Thursday, April 07, 2016

2016 Cherry Blossom 10-miler Race Report

Confession -- 

When my alarm went off at 5:15am the day of this race, I secretly hoped this event would be cancelled.

Actual footage.

It was cold outside. Bitter cold. The winds made good on the meteorologists' prediction - it was gusting in the 50mph range, and was "cruising" at 20+mph. Conditions were quite poor, with the worst headwind predicted to come from about mile 7.5 to the finish.


But, social media being what it is, and with the CUCB announcing that the race had been given a go from the National Park Service, I dragged my ass to the front door (dirty little secret:  the NPS was considering canceling the race because of the winds and risk of debris). I can't have spent all that time talking about doing this race and then just bail on it. 

As usual, I was late getting out, and when I finally stepped outside to head to the Metro, I immediately spotted evidence of wind . . . .

So, yeah. It's windy out.

No matter. I got to bag check quickly, and then to the start line with little trouble, even for such a huge race. When I last ran the course in 2013, I'd tried to run like hell. But my goal this year was to focus on the North Face 50K I had six days after THIS race. So it was all about being smart, running steady, and not getting hurt (which I'd already said in my "goals" blog).

It's funny to think about 2013. Just three years ago, I'd come back to racing after an injury. I was thrilled. I was a different person on 2016's race day compared to 2013.

Probably because of training like this. Ha! Kidding. I hate treadmills.

Before, I ran with (about) an 8:30 pace per mile, getting to an (at the time) 10-miler PR.  But ultra training (and eating), much more weight training (and eating), and eating (and eating) had taken its toll.

Never mind. It was time to show that I could be smart. 

As I made my way from bag check, and even in the corral, I shook from the wind, and tried to warm up. I'd chosen a place in about the middle of the corral, compared to my "racing" place in the front of it in 2013. It. Was. Windy.

I feel ya Bart (it's worth the click)

The race had made some significant changes due to the wind. Mile markers were taken down. The aid stations were reduced to 2.5, 6, and 9(!?). All overhangs were gone. Award ceremony post-race cancelled (along with the kids run, wisely). I just tried to remember my promises to myself about finding a steady training pace, keeping it, and not hurting myself. 

BANG! Off went our wave (blue), and I went with them.

I'd love to know what my mile splits were, but, incredibly, I'd FORGOTTEN to turn auto-lapping back ON. I thought of it while we ran, but my "overall pace" on Garmin, as well as my "current pace" on a Garmin separate screen said I was holding a good training pace. My estimated first two miles came in right abound 9:20 per mile, and I was fine with that. The winds weren't fun, but, courtesy of my Hand Socks, I felt decent enough.

I hit the mile 5 mat with about a 9:20 pace per mile, so just about perfectly for what I wanted (despite having no exact idea about each mile's pace). Regardless, nothing was hurting, I wasn't taxing myself that much at all. I just tried to keep in the flow of traffic. It involved not running great tangents, and shuddering when the wind would hit harder here and there, but it wasn't bad. I sped up with tailwinds, and tried not to overtake headwinds. Just chill out and go with the flow.

I am covered in bees but have no pain in my KNEES!

From mile 5 to the 10K mat, I hit the aid station, and basically WALKED the entire length of it, from the first volunteer all the way to the last one. It took a while. I didn't mind, because I was (A) reassessing myself, and (B) taking Gu packets during a race for the first time since last October's MCM.  So over the length of many aid station tables, I took two Gu packets, some cups of water and/or Gatorade, and then whispered (out loud) to myself, "3.8 to go, be smart."

For all the concerns over the wind, the aid station marked the start of Hains Point. We'd have a nice tailwind to about 7.x, and then would turn into a headwind for miles 7.x through the finish. This was where I'd see if the increased effort I'd made at training this winter had done any good, compared to last year's efforts.

January - February 2015 Tai Fung REALLY enjoyed winter training a lot more

In Hains Point, I had no specific idea where I was, mileage-wise. I knew that mile 7 turned into mile 8 after you made the turn - but where? As I picked up running after the aid station, I realized I'd lost a LOT of time walking it, more than I expected. I didn't want to lose my B goal. But where was I on the course?

I looked down.

And looked.

