Cherry Blossom “10 Miler” Race Recap

Last weekend, I flew to DC to catch up with my twin sis, meet her new puppy, hang out with family, and run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on Sunday morning. I’d been looking forward to this weekend for awhile because it felt like some sort of marker that spring was finally arriving. Apparently, the cherry blossoms haven’t peaked on the weekend of the festival since 2007. Good timing!

I flew in on Friday around 4pm and went straight to the expo with my suitcase. Kirtana, a mutual friend, was planning on meeting me there along with my older sister, Brittany. Kirtana and I have crossed paths countless times in Chicago – I can’t believe we hadn’t met until this past weekend! I grabbed my bib and old school cotton race tee at the National Building Museum before we drove over to Eastern Market for some margs and food.

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The next morning, my mom, sister, and I were all incredibly lazy. We slept in past 9 am (which I guess isn’t that bad for me, considering that would be 8 am CT) and made plans to meet Lindsey for lunch/brunch. I had a 30 minute shakeout to do so I went out to get that done while they walked to lunch down the street. As usual, the shakeout felt like complete crap and I just wanted to be done with it. I’m sure the windy day and the slightly rolling hills around the neighborhood didn’t make it feel any easier. Still, a shakeout is a shakeout and it always feels good to move after a flight, even if it was the day before.

My route was pretty random. Can you tell?

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The rest of Saturday, we spent spectating a roller derby. Having never been to one before, Lindsey and Nick had to explain all the rules. Dude, those chicks are hardcore. Beyond wearing wrist and knee guards, I think they should also be sporting some kind of chest armor because I saw many elbows to the … bosom. Also, I’m not sure how anyone can move so quickly or change direction so swiftly on roller skates. Mad skillz.

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We walked a fair amount all weekend but this was the perfect activity to put our feet up and rest a bit. Later, we ordered pizza and chilled at my sister’s place.

I prepared my race things and gear check bag for the next morning and finally went to bed around 11 PM. Well, I laid down but I probably didn’t fall asleep until after 12:30 PM. I purposely put my phone on the other side of the room so I wouldn’t be tempted to check the time. I wasn’t nervous about the race, really, but I just couldn’t turn my brain off. And all of a sudden, my 5:20 AM alarm was buzzing (4:20 AM CT….woof).

Race morning was very chill. There was no rush and everything was so easy about it. Lindsey and I met each other on the train (she took it 1 stop before I hopped on, as I was staying down the street from her apartment) and were on the mall before the crowd hit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a race so organized with plenty of bathrooms to use before the race. We avoided waiting in line by getting there early, though, so I’m sure the lines were long and slow closer to the start time. Lindsey watched my things for a few minutes as I did a 15-minute trot down the National Mall. In Chicago, it can be difficult to find an open area to warm-up before races sometimes. I didn’t have to dodge around many people and you couldn’t really tell that it was race morning on my warm-up. Lindsey and I swapped places as she did a quick warm-up, we changed into our racing shoes, and dropped our bags at gear check.

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Twinsieeeeez.

The last time Lindsey and I raced together was probably a Thanksgiving Day dash a few years ago (we really can’t remember) so it was fun to hang out with her beforehand! She’s training for the Chicago Half in May and was using Cherry Blossom as a training run – it’s been fun to be her “Sister Coach” the past few months. I jumped into my corral about 10 minutes before the start. About 5 minutes later, the race organizers announced that the course would be short due to some emergency or crime scene on the planned course. They couldn’t do an official measurement in time but estimated that it was 400m to 800m short. I was kind of bummed standing there in the corral, knowing that it wouldn’t be an offical 10 mile time but figured it wasn’t my goal race anyway and I was just looking for a nice, solid effort leading in to Bayshore in May. The only time-related goal I had was to hover as close to goal half marathon pace as possible. After a poor race at Shamrock 8k two weeks prior, I wanted to see if 6:40-6:50 pace was doable.

Mile 1: 6:50

There’s never much to say about the first mile 🙂 I was warned that the first 2-3 miles would be pretty crowded but I didn’t have to dodge that much (probably relative to Shamrock).

