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.


  1. I'm not gonna lie, i was ready for the race to be canceled too. I had not idea about all those markings on Hains Point. Next time I run there (maybe next CUCB??) I'll pay more attention to them,

    1. Clearly you were moving so fast you couldn't see them Coco. ;) :P

  2. Great post, so fun, and so cool meeting you IRL at the pre-race dinner!!

    1. Hi Elizabeth! It was -fantastic- to meet you in person! I'm sorry the tables were a little forked that we couldn't chat more! Alas, we'll have to overshare from afar, haha. But next time, same table!