I knew that Hains Point had these nice little markers spray painted on the road. There were things like "M11/12," "M1212," "M1312," stuff like that. I KNEW that these were markers from the varying spots of the Marine Corps marathon, which has slightly changed over the years, but still runs through Hains Point around/near those miles. So what they were showing, at least under my best guess, is the 2011 spot of mile 12, the 2012 spot of it, that kind of stuff.  I also knew about where the MCM mile 13 marker usually was, and also where the halfway point of MCM usually is. I needed other hints. I was trying my best to not lose my head and overdo it, but I also didn't want to just trot.

I kept looking down. Maybe I was bored.

Still, over there on the right side of the runners, I noticed a curious marking:  "N11."

Suffice to say, I had an "A-HA" moment.


Well, that's closer.

I realized that "N11" almost certainly stood for the Navy Half Marathon, which runs almost the exact same course as Cherry Blossom. It starts/finishes in almost the exact same spot as CUCB too -- it just goes deeper into Rock Creek Park to get the extra 3.1 miles.  Otherwise, they were quite similar courses.

Ergo, if I really had just passed mile 11 of the Navy Half, then I had about 2 miles to go to the Navy Half Finish.  And if the finish lines match, then 10 - 2 = 8. That meant "N11" must essentially mean "CUCB Mile 8."

I used to help my daughter with her math homework. Then she turned 8.

Boom.  Unfortunately, according to my Garmin, I had fallen just a touch behind what I wanted (not by much) to reach my B Goal. Fortunately, I had a ton left in the tank, having cruised for 8 miles. 

Time to run. Kinda.

I picked up my pace, and gradually passed people in mile 8, screamed "FUCK YEAH" at the November Project DC people (they always love that at races), and by mile 9, I was finally moving a touch faster, really not THAT aware of the headwind. Mind you, I didn't LIKE the headwind that much, but I wasn't crippled by it. It was damn strong. But, c'mon . . . I wanted that B!

I wanted that B . . . GOAL

So I pressed on. Passed more people. Crested the hill, and towards the downhill finish. Boom. Done.

My CUCB finishes have all been under 90 minutes, except for my first one. This one, likely my last, was about 93 minutes. But, I just didn't seem to care. I really wasn't disappointed.

Instead, as I walked to find water and a piece of tinfoil we've taken to calling "heat sheets," I did a quick internal evaluation:

1.  Nothing hurt.
2.  I had . . . fun out there.

Getting old sucks.

I didn't dawdle (old man word!) at the finish area, doing as the CUCB implored and GETTING THE EFF HOME:

First -- come find me on Instagram! Next, note the ribbon -- that's from the wind blowing it! It was brutal. But I was done. It was a glorified training run, but, considering I almost wished for the race to have cancelled, it was a good day.
Race by the numbers:

Overall:  Top 35%
Sex:  Top 56%
Division:  Top 56%

Meh, not bad for what was, essentially, a training run with 17K of my running friends.

Despite the cold.

Overall, it was a pretty damn great week.  

I can't say if I'll be back, but I went out with a huff and a puff.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

2016 CUCB Volunteer report

I admit it -- I'm a sap. I really dig volunteering, and am sorry when I can't find the time for it. So despite serving as a 2016 Cherry Blossom 10-miler race ambassador, I volunteered to work the Expo again.

They're taking my bio down when they get new folks, so here's my screenshotted version. It was cool while it lasted.

Last year while volunteering at the Expo, I had a super fun time, but I was hurt, and inadvisedly chose a job where I'd have to stand for about 4 hours. No bueno. So this year, I volunteered early on and picked a slot where I could sit -- the Information Table! 

Never mind that "knowing stuff" isn't my strong suit.

You're totally reading this in his voice. RIP Fredo.

They assigned about 8 of us to the information table, which had the happy side effect of letting me wander around during the Expo, or to stand up and take a person over to a larger map, if they seemed anxious or confused over what to expect on Race Day.  But, happily, one of the folks at the table, CC, of RunCookEatRepeat, was a fellow information-dispensing volunteer! Woot! We were psyched, and CC came up with the clever idea for us to just OWN our not knowing anything issue:

Our patron saint.

Anyway, they gave us lots of binders full of . . .  knowledge to pass along

Nope. Not going there.

