Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cherry Blossom 10 Mile 2014

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photo by Linda McMillen (Lauren's mom)

2014 marks the third time I have run the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in DC. It's actually the USATF 10 mile championships as well, so that just goes to show what a great course it is! (here's my post from last year)

I headed to the race with Lauren and Amanda bright and early on Sunday morning. Because the Cherry Blossom runs in West Potomac Park and Haines Point, I have figured out that if you head in early enough, it's best to drive and park heading toward 66 on either Constitution or a block off, across from the Washington Monument. So that's what we did! We literally drove in early and just hung out in the car for an hour. If the weather had been nicer, I'm sure we would have headed to the race area, but staying in the warm car worked!

My ten mile PR (1:22:10) is from the 2012 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, so I kind of thought that I might be able to PR before we went over to the starting corral. But when Lauren said she wanted to try to run with me, I figured it might be better for me to just try to go just under my half marathon pace and aim for around a 1:25. I told Lauren "this will hurt, just keep up" and we headed off.

I took us out fast, which is my race strategy and probably why I have been so consistent with my 5ks recently. I have learned that if I can push the first 5k (of a 10 mile or half) to under 25:30 (recently the magic number has been 25:05), no matter where I am with my training, it gives me the mental edge to keep going. I know that if I am right around 8 minute miles at the beginning, I can do a couple of 9 minute miles and still pace around 8:45 for a half marathon. It's not a strategy that works for everyone, but for me, I like the mind game thinking "I have time in the bank" when I see a slow mile pass by because maybe an extra water break, a large hill, or just fatigue. I am totally used to this type of race strategy, but since this was Lauren's first race, I think the pace loading at the front caught her a little off guard.

Mile 4 is where we split off, since she was more comfortable running longer at a slower pace than keeping up with my sprint/quick recovery run/walk plan. Which, in hindsight totally makes sense. She was a distance swimmer, while I was a sprinter! Of course we would need to race differently in a long road race!

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Me, Lauren, and Amanda by the car and at the starting area

I tried to stick to a 2 min run / 30 second walk plan, but I was fighting fatigue, a twinge in my left ankle (the one I hurt in 2012), and some tightness in my right arch, so I changed my interval in 15 second increments about every mile starting around the 10 k. I finished in 1:23:55, 8:23/mile pace and only 29 seconds off from last year and 1:45 off from my PR. I have to say that even though I ran well and had a great race, I was a little bummed that I didn't beat last years time. Until I looked at my splits and realized that aside from the 9:22 mile 4, I paced close to 8:15 for all the other miles! AND since I have a half this weekend, if I think of this 10 miler as my race pace rehearsal run, instead of goal race (which it really wasn't, since I ran long the weekend before and even ran and walked the day before), then it almost gets me excited about running a fourth best time in the 10 mile! It is also a good motivator to kick it in to gear and work harder. I have been resting on my laurels for far too long - as I have talked about here and here.

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My finisher selfie and the time on my watch at the finish - only 3 seconds off my official time!

I can't even tell you how proud I am of Lauren for running her first "big girl" race! She came in at 1:28:38, so taking her out super fast didn't seem to hurt her too much after all! Her mom actually met us at the finish line and snapped the cute pictures of us below. It is amazing when friends and family come and see you finish your big races! (Thanks Stephen! Even though I know you were really there for Heather, it's a nice consolation prize when we run the same races!)

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Amanda also had a great race with her friends Kara and Jill. I think she was really nervous about the three week turn around from the Rock'n'Roll USA Half Marathon, but everything worked out well! She and I have been talking a lot about the difference between injuries and soreness, when it's time to push through or rest, and how to get the most out of running without getting injured. I'm sure it'll end up a blog post some day soon!

All in all, the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler is a race that keeps getting better every year that I run it. I highly suggest it if you're local, but I'm not sure it would be something I that I would travel for! Also - the tech shirt was worth the upgrade price, as is the medal!

Here are our cute finisher photos with our medals and with the group!

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