Anyone living in or near Washington DC knows that one of the most anticipated signs that Spring has sprung each year is the blossoming of the National Cherry Blossoms. Although I have lived near DC for all my life, I still had not made it to see the Cherry Blossoms in person. I see them on the news. I see them on my friend’s social media pages. Beautiful pictures and newsfeeds with people out and about, enjoying the beautiful springtime weather. Sunny beautiful spring.
So, yesterday I finally had my chance to see them in person at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. Only 2 problems. 1. Peak bloom came early this year and most of the petals had already fallen. 2. It was actually SNOWING on our way to the metro with wind gusts up to 50 mph!
Let me rewind a bit. The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Race is an extremely popular race in the Nation’s Capital. In fact, its slogan is “The Runner’s Rite of Spring”. If you want to register for this race, you have to enter a lottery and hope to have your name pulled. As I was planning out potential races for this Spring back in December, I realized that the lottery was open. I convinced a couple of friends to register with me. Unfortunately, Crystal and I were not chosen. Sam was chosen but didn’t know anyone else running it. Right as I was getting back into running after my hip injury, Crystal called me up one day to tell me she had a friend who was registered but wasn’t going to be able to run and wanted to know if I’d be interested in buying her bib. Heck yeah! By the end of that day, we had transferred her registration into my name. Score!
With all the planning for the Shamrock half marathon, this race really snuck up on me. My sister’s boyfriend was also running this race and they offered to pick up Sam and my bibs for us on Friday so I never even stepped foot into the expo. Although I am extremely grateful because I usually end up feeling claustrophobic and can’t wait to get out of the expos, I bet they had a bunch of beautiful Cherry Blossom gear that I would love to have. I usually don’t find anything that I feel I must buy at the expos, but I think I would have been a sucker for Cherry Blossom gear. Becky dropped our bibs off to us on Saturday afternoon. Thank you Becky and Jason! Saturday was the first time I realized just how bad the weather was going to be. I had *heard* it was going to be windy and cold, but it wasn’t until we started receiving special notices from the race organizers that I actually paid attention. We were notified that there would not be any race signage/overhead structures at race start and finish line; no clocks on the course; no tents at the finish area (except medical and bag check); no warm-up activities; no awards ceremony. They cancelled the kids run and also “encouraged” us to go home afterwards. They also eliminated some of the water stops. The 10 miler would only have 3 and the 5k wouldn’t have any. We were under a wind advisory and 6 a.m. in DC was supposed to be 36 degrees (feeling like 26 degrees), with 18 mph winds and gusts up to 50 mph. Holy Crap!
I put away my tank top and capris that I had taken out for the race earlier in the week (when it was supposed to be in the mid 50’s) and got out my winter running clothes (long pants, long shirt, vest, gloves, headband to cover the ears).
I was really tired on Saturday night and was asleep by 9:30. I should have known getting a good nights sleep before a race was too good to be true. At midnight, I was awoken to what sounded like a hurricane outside my window! The wind was blowing SOO hard. Steven was still awake watching TV and although I don’t remember exactly what we said, I know it was very negative about the race – lol! I remember thinking there was NO WAY I would run in those conditions. I even thought about texting Sam at that point. Then I remembered that the wind was supposed to be at its worst over night and was hoping for slightly calmer winds in the morning. I fell back asleep, but woke up on several more occasions because of the wind. I was already wide awake when my alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. so at least I was able to get going pretty easily. I had been looking for race updates. If I’m being completely honest, I was crossing my fingers that it was going to be cancelled at that point. No such luck and I couldn’t bring myself to back out. I got up and got myself together and was ready to go by 4:30. I heated up some oatmeal and packed it with me, along with a banana, and my morning diet pepsi to drink on the way up the road. Sam had offered to drive and we hit the road by 4:45. BRRRRRRR! So cold! As we were turning out of our neighborhood, we noticed that it was actually SNOWING!! It wasn’t heavy snow and it wasn’t sticking, but there were definitely flurries falling out of the sky!!! This was SO not what I envisioned when I signed up for the race!
When we got to the metro stop, we sat in the car for a bit longer and ate breakfast (oatmeal for me, yogurt for her). We didn’t want to be out in the cold for any longer than we had to. We even drove back out to a gas station to find a restroom. We finally decided to catch the metro and while we were on the escalator, we saw that the metro was leaving and the next train wouldn’t be leaving for another 15 minutes. I believe it was a little after 6:00 at that point and we were worried we wouldn’t make it to the bag drop in time (the website said it was closing at 7:00, which I found odd since the race didn’t start until 7:30). I only had a hoodie and my phone case in the bag anyway so I decided to run it back out to Sam’s car and not check a bag. Thank goodness I wore my vest that had extra pockets to stash all my stuff. Finally, the metro came and we were on our way.
I had wondered if the weather would deter people from coming, but when we got off at the Smithsonian stop, I realized that was not the case. There were tons of people! We tried to stay in the metro center for as long as possible to stay warm but they kept asking everyone to leave. Boo!
