Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Last Look at the Cherry Blossoms

When I looked out the window early on Sunday morning, I didn't much like what I saw. It was still dark, but the raindrops hitting the puddles below were a strong indication that it was going to be a long, cold, wet day.

This past Sunday was the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, which is one of DC's most popular races. It has become a favorite on my race schedule year after year--I think because it marked the "beginning" for me two years ago as a runner.

Although I had run cross country though out middle and high school and have been running marathons since 2000, the year I ran the Cherry Blossom race in 2006 was really a turning point for me in the sport. It was the first I had actually trained through the winter, and the first I had ever incorporated strength, conditioning, and speed into my routine. I went from running a 1:29 in 2005 to a 1:17 just 12 months later. I astounded even myself -- I had no idea I was even capable of it until it actually happened. And it is amazing what happens when you figure out what you're capable of.

This year, however, was no 2006. For one, it wasn't warm and sunny. It was cold and rainy. And a little windy, too. The course was new and consisted of a whole bunch of out-and-backs that started to make me dizzy. But, as it turned out, that was the least of my problems.

I was fortunate enough to run with Josh, one of my Race with Purpose teammates, who is super fast, but super injured right now, hence the reason he chose to hang with me. I had wanted to see if we could stick to about a 7:45 pace, but my legs had an entirely different plan in store. From the start, they just felt heavy and tired. I had no gusto--it was a chore to keep turning them over, mile after mile. I knew pretty soon into the race that it wasn't going to be my day, so my goal was to just turn it into a tempo run and get a good workout in if nothing else...maybe try to at least run a negative split.

Josh was excellent company throughout the race and I felt bad that although the pace was a walk in the park for him, I wasn't really holding up my end of the conversation. Heavy legs plus no coffee turns me into a lame running partner, I admit.

With about a half mile to go, Josh took off. He tried to get me to go with him, but being the stubborn witch I am (sometimes), I declined for about 2 minutes and he wisely went on without me. The rain started really coming down just as we crossed the finish line, so we hurried to brunch as quickly as we could.

Somehow in the process, I lost my coveted Nike running gloves which totally bummed me out at first, but then I realized that I have never run a good race with them, so I decided they were bad luck anyway. Yes, runners are oddly superstitious. Besides, my friend Michelle brought me a new pair of Asics gloves straight from Japan -- they are like the Five Borough gloves they give out at the New York City Marathon (of which I have multiple pairs), but they have the names of Japanese towns on the fingers instead. They are my new lucky gloves, for sure, not only because they are so very cool, but because they are from Michelle, who has always been and continues to be my running hero (injured or healthy, happy or sad, running or swimming, racing or spectating -- it doesn't matter, because she rocks :-)).

So, my splits turned out like this:

Mile 1 - 8:35
Mile 2 - 8:04
Mile 3 - 7:52
Mile 4 - 7:51
Mile 5 - 7:59
Mile 6 - 7:57
Mile 7 - 8:06
Mile 8 - 8:03
Mile 9 - 7:44
Mile 10-8:03
Finish time: 1:20

Not my best performance by a long shot, but good incentive to take a look at the training plan and figure out why it's not working. Regardless, I had a great weekend with a fun group of friends, so thanks to Michelle, Sonia, Ben, Suzanne, Christine, Josh, and Bill for making the trip down here. Maybe wine and ice cream wasn't the best pre-race meal on Saturday night, but it sure tasted good.

That's it for the Cherry Blossoms this year. Here's hoping that next year brings warmer, drier weather...and a fresher pair of legs.

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