Sunday, April 7, 2019

Race Report: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, April 7, 2019

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, finishing in a time of 63:01.  Which was a big PR, and both a worse and better time than the 1:03:00 that I originally read on my watch (you know what I mean).

[edit: not a PR - course was short]

It's been a few years since I've been able to run this race, which has been a shame - this is always a great race - fast course, fast crowd, well organized, almost always great weather.  So I was really excited to be able to target it this year.  And once again, the course, crowd, organization, and weather did not disappoint.


I've done this race enough times to have the routine down - leave EARLY to snag my supersecret parking space less than half a mile from the start/finish.  So I left my house a bit before 6 am, picked up my teammate/friend Lindsay on the way, and then was in my spot by 6:10 am - which gave us 20 minutes to hang out in my warm car before stepping out at 6:30 am.

We walked over to the bag check, dropped off our stuff, and then I headed out for my warm-up - about 2-3 miles of easy running intermixed with some hard surges of 45-60 seconds at faster than race pace to get my heart rate up.  Then drills, strides, and jumped into my corral.   I was a seeded runner, which meant that I could line up pretty close to the front, but I placed myself a bit further back, near my teammates Juan, Chris, Jason, and Weston.  I like starting slow, and since chip time was the only time that mattered (no masters prize money, and I had no shot of finishing in the top 25) there was no reason to move further up.

We chatted for a few minutes, and I took two puffs of my rescue inhaler (the pollen was ridiculously thick) and then tossed my throwaway shirt and gloves.  Then the horn went, and we were off.


Chris, Weston, and I formed a pack and started working through the crowds, which were thicker than I had anticipated.  It was frustrating - I had planned on starting slow, but not that slow.  But nothing to do except stay patient and wait it out.

It took a full mile and a half before I felt free and clear, but from then on it was smooth.  This is a very flat course, with only some mild undulations.  I'm a rhythm runner, so I thrive on courses like this - they remind me of my horse-showing days, if that makes sense.

(Jumping horses is all about finding a rhythm, and then holding it - numerous riders will try to get a song stuck in their head with the right rhythm, because then the jumps will just naturally flow out of that rhythm.  I do something similar for races - get a song with the right rhythm stuck in my head.  For 10 mile races, I've found that Daft Punk's Get Lucky or VNV Nation's When is the Future work best.  I do a faster rhythm for shorter races, and more measured rhythms for longer races.)

(This is, not coincidentally, also the rhythm I lock into for 3200m repeats during workouts.  But I really really try not to think about it that way, since that starts a cycle of OMG I usually hold this for 2 miles and now I have to hold it for 10?)

So, I found that rhythm, and held it.  Weston and Chris stuck with me as I held the rhythm, with about 90% of my focus on the beat and the other 10% on holding the tangents and not cutting off or running into others.  As we rolled, packs kept coming back to us or joining us, and we rocked on.   At points along the way, my teammates David, and then Carolyn and Cate also were with us - like a big Katamari Damacy ball of red singlets.
Weston, David, and myself.
Not sure where Chris is.
Photo by Will Ellison

I sometimes have a bit of trouble running in groups - it's partially a touch of lingering claustrophobia from my previous sport (you try to never let horses get too close to each other in the ring) and partially that I start feeling like I'm responsible for others' pacing.  But I managed it pretty well today.

The miles rolled on, the only distraction being my throat getting ever so slightly tight at times - a bit of vocal chord irritation/dysfunction from the super high pollen levels.  But it didn't really affect my race any, other than making it about impossible to cheer for my teammates when I saw them.

Finally, we hit mile 9, and I knew that the one significant hill of the course was coming up, just before the finish.  I know this course, and I know that when I hit that hill I just need to hammer and empty the tank and then let gravity on the back side of the hill carry me to the finish.  So I hammered, but I think I may have overdone it, as I tied up a bit on the back side (frustrating).

As I crossed the finish line, I saw it ticking over to 1:03:11 - I knew I had started a bit after the gun, and I hoped it was 12 seconds worth.  I crossed, caught my breath, and checked my watch - 1:03:00.  I really really hoped I had started my watch early.

But....I hadn't.  Official time was 1:03:01.  Annoying as heck, though I guess I can't get too upset over a 54 second PR.

Splits were:
Mile 1: 6:25
Mile 2: 6:20
Mile 3: 6:13
Mile 4: 6:19
Mile 5: 6:19
Mile 6: 6:19
Mile 7: 6:18
Mile 8: 6:19
Mile 9: 6:17
Mile 10: 6:01

I went with splits from Strava, since I missed some mile markers and at least two of the mile markers were off.  I really hope the 15K mat was accurate, as I'd like to claim a 15K PR from this race (58:57). might think, looking at this, that I could have pushed a bit harder earlier in the course instead of saving so much for the end - that my fast finish shows inefficient pacing.  I don't think so, though.  I have a red line of effort that I can sit right below for a long time, but can only go above briefly.  I sat right on that line for 9 miles, and then bumped above it in mile 10 - arguably I jumped up a bit too soon, which is why I tied up at the end.  Had I run those middle miles even a touch faster, I would have crashed before the end.

I am bummed about the 2 seconds, and also bummed about the fact that I was fourth in my age group, and only a sparse few seconds behind the 2nd and 3rd in my age group.  But....them's the breaks, and I've certainly had it go the other way in my favor quite a few times.

I have the Broad Street 10 Miler next month, so hopefully I can carve off 2 more seconds there.

Other notes:

  • The weather was really just great - low 50s, overcast, minimal wind - it doesn't get much better than that for a 10 mile race.  The tree pollen was really my only complaint, and I guess that comes with the territory when you run a race that is literally named after pollinating trees.
  • The one real organizational bloop this year was bag check.  They changed it, and did the same stupid thing Boston did last year, where they assign trucks by bib number, and assign bib numbers loosely based on projected finishing time.  Which means that everyone's hitting the same bag check table at the same time, while staff from other tables look on.  Just stupid.  Hopefully they'll fix this for next year.
  • As always, I ran this race watchless.  I can see how one might wonder - if I had been looking at my watch, could I have found 2 seconds.  Honestly, no.  I left it all out there, and couldn't have dug any deeper at the end.  I think I lost those two seconds from the congestion in the first miles, or from tying up a bit at the top of the hill.  Looking at my watch wouldn't have helped with either.
  • On Friday, I did my "uptempo" pre-race mile on the track - a 1600m at 10 mile race effort in 6:16, which equates to 6:18-19 pace (add 2-3 seconds to convert the 1600 to a full mile).  Today I ran a 10 mile race in 6:18 pace.  Heh.
  • My next race is in 6 days - the BAA 5K in Boston (where the current forecast is NOT optimal for a 5K, alas).  A few years ago I did the Shamrock Half-Marathon and then the Monument Avenue 10K six days later, and both went well.  Of course, that was when I was 40.  Now I'm about to turn 45, and my recovery has slowed slightly.  On the other hand, a 10 miler is much easier to bounce back from than a half-marathon, so we shall see.
  • 11 years ago, I ran my first Cherry Blossom in 1:13:22, and was thrilled with it.  This year I ran more than 10 minutes faster, and am a mixture of happy and annoyed.  Just some perspective for myself.


  1. Great recap, I felt like I was right there with you! That’s a huge PR off an already impressive PR. I saw you at one point and you looked strong. You are racing so well this season! Inspiring.

  2. Blogger keeps eating comments! Argh! Try #3...hope this sticks - just wanted to thank you for the recap and the racing tips as I always learn something from your recaps!