times, The Exchage, My Brother’s Place and Hamilton’s, but no matter the location, we always shined on the flip cup tables.

The question came up last week about playing kickball again, but we quickly agreed that we would now be those creepy old people we used to make fun of, not to mention, it’s pretty hard to drink that much on a Tuesday night now. When did we get so old?!

To my fellow DOBers, remember “throw it at your face!” and “flip first, swallow later!”