Sunday, April 12, 2015

Race report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, April 12, 2015

I ran the Cherry Blossom not quite 10 Miler this morning, finishing in a time of 62:01.

As you can probably tell, the course was short, due to a last minute rerouting.  Supposedly around 9.5 miles (9.48 on my Garmin).  But even with the issues with the course, I was pretty happy with this race.

Cherry Blossom is always one of my favorite races.  Not because I love flowering trees.

In fact, I hate flowering trees.

And the fact that these particular trees are baby pink and surrounded by swarms of tourons does nothing to endear them to me.

(I mean seriously - why do people get so freakin excited about pink trees?

But I still love the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  It's a fantastically managed race on a fast course that normally has good weather.  And that more than compensates for the stupid trees.

And the weather for today was forecast to be absolutely perfect for racing.  Low to mid-40s, with no wind and low (but not too low) humidity.  Great weather plus fast course means high PR potential for most people.

But not for me.  My 10 mile PR is 65:31, from this same course in similarly fantastic weather.  And though I'm getting into good shape, I didn't think I had quite the fitness I needed to challenge that PR.  But that was OK.  It was still great just to be racing this race, especially after how last year went. I've noted below, I benefit most in my training from lactate threshold work.  And any race between 15K and the half-marathon distance is a fantastic lactate threshold workout, regardless of how the race goes.  I couldn't think of a better way to kick off the first official week of my training for Grandma's Marathon.


Race morning was pretty much the same as always.  Woke up, ate breakfast, puffed my asthma meds and mobilized my hips and ankle, plus some glute firing for the heck of it.  Then donned my throwaway shirt and set off.

You can't tell from the photo, but this top is very sparkly.
My throwaway shirt, btw, was awesome.  A few weeks ago, at a friend's 80s themed birthday party, another friend had worn a sparkly pink Little Mermaid shirt.  It was the subject of some discussion - she explained that the shirts had been on sale at Target for about $3, so she grabbed one.

The next day I was at Target, stocking up on $3 throwaway shirts.  If you know me at all personally, then you know that my personal tastes tend towards dark nail polish and skulls, with the occasional infusion of dayglo.  A pink sparkly shirt featuring a Disney Princess is pretty close to a costume for me.  Which is what made this so hilarious.

So... accompanied by Ariel, I made my way to the race, checked my post race bag, and started jogging. I did a 3 mile warm-up very easy, and then some drills and an extended stride around the Washington Monument - running hard until my heart rate got into the 70s. I've tried this extended stride for several races now, and I feel it really warms me up and gets me prepped in a way that shorter strides don't.

Then some more drills, and two shorter strides, and into the corral.

While I was warming up, the race director came onto the loudspeaker and announced that due to a police investigation on course, we'd be rerouted.  He continued on to explain that the rerouting would occur between miles 4 and 6, and that the mile markers from 1-4 and 6-the finish would be accurate.  The total race distance would be confirmed later, but was between 9.5 and 9.75 miles.

I have to stop here and praise the Cherry Blossom race management here.  They were presented with a very difficult situation - for a major race with over 10,000 runners, they had learned less than 90 minutes pre-race start that the course was blocked.  They couldn't use the course as posted, and they couldn't delay the race (they had a strict time limit for reopening the roads).

So they had to modify the course.  Which they did in a way that flowed seamlessly.  And they clearly communicated to us exactly what was happening.  This is how you do it, folks.


With 5 minutes to go, I ducked in my corral and tossed Ariel aside like last century's VHS tape.  I had a chance to briefly greet my podiatrist, which was fun -- it was great to see him under better circumstances than last year's race :).

The race manager made another announcement, reminding us of the course change that would occur between miles 4 and 6, and also describing where we would be turning.  Again, it was a great example of how to handle a last minute rerouting.  Then we were off.


My plan was to go out conservatively for the first and second miles, and then pick up my pace on a downhill section after we crossed the Memorial Bridge - about the 2.5 mark.

Cherry Blossom does tend to go out fast - both because people are amped, and because the first mile is moderately down hill.  And despite my best efforts, I did get sucked out.  I didn't go out monstrously fast, but it was not the conservative start I had planned.  When we hit the first mile marker, I didn't feel out of control, but it wasn't the easy feeling I had been shooting for.

I debated for a moment, and then decided to pull back on the throttle.  As we crossed over the bridge I slowed up just slightly, and held that easier feeling for the next two miles, establishing the relaxed feel I had hoped to start the race with.   Once I had that down, then I opened up again.

During this time, I was also looking for a place to toss my water bottle and gloves.  I always start races longer than 10K with a water bottle that I toss.  Around the 2-3 mile marks I was ready to heave it, and on the watch for cheering friends, but I didn't see any of them on the course.  So finally I tossed it when we crossed under the Roosevelt Bridge - if I had a chance, I'd come find it later.

I wasn't willing to toss my gloves, though.  I love those things.  So into the bra shelf of my top they went - the pictures from this race will be lovely.


