Sunday, April 1, 2012

Race report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, April 1, 2012

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler today, finishing in a time of 65:32 (unofficial, by my watch – they’ve only posted gun times).  This is a massive 10 miler PR for me, by 2:30, so I’m a bit shocked.

To be clear, I’m not shocked by the fact that I set a PR.  Two weeks ago, I ran the (hot and hilly) Rock and Roll National Half-marathon in 1:28:57 – a pace of 6:48.  My standing 10 Mile PR was 68:02 – also 6:48 pace.  So, it would have been upsetting NOT to run a 10 mile flat course in good weather at a faster pace than a hot and hilly 13+ mile race.  

But, had you asked me, I would have told you that I’d be somewhere under 67, and 66:30 or faster would be thrilling.  I run my races watchless, with no idea what my splits or paces are until I see the final clock at the finish – when I topped the final hill and saw 1:05:xx on the clock, it was a HOLY SHIT moment.

Yup – still a bit giddy.


I took my prep and taper for this race pretty seriously.  This was my goal race, I’ve always run Cherry Blossom well, and I wanted to give myself my best shot at a major PR.    In years past, I’ve been a bit cavalier about the walking and the standing around in the days before a race.  Not this time.   

On Friday, I volunteered at the Cherry Blossom race expo, but worked “number look-up” this year (seated, and very relaxed) rather than stand on my feet.   On Saturday morning, we celebrated a friend’s birthday by going to a firing range, of all places – I decided that the day before my goal race was NOT the day to stand on my feet for 60-90 minutes learning how to shoot a rifle, so I recused myself and lay on a couch in the range lounge (feet elevated), surrounded by issues of Guns and Ammo magazine and the occasional odd look.  Nope, no fun.     

(as Brian pointed out, had I ventured into the range, I most likely would have literally shot myself in the foot – which would have been gorgeous in its multi-layered irony, but also sub-optimal race prep).

I topped this all off on race morning by being both lazy and environmentally incorrect and driving to the race.  I live about 2 miles away, and have always walked in past years, but decided that if I was going to be resting my legs, I wasn’t gonna do it half-way.  So left my house at 6:10 am, found a great parking spot half a mile from the start (no, I won’t say where) at 6:15, and hung out and read a book (that had nothing to do with guns or ammo -- it was Volume 6 of Grant Morrison's series The Invisibles -- Kissing Mr. Quimper).


I had planned to jog about 2.5-3 miles and then do a whole bunch of strides and drills, but it became pretty clear to me that I was too amped.  So kept myself to less than 20 minutes of very slow jogging,  and very few drills and strides.   Then ran into my teammates, and chatted and chilled.  

And I did need to chill some.  Besides the fact that I really cared about this race, I was also a bit concerned about my breathing, which felt really tight (I think the pollen was really high).  I took a total of FOUR puffs of the inhaler (two puffs 50 minutes before, and another two 30 minutes before), and the lungs loosened a bit, but were still tight.  And my stomach was a bit unsettled -- I ate a bit too much for breakfast, and also over-hydrated slightly, I think.

But, just reminded myself that there were things I could control, and things I couldn’t.   Just focus on my effort and relaxation, and everything else would be what it was.

Seeded myself far back in the corral, per my usual.  People tend to go out way too fast in this race due to the slight downhill of the first mile – I thought a bit of traffic was a very good thing.  I was pretty far behind the teammates I normally train with, but I thought that was fine – it made it easier to run my own race (I really like a slow first mile).


And then the race started, and I was stuck in traffic.  And I was fine with that.  I did see my teammates in the distance, and even after the traffic cleared some, they were still pulling away.  But I put that out my mind, and just ran my own race.

And just cruised.  I pace and race my best when I ignore EVERYTHING except my own effort level, and try to stay relaxed and fluid, smiling from time to time.  And so that’s what I did for a bit over an hour.  At different points, I’d feel my breathing becoming a bit tight, or a bit of nausea, or see someone just ahead of me that I wanted to catch.  And I’d just put it out of my mind, and return to cruising.  Reminding myself from time to time that the point is NOT to work the hardest or hurt the most, but to run the fastest.

From time to time there were challenges.  As we came around the turn at the end of Haines Point, and I could see the Washington Monument in the distance, I wanted to start pushing hard and pumping my arms towards the finish line.  Nope.  Got tempted again at the 9 mile marker, but resisted.  We hit the one semi-hill of the course, and I relaxed up the hill, keeping my focus and relaxation even as people started yelling at me that the finish line was very close.  No prob – it’d still be there if I was late.  

