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The Long and Short of the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler

Sunday was the 44th running of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler. Mother Nature decided that there would be no cherry blossoms, but there would be flurries, cold, and 50 mph gusts of wind. Super fun times! 

I had volunteered at this race last year, and it was so beautiful, that I was stoked to run it this year. Then the weather report came out, because of the expected high winds the race organizers decided that for the sake of safety there would be no course signage or archways. The tents were limited to gear check and the medical tents. I understand the need for these changes, but it did take away from the fanfare. 

I know I'm the one who has complained about fake archways and their lack of finish lines, but not having them made the race seem more low-key than it was.

The morning started off early, and we got to the race about 40 minutes before the start. The boys and I milled around the start area. Music was blaring and Big Guy immediately started feeling the excitement. Although the excitement was tempered by grumblings of how dang cold it was and how windy it was. We made our way up to the Washington Monument, and used the east side as a windbreak and a way to soak up the rising sun. The sun felt amazing, and as long as you could protect yourself from the wind, the morning was actually quite pleasant. The boys were having a blast popping out from behind the protection of the monument into the gusting wind. It was nice that they were able to find some joy in the miserable conditions. I ate my banana and granola bar. Yay for 2nd breakfast!

The hubs and I talked about their plans for while I was running and where we'd meet back up. I said goodbye and headed to my corral. I met up with a friend and we decided to meet in the corral between our two assigned corrals. I let the hubs know that I was leaving with the green corral and not purple. The green corral was huge, but we had a nice walking start to the line, and then we were off! One huge pack of us. 

Mile 1 - The herd of runners actually helped with the wind. We headed away from the Washington Monument and down around towards the Lincoln Memorial. It was a crush, but we were moving at a good clip. My friend and I chatted about the traffic. There was a volunteer at the 1 mile mark announcing that we were officially on our way. 11:23 pace

Mile 2 - We wound our way over the Memorial Bridge towards Arlington Cemetery. This is one of my favorite stretches to run in DC. The river is peaceful and provides a lovely sense of tranquility, usually. There were jokes of the wind picking up runners and dumping them into the river. It was that blustery. As we made our way around the traffic circle, I realized that I forgot my sunglasses. Crap. That sun is really, really bright today. My friend snapped some pictures as we crossed the bridge back towards DC. 11:18 pace.

Mile 3 - We wove our way to the left after the Memorial Bridge, towards the Kennedy Center. I was beginning to question keeping my vest on. I was getting warm, but it did feel good when the wind was gusting. Thankfully the sun was behind us, and as we started running under the Kennedy Center we were shielded from the wind a bit. The river looked nice. We turned around just after coming out from under the building. 10:55 pace. 

Mile 4 - We made our way back towards the Lincoln Memorial, and then onto Ohio Drive. I was definitely getting warm, and my head was starting to hurt. Did I have my coffee today? No. Have I been drinking my water? Nope. Ugh, that sun is like razor blades to my eyes. Where are the clouds? When do we turn again? Why is my head beginning to ache? Drink water. Whoa! I almost collided with the runner in front of me, because she stopped and did an about-face right in front of me. I actually braced myself with my hands on her back as she ducked towards my left and I cut right, so that we could avoid a full-on collision. Well that was fun. Thankfully, my friend was to my right enough where I didn't hit her. We turned around and headed over towards the Tidal Basin. 11:40 pace.

Mile 5 - We ran along the Tidal Basin towards Hains Point. My left bunion started getting angry. Ok, it felt like there was a smoldering ember in my shoe. I didn't lace my shoes tight enough. Stupid new shoe problem. My head is really aching. My friend is having a mini dance party with The Incredibles. I love that she has that much energy still. Why is the sun out? The wind is at our backs. That's something. The overpasses are full of whoops and hollers. The echos can be heard for quite a bit. 11:03 pace. Official 5 mile time - 56:46.

Mile 6 - This part of the race follows part of the same course as The Parks 10k, and it's so pretty. Despite all of my aches, I take in the beauty of the area. There are no cherry blossoms left, but it's green and the sun is shining with so much clarity and intensity that everything has a new edge to it. The river is really choppy, and full of whitecaps. The wind is at our backs, and it's a marvelously beautiful moment. I mention that fact out loud, and my friend agrees. I'm very warm. I take off my gloves. It's amazing how just taking off your gloves can make you feel comfortable again.  11:13 pace. 