It did help quite a bit that I've run this thing a few times, because I was able to give a few tips here and there from experience. The biggest one was that if you take the Smithsonian metro stop, walk to the NON-Mall exit. It's less crowded, and always feels a little faster to get to a corral. Stay on the "far" side of Independence Ave, crossing near the Washington Monument at the corner. Again, less crowded, quicker to your spot.

Pre-Expo opening, I stopped in on the RaceDots folks, while they were setting up. I'm so freaking into these things.

"Hey! I think your magnets are . . . attractive? Haha you can use that if you like. No? I should fuck off? Ok."

But soon we were handling question upon question, and meeting internet personae in real life, which I'm sure my ridiculously introverted self handled with aplomb. 

Peopling in person is hard for me.

Not long after came the always-effervescent Kim, of Kim Runs Miles with Smiles!

Gotta take our standard giddy-to-see-you shot!

She then revealed that Molly, the operator of the @CUCB twitter feed, had given her the password so she could tweet from the Expo for part of Friday!


Kim declined my suggestions of possible tweets (I'll let you guess what those were gonna be).

"Come see our fountain of runner's tears!"  Ok, fine, later on I also made a reference to jizz.

I ran into Leah as Meb was being introduced to speak.  She's fresh off a finish at the Thomas Jefferson 100K (!!) and was looking forward to watching Meb. We got to chat a bit (only got shushed once!) about ultras, and offline life stuff (#ProjectSecretSecretProject). It's barely a CUCB Expo if Leah and I don't snark on about stairs and crowds, but she DID want to see Meb talk, so I scurried off

"Ok, so while we don't have the way more famous Tai Fung to speak, here's a guy who's almost as cool.  And he doesn't use the word 'scurried,' like, ever."

Back at the info table, we later got visited by Midpack Biped, of his blog of the almost-same-name, who hung out with us at the info table long enough to take an action shot of me doing Info-ing. Just look at how riveted and informed these poor, I mean, hapless, I mean, LUCKY women are as they listen to me talk!

Let me help with that if you don't want to click to embiggen:


Like I said, I was a wealth of info.

Anyway, like any good volunteer group after our shift ended, we went to a bar post-volunteering, where CC & I introduced Midpack to the joys of the Untappd app (basically it's as if Foursquare got drunk, or at least wanted to help YOU get drunk). We had just a couple of beers, and headed back to the Expo for the Volunteer Appreciation party -- 

-- seriously.  Like CUCB doesn't do enough for you with the guaranteed lottery win for next year, you get wine and snacks and door prizes. And name tags.

This actually went over ok!
After that, and owing to our having to rest for A TEN MILE RACE IN TWO DAYS AND ALL THAT, we all bade our goodbyes and headed out. But it was actually kinda hard to sleep -- volunteering is a total rush. It's . . . fun. I'm so glad I did it. 

Even if I spent almost half my time shrugging. Because the rest of the time I was dropping major knowledge.

And schmoozing.
I want to thank the fellow members of the CUCB Ambassador squad. They were understanding of my cluelessness, friendly, welcoming, and plenty accomplished.

Alternative name:  "7 Bloggers were hanging out until a Cave Troll in a tie showed up" other alternative "Dork Knight and the 7 Bloggers"
From left to right, we have Janelle, Lauren, Elizabeth, Molly, Coco, Courtney, Kim, and, well, . . . Yeah.

Finally . . . the Meb thing. Of COURSE he's awesome. He's a gentleman to boot. But i just couldn't bring myself to walk up to him for a picture, and I had a LOT of opportunities to get one. Apparently, I even walked by him at the CUCB "VIP" dinner (in quotes because I was there). I missed him, and Joan Benoit Samuelson. Like, I missed them by less than 5 feet.  Maybe because I was instinctively looking down at MY phone feet. 

But I'd accidentally walked right past them, and didn't stop to get a pic. I'm not sure I would have even if I hadn't been looking down so much.  I just don't feel like I belong, or maybe I mean I don't feel like I should be talking to people that accomplished. Regardless, as luck would have it, I got to be in a photo with Meb anyway . . . .

Thanks for putting up with all the CUCB stuff for the past few months. Back to our regularly scheduled jizz jokes pablum.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler goals

The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler holds a special place in DC running/racing for me.  It represents the first time, the first race, where I started to believe . . . to really REALLY believe, that I could go long distances.