From then on, it was just game on, trying to keep my stride relaxed but powerful, and at the proper effort level.  I can't quite describe where we went on course or how we were rerouted, but I can tell you that it was done seamlessly.  The only indications from my perspective were the missing 5 mile marker and the fact that everyone's Garmins kept squawking where we were nowhere near mile markers.

As I noted in my last race report, I sometimes like to use a gel during races shorter than a half, even if I don't need it - the sugar rush seems to help.  To that point, I took one slurp (about 1/3rd) of a root beer GU at the 4 mile mark and a second slurp at the tip of Hains Point (around 7.5).  It's hard to know how much for sure it helped, but I did feel sharper and more focused during the race.


The latter part of this race is on Hains Point in DC.  Hains Point is very straight, flat and fast, but also a bit soul killing, as it seems like you're just running in a straight line forever.

Hains Point also has an added challenge for allergy sufferers - the damn trees.  I've learned from years of running and racing on Hains Point that if you have allergies, they will hit there very hard.  To the extent that it feels like you're running up hill.  Luckily, I've known this and I now always pace my races as if Hains Point will be a slight uphill climb.

Also, I had some solid memories of Hains Point to pull me through.  Way back in February, some teammates and I met on Hains Point to do a long broken tempo workout in horrible conditions - temperatures in the mid-teens, high winds, and snow starting to fall towards the end.    It sucked, but we rocked it and felt like stars after.

From Alien (1979), of course.
No matter how much Hains Point sucks, it will never suck anywhere close to that ever again.    And it wasn't sucking that much right now - relatively speaking.
So I just kept trucking.   At one point, I saw a group of friends cheering, and I (finally) tossed my gloves to them.  Better late than never - at least some of my photos wouldn't look like an alien was trying to erupt from my chest.

Finally we hit Mile 9 and the end of Hains Point.  From here on out things were easy mentally, if not physically.  The race has markers every 400m for the last mile, which makes it easier to hang on.  The largest hill (and really, the only big hill) of the course hits with about 600m to go.  It sucks, but it never sucks as much as I fear it will - it's almost a relief to use different muscles after running on flat terrain for so long.  Then over and downhill to the finish.


My final official time was 62:01.  Again, for a distance of about 9.5 miles.  My Garmin says 9.48 miles at a pace of 6:33.  This actually makes me pretty happy, as that's my PR pace for 10 miles.

And no, I'm NOT going to claim that I went out and PR'd a 10 miler today.  Or even that I would have PRd had it been 10 miles.  Right now, sitting in this chair, it's easy to talk about holding that pace for another 800m.  But I assure you, when I crossed that line, I was damn ready to be done.

(side question - should I write "PR'd" or "PRed" or "PRd"?  These are the questions that cause me to lose sleep).

But... holding that pace for something close to 10 miles does indicate that I'm in better shape than I thought.  I didn't think I was anywhere near 10 miler PR shape, when apparently I was close.

And upon due reflection, as long as the course (which race management is measuring now) was at least 15K (9.32 miles), I've decided I'll count this as a 15K PR. I'm not going to adjust the time down to count for the extra distance - I'll just take the time as is.

My reasoning is that if I happened to run faster than my 5K PR on a 3.2 mile course, I would definitely count that time as my 5K PR (and then go looking for another 5K that had an accurate course).  So no reason not to do the same here, though I can't really go looking for another 15K - they're very rare here.


Splits were (manual splits - Garmin was giving me 1.01 for most miles)
Mile 1: 6:36
Mile 2: 6:44
Mile 3: 6:37
Mile 4: 6:32
Miles 5-6 ish: 9:13 for 1.40 (6:34-sh pace, according to Garmin)
Mile 7: 6:36
Mile 8: 6:39
Mile 9: 6:38
Mile 10: 6:28

Other notes:
  • Left home at 6:00, and drove to race, arriving at 6:15 - plenty of time to find good parking.
  • One puff Foradil in the morning, 4 puffs albuterol before race.  And I needed it.  Damn pink trees.
  • Found my tossed water bottle post race - yay.  At about $12 each, it's not a huge loss if they're gone.  But always nice to save a little money.
  • So we ran a totally random distance this morning, where the actual time means very little.  And yet I'm annoyed that I couldn't have run two seconds faster to dip under 1:02.  Runner logic.
  • Wore my Adidas Takumi Sens for this race, and was really happy with them.  I haven't worn them for longer than 8 miles before, but after they performed so well in the 10K in Richmond, I thought I'd try them for 10.  Now I'm wondering if they'd work for a half.


  1. Kudos to the race management team for getting the race rerouted last minute and keeping everyone up to date on the changes. Great job on your not quite 10 miler, its always nice to realize you are in better shape than you thought!

    And that Honest Trailer...hilarious! Just what I needed this Monday morning.

  2. Nice race - always good to get a chance to race in nearly perfect weather.

    I, too, thought the race organizers handled the course re-route as best possible. They made MANY announcements about what was happening, clearly told us when the mile markers would be off, and about how much the course would be short. So much better than being out there and wondering what the &*()% is going on.