Mile 2: 6:42

I spotted my family spectating and even heard a vuvuzela after I passed. I felt strong running across the bridge and felt like I was getting into a rhythm.

Mile 3: 6:35

Highlight of the race: @runfastandfab ran up to me and said, “Are you Jenny P from the internet?!” Ha! The running world is crazy awesome. I said yes! and we chatted for a few seconds. She seemed to have more energy (read: ability to speak clearly) than I did but we said we’d meet up after. It made me think back to running Chicago in 2011 when I met Jefferson for the first time during the race.

Mile 4: 6:30

I didn’t even realize I was pushing the pace a bit this mile. I had already missed a few mile markers & hadn’t lapped my watch so I wasn’t relying on my splits much. My friend Michaelene and her boyfriend James were spectating the race but I didn’t know they’d be around Mile 3-4 until I saw them, once on either side of the road before and after the turnaround.

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Also note, the race directors told us at the start that the mileage difference would be between miles 4-6, but that once we reached the Mile 6 marker, the distance would be as planned through to the finish, so that was another reason not to rely on my watch too much. I liked this section, running down Independence toward the tidal basin. It was open and clear and everyone around me seemed to be running the same pace.

Mile 5: 6:41

Just kept chugging along at the same effort, as we ran toward Hains Point.

Mile 6: 7:01

This is where I think I took a bit of a mental hit. I was starting to fatigue and let myself get into a little bit of a funk. Potomac Park was absolutely beautiful with the canopy of cherry blossoms reaching over the path. There are few spectators here so you really have to grind on your own.

Mile 7: 7:04

I lost my rhythm and resigned to keeping my legs moving at this point. I don’t even think I looked at my watch more than 1-2 times from Mile 7 to the finish. I had a sip of water in Mile 7 (or maybe 8?).

Mile 8: 6:54

At this point, I was practically rejoicing that the course was short (but obviously not because of the emergency that caused it to be shortened). I remember thinking, “ouch, this feels like the end of a marathon”. Probably a bit dramatic but I felt like I was seriously fading even though my splits don’t show it much.

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Mile 9: 7:05

Just willing my legs to keep moving and hoping that they’d stay on. 😀

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0.4 – 6:53 pace

The last section is up two small hills but they felt gargantuan (kind of how “Roosevelt Mountain” feels at the end of many Chicago races). It’s a bit of a struggle too because you look up hoping to see the finish line but you really don’t see it until you’re less than 400 m from the actual finish line. The crowds were awesome here!

Official Splits:

5.7 M – 38:15, 6:43 pace

Finish – 1:04:49 6:49 pace

Overall place 680

Place in gender 152

Place in division 56

At the finish, I saw Ellen, Mary, and Allie. It was nice to finally meet Ellen and Allie in person and to catch up with Mary before she runs Boston next week. No matter where you race, there always seems to be someone that you “know” — or just feel like you know after some mutual stalking.

Overall, I think it was a good effort. I know where I’m at in my training and what kind of pace I can sustain on a good day. I’ve really only been focusing on tough workouts for 6 weeks now (after a decent base-building period), so I’ll take a solid 6:49 pace for 9.5ish miles as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction. And, if anything, it’s a bit of redemption after running 6:55 pace at the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. Running Cherry Blossom was a good reminder what race pain feels like and I’m looking forward to giving my workouts 100% in the next 4 weeks or so. I know I need to get some pace practice in and get comfortable with being uncomfortable — be willing to hop on the pain train in the last couple miles of the half. I think I would have felt much better during the race if I had started closer to 7:00 min/mile and worked my way down to 6:30s by the finish. There’s just something about a perfect spring day that makes you want to run fast and I clearly botched my race strategy in the first 5 miles. You race and you learn.