After my first Marine Corps 8K, it wasn't long after that I ran a 10K, and then another. 6.2 miles? Why not 10? 10 miles seemed . . . long. But I did it, just kind of trotting it with my then-girlfriend, and booya, I was a CUCB 10-miler finisher.

Hmm.  10 miles.  Why not a half marathon?  Hell, if I was going to run a half, why not just jump up to a full marathon?

It made sense at the time, ok???
And off I went.  Miles of races, people, and sights I'd never think I'd encounter.

So now, here I am, about to run my (possibly, perhaps likely) last CUCB 10-miler EVER.  Don't ask.  It refers to a thing I've taken to calling #SecretProjectProjectSecret and that will be (kind of) public sooner than later.

Anyway, it looks like I'm not much longer for this area, and CUCB was the springboard to my longer distance races.  We've now come (kind of) full circle -- just a few days away from the 2016 Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  I started running longer distances in this area because of this race, and I'm back one last time to say goodbye.

My 2013 course PR of 85 minutes and change is quite safe.  I'm heavier (due to food), slower (due to ultra training), but way stronger (thank you Atlas Fitness DC). 

So what should my goals for this race be?

I thought about having my (A) Goal be:

Run Naked!

No, not the "omg barf" type running naked.  Like, run it without tech.
This might be grosser than me running naked.  Ok, fine, it's not.

But really, nobody needs to see that.  And even the THOUGHT of running naked is scary to a tech-addicted runner like me.

Look at that Garmin tanline.  That is NOT for the faint of heart (neither is my wrist hair). #Barf

So, no, I'm not much of a "no-tech" guy.  I just love mah data.

What, then, should my goals be?

I think I've narrowed it down to this.  Lately, I seem to be able to train around a 9:15-9:30 pace/mile lately, doing a bunch of 7 mile training runs.  I can go faster if need be (if it's a shorter distance), and as I train over 10 miles, I go slower.

I think I'd like to shoot for an A Goal of a sub-90 minute 10 miler, since I don't anticipate actually doing that, and A Goals tend to be "reach for the stars" goals.

It seems a valid B Goal would be finishing in sub-95 minutes, which would mean I'd basically be doing a 10-mile training run.

Finally, my C Goal has GOT to be . . . don't get hurt.  You have 31.5 miles to run in six days.

Yeah . . . I'm also running The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K on Saturday 9 April.  It was the site of a last-second decision to run last year, after a stretch of knee pain had abated.  I finished, but ran it quite slow (although it was the source of many Twitter cameos).  I'm not hurting this year.  I'm just fatter and slower.  I want another crack at this course when I'm not worried about my knee exploding.

So there we are.  Run like hell this Sunday, but if you can't do that, run smart.  And run with gratitude.  Because the CUCB showed me that I COULD take on longer distances than "just" 6.2 miles.  It allowed me to do more than dream.  It allowed me to dare.

Thank you CUCB.  See you Sunday.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Good Luck Box unboxing

I remember being in college for my freshman year.  Just prior to final exams starting for the first time, my mom sent me a "Care Package" from a company that specialized in them.  The box was nice. It had snacks, goodies, and tchotchkes, and made me feel grateful for such a thoughtful gesture. It surprised me that my mom would do that, because I we weren't around each other a lot in high school (I lived on my own a significant portion of that time).  It was really a great pick-me-up.

Fast forward ONE ZILLION YEARS to present (I'm old). In preparation for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-miler, the folks at Good Luck Box sent me a care package free.  They aren't mom, but they're still quite kind. And clearly, they must know the awesome power I wield . . . as a BLOGGER.

Ok, fine.  As a Run BLAHGGER.

Even though I think almost every CUCB social runner/ambassador has done a blog reviewing what they got, I nev--

Fine. Let's see what's in there. Captions for each picture below!

I'm fairly certain, even with my color blindness, that the box is green.

I'm a sucker for puns. I got this. It would be funny if it opened from the other side or something.

Right from the start, the presentation is top notch.  I like the green(?) laces. They could've saved my ass on St. Patrick's Day.

I got a lucky penny!  Does it substitute for not training?  Let's hope so.

