Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run: Running It

So, after 2 long days of gallivanting around DC, I woke up Sunday morning tired and a little cranky. I planned on taking the metro from Alexandria to the Smithsonian stop, right outside the race entry point.

Prior to leaving, I looked up the weather and planned based on 50 degrees and above. It was not. It was closer to something like 40, with a pretty good wind chill. Even though I usually hate doing bag check at races, I grabbed the plastic bag I got at the race expo, pulled on my winter jacket, and headed out.
The train at 6am wasn't too crowded, but I could see that trains behind me were standing room only. The line to get out of the station was crowded, and full of people who apparently can't figure out the complicated DC Metro system of swiping to get out. I popped up right by the Smithsonian Castle near the base of the Washington Monument, and started following the crowd to the other side of the monument, where the bag check was set up.

The entire place was a mess! People were everyone, the corrals were marked off but not open, and the PA system wasn't particularly loud. I dropped off my  bag and (super warm) coat a little after 7 and headed over to the corrals. They were clearly marked with huge flags, and were organized by color rather than number or letter. I was in the orange corral. At 7:15 everything started with the national anthem, and then the start of the USAT Women's Ten Mile championship. Crazy fast ladies!

My corral finally started around 7:40ish, after a good 40 minutes of standing in the shade in the corral. It was pretty cold, but at least I could feel my feet when I started. This is pretty similar to the start for the Army Ten Miler, but for some reason it felt shorter then.

The course was absolutely beautiful. It went down from Washington Monument, to the entrance of Arlington Cemetery and right past the Women in Military Service to America Memorial. We ran around the circle and back towards the Lincoln Monument, then left past the JFK center. It then looped back around and down towards the back of the Jefferson Monument and around Potomac Park. For the most part, it was completely flat, except for a little uphill near the end as you headed past the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Course support was really great! There were a ton of people out at various parts, especially around the start point, and lots of great energy. I just wish the blossoms were out!

There were water points every two miles or so. There were signs a few meters out saying water point ahead, but they were only on the side of the street the volunteers were on, and switched back and forth. Half the time it was so crowded I didn't see the sign, so had to try to cut across all the runners to try to get some water. Maybe signs should be on both sides of the street with arrows pointing to which side it's on.

This was definitely not a PR run for me. I was hoping to keep a solid 9:00 mile, but my feet were so sore from days of walking around DC and I was so dehydrated that by mile 4 I decided to slow down. I was definitely still in a bad mood from being so cold, so I did not enjoy this race as much as I usually do, which is a shame, since I've been waiting so long for it! I took water at most of the water stations, and a GU gel at mile 4, which almost made me throw up. I finished in about 1:44, a good 4 minutes over my Army Ten Mile time. Whomp whomp.

The finish line had a ton of great energy, and I was definitely glad to be done! Going through the line I picked up a few bottles of Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run water (sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the label), and then caught up with Kevin and my aunt and sister. Kevin brought me my pre-packed race bag with flip flops, a t-shirt, and a few more snacks, and I was very grateful for the extra layer! We went through the food line, where I got at least 3 amazing cherry muffins, and a banana, and then picked up my bag from bag check. The entire area was incredibly packed with people, so we started heading out and towards our dim sum reservations in Chinatown.

One of the options for the race was to purchase a finisher's medal. Obviously, yes please. Here's my bib (I opted not to recycle it) and medal:

Overall, I didn't enjoy this race, entirely my own fault, and I wouldn't necessarily travel to do it again. It was very crowded, and the biggest draw is the cherry blossoms, which are very unpredictable. I'd say do it once and see what you think.

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