When Fabio and I signed up for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler with a few friends way back in December, I didn’t have very high expectations about getting into the lottery. I sort of signed up and then promptly forgot all about it, when, low-and-behold, our team got in!
I set up this training plan back in early January, but when our trip to Bolivia came up and the altitude there bothered me more than I anticipated, we wound up skipping two important long runs and a whole bunch of short runs in between. Then we got back from Bolivia and had one pretty awful 8 mile training run and one pretty great 9 mile run, neither of which had a very fast pace, so I was a bit concerned about how Fabio and I would do in the race.
On the up side, this was our first time running a 10 mile race, so we didn’t have any serious time goals we needed to beat. Our strategy going in was to take it easy and just do our best.
Here’s how it went!
Up & At ‘Em
Our alarm went off at 5:35 am on Sunday morning, and after brushing my teeth, washing my face, walking Jack, and quickly throwing on the running gear I had laid out the night before, Fabio and I left our apartment for the race.
Thankfully the metro was open extra early on Sunday for race participants which made transportation a breeze. Thank goodness we didn’t have to worry about parking!
We met our friend Ali at the Courthouse metro station in time to catch the 6:30 train and rode it over to the Smithsonian stop. The metro was quite crowded for an early Sunday morning, which was really weird to see! When we got off at the Smithsonian stop it was packed!
Soon after exiting the metro we followed the crowds over to the Washington monument where the start line was.
It was a beautiful day but quite chilly before the start (low 40s) so Fabio and I wore some cast-off clothing to keep us warm. All cast-off items were being donated to local charities, so we didn’t mind losing an old pair of sweat pants or a random long-sleeved shirt if it was going to a) keep us warm and b) go to a good cause.
Little did I know my dad was also on his way over to watch us race! We had talked all throughout the week about whether he’d be able to come, but I didn’t know for sure until the morning of. He took this lovely picture of the sun coming up near the race start.
By this point Fabio and I said goodbye to Ali (she was running in the orange corral), and joined the herds of people in the blue corral. There were about 20,000 people running this race, but luckily it was all well-marked and really organized.
Fabio and I tried to stand near the 9:00 minute/mile pace group sponsored by Gold’s Gym so we could keep our pace on track, but with so many people it was really difficult to get close to them. We figured as long as we kept them in sight during the start we’d be fine, and then we could catch up with them once we settled into our pace a bit. (Ha! This, my friends, is foreshadowing.)
We hung out for about 10 minutes or so, bouncing around and warming up, before we got a call from my dad that he was there.
Yay! I was so happy when I heard he came to cheer us on. Now to help him find us in the huge crowd…with only 5 minutes until our start time to go no less.
Thanks to a man standing next to us with a huge yellow flag, he found us! Haha!
Once he found us we were able to wave hello, and we actually gave him our cast-off clothes so we didn’t have to get rid of them. Donating them to a charity would have been nice too, but now we can save them for our next run. 🙂
Before we could do much else but wave one last time, we were off!
It took a little bit of time for everyone to get moving, and unfortunately by the time we started running the pace group was no where in sight. 🙁 Huge. Bummer.
Even though all the roads were blocked off for the race, Fabio and I had to run almost the whole first mile on the grass. The road was really congested at the beginning of the run and we found that running on the grass (with lots of other people also running on the grass) was the only way to keep our pace and get to the speed we wanted to be at. Grrr. I found this to be really annoying, but eventually everyone worked themselves out and we got back on the road.
Then we ran across the Arlington Memorial Bridge which, if you’ve been reading CET for a while, you know I run across all the time. It was kind of cool to run a route I am so familiar with but in such different circumstances. The weather was really great at this point (despite the sun being in our eyes on the way back) and I was loving every second.
Next we ran up Rock Creek Parkway a bit which was another route that’s familiar to me, and I ate a sport bean at around mile three. The sport beans worked well for me during our last half marathon, so I went with that strategy again and tried to eat one every three miles or so.
Next we did a little out and back along the Potomac River which was lovely, and then crossed over Independence Ave. All throughout this period I was keeping track of our pace using my RunKeeper app (I really need to invest in a GPS watch, BTW) and it started doing something funky around mile 4.5 (it was telling me different stats than the ones I wanted). As I took out my phone to fix the issue, I quickly snapped a photo!
