I ran in the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race on April 3, 2011. This was my second race of the year and my second race in about a week. I ran the Sun Trust National Half Marathon one week before this race. After getting a PR in that race, I decided that this would not be a PR race. My last 10mile race was the Frederick 10-miler last fall and I ran that in 71min.
The cherry blossom race was held in downtown DC and runs through the cherry blossoms (hence the name) that surround the tidal basin. The race started at the Washington monument, loops through DC, into Virginia and ends back at the Washington monument. Pretty cool. Can't find anything like that in Columbus Ohio.
Anyway, the race was to start at 7:40am, and since I was coming from Frederick, I had to take the subway from Shady Grove into DC. I got up at 4:30am, had my typical bagel, peanut butter and Dt. Mt. Dew and packed my stuff. The weather called for cool temperatures, so I put on a long sleeve tech shirt and my wind pants. I grabbed by coat and headed to the metro.
The ride to metro was uneventful. I had my check bag, and my running belt, so after locking up the car, I headed for the train. As I walked down the tunnel toward the train, I began hearing jingle bells. I looked behind me, but nothing. After I walked through the turnstile, I heard them again, this time I could tell they were in front of me. I headed up the escalator and looked around. It seemed I was the only one on the platform. I looked down the dark tracks and saw no trains in either direction. The sound of jingling startled me again and I quickly turned around to see a portly older man, with a long white beard, rosy cheeks, and a red Santa hat that matched his red running shorts. A timing chip on his left shoe and a jingle bell on his right rounded out his wardrobe. He looked at me and smiled. All I could say was "Hi Santa.". Santa and I talked for only a few minutes, but I did tell him that I'd like a PR for Christmas!
Once the train showed up, I wished Santa luck on his race, and boarded the train for DC. The ride was uneventful and after a transfer, I got off at the Smithsonian stop. Coming up the escalator I could feel the excitement in the air. Stepping onto the mall with the sun rising is an amazing experience. After taking a quick look around, I headed toward the large crowd of people at the Washington monument. Boy was it ever large. The cap for the cherry blossom run is 15,000 people, and they were all ascending on the Washington monument at the same time. Many, many people.
After finding bag check, I decided to head for the port-a-potties. To my surprise, there were no lines. I stood behind a crowd of people and waited, and waited, and waited. Turns out this bank of johns were locked.... Damn. Just as I was about to walk away, a guy with a key passes me and starts to unlock the johns.... Could be my lucky day, first Santa now this! But the guy seemed frustrated. Turns out the key that he had probably only worked on 1/3 of the johns there. Well, I was in line anyway, so I might as well wait. After about 2 minutes, he comes back with a huge hammer and starts smashing the locks on the remaining johns... Everyone cheered.
After finishing, I decided I should head to the start line. I was in the yellow corral. I saw many colors but no yellow. Turns out yellow was right next to the start line. I was yellow B.... Elite was yellow A. I prayed I did not get mowed down when the horn blew. I worked my way into the yellow corral and warmed up a bit. The start was to be progressive; each corral would start about 1-2min after the corral in front of it. As the clock approached 7:40am, I could see the start line both in front of me and on the big screen by the grandstand (the race was live streamed to the web). My goal for this race was to go out strong, but if my legs felt tired, I would not kill myself. The horn went off at 7:40am and we were off.
Did I mention 15,000 people?? The 10-miler in Frederick had about 300 people.. 15,000 is way more than 300. Tons of people, tons of feet. But I started fast.
Mile 1 took me down Independence Ave slightly around the tidal basin. I remember feeling good, and knew I was moving fast. At the 1-mile marker, I had a 6:50m/m. Not too shabby.
Mile 2 took us over the Memorial Bridge and back again. It was here I saw the lead runner on the other side of the bridge. Running over the bridge was cool. I have never been over that bridge before. The weather was just beautiful, but I was over dressed. I had a 6:49m/m in mile 2.
Mile 3 and 4 took us down Rock Creek parkway past the JFK performing arts building, which was a turn around. There was also a water stop along this way also. I gotta say the water stops were really well manned at the race, much better than the national marathon last week. Another u-turn down Ohio drive finished out mile 4. I was feeling really good now after clocking 6:47m/m and 6:35m/m for these two miles. Maybe I will PR??
Miles 5-6 were back down Independence and to the opposite side of the tidal basin. I thought this stretch was really neat because the crowds just lined the streets and were screaming, and cheering for the runners. It was a real booster. I finished these two at 6:52m/m and 6:47 m/m.
Miles 7-9 went through east Potomac Park, which is a kind of peninsula. These were hard miles, but beautiful. No crowds, but tons of blooming cherry trees. It was quite a sight, but after about a mile, I was done with them. Mile 7.5 we hit Haines point, which is the tip of the peninsula. Time to turn around and head back to the Washington monument. Into the wind...damn. By this point, I knew I could make a PR, so I figured if I slowed down a bit it would be ok. But the competitor in me told me to keep pushing so that's what I did. I finished these miles in 6:54, 6:54, 6:55. I was getting tired.
The last mile swooped around the edge of the tidal basin and back to the monument. Oh yeah, they also added a 0.25mile hill in there to make it interesting. It was the only hill the entire race and they stick it at the end.... Damn them. I could see the monument get closer and closer. As I turned the final corner, I could see the finish line up ahead. The clock looked like it said 1:08... No way... I pushed....the clock read 1:08:45. I need to beat 1:09!!! Why? Who the hell knows why that's just what I screamed to myself. As I got closer, I could tell it was going to be close........ I crossed at 1:09:02. (6:50 m/m) So close.
After slowing down, I clicked off my Garmin, which still said 1:08. And then it hit me.. It probably took me about 15 sec to cross the start line. I probably did beat 1:09!! I grabbed some water, a muffin, my finisher's metal, and sat down to stretch. I was feeling pretty good. My left hamstring was a bit sore, but I figured it would be since it was kinda bothering me throughout the race. I hung around to watch others finished before heading to the subway. I walked back to the Smithsonian stop, I couldn't help wonder how Santa did. I hope he did well. I need to remember to thank him for the PR when I see him in December!
Official time: 1:08:46
33/646 in age group
First race ever with every mile less than 7m/m
Also my front and back half were only 15 sec different in total time