Last weekend I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler for the second time.
I love this race since it’s largely flat and 10 miles is a great distance. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it’s easy. I still have to train for something like this. (Wisdom: Train for all races!) Personally, I cannot *wing* a 10 mile race, but I could maybe wing a 4 mile one.
And about that training, it only went so so. I’ve been running slower now than this time last year, I have no idea why. But it’s fine. I think these ups and downs are to be expected.
Anyway, we took the train down and got to DC at 2pm on Saturday. We dropped our stuff off at our hotel. I like to pick a hotel walking distance from the race start. Even if we end up taking a cab to the race (which we did) it’s nice to have the option to walk home.
We picked up our bibs at the National Building Museum where I ran in to my pal Caroline, which was a treat. After chatting with her I decided to check out the Gold’s Gym pacing groups. I’ve never run with a pacing group but I thought I thought it could be a helpful tool. I want to try out a bunch of racing techniques pre-marathon to see what works!
(Next on the list: Learning to use a water station! I know it’s absurd but I don’t like to stop at water stations.)
I signed up for the 9:00 per mile group (last year I ran the race with an average pace of 8:49/mile). There’s no commitment. I could quite literally run away if the group didn’t suit me. Basically a person with a sign that has a pace on it leads a group of runners who hope to keep up with that pace the whole way.
After bib pick-up we swung by the hotel and then met some friends for a pasta dinner at Sette on 14th Street followed by an early bedtime.
Matt woke up at 6am and grabbed us coffee with almond milk from a nearby Starbucks. I had a few sips and a few bites of a Clif bar. When I overdue it carb-loading the night before, I don’t wake up hungry pre-race, which isn’t ideal. I stuffed some Cherry Blossom- flavored Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews into the pocket of my running pants and called it day for fueling. (Don’t follow my lead, guys, I do not know what I am doing.)
We hopped in a cab and got out a few blocks before the start to stretch our legs. Last year it was so windy the race directors took down all the signage so it was fun to show up to a fully decorated start.
Matt and I separated nearly instantly (peace, bro) to find our separate corrals. I found the Gold’s Gym 9 minute/mile pacing group and started to sniff out the scene. The pacer (A kind soul named Roman. Good luck in Boston, Roman!!) was chatting with a group of about 8 people about our plan. Basically we’d run the first mile a little over 9 min/mile to let the crowd thin out and then make up time by upping the pace to 8:55 from there on out. Eh. That’s not really my thing. Or more precisely, having a plan that involves running a certain pace and other people isn’t my thing. Which I know is the whole point of a pacing group. But about 5 seconds after we crossed the starting line, I left the group.
I thought I was letting them pass me, but around mile two I saw Roman run by, so I must have passed them first. I guess a pacing group requires more attention than I have to give during a race.
The first 5 miles felt great. I didn’t look at my watch too much and the miles ticked by. I kept my pace steady a little over 9 minute miles and promised myself I’d kick it up a notch at mile 6 (Hain’s Point) if I felt good.
At an out and back around mile 4 (in one of those overpass tunnels, if you know the course) I spotted Matt. Obviously he was doing the back and I was doing the out (aka he was way ahead of me). I screamed a big hello.
Mile 6 came and I was hurting. The remaining four miles felt far. I kept asking myself “How long can you feel uncomfortable for?” Because I knew the answer to that question was the answer to when I could really pick up the pace. I was gradually getting faster, my 9:05 min average pace turned into an 8:55 average pace but I wasn’t letting myself get super uncomfortable.
A little after mile 8 I was like, okay Nicole, now or never. You can be uncomfortable for 1.5 miles. Unfortunately the last bit of this race is windy and up hill. But I did my best to keep chugging and my last mile was my fastest.
I finished in 8:56 minutes/mile. A bit slower than last year, but I was SUPER happy with the result given my (lack of) training. I pushed myself harder than my body was ready for, so that’s a win of another kind. This is such a wonderful race, and I hope to run it again next year (and the year after) etc.
My quads are killing me. Haber out.
Did anyone else run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler or 5K? Did anyone else race this weekend?