Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Coach's Recap: Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

My Cherry Blossom race plans went from 10 miles to 5k (details here), to a supporting role as a spectating coach. What happened and how was it?

Shaky Shakeout Saturday

The Reston Potomac River Running Cherry Blossom Training had an optional shakeout run the morning before the race. We had about a dozen folks show up and spirits were high.

But our high spirits were brought down a few notches when the race officials announced some significant changes to the race plans due to incoming high winds. Basically the race was transformed into a "retro" 1970s style race - no signs, no mile markers, no giant digital clocks, no tents.

Shaking out before the big race
photo courtesy of Soles in Colour

This change had a domino effect on our training program runners. We had plans to meet at our program tent (which was no longer going to be there). Where should we meet instead? Or should we meet at all - we didn't want people standing around unnecessarily in the cold. Should we delay our metro departure? I went into damage control mode to answer these questions, coordinate with the other training programs, and get information out to the runners.

Race Modification Announcement from Cherry Blossom Race Officials

And some of the runners were starting to panic. How should they alter their clothing and gear? What did this mean for their race plan? Some even questioned whether they wanted to brave the elements at all. Suddenly I was responding to dozens of emails from concerned runners. As I revamped our logistics and answered a myriad of questions, I realized that it was in everyone's best interest if I put the 5k aside and focused completely on supporting our runners.



We stuck with our planned 5:30 metro departure, figuring a lot of people would try to go later to minimize exposure to the weather. It wasn't worth risking a metro or logistics snafu like the one I had experienced at Marine Corps last year.

Jen, Jeff, Laura, Bryan, Sue, & me - heading to the race on the metro

Natalie, Laura, Laurie, Rachel, & Jamie were on the train behind us
photo courtesy of Soles in Colour

We met up with more runners at the Smithsonian station

Although it was brisk out, it was actually very beautiful

Runners heading to bag check

Lots of bundling up pre-race
photo courtesy of Soles in Colour

Yes, the winds were bad. This was close to the start line.
Although I witnessed this, IT IS NOT MY PICTURE.
It was all over facebook and I don't know whose it is.
I hesitated to include it since I don't have permission to use it.
Please tell me if you know whose picture this is so I can ask for permission!

This is the start line - no signs, no giant arch, no balloons, no clock.
The tent behind the runners is one of the few that was allowed.

Molly, Laurie, and Norma


I hung out with Coach Jeff - we watched every wave start but were only able to pick out about a dozen people that we knew in the dense crowds.

Then we transitioned to the finish line. I thought we were positioned somewhere after the finish line because I didn't see it. Jeff finally had to point out to me that the black timing strip on the ground really was the finish line. That is how sparse everything was; the finish line wasn't even obvious to me.

I felt vaguely motion-sick the whole time, which was unexpected. You know that feeling you get when you are in a car that isn't moving, and the car next to you moves and it seems like your car is moving? Watching people run past you for 3 hours while you are stationary feels kind of the same way.

Although we saw dozens of runners finish, I took no pictures of them. It was absolutely frigid out, so it wasn't a realistic option to keep the phone out with camera at the ready to capture pictures. I had layers of gloves, mittens and hot-hands on so my finger dexterity was zero. We never knew who would be coming up next or what they would be wearing, so we kept our eyes trained on the finish line.

Fortunately many of our runners had photos to share!

A runner gets a post-race hug from Meb Keflezighi, who paced the 6:00/mile group

Allison, Matt, Cassie, & Chad post-race
photo courtesy of Cassie

Jackie, Jackie, Kim & Carmel
Jackie said Hains Point was bearable because PR Coaches (Stacy!) were there cheering.
Fun (?) fact: Stacy clapped so hard her hands were bleeding. That is dedication!
photo courtesy of Kim

Katie, who witnessed porta-potties falling over while she was running past them!
photo courtesy of Katie

Laura & Catherine - they are always up to something...
photo courtesy of Soles in Colour

Coach Traci ran a great race & inspired so many runners!
photo courtesy of Traci

Stacy, Tony, & Mark
This was Stacy's first 10-miler - she met her goal of not walking at all!
photo courtesy of Stacy

Thoughts from Tim: Ran a very consistent race despite the wind.
 =PR=training paid off--I was very in touch with my cadence and my level of effort.
 The start was COLD. The course was a) windy and b) full of people.
 Largest run for me--bigger than Baltimore by FAR.
 Beautiful course. Will do it again in a heartbeat.
 Next year I want the Chamber of Commerce race, though:
 cherry blossoms in bloom, short sleeves and shorts!
photo courtesy of Tim

A gorgeous, hard-earned medal
photo courtesy of Soles in Colour

The runners worked hard for those medals. They faced unexpected conditions. They persevered. They were triumphant. The coach in me was very proud. 


  1. Wow! The winds must have been crazy for the port-o-potties to have been blown over like that.

    1. They were indeed crazy! Any stronger and the race might have been canceled. Fortunately there were no reports of port-o-potties falling over with people in them.