By the time we left the station, it was probably a little after 7:00. We found the port a pots. I ate my first Gu, and we heard the National Anthem while standing in line. Seeing the Washington Monument (surrounded by American Flags) was a really nice backdrop while hearing the National Anthem.
After that pit stop, we made our way to the green corral. When I signed up for this race, I was just barely over a hip injury. I was not sure how fast I would be running and decided I’d rather start slower than seed myself with runners I couldn’t keep up with. In hindsight, we should have started in the corral before ours. As Sam and I waited in line, we received a text message from Kevin with a picture of the weather at the Half Marathon in Syracuse he was running. Wow! There was snow everywhere and it looked like the roads weren’t even plowed. It was a gentle reminder that no matter how bad you think you have it, someone always has it worse. After some run selfies and chatting a bit, it was finally our turn to start! Yay!
Miles 1 – 3: For the first mile of the race, it was just a wall of people. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a race that was more crowded. I remember Rock N Roll DC being extremely crowded, but I don’t remember it being that difficult to pass people if you wanted. I had warmed up within about ½ mile, but I decided to leave my gloves, headband, and vest on. There were certain stretches that were windy, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I expected. Sam and I stuck together as went across (and then back across)the Memorial bridge and headed up Rock Creek Parkway together. Before the race, I had told her not to worry about sticking with me. My pace isn’t where it was before my injury and I didn’t want to hold her up. I had told her that if she felt good, to just go ahead and we would meet up at the finish line. Just before the Kennedy Center, she started pulling ahead a little. For a while, I could still see her but eventually I lost sight of her.
Mile 3 – 6: Around mile 3, we turned around and headed back the other way for about a mile. I was actually feeling really good. In fact, I was surprised at how good I was feeling. According to my MMR notifications, I was running about a 9:50 pace, but I knew the mileage was off a bit (although I was never sure HOW far off it was because there were no mile markers; another weather related change). I figured I was probably closer to a 10:00 pace at that point. Around mile 5, I started eating my other Gu. I was just taking little bites of it over the rest of the race because my stomach wasn’t ready to handle the entire Gu. We headed back up Independence Ave. and then down towards Hains Point. I was still feeling really good at this point in the race.
Mile 7-9: The run around Hains Point provides the most spectacular view of the Cherry Blossoms trees, although there weren’t many in bloom. I have to admit that even though they weren’t in bloom, this was still a gorgeous run. It made me envious of those who live in the city and get to run it all the time, along with many other runner friendly routes. I wish I would have taken pictures. The sun was out strong at this point and I was actually starting to feel pretty hot along this stretch. I considered taking my vest off and holding it the rest of the race (its sleeveless so I couldn’t wrap it around my waist) but I didn’t want to expend the energy. Just past mile 7.5 was where we had to turn around and there was the wind to greet us! There was no escaping it. At times I felt like I was barely moving. The sun was hidden behind the trees and I started to get cold again (glad I kept the vest & gloves on after all). Around mile 8 was where I really started to struggle. I just kept moving forward, convincing myself not to walk.
Mile 10: I was really feeling burnt out at this point of the race. Around mile 9.5 we finally turned out of the wind, but were greeted with a hill. It wasn’t ginormous, but it was significant and it got the best of me (need to start hill training again). I ended up having to walk for a minute (grrr…only time I walked and it was right at the end) and then I ran downhill to the finish line. It was hard to tell exactly where the finish line was right up until the last minute because they didn’t have any signs or banners so I wasn’t sure until I saw the finish line clock and the timing mats.
After all the weather concerns and self-doubt, I actually PR’d!! 1:41:48/10:11 pace. I’ve only ran one other 10 miler (and walked/ran one other), but I’ll still take it! Woot Woot! Sam crushed it and PR’d as well! Ha – take that Mother Nature! You can’t stop us ;o)
I headed back up towards the tents near the monument and found some snacks and water on the way. I didn’t see the heat sheets, which would have been very nice to have at that moment! Sam saw them, but it was pretty disorganized at the finish so I must have walked right past them (I saw people huddled around in one area but the volunteer beside them was yelling to keep walking for water and a medal). I collected my medal and then Sam and I finally found each other.
Poor Sam was limping! Her left foot has been hurting and it was pretty bad after today’s race (thankfully not during). We decided we better just get headed home and she had to limp all the way to the metro center. We stopped at Chili’s for lunch in Waldorf on our way. This has definitely become a tradition for us!
We were home by 1:15. The Cherry Blossom App gave us some pretty cool statistics after the race.
After cleaning up, I proudly put on my race shirt (love it!!) for the remainder of the day.
Here are my unofficial Map My Run Splits (keeping in mind that distance was off):
Mile 1: 10:56
Mile 2: 9:48
Mile 3: 9:40
Mile 4: 9:08
Mile 5: 9:58
Mile 6: 9:49
Mile 7: 9:56
Mile 8: 9:46
Mile 9: 10:12
Mile 10: 10:24
Mile 10.22: 10:22
Even though the weather didn’t cooperate and the finish was unorganized, I loved the course enough that I would definitely sign up for this one again!