Mile 7 - We're still running towards the end of Hains Point. The scenery is still gorgeous. I'm really just letting my legs do the thinking. I try to remember to drink, but it's hard today. Why can't I find my gel/water rhythm? My friend and I are chatting on and off. My headband comes off. Well that feels better. My ears are quite warm. The course seems quiet. My right ankle starts aching. I mention that outloud. I remember my form. We comment on a few of the racers' outfits. I love all the pretty colors. 11:46 pace. Official 10k time - 1:10:47

Mile 8 - We've rounded the end of Hains Point and we're greeted by the gusting wind. Ugh. I am moving forward right? Did I just move backwards a little? The course is littered with small branches and there are some larger branches hanging down. The runners are alerting to everyone around them of the dangers. I love runners. Man, I'm getting slow. I'm cold. My hands are frozen. There's a gorgeous building across the river. What's that? My friend is trying to get me to pick up my pace. I want to. Just one leg in front of the other. The scenery can suck it. I hate this wind. We're not talking much because of the wind. Stupid wind. Hey Mother Nature - it's April! I'd rather have rain than wind. I text my hubs. It's a simple two-word text - mile 8. 12:03 pace. 
Mile 9 - We're still running into the wind, coming up the backside of Hains Point. The golf course is now clearly in view, or maybe it's been in view the whole time, and I'm just noticing it. I'm barely moving. My form is terrible. My bunions are screaming, and my head is pounding. The wind is picking up. I put my gloves back on. That has helped a bit. The gloves are warm from being in my pocket, and it feels like my hands are thawing from the outside in. It's an interesting feeling. We pass over the 9 mile checkpoint. Just one mile left. My friend jumps up and taps her heels together. I tell her she's obnoxious. She laughs at me. I'm a little jealous that she can do that heel tap thing. I can't even do that when I'm not running and tired. 12:16 pace. Official 9 mile time - 1:44:37. 

Finish Line Selfie!
Mile 10 - My friend says we should pick it up. I tell her I will as I watch her pull away. I've told her that she can leave me several times during the race, but she doesn't. I know I'm holding her back. She's a faster runner than me. I know if I stop I won't restart. My headache is in my eyes, and my feet are burning. Keep trudging. One foot in front of the other. I can see the Washington Monument. That means I'm almost there. Just keep moving forward. I think I might've called her obnoxious again. What the hell is that? That's not even right. Why is there a hill? I must've been speaking out loud. She tells me there's no hill. It's time to pick up the pace. I tell her at the top of the hill I'll let go. We get to the top of the hill, and it's right there. The crowds are back, other runners are coming back. Everyone is cheering. The excitement is palpable. I start priming my legs. Longer strides. Sink back into my hips a little. Once you cross, you're done. Move faster. Use your legs. Stretch them out. Man, it feels good to move them like this, but it's also exhausting. There's so much leg to move. Keep going. Go faster. I'm passing people now. The last .1 of the race is at a 9:47 pace. I'm going to throw up. I can't see. Breathe. Remember to breathe. 12:27 pace.

We cross the line, and my friend finds me. She was in front of me. She comes back, and fusses at me for stopping. I know she's right. I think I say that aloud. Then through the pounding of my head and heart, and the ache that is creeping over my body, I hear my Small Fry. "MOMMY!" 

Where is he? There he is. He's on the right. There are my babies. There's my hubs. I grab my friend's elbow, and direct her to the family. I don't remember anything else. Just them. I walk over and give my babies hugs. They're talking, but I'm not listening. I'm breathing and aching. Trying not to throw up. I need to walk. Someone suggests we walk down the chute. They use an opening in the barricade to walk with us. 

It's confusing. Volunteers are everywhere. What the heck? We find water, granola bars, and bananas. Hubs hands me my protein bar. I can't carry all of this. The boys are being offered bananas. They eagerly snatch them up. 

There's a bit more confusion. My friend is going to wait for our other friend. They rode in together. We say goodbye and I ask the boys what they want to do. Small Fry wants to go home. He's tired and cold. Ok, let's go home. Where do we go? Hubs takes the lead, and we follow him back towards the Smithsonian Metro. 

It was a long walk back to the metro, and it was crowded. I carried Small Fry for a bit, but Hubs came and took him, because I was slowing down. I can't finish my protein bar or the banana. It was too chewy. Big Guy is with me. He's trying to get me to walk faster. I can't. I hurt. My feet hurt, my back is aching. I'm really trying to not throw up. I'm freezing. I'm shaking. Hubs waits for us. We get to the entrance of the metro, and he insists that I stretch. He's a smart man. I run through a few stretches quickly, because Small Fry is upset. Ok, honey. I'm done, let's go home.

After I got home, I realized that I didn't even drink half of the water in my pak, which would explain why I did end up throwing up, but thankfully my mom was dropping off Baby Girl, and she was there to take care of me. Thanks Mom!! Hydration is important people! No wonder I was in a bad way during the latter half of the race. 

My official time was 1:56:51, which is technically a PR, because I've never run a 10-mile race before, but it's not my fastest. My fastest 10-mile time was during RnR Virginia Beach at a time of 1:53:04. So now I have a baseline and next year will be even faster. My average pace was 11:41 m:m, which is not my faster either, but it's around where I've been, because I've been spotty with my training and not logging the miles I know I should. 

Time to finish strong for RnR Nashville. I'm not going for a time PR, but a distance PR. I'll be running the 5k and then directly going into the half marathon. 16.2 miles! Squee!

A big thanks to my friend, Angela, who ran with me the whole time and took the pictures during the race and at the finish. Thank you so much!

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