It’s probably the worst photo I could have possibly taken because it was right when the sun was in our eyes, but hey, it’s better than nothing!
As we crossed over the Independence Ave. bridge there were a ton of spectators, and I saw my dad! We almost missed each other (there were just SO many people) but luckily Fabio spotted him and we all waved. 🙂
Next we ran toward the tidal basin where the crowd support was the strongest. I saw some great signs like:
- “Run Fast, Winter is Coming” (GoT reference)
- “This is the worst parade I’ve ever seen”
- “Hurry up, brunch is waiting”
- “Smile if you just peed a little”
- “Run now, poop later” <– not sure why I found these bathroom-related signs so amusing
There were also a ton of little kids with their hands out and I gave high-fives to as many as I could. Since our names were printed on our bibs they would yell “Go Chelsea!!” which, of course, I thought was so cute.
Next we headed down the long loop of Hains Point, which was the first time we ran somewhere I wasn’t familiar with. To be frank this area was pretty long and boring, and was probably my least favorite part of the race. There were a few cherry blossom trees in bloom in this area though, so that was really nice. I had another sport bean at mile six.
Once we finally got all the way down to the bottom of Hains Point (in other words, halfway through the most boring part), there was a little table set up offering free beer and oreos!! Everyone loved this table and I heard people talking about it all day. Such a good idea!! Judging by this photo that I
stalked found on Instagram, it looks like it was sponsored by Balance Gym. Thanks, Balance Gym!!!
The rest of mile eight and most of mile nine were still pretty boring- just running back up Hains Point. Since the view of the water was nice and the weather was perfect, I pretty much zoned out during this time. My energy was dwindling a little and all I could think about was what I was going to eat for brunch, haha. I knew our pace was pretty good (even though we still never found the pace group…grr) so I just tried to keep everything consistent.
A little after mile nine I had another sport bean even though I knew we were almost done because I could feel my energy dropping and I knew we had a big hill ahead. The hill itself wasn’t too awful (running through Rosslyn every day has really trained me for that!) but it was pretty long. Luckily there were a ton of spectators in this area cheering us on and the song I’d been waiting for all race finally came on my playlist. Yes!!
I plastered a smile on my face in case my dad was in the crowd (he was….somewhere) and powered through to the finish line. Horray!!
Finish Line & Final Thoughts
Our official time was 1:28:35 with an average pace of 8:51.
Here’s what my RunKeeper app said:
And according to the app, here were our splits!
- Mile One: 8:42
- Mile Two: 8:42
- Mile Three: 8:33
- Mile Four: 8:27
- Mile Five: 9:06
- Mile Six: 8:37
- Mile Seven: 9:00
- Mile Eight: 8:45
- Mile Nine: 8:53
- Mile Ten: 8:44
I know everyone runs at different speeds so these numbers mean different things to everyone, but for Fabio and I this was a great time!! If we had run at this pace during a half marathon we would have definitely PRed. I was so, so proud of us, especially because our training was so up and down and we totally lost the pace group we were planning to follow. In fact, it’s probably a good thing we didn’t run with the pace group because then we would have stayed right around 9:00 per mile and not reached our full speed.
Overall I have to say that I loved this race and it made me feel so great afterwords. Fabio and I ran strong during the whole thing and I never felt tempted to stop and walk. This definitely seemed like our best race and it made me want to sign up for many more 10 milers (it’s such a nice distance!).
Also this is probably going to sound really silly, but after this race I can truly say I feel like a “runner.” I know that everyone who runs at all is a runner, and after doing two half marathons and a million smaller runs all over DC I should have felt like a real runner ages ago, but something about running this race and finishing strong/with a good pace has made me really feel like I can now officially call myself one.
I also really appreciated having my dad there to cheer us on (and take us to brunch afterwords!). His support means a lot to me and I was so happy to have him there. He also just bought the race medals for me and Fabio which will have our times on the back. We didn’t initially order them because you have to pay extra, but he thought we should have them “for our collection.” 🙂
What a great race!
Question of the day: Do you consider yourself a “runner”?