Sunday, April 3, 2016

Race report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, April 3, 2016

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler today, finishing in a time of 68:32.

Getting to race morning wasn't without incident.  There was a glitch apparently in my registration, and I wasn't issued a bib number at first (I'm still not quite sure what happened).  Fortunately Cherry Blossom, being a very well managed race, had a great team at the solutions desk that fixed the issue.

The race day forecast wasn't looking great, though.

Heh - the instructions to runners remind me of how
the local club DJs used to close things down at the end of the night:
"you don't have to go home, but you CAN'T STAY HERE."
The clothing debate was real.  In an online discussion, when I wondered what I should wear, my coach advised trying a parasail.  Which had some appeal, but would only probably help about half the time.  I decided to postpone the decision until morning.


Around 10 pm Saturday night, the winds kicked in, and they were impressive.  I was awakened by a loud shearing noise that ended up being a downspout extension shfted by the wind.  And trees were swaying madly.

When morning came, I dressed in shorts and singlet, did my normal pre-race breakfast/stretching, and then left the house a bit earlier than normal.  I had packed my tights and longsleeve with me - based on how I felt on the way to the race, I'd preserve the option of switching.

Heavily encumbered with everything I *might* possibly need I stepped outside.  And our cat, Izzy, took this opportunity to escape as well.  She wears a collar with a bell on it to prevent this, but she's pretty smart, and has gotten better at figuring out how to move silently with the bell.

Lovely, huh?
This was the absolute last thing I wanted to deal with on race morning, but I didn't have a choice.  Cat  trumps running.  So I spent the next five minutes wrangling Izzy through thorny bushes. This resulted in Barkley Marathon-esque legs for me, but no cat.

Finally, even though she had just had breakfast, I grabbed another can of cat food and opened it up outside, and then placed her bowl just inside the house, propping the door open.  That did the job, freeing me to leave.

(and yes, Brian slept through the whole thing)


Izzy's face when I lectured her later.
When I got to the race, I jogged around some in my singlet and shorts, with my heavy throwaways on top.  I felt absolutely comfortable jogging in a heavy sweatshirt and pants, which led me to conclude that singlet and shorts might be too little.  It's a hard choice - on the one hand, I hate overheating, and I also find that tights and a longsleeve take me out of my racing mindset, if that makes sense.  On the other hand, the heavy gusting winds were resulting in a wind chill in the 20s, and I've also noticed in the past year that I no longer handle being cold as well as I previously did.

Finally, I went with tights and longsleeve.  I pinned my bib to my tights, and wore my singlet under the longsleeve.  That way, if I really overheated, I could just take off my longsleeve and toss it to a friend or tie around my waist.


I did my normal warm-up (3 miles, including a bit of uptempo running) and then loaded into my corral.  Due to the high winds, nearly all of the signs had been taken down, and so I misjudged the corrals and seeded myself far back from where I should have been.  I always like to seed myself back a bit (unless gun time is important) since I like to go out slow.  But this was too far back.

As it turned out, though, it was a blessing in disguise.  I really believe that, in large races like this, the further back you are, pace-wise, the more protected you are from the wind and the less it affects you. The first mile was into the wind, but being seeded so far back meant that I could hopscotch from runner to runner, and the wind was nearly a non-issue.  Actually I ran much of the race like that - finding a windblock whenever the wind hit hard, and then moving off to my own when we had a tailwind.


Due to the winds, the race had no mile markers.  Fortunately, since I run with my watchface blanked and ignore mile splits, this wasn't an issue.  I could see how it could be disconcerting for others, though.    I just tried to run my normal race, with a steadily building effort, knowing that the conditions would make some miles faster, and some slower.

Around the halfway point, I did start feeling a bit warmer than I would like.  I wasn't so uncomfortable that it was necessary to take the longsleeve off, though.  And in retrospect, I'm not sure that I would have done any better with a singlet and shorts.

After around the 10K mark (I think) we turned onto Hains Point and had a lovely tailwind.  It was tempting to really start driving here, but I decided to save energy for the return trip into the headwind.  This was a good idea, as the headwind was really tough for the last 2 miles.  Normally I close pretty well in ten mile races, but this time there was no real opportunity to do so.  I found myself repeatedly tucking in behind people who felt like they were running a bit slow for me.  But at the same time, if I shifted to the side to pass, I got pounded by the wind and worked harder just to run the same pace.  So I settled in.

Finally, we came to the one hill on course.  I like to attack this hill, and then let the downhill carry me to the finish line.   But this year that hill, and the following downhill, were directly into the wind.  I attacked and went into heavy oxygen debt, but I'm not sure I gained any time doing so, and the downhill to the finish line was survival, rather than a banana slide.

I ended up running 68:32.  3 minutes off of my PR from a few years back, but I'll take it.  That PR was set in perfect weather when I was in really good shape.  Given today's weather, and where I am fitness-wise, this was a decent race.  Plus ten mile races do good things for me, so I should be reaping the benefits from today in about a week.

Splits per my autolapped Garmin were:
Mile 1: 7:00
Mile 2: 6:51
Mile 3: 6:46
Mile 4: 6:32
Mile 5: 6:45
Mile 6: 6:49
Mile 7: 6:47
Mile 8: 6:39
Mile 9: 6:56
Mile 10: 7:00
extra .09 - 0:29 seconds

The Garmin measured long of course - part because the signal gets screwed up under the Kennedy center (I don't think I ran the fourth mile in 6:32 today) and part because there was a lot of moving around to find windcover.

My official splits from the website:
5 mile: 34:17
10K: 42:38
9 mile: 1:01:39
last mile: 6:53

Other points:

  • Official weather report from Weather Underground: temp 36, DP 17.  I heard the wind reported as sustained 15-20 with gusts to 40-50.
  • The pollen count was ridiculously high today - 10.7.  I took a low dose of Claritin, which helped some, but the pollen was still a factor.  I didn't feel terribly sharp this morning. As for my breathing, it was OK but never great, and it was pretty hard to catch my breath post-race.  (Used Dulera pre-race and albuterol rescue inhaler right before race).
  • I decided to break my own rule and not carry a water bottle - in this type of wind, it was just one more thing to catch the wind.  Plus it was so cool and dry that a water bottle wasn't essential.
  • Took half of a strawberry kiwi rocktane halfway through.  One Caramel Machiatto GU pre-race (yum)
  • Last night's wind storms resulted in tree branches strewn at various places along the race course that had to be dodged (or tripped over - did that too) - an unusual risk for a major road race.
  • The race management and volunteers should get a big thumbs up for working very hard in difficult conditions.
  • Got to meet up with some friends from the Runners World Online Forum post-race for breakfast.  Scrambled eggs, bacon, and potatoes were just perfect post race.


  1. Wow, sounds like crazy conditions! And stupid cat.

  2. That sounds absolutely terrible. Running into the wind is my worst favorite activity ever.

  3. That cat incident before the race would have had me totally anxious! You handled it well though and were thankfully able to get to the race on time. It was CRAZY windy out there, and it looks like you did a great job pushing through it. And regarding wardrobe--- the struggle is real when it comes to choices like that! Nice run!