Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2015

I wanted to write a recap about the Cherry Blossom 10 miler on Monday, before the week got away from me. You see how far I got. As I look back on the weekend, I can honestly say it’s been a while since I’ve had a weekend away with girlfriends that was so relaxing and so much fun!

We opted to ride the train to DC instead of driving, and found ourselves brainstorming about other possible trips throughout the year via train instead of driving by about the halfway point to DC. It is so much less stressful than sitting in DC traffic and finding parking and paying $35 a night to just park your car! Holy crap! That’s a tank of gas!

When we arrived at Union Station, I was literally in awe of the building. We couldn’t spend much time there though because we had to walk to the hotel and then on to the expo to get our bibs and goodies. We walked the mile to our hotel with  all our luggage, and soaked in the sunshine along the way. It was so nice to not have to sit in standstill traffic, to be honked at incessantly, or to be clenching the steering wheel in fear of getting hit or sideswiped. I felt so light, and stress free!

I was soaking in the sights as we walked. It’s been over a decade since I’ve been to DC, and it truly felt like city life with all the towering buildings, the lengths of sidewalk, and the rows and rows of cars parked and moving on the city streets. I know Virginia Beach is a city, but beach life is so different than DC. I have to say I prefer beach life any day!

We made our way to the Renaissance Hotel, the host hotel for the race, and the place we would be resting our heads. While the front desk service left plenty to be desired, the hotel itself and the rooms were fantastically designed. We dropped off our belongings, changed into running gear, and made our way to the expo, another half a mile or so away from the hotel.

The expo seemed to be fairly well organized, but was in a seriously tight space. I definitely felt squished and uncomfortable walking around looking at the various vendor booths. I was disappointed to find out that the Sparkly Soul booth was out of the Run DC cherry blossom headbands by the time we arrived at the expo on Saturday. They were super cute. We managed to find some really cute “stardust” sparkly headbands instead to wear to the race. We managed to get a picture taken in them and Sparkly Soul shared it online! Talk about making us feel like rockstars! Way to make up for not having the headbands we were after! I love my new stardust headband!

We finally left the expo after feeling too crowded, and went in search of food. We landed at a restaurant called Sixth Engine. Our burgers were amazing, but the service left much to be desired. (I’m seeing a theme here with customer service. If you work with people on a day-to-day basis, please be nice and use manners! It goes a long way.)

We headed back to the hotel to put our feet up and get some rest since we had been awake since 5am to catch the train. I felt a little restless, and left my two sorority sisters in the hotel room so I could go exploring. While I love traveling with sisters and friends, sometimes I need a little down time by myself to mellow out.  I took this time to wander the hotel and get a feel for what was inside. I also ventured outside to soak in the last of the daylight, and stumbled across a water fountain where two ducks were taking a bath and playing in the water. I truly soaked in some peaceful moments of quiet among the city sounds within that,  little square by the fountain. I refocused, felt less crowded, and headed back to the hotel, ready for rest.

Once I got back to the hotel, we opted to find a snack in the restaurant within the hotel. We opted for some sweet treats and then headed back upstairs to crash on the cozy beds in our room. I definitely fell asleep while the other two were watching tv and settling in for the night. Sleep hit me like a freight train. Sometimes the need for sleep shuts down other functions. My brain couldn’t handle any further conversation, and I was asleep as soon as my cheek pressed into the cool pillow on my bed.

At 5am, our alarms woke us to prepare for the race. We dressed in our chosen running gear, made and are our various breakfasts, and headed to the starting area near the monument. Since it had been such a long time since the last time I was in DC, I felt like a big kid as I marveled at the Monument and how close we were to the White House. We stopped to take pictures by the cherry blossom trees and the Monument. You could just feel the excitement in the air as we joined the other runners making their way to the dry bag checks. As we moved along, we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that the course would be slightly shortened due to an unforeseen accident which caused a crime scene within miles 4-6.  They weren’t sure how much of the course would be lost, but guesstimated about 1/2 a mile or so. The race director and staff quickly redirected the course, and announced we would be starting on time. I hugged my two sorority sisters and made my way to my assigned corral- blue. The race started on time, and each of the corrals were separated by about 3-4 minutes.

The announcer cheered on each corral, and we hooted and hollered as we crossed the starting line.  Knowing I was assigned to a corral based on my last 10 miler, I knew the group would be surging ahead at a faster pace than I wanted to be running. This race would serve as my last long run before the Blue Ridge Marathon on April 18th, and my plan was to run it at a 9:45 pace. As we started out, I went more by effort, than by pace, but continued to remind myself to not push too hard because I didn’t want to have tired legs for my upcoming marathon.

As we made our way along the route, I got excited about where we were heading and had my eyes wide open for each turn as we moved along the course since I was unfamiliar with it. As we moved along, I realized we were heading over a bridge, running a roundabout and then back over the bridge.  The view from the top of the bridge overlooking the roundabout was enthralling at the least.  It was incredible to see a group of runners, pursuing the goal of finishing another race, moving as one around the roundabout, and coming back over the bridge. It made my eyes well up as I watched this while I made my way towards my own trip around the roundabout.  Sometimes I am floored by the cameraderie in the running community, but it was evident as we ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. Some moments that stuck out to me as we  moved along the course were the volunteers and spectators smiling and cheering us on with some fantastic signs (Don’t Poop!), the number of runners who yelled various funny noises and words in the tunnels to make them echo, and the absolutely gorgeous cherry blossom trees that were in full bloom as we made our way around the tidal basin.  This race was quite an experience, and definitely one I want to remember.

The cherry blossom trees smelled delicious, and kept me in awe of Mother Nature’s artwork with each step. I think I could run that path daily if I lived in DC.  It is definitely a way to appreciate the season. As I got near the 8 mile sign, I knew that my Garmin would show a shorter distance in miles. I tried to guess at what mileage we would finish, as I often do during races, and found for some reason I was too distracted by my surroundings to focus on the math.  I let it go, and kept moving forward based on feel.  At one point, I looked down and realized I was hovering around 8:30…. Way too fast for my goal and last long run before the marathon.  I slowed up to close to where I needed to be, and just soaked in the sights and sang along with my music.  It makes a world of difference to be running less stressed. My body wasn’t tense or tight, and I had plenty of pick me up juice at the last half mile of the race. I realized that the last half mile had an incline, but my legs didn’t seem to mind. I crossed the finish line with my Garmin showing 9.52 miles in 1:30:45.  My overall pace was a 9:32, and I couldn’t have been happier with how I felt when I was done. What a phenomenal race! I waited anxiously for my two sorority sisters to finish, as they had started in different corrals than I did. While I waited for one of my sorority sisters from Lynchburg and her hubby found me at the race to come say hello! They had barely seen me fly past them to the finish line, and had hoped to come celebrate with me in the finishing area. They are so sweet! They brought goodies!

My other two sisters who had run the race eventually found us as well. They both  had successful races too! This was such a good weekend, and I am so glad I got to share it with sisters! Way to go CherryBlossom 10 miler planning team!!

Live. Love. Run. Passionately!

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