The safety pins are a cute touch, although I now use RaceDots for my bibs. Actually, a package of RaceDots might be a really good inclusion for future boxes!  Give it a consideration, BoxPeople!

A paper card with the weekend schedule is a nice touch. Also, a "Tiger Tail" which is a rolling stick, is one of the hits for me in this box. That's a really cool inclusion.

I made this picture larger so you can see all the stuff. There's Balega socks, a sample of sports detergent, body glide, the stick-ish Tiger Tail, and lots of food samples. Confession: I ate the Honey Stinger bar like 10 seconds after this photo.

So, big shot blogger/ambassador that I am, having received this bountiful tribute from this company, what are my thoughts?

One thing's for sure, I would have agreed to The Turk's proposal and joined the heroin trade.  But I digress.

This box is a really kind gesture to do for a runner. It's a good runner gift. It really is. Any runner who gets one of these things will be happy to receive it. I mean that. Is it chock-full of stuff you can't live without? Nope. But neither was the box my mom sent. It had some nice things a college student appreciated, but what was more important was the gesture itself.

This box will set you back less than $40, and you're giving your runner close to that in value. Do you send flowers? Do you like to receive them? Do you appreciate getting them, or appreciate the feeling of doing something kind for someone who needs support?

Of course you do. 

And that's the benefit from this box. It's a nice thing to do. You're not going to change anyone's life, but you're going to show someone that you care. I still haven't used everything in the box yet, but I will. If I got one of these before a marathon, or even a shorter race (like the CUCB 10-Miler!) I'd be super appreciative to whomever sent it to me.

I know a lot of bloggers go nuts over free stuff, and do infomercials for the items. Maybe I'm being a little cold.

But it does me (or a reader) no good to just be a shill. This is a NICE thing to send (and receive). It isn't going to make or break your race, or even "necessarily be a necessity." But it won't break your wallet, and if you get one it just MIGHT break you from a bad day you're having. That's good enough for me. It reminded me how grateful I was at 19.

Thanks mom.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Nats Clubhouse Social

Warning -- this will be a bitter rant.

My guess, although right now I'm not able to say why, is that 2016 is my last year living in Washington, DC. 

That feels so weird to even write out. Anyway, back to bitter ranting. But maybe that's why this stings so badly.

I've been to more Nats games than I can count, both at RFK and Nats Park. I've freely shared my dedication to the team, and hell, I specifically WEAR Nats gear in almost every one of my races. It's a trademark. I was looking forward to following the Nats from my new locale, when/if I move.

Today, however, I'm just gut punched.

I have a long history in life of being picked last for things, or just being outright excluded from events, so I'm particularly sensitive to "cliqueyness" in groups.  I quit applying to be the CUCB Social Runner after getting turned down enough, although to my shock they later asked me to be an ambassador.  But, one group that is noticeably insular and clique-minded is #NatsTwitter.

#NatsTwitter is a hashtag, unsurprisingly, designed to find like-minded Nationals fans on the Tweeter and chat up games in real-time, or share Nats news. I use it sometimes, and it is, by far, the LEAST effective hashtag I could put out there (of the hashtags I use to be serious). While I've interacted with a few (just a few, like . . . 3?) NatsTwitter folks who've let me in their fold, they are --by far-- the online exception and not the rule. There's definitely a "Cool Kids Club" vibe to the rest, and it's pretty distasteful. They're generally insular, circular, and exclusive.

I noticed last year, when the Nationals put on their "Nats Clubhouse Social," that some of the "coolest" of the cool kids got invites. The Nats made no bones about it being a subjective choice, and those who got in reveled in that.  I can't say I blame them at all for being so happy, but it wasn't anything but the Nats reaching out and picking people who got their attention enough over the prior year. The blogs/reports I read from people who went amounted to, "Whore it up more next year, and maybe you'll get their attention."

This year, the Nats went a step farther into the sunlight, and invited fans to nominate themselves.  

I jumped at the chance:

Then, I just . . . waited. I didn't spam entries like others did. I didn't cross-promote like I saw the in-crowd doing, where they highlighted each other's entries to the team. I just linked to the Nats page with Beakertude, which lays out my fandom for the Nats, my trademark of wearing their gear when I race, and even when I train. I kept waiting. Then, just this afternoon, I saw #NatsClubhouseSocial popping up from Nats fans who made the cut. They were going. Tonight.