Oh! And Lindsey surprised herself (and me!) by running an amazing negative split! Her first half was around 8:30 pace and she ended up running 8:06 average by the finish. I mean, we miiiiight just have to adjust her goal time for the Chicago Half (duh). 😀

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Brittany, my mom, Lindsey, me — and not be missed, Apache! (16 week old Chesapeake)

-J

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Shamrock Shuffle 8k 2014 [34:22]

First race of the year = rustbuster workout.

I’m making more of an effort to just get to the start line this year and the Shamrock Shuffle 8k was my first go at it. Considering I raced TWICE in all of 2014, this year is going to be very different. I didn’t have a big plan going into Shamrock. The longest tempo I’ve run so far is only 3 miles so I knew there would be a decent amount of grinding if I wanted to run 6:40-6:45 pace. As much as I wanted to run a certain pace, I was also fighting my 3rd cough/cold of the winter all last week. Huge bummer. I was completely drained by the end of the work day and all I wanted to do was crawl in bed and dose myself heavily with Nyquil. By Saturday, I felt decent but not 100%. And then add in the crazy weather forecast and I kind of threw a time goal out the window:

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Once you see that wind icon (especially in Chicago) you know it’s going to be a doozy. I met Corey and Chanthana at 7:30 AM so we could each do a quick warm-up before walking over to gear check and changing into racing shoes. CT was generous & offered to watch our bags while Corey and I ran a 20-minute warm-up a few times around the block. We knew there was a headwind from the south but we realized during the warm-up that there was also a crazy wind swirling from the west. Running north was effortless with a strong tailwind, at least!

I felt congested during our warm-up and the cold wind wasn’t making breathing any easier. As usual, despite thinking that we would have enough time to relax, get to gear check, do a few strides, and get into the corral in time, we were rushed to get there! Corey, CT, and I huddled together in the corral to try to stay warm before the start.

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Annnnd we were off.

Mile 1 – You can never trust your Garmin in the first 2-3 miles so I didn’t look at it. There was a lot of dodging and shuffling (heh) in the first mile and I felt like I was flying past so many people that had a slower goal pace that I did (big corrals will create that problem, and I started in the middle of the corral). I felt like I was running smooth – breathing totally normal. Once I manually lapped my watched at Mile 1 and saw 7:10 flash on my watch, I thought “what? That can’t be right! I thought I was running closer to 6:50!”

Mile 2- Running south on State St. was surprisingly not against a strong headwind. I was still fighting to pass people (and trying not to elbow people in the process) but found more of a groove in this mile. Split 6:45 – “ok, closer to goal pace at least”.

Mile 3- By the time I got to mile 3.5, my breathing was really labored. Despite feeling calm and controlled until that point, a lot of congestion was building. Breathing through my nose was basically impossible and the cold headwind went straight to the back of my throat. Derp. Still, I tried to push the pace and clocked a 6:42 here.

Mile 4 – the “holy headwind mile”. This was a big mental WOOF. I looked up at one point and saw everyone tucking their heads down and bracing against the wind. Effort was high here even if pace wasn’t as fast as I wanted it to be. Those 40 mph wind gusts that were predicted became reality. Split: 6:53

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Mile 5 – Just tried to pull it together. Once we made the turn back south on Michigan, my lungs and legs were burning. The headwind was still strong here and I had to stop to blow a snot rocket. 🙂 Everything was backed up and I just wanted to be done. After the left turn to the finish, I tried to kick it in a bit but not sure if that was all in my head. Split: 6:51.

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All in all, these were pretty crazy conditions for the first ‘spring’ race of the year. I’ve only run the Shuffle one other time and that was 4 years ago when it was 75 degrees and sunny. This year, the weather turned the opposite direction. The effort was there on race day but the goal pace wasn’t. My legs felt good and my form felt strong, but the wind and my congestion made racing difficult. I’ll consider this a good rustbuster (and my first 5 mi tempo of this training cycle) and hope for real spring temps to arrive soon.

Splits: 7:10, 6:45, 6:42, 6:53, 6:51

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My next race is the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 12! I’ve heard so many good things about this race and I’m looking forward to putting in another solid effort before Bayshore at the end of May.

-J