Is there any US location prettier in spring than the Washington DC Tidal Basin when the cherry blossoms bloom? I don’t think so. I fell in love with those pink petals some 16 years ago in Japan, so DC in April has been a long-time bucket list item. It never quite moved to reality until I started running and heard about this race.
When I entered the lottery for this race, I was a very different runner. I hadn’t run more than 10K. I had no idea if I could, or even if I wanted to run ten miles but the lure of the cherry blossoms was a strong one. By the time the notifications were sent out, I’d run 15K and knew I could cover the additional .7 miles. Notification was actually anticlimactic, I got a notification from AMEX that my card had been charged without being present an hour or so before I got the email. Oops! Although this run comes with a great training program beginning in January, I opted not to use it owing to recovery from the January Half Marathon and the plan to use this as a training run for Brooklyn. I began to question all of this in the corrals, but more on that later.
I got to DC early Friday afternoon and after a flying visit to the National Portrait Gallery (hi, Obama portraits!) I dropped off my bag at my hotel and headed to the National Building Museum for the Expo. What a stunning building and fascinating history. I was thrilled to read that it was designed by Montgomery Meigs, a key figure in my last DC trip when I was reading Robert Poole’s On Hallowed Ground about the establishment of Arlington. The Expo was enormous, but simultaneously less chaotic than Fort Lauderdale’s.
Bib and shirt pickup were easy and I subsequently meandered the floor to check out the vendors. One thing I’d struggled with packing for this “Runners’ Rite of Spring” was the weather. In fact, at one point the forecast was so bad an email from the race mentioned a possible cancellation. Yes, there was a good chance I’d have worse weather for this than the January Half Marathon! I packed tights and layers for on top, but I wasn’t confident in this so walked around to see if there were better options. I didn’t find any and decided to trust my gut. I was glad to subsequently read Deb Runs’ post and see that even way more experienced runners struggle with this for weird weather races.
I was going to head out when the announcer mentioned that Deena Kastor was still there signing her upcoming book. I was excited by that as I’d planned to go to her NYC signing, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to. As I was about to ask the announcer which booth Kastor was at, I turned to my right.
The line was short, and I decided to join it. Books weren’t available yet and I knew I’d have a copy waiting for me here, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get anything signed but was just happy to listen to her chat to others on line about the book and about Boston.
It turned out that what Kastor was offering were bookplates which could subsequently be affixed to a copy of the book. I found her very down to earth and loved the note. Such good advice.
Although I’ve been to DC three times in the last 5-6 years, it was in some ways my first racecation. When I go to Fort Lauderdale, I don’t sightsee beyond the hotel’s beach and pool. DC it was a real effort to try to curtail the sightseeing especially as the blossoms were out and Friday was the first good weather day in months. Saturday I was a little more organized and the only real sightseeing we did was the new African American Culture & History Museum before trying to ascertain where the start was. Although CUCB’s app is wonderful, their mapping leaves something to be desired especially due to the out of town runners this race draws.
Once I knew the Metro wasn’t going to be running Sunday morning, I made the decision to stay in DC instead of in Arlington, where I normally am. Being ~10-15m walk from the Mall was perfect as it meant the walk was a nice warmup on Sunday morning when Uber surge made that a no go. On the plus side, I mixed in some sightseeing as I wiggled around the White House. The Treasury is just such a stunning building and I found the White House paled in comparison.
Sunday morning dawned bright and cold as we got into the corrals between the Washington Monument and the African American Museum. The sunrise was nice, albeit not very warm. Tights, tee shirt, long sleeve tee, hat and gloves worked well and I was cold but not freezing at the start and not too warm on the course, although I ended up taking off the gloves. I realized when I thought about finding my pace group that because I hadn’t run the distance when I signed up for the lottery, they’d seeded me in the furthest back corral and the group I thought about joining was in the next one forward. I decided I’d just run and if I saw them, great.
Best thing about the corral was I had the chance to meet up with another Run the Year runner who was in town for the race. She’s the first RTY person I’ve met, and that was fun. There were a few others in town, but we weren’t able to connect. Having someone to chat to made the time go faster and it seemed pretty quickly that they were moving us to the start.
What a spectacular course!
I’d been warned that good times were hard at the start due to the large field, and that was definitely true as we completed the out and back toward Kennedy Center. The course was slightly altered due to the Memorial Bridge closure but other than a tunnel underpass near the Kennedy Center, there wasn’t an inch of this course that wasn’t gorgeous, even the final uphill. The first two miles were slow but then I found my space and settled into my zone.
I was really happy with the race I ran. I didn’t have a time goal, knowing about the crowded start and knowing I’d see blossoms and want to take photos. So I was thrilled to see a sub two hour time as that seemed like a good number, and passing more than I passed in the second half seems right. Like two weeks ago, no pain on a long run and I feel like the lingering knee issue is finally better. The miles went by quickly and although I was tired, I felt like I could have gone further (spoiler, I did. I subsequently walked 12 more miles!)
Yep, post race ham is mandatory as I wandered over to the staging grounds to get the medal before heading to meet a friend for breakfast. It was really too chilly to linger longer.
I was surprised at how cheap the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler is, at only $45. I opted to upgrade to the tech shirt and buy a medal. I like that they had ala carte options to keep the base cheaper and more accessible to all. I really loved the tech shirt (and that I needed to swap it for a smaller size!) and while I didn’t love it at first, the medal grew on me.
As someone who loves cherry blossoms, I’m so glad I got to experience DC at this time. Would I do this race again? Undecided. The race itself is cheap but DC is an expensive city with hotel rates especially so for cherry blossoms. Part of me thinks I’d rather spend the same amount (or less) to do a different race, maybe in a new to me location. I’m also intrigued by the Philly Hot Chocolate 15K, which is the same weekend and another great city. Decisions, decisions. So definite maybe, but through no fault of the race itself. It’s really well done and I can see why it’s so popular.
For others’ thoughts on the #CUCB2018, check the official LinkUp.
- recovery went well. I was slightly sore coming off the three-hour train ride that night, but that could have had as much to do with the subsequent walk all over DC as the run. I couldn’t believe I was up for that! More to come on that when I’m done editing photos. Took an Advil as I walked and then when I went to bed, but woke Monday 99% fine. I took Monday and Tuesday off running but went to the gym Monday to use their foam roller. I ran Wednesday short to shake out the legs and this morning outside for 3.5 fast (for me) miles and I’m good to go.
- When I went to Deena Kastor’s NYC book signing at Road Runners on Tuesday I saw the shirts for the SHAPE Half and they’re purple! I won’t lie, I love them and kind of wish I were running Sunday (although not now that I see the weather). But I know not running it on those hills was the smarter move as I train for Brooklyn (5/19). The plan is 10K this weekend, 15K the following two before a TBD as I’m away 5/6 when the taper should start. I’m still not familiar with the course, but I’m hoping to get below 2h40. I think the training will get me there.
- Why I’m doing a 10K Saturday is less post-race soreness and more because I did sign up for Damon Runyon again and that’s Sunday. While I don’t think it will be the hot mess last years was, the stairs are challenging and going into them with tired legs isn’t smart. I know the GPS won’t work at the indoor start so may do this one without a watch and just go with their timing again.
- Deena Kastor in New York was amazing, and I’m loving what I’ve read so far of her book. She claimed to remember me from the Expo and asked how my run went. That felt awesome. I’ll definitely review the book here when I’m done. I’m hoping she leads the Masters’ field on Monday, and I love that I’m excited about Boston. Although I don’t think she will, I’d love to see Shalane Flanagan win.
- I should hit 200 miles run on the year this year. I’m really pleased with that.
On to the next