Two things struck me:

1. Damn, not good enough again, and

Not cool. Not. Cool.

It's one thing to put something out there and let us peons seek to get into the Cool Kids Club. It's way the hell another to offer, in multiple years, the same folks to come back to this event. That means the "entries" weren't that, so much as just a circular means of an in-crowd taking care of their own.

Whatever. I'll keep supporting the team, even if I'm living in (REDACTED) in 2016 and beyond.

But this sucks, and yes, I'm bitter. The in-crowd will keep having their circle jerk, congratulating themselves on how amazing they are, and I'll be outside, training. Because unlike #NatsTwitter, I find runners far more egalitarian.

Have I mentioned I'm bitter?

Fuck it, clicking publish on this blog before I reconsider posting this.


No, really!  An update!

Ok, writing this on Tuesday night, 5 April, after having run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler.  If you recall, I also volunteered again at the race expo the Friday before the race.

So. Funny story. Well, not funny to ME.

This is more like it.
So CC and I are at "our" end of the info table at the CUCB Expo, chatting up a 3rd person, a woman who is a personal trainer near AU. She volunteers for the CUCB yearly, and, if I recall correctly, she gives the guaranteed lottery entry to her husband. At one point, I mentioned that I was juggling with my phone so much because the race ambassadors were supposed to help highlight the race this weekend too.

What follows is (roughly) our exchange:

Me:  (blah blah blah, I am doing this CUCB thing)

Her:  Wow, that's great, how did you get to do that?

Me:  Well, I'm pretty active on social media, and have a history with the race, so they asked.

Her:  Hmm, my friend who's running this is really active on twitter, I wonder if she should do this next year?

Me:  Does she have a lot of interaction with CUCB, or talking about the race?

Her:  No, but she's on Twitter a lot.



Me:  Wait, what?

Her:  Yeah, she and her friends all nominated each other for this thing, and they got in.

Me:  (starting to feel woozy) Wait . . . what?

Her:  It was really cool! They got all this free Nats stuff at a preview.

Me:  Was it the "Nats Clubhouse Social?"

Her:  Yes!  That was it!  Her friends got together and even nominated her dogs, and so THEY got a separate invite too!

Me:  (Has some trouble hearing, because CCRuns, who is watching this exchange is --literally-- doubled over laughing at me, because she knew how crushed I was)


Her:  (not smiling as much) . . . um, yeah.  I didn't want to make you angry.

Me:  You're not. Look at her (pointing to CC, who is STILL laughing). All good.

Her:  It was just a thing I guess her friends did for her.

Me:  Yeah, I get it.

Her:  (She now refers to her friend's first name, which I won't say) and her friends all wrote the Nationals about her and her dogs, and they got the invite.

Me:  (Stews more, while CC dries her eyes from laughing)

It turns out that --literally-- just before I walked a block or two from work to the Expo, I had been (surprise!) on Twitter. This person whose DOGS got invited came up in the algorithm as a "who to follow" suggestion. I hadn't followed, but her handle was easy to remember.  I normally hate when people say, "Oh, you're from New York? Do you know X?" because it's so random. But I couldn't help it. The names matched, and it was coincidental.

Me:  Is your friend's twitter handle (X)?

Her:  Yes! That's her! OMG she must be twitter famous!


Her:  I'm sorry, I didn't want to make you mad.


This personal trainer goes on to discuss how her friend must truly be seriously-omg-so-twitter-famous-and-important for me to have "heard" of her, and I am STEAMED for even asking now, because this "NatsTwitter CoolKid" was just suggested to me minutes earlier as a person to follow, and her handle has her name in it. WHY DID I ASK WHY WHY WHY

Anyway. It turns out that the circle jerk theory I had was true (it was already quite publicly proven), but fuck. If it wasn't for CC laughing so hard at me and how ridiculous it was, I might have been genuinely pissed, instead of just, I dunno . . . stunned. I get tired of being right all the time.

Cliquey. So. Fucking. Cliquey.

I know, I know. I'll let it drop. But I had to update with this info. Why should CC be the only one to laugh at me??

See?  I've already covered what most people are thinking.