Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler on April 11. Here's my report from the race:

My morning got off to a slightly rocky start. The wave start for the race was at 7:40, so I’d figured if I was on the Metro (our subway system) by absolutely no later than 6:40, I’d be at the starting area by about 7:10, with adequate time to check my bag and figure out where I was supposed to go. As it happened, I got to the Metro station about 6:35 (feeling pretty good about my timeliness) and then had to wait 20 minutes for a train. I ended up making it to the starting area (I counted the jog from the Metro station as “warmup”) just after 7:30. I found the bag check, left my bag with them, and made my way into the starting corrals. I ended up in the corral behind the one I was supposed to be in, but managed to sneak forward into mine just before that corral started.

The start was really crowded, with lots of weaving and jostling as people tried to find space to run their own pace. Since my goal for the race was to finish comfortably, I was able to stay pretty relaxed about it. About 200 yards after the start was a bank of porta-potties with practically no lines (the ones before the start had super long lines), so I took advantage of one (see goal of finishing comfortably). The porta-potty break had the advantage of putting me briefly between waves, so I got to run with a bit more space for the next quarter mile or so. At about 3/4 of a mile in, I saw the elite men heading the other way (they were almost to mile 5); I envied their grace and speed. Just after mile 1, we headed up onto the Memorial Bridge. Running on the bridge was nice because the course widened so the density of runners dropped a little bit. Since I was near the edge, I could see down the Potomac, but there wasn’t anything really exciting to see - just green park area either side of the river and early morning glare off the river. At the Virginia side of the bridge, we went around the traffic circle in front of Arlington Cemetery and headed back across the bridge to DC. I was feeling pretty good with my pace and breathing, and I was on the wrong side of the road for stopping, so I ran through the water station that was shortly after the 2-mile mark. From there, we headed north for an out-and-back along the river. The turnaround was a hairpin turn and not so much fun. By about mile 3, the combination of warmer weather and warmer me led me to pull off my long sleeve shirt and tie it around my waist, after which I was much more comfortable. After the turnaround, we headed south for about a mile to another hairpin turn and a water station near mile 4. I ran through that one too, for pretty much the same reasons as the first one.

For most of the rest of the race, the scenery was not especially exciting. We took the eastward loop around the Tidal Basin and then ran to the end of Haines Point along one side and back up along the other. If we’d been a week and a half earlier, the cherry trees would have been in full bloom and there would have been a lot more pretty color. As it was, everything was similar shades of green, which was a little less exciting. There was other excitement, though; around mile 5, I had my first ever encounter with road rage from a runner. Although the crowd had thinned out a little bit, it never thinned out very much, and passing tended to be a little tricky. I try to be fairly conservative in my passing and not shoot for small gaps or jump in front of people who are coming up from behind me, but since people don’t always run straight and sometimes do unexpected things, it’s hard. I passed one woman, and I don’t know if I totally misjudged the gap I used or if she drifted into me as I was passing, but there was light arm contact. I said sorry, but she apparently took offense and decided to retaliate by kicking my feet and pushing me. Fortunately, I managed not to fall, and was able to get up one the grass at the side of the road and put some distance between me and her.

About a mile after the road rage runner, I grabbed some Gatorade at around mile 6. I would have preferred water, but since all I really wanted was a few swallows of something to make my throat wet, the Gatorade was fine. Shortly after that water station, a couple near me were discussing how depressing it was that we weren’t even to the half-way point for a half marathon yet, which made me realize that I was running quite comfortably at a pace I was sure I could maintain for longer than a half marathon, which in turn felt extra-awesome given the asthma/allergy issues I’ve been having the last week and a half. Shortly after mile 7, I realized that I was passing people more often than I was being passed and decided to kick up the pace a little bit. The second to last mile was a little slower, back around my average pace, but I was really able to speed up at the end, despite the uphill to the finish area. The last 100 or 200 yards was brutal, though, as I tried to have some more kick and my lungs flat out refused (I guess the allergies had to catch up to me at some point).

Still, I finished in 1:30:40, which was a PR by 3 minutes. Plus, I was really happy with my mile splits (10:32, 8:59, 9:07, 9:13, 8:57, 8:57, 9:06, 8:35, 8:59, and 8:12). All things considered, I couldn’t be happier with my performance, especially since excepting the last little bit, I met my goal of running and finishing the race comfortably.