Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler Race Report

Let’s start with the good stuff: I am still smiling about this race. On paper, it was far from perfect. I modestly fell apart somewhere around mile 7 (Yes! This is good!). It was the best race I’ve run so far. I wouldn’t change a thing about the run.

Then there is the not so good stuff. After being hit in the face with exhaustion the past few weeks, I had zero expectations for this race. I wanted to enjoy myself. I wanted to run 10 miles without care. I didn’t run once the week leading up to race weekend. When packing for the race, I realized my running shoes were left on the porch all week. They were soaking wet. I had to pack my “other” running shoes – the shoes I run short distances in. The day before the race I walked miles with my family around DC. I forgot to drink water. I didn’t sleep the night before the race. Little Chet wasn’t used to hotel sleeping. He was up partying from 3:11 until 4:47. My alarm clock went off at 5:15.

Good Morning DC
Good Morning DC

As I walked to race, I realized I hadn’t prepared at all for the race. I had on the wrong shoes. My feet are still a mess from marathon training. I didn’t have any course knowledge. I didn’t know where the water was along the course. I didn’t know mile marker visuals. I was assigned to the red corral, but I had no idea what that meant in relation to time. I met another runner on the walk over. We chatted about how freezing it was and both laughed at how we didn’t pack for cold weather. The weather forecast was for 70 degrees. I packed shorts and a tank top. It was 42 degrees at the start. The girl I was talking to was also in the red corral. She told me she averages around 7:30 minute miles. Uh oh.

Start Line
Start Line

In the back of my head, I remembered a message from my friend Rachael. Even though this is a fun run for you, dig deep!

I was going to go for it. I was starting between the 8:30 and 9:00 pacer. I was just going to run whatever my legs wanted to run, and I was going to see where they took me.

Mile 1: 8:53

Well, I guess my legs want to go fast. I didn’t over think my time. I didn’t let myself think that I have run very few 3 mile runs in the 8s. I just settled in to the group I was running with, and I ran.

Mile 2: 8:45

Hmmm. Maybe my legs really do want to go fast. Keep running. Around mile 2, I started to feel the exhaustion that has been haunting me for weeks. I told my body to shut up. I think I said F***ing be QUIET! You are not TIRED!!! I had a little chat with myself that wasn’t very nice. I reminded myself that I’m sick of feeling tired, and that my mind could choose a different feeling.

Mile 3: 8:42

My pep talk worked. I felt engaged with my run. Running fast with the pack of runners I was with was so much fun! Even though my heart was racing and I was breathing heavy, I was having a blast. I haven’t had this much fun in a race in a long time.

Mile 4: 8:27

Holy crap! I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain this run for all 10 miles, but I decided to hold on for as long as I could. If I had to walk the last 3 miles, oh well. I wanted to run aggressive. I wanted to feel like I was trying. After my comfortable marathon, I wanted to crash and burn if it meant I fought for my run. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Mile 5: 9:28 (water stop walk)

I was so thirsty at this point. I was even carrying my own water. My lack of race prep and faster pace was catching up to me. I was craving the finish line, but I was only half way there. I was still smiling.

Mile 6: 8:43

I wanted to throw up at this point. I was done. I was wishing my run was a 10k instead of a 10 miler. I also realized that if I held on just a little longer, I would set a new 10k PR (a PR I didn’t think I would touch any time soon). If I had to walk the 3.8 more, I was okay with that. I can’t even begin to tell you how good it felt to run aggressively. It felt amazing to push. It felt amazing to make it one more mile when I thought I’d blow up at mile 3.

10k – 55:04 (a PR by 1:16. woot! woot!)

Once I passed the 10k mark, my race started to crumble. I was more than happy to crumble after the effort I just gave in my race. I knew I didn’t have an overall pace in the 8s in me (yet) for the entire 10 miles. I wasn’t even expecting to run 1 mile in the 8s. To run the first 6.2 miles at an overall pace of 8:52 is a huge accomplishment for me.

Mile 7: 9:44

I was fading fast. My goal now shifted to running the race without walking (besides the water stops).

Mile 8: 10:36 – water stop walk (that I maybe stretched a bit!!)

Still fading. Still smiling.

Mile 9: 9:39

My garmin froze. It started beeping none stop as it tried to save the lap. I had to turn it off or I was going to annoy every runner around me.

Mile 10: 10:08

My garmin was ahead of the course by about .15 miles. If I had to guess, I’d say I was running a 9:15 for this last mile plus some!

The final stretch to the finish line was up hill. I had no idea it was coming. As soon as we made it to the top of the hill, we turned a corner. The finish line was right in front of me. Sneaky finish line – I could have squeezed out a few more seconds of speed if I knew it was right there! As I crossed the finish line, I was so happy. I was so happy with my performance. I was so happy that I woke my body up, that I got uncomfortable, and that I ran!

Final time: 1:33:06 – 9:19 pace

Happy Happy Happy
Happy Happy Happy

I am so happy with this run. I am so happy I ran aggressively. I am so happy I gave it my all and fell apart. This is going to be my running strategy for a while now. I’ve always prided myself on running negative splits for all my runs. I’m good at starting slow and finishing fast. I think I’ve been selling myself short. I allow myself to stay comfortable for too long. I’m going out hard from now on. If I fall apart, I fall apart. But I might just surprise myself like I did in this race. And eventually I’ll be able to hold that hard pace for the entire race.

It’s now Wednesday, and I’m still smiling! The cherry blossoms didn’t bloom on race day, but I did! This is one of the millions of reasons I love running. I had a “not-perfect” perfect race. I surprised myself. I also still see so much room for improvement. Still smiling…

(Race Review: Amazing race. Beautiful course (even without blooming cherry blossoms). Wonderfully organized. Amazing crowd support – the best I’ve ever seen!. Fabulous entertainment along the way. Enough water stops. I can’t say enough good things about this run. I just wish I could guarantee I could run it next year without having to enter the lottery!)

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