And then I came over the hill, sighted the finish line and the clock with the 1:05:xx on it and was utterly shocked.  And wanted to sprint like hell and see if I could finish even faster.  Nope.  Not gonna do it.  Just relaxed and cruised and let the finish line come to me.  And apparently in being patient, I kicked very hard (Garmin says I hit sub 5 minute pace for the last 20 seconds of the race – IF you believe the Garmin – those things do lie, and it is April Fools day).

But yeah, once again the paradox – my best kick comes not from trying to sprint, but from relaxing and chilling while my natural impatience tows me home.  And trying to SLOW DOWN the last mile always equates to that last mile being my fastest.

And once again, though I felt relaxed and easy while running, I was also REALLY tired within about 30 seconds of finishing.  Yup, I ran this one right.


Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:47
Mile 2: 6:40
Mile 3: 6:23 (has a slight downhill part)
Mile 4: 6:30
Mile 5: 6:36
Mile 6: 6:34
Mile 7: 6:36
Mile 8: 6:35
Mile 9: 6:34
Mile 10: 6:19

Total time by watch: 65:32 – 6:33 pace.


Other notes:
  • ·         It was a bit warmer than I would have liked, but thankfully overcast, and with no wind.  And hotter than I would have liked does NOT mean HOT, or that the weather was anything other than perfect.  I’m just a cold weather princess who was really hoping for 35 degrees.   47 degrees, overcast, DP of 40, and no wind is about as perfect as it gets for a 10 mile race.  I did wear gloves, but by about the 6 mile mark I stuffed them in my sports bra.  So my finishing line photo is going to show me crossing with a bra stuffed with 2 gels, an asthma inhaler, and gloves.  Classy.
  • ·         Carried a handheld water bottle with me, plus a gel, but drank very little and never took the gel.  My stomach was sloshy and a bit overfull the whole time, and I felt like any eating or drinking would just send me into full fledged GI distress. 
  • ·         Tossed water bottle at coach at 5 mile mark.  Missed him.  By a mile.  I was always the last kid picked for 8th grade softball, and apparently nothing’s changed in 25 years.
  • ·         I never felt like I could get a full breath the entire race.  But clearly didn’t affect me.  Again, concentrate on what you can control (effort, focus, relaxation), and don’t let the other shit bug you.  But this actually has me feeling  even more confident for what I can run in the future.
  • ·         They’ve only posted gun time so far, but apparently I was 4th in my age group (they give awards to top 5).  I’m pretty stoked about this, though I need to wait for the final awards, which will be by chip time.
  • ·         Next race is a 5K in two weeks.  I had been thinking about another 10 miler, but my coach thought that three 10 mile races in 5 weeks (preceded by a half-marathon) was a bit aggressive.  And since a) my overarching goal for the year is DON’T get injured and b) if you train with a coach, then the coach is always right, I’m doing a 5K instead.
  • ·         I stuck with almost the same taper for this race as I did for my half-marathon, but with one change – my coach prescribed a mile at 10K pace on the Thursday or Friday before.  Ran it Friday morning, and I definitely felt much looser and sharper at race start than I did at my half.    
  • ·         If it turns out that the Cherry Blossom people were mucking around with the final clock as an April Fool’s joke, I’m gonna be MIGHTY pissed.  (joking – I’m sure they didn’t).


  1. WooooHOOOOOOOO! Congrats Cris, I'm so excited for you! Sounds like the all the stars aligned (or close enough) for a great race -- that's two in a row! Haha and I love this: "if you train with a coach, then the coach is always right." Great job out there today! :)

  2. haha, your last bullet is funny! Congratulations, you looked calm and collected when we saw you at 5!! Great job!

  3. Please tell me that somebody got a picture of you reading "Guns and Ammo" and that said photo will be posted somewhere.

    Also please tell me that you are still giddy, because that's an amazing PR. Great race.

  4. I love this race report!!! I couldn't be happier for you. Not only your hard work in training paid off, but also your mental strategies of staying relaxed, starting slow, not looking at the watch. Everything really came together for you. And now you know what you are capable of, so I sense PRs at other distances coming soon. :-) Congrats on a FANTASTIC race!

  5. Congratulations - that's an AWESOME PR!! You totally rocked the race, and I couldn't be more excited for you!! It seems like everything came together - and you ran the perfect race. Congrats again!

  6. Congrats on the huge PR! Your spring season is definitely getting off to a strong start.

    I enjoyed running with your watchless technique and I think I need to test the "relaxing" strategy as well (instead of trying too hard to push when I feel myself slowing).

  7. Hilarious - I totally zoomed in on how many men I finished ahead of too. A lot fewer than you, but more than half. Girls kick ass.

  8. watching your running develop makes me really happy. congratulations!

  9. How cool! We must have been right near each other as I finished at that pace too! Congrats on the PR, loved the race recap. You are lily to train in such a great area.