Monday, April 7, 2014

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Recap

The Cherry Blossom 10-Miler race - MY FIRST BIG RACE - was everything I hoped it would be!  I found it fun, fulfilling, and fabulous.  This recap is way, way longer than my typical blog post so I’ve added headings to try to make it easier to read/skip around to the parts in which you are interested. 

Evening Preparations

My wonderful friend Kathryn gifted me with Marriott points so I was able to stay in the city a few blocks from the race start.  I figure this gave me another 60-90 minutes of sleep in the morning, an avoidance of metro commuting crowds and stress, less time spent standing around in the corral in the morning, and a place to make that last race pit-stop that was much nicer than the porta-potties.  Thank you for your generosity Kathryn!!

A Race Buddy
One of my =PR= training partners, Christina, came downtown and stayed with me.  I think it helped pre-race jitters to have someone to talk with about race plans – especially since Christina ran Cherry Blossom last year and had great insights.  We spent time that evening getting our Garmins and the RaceJoy app properly set up, thinking through our timeline in the morning, and making final decisions about what to wear and where to stash our GUs.


At the Hotel
I woke up at 5:45 and ate my Clif bar while I made the elevator trip down to the hotel Starbucks.  We fortified with coffee and checked the weather one last time.  We realized it wasn’t quite as chilly as we expected and we didn’t need all the throw-away clothes we were planning on taking.  Christina didn’t wear any; I just wore my extra pants.  I also made a last-minute call to tuck my RunnerBox buff into my hydration belt in case I felt like I needed some extra warmth on my head or neck (it turns out I did not need it).

At the Race
Even though I knew the race would be huge, it was still a shock to see the mass of humanity walking towards the race and lined up in the corrals.  I was completely disoriented and overwhelmed and really glad to be following Christina!  We set up our Garmins to track our activity (and after the race we learned the Garmin LiveTrack didn’t work for unknown reasons – poor phone signals?  The RaceJoy GPS also failed, probably for the same reason?).  We took a pre-race selfie, and before I knew it, we were off!

During the Race

Timing & Pace
My primary goal was to not get picked up by the sweep bus; the course time limit was 2:20 (14-min pace).  Although I was well-trained l still felt nervous about the time limit and the sight of the sweep bus filled me with dread.  I saw it twice – when I was running back down the Memorial Bridge and it was just starting up the bridge, and when I was running away from the Kennedy Center and the bus was going towards it.  My secondary goal was to run between a 12:00 and 12:30 pace, so 2:05 was my secondary time goal with 2:00 as a stretch goal. 

I planned to run the first 5 miles between 12:00 and 12:30 pace, and the last 5 miles between 11:30 and 12:00 pace.  Despite my good intentions I went out too fast and my first mile came in at 11:18.  I reeled myself in and completed the first 5 miles in 1:01:38 (12:19 pace).  I picked up the pace for the second half of the race as planned.  My 10k time was 1:16:08 (12:15 pace).  And my finish time was 1:59:45 (11:58 pace).  I was so happy to finish in under 2 hours!

Spectators! Signs! Other Runners! – aka, “How I spent my race”
Keeping my mind entertained during the race was important.  My first mental checkpoint was finding my friend Gina on the Memorial Bridge.  I looked for her Rabbit Ears and was ecstatic when I saw them around mile 1.3.  I stopped briefly when I saw her and stretched my calves as I sipped some water, and then I was off again.  I saw the =PR= Gingerbread Man at the roundabout on the end of the bridge and one of the presidents (Teddy Roosevelt?) on the other side of the bridge.  I cheered for both.

My next mental checkpoint was the first water stop at mile 2.5 – I was glad for the water, and also excited that it was being manned by our local “Moms Run ThisTown” (MRTT) chapters.  Soon after that stop I met runners Melissa and Justine from the Vienna/Oakton MRTT.  Melissa was pacing Justine and it was cool to meet them and hear about how much progress they’ve made in the last year of running.

Just before mile 5 there was a boom box playing “Eye of the Tiger”.  I love that song!  I felt pumped and cheered loudly for the awesome spectators who were playing it.  This was a great moment in the race for me.  It was the moment that I realized I definitely had this race.  I could tell I was running fast enough to beat the sweep bus, and I felt good.  I was confident that I could run another 5 miles with no problem, and I picked up my pace for the second half of the race.

At the water stop at mile 6, one of the volunteers read my name off my bib and said, “You are doing great Kimberly!”  I gave her the biggest smile and thanked her.  She made me feel so good.  When I am volunteering at a water stop in the future, I will remember this feeling and use people’s names when I can.  How incredibly motivating!!

My next mental checkpoint was coming up.  I knew our volunteer =PR= coach Michael was somewhere between miles 6 and 7.  It was a great place for her to be because it starts getting a little desolate as you run towards Hains Point.  It kept my mind busy to keep scanning and looking for her.  I saw her around 6.8 with a big =PR= sign.  It was great to see her and yell to her and high-five her.  I saw her again on the other side of Hains Point which was an unexpected bonus motivation!

At the bottom of Hains Point were a bunch of people in Tuxedo t-shirts with a “free oreos and beer” sign.  I think they really had free oreos and beer.  I think they are there every year.  I didn’t stop, but I enjoyed seeing them.  I also thought about going to Hains Point when I was a little girl and “The Awakening” sculpture that used to be there.

Turning the corner at Hains Point meant there was just over 2 miles to go.  Suddenly we were running into the wind and I was so glad I hadn’t taken my long-sleeved shirt off a half-mile earlier and tied it around my waist like I was considering doing.   

Speaking of my shirt, it was the perfect choice for the race.  I wore my =PR= training shirt that I had worn for almost every long training run, so that alone brings me confidence.  But the unexpected bonus was the vast number of people who cheered for me along the way, calling me “PR”.  That made me feel great.  I will never be a fast runner.  I won’t qualify for the =PR= Race Team and wear a black and white =PR= singlet.  But I am a part of the =PR= Training Team, and I owned that feeling during the race! 

At mile 9, I found Melissa and Justine from MRTT again.  They were doing great and sticking to their plan.  Melissa encouraged me to go for it if I had some extra gas in the tank, and I realized I did so I stepped up my pace a bit and headed toward the finish line.  The crowd support at this point was amazing and it felt great to cross that final timing strip.  I hit the stop button on my Garmin and felt sheer elation upon seeing that I had finished in under two hours.

I pulled my phone out of my belt and saw two texts from my husband, who had been following the live feed at home with my son.  “Great race!! Love you.” And “We saw you finish.”  My heart was full. 

After the Race

I walked down the chute in a happily dazed frame of mind.  I took a couple of finisher pictures with the MarathonFoto people.  I finally found the water and a warming sheet.  Eventually I found a banana.  Christina and I met up at the =PR= meetup tent and found someone to take a post-race photo.  Christina had run the race at a pace of 10:56!  We were proud, and we were tired.  We happily headed home to our families.


  1. Sounds like a great race! Congratulations!!

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog April! And for helping me with the font size :)

  2. Oh! I forgot to say when I posted on FB that I saw one of the presidents walking along the bike path towards the bridge as I was biking to get there that morning. It was funny riding by him! Not something you normally see! I would have loved to have seen the gingerbread man. :) Again - great race report!

    1. Gina, that is so funny! I high-fived that president on the other side of the bridge from where you were standing :)

  3. Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting! It lead me to your blog, and I'll definitely be following along now! Congrats on a great race!! :)

    1. Thank you Tyly! Looking forward to following your blog, too :)