Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cherry Blossom 2016 Race Report

I didn't go into the 2016 season with Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on my race schedule.  When the opportunity arose to receive a bib transfer from a patient of mine, I sent coach a quick email, and in no time it was added to the calendar.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to add this race and enjoy may favorite course in DC.  Not only is a great course no matter the time of year, but during Cherry Blossom season it is (usually) arguably one of the most beautiful running races you'll ever participate in.

After a rough start to the 2016 season and a bit of a rough go at my early season 1/2 marathon I was excited to get out there and check in on my fitness.  The weather reports started coming in about a week out from race day - winter like temperatures and high winds.  It didn't change much in the days before the race, the predicted winds may have gotten stronger but wind is wind and there is nothing I, or anyone, can do about it.  Race day aligned perfectly with the end of a recovery week for me so my legs were feeling fresh and quite energetic.  Going into this race I hadn't run a 10 miler since Fall 2014 and my PR was 2.5 years behind me...fall of 2013 I ran a 1:15:26.  I had told myself I'd be happy to just break 1:15 but I didn't want to set myself up for failure not knowing how bad this weather situation and course crowding might be.

One of the highlights of this years race was having Meb Keflezighi in town to participate.  I happened to be roaming the expo while Adam was working when Meb had just stepped up to the podium to speak.  There was some empty chairs front and center and I was happy to take a seat.  He was a great speaker and has a great story.  I've told everyone I know about his first mile, his first marathon, his cross training methods, etc,'s all very interesting.  Oh, and his pre-race meal - Spaghetti and meatballs, pre-race dinner since high school.  Naturally, when we went out with friends, I figured if it's good enough for Meb than it's good enough for me, and promptly ordered spaghettis and meatballs.

Race morning came quickly as the 40-50 mph wind gusts throughout the night kept waking me.  I went with my (new) normal pre-race breakfast and down a bottle of Osmo before layering up and heading out to the nearest bikeshare station.  I leisurely rode from Courthouse over to the mall and had no trouble docking my Cabi Bike.  I was surprised to be able to basically walk right into a port a potty before heading to bag check.  I slowly unlayered and bagged the warm clothes knowing I'd want them post race.  I was tempted to hit the bathroom again but when I looked over the lines for the porta a potty's were outrageous.

I was able to get in a nice 15 minute warm up, take a couple pictures with my RosePT co-workers and then make my way to the starting corral.  I was able to get reasonably close to the front of my corral, but really, in retrospect, I should have gotten myself to the front.  We were packed to close together and the sun was shining down on us that I was nice and cozy.  Once the first corral took off our group spread out and the cold started to seep in.  I had a race plan for the day but new that I was racing mostly by feel with the general goal of ascending the heart rate throughout.
Perfect flags on a crisp Cherry Blossom morning!
I was able to do a pretty good job of holding back on the first mile (I think the crowd helped) and was happy to see my heart rate was in check and I was more than happy with my split.  Mile 2 was tough with cross winds the whole way out and back on memorial bridge.  Once down onto Rock Creek Parkway I had fallen into a rhythm and was feeling great.  The sun was shining and we didn't have too much time spent running directly into the headwind.

Once we made the U-turn under the Kennedy Center it was tailwind-apalooza.  There were times I felt like the wind was lifting me up and pushing me along.   I kept an eye on my HR and was happy to see that it was staying steady.  I more or less held steady and hung around the same group of runners to the classic beer and Oreo station at the tip of Hains Point.  I've never actually stopped, but it's almost a guarantee that beer and Oreo's will be available at the tip of HP during any half-marathon, marathon or 10 miler course that uses the peninsula.

Once we came around the point it was straight into the headwind for a solid 2 miles.  I tried to tuck in behind people but that didn't seem to make a difference.  I continued to drive my heart rate up and focus on cadence - just controlling the things I can control.   The headwind slowed my pace a touch but as we came up Raul Wallenberg and in sight of the finish line and older man ran up beside me and said I'd paced him the entire way and we had to push it to the finish.  Ha, so sprint finish it was!  I was happy to see that I had come in at 1:13:12 and hit a 3+ minute PR at the 10 mile distance (and a 4 minute PR on the Cherry Blossom course).

Given the ups and downs I've experienced in training throughout the year and the inconsistency I've seen in my running,  I was thrilled with this performance.  We're sans speed work and pretty much strictly base building in zone 1 at this point in the game so I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what I can do at my A races this year!

"May the road rise up to meet you.  May the wind be always at your back.  May the sun shine warm upon your face..." - an old Irish Blessing

Thank you to DC Tri Club, Snapple Tri Team, Sweatvac Performance Wear, Rose Physical Therapy Group, Pierce Footwear and Fuel Your Passion Coaching for helping set me up for success!