Last weekend, I ran my first Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. This is a very popular race that uses a lottery system for entry. It’s a fairly inexpensive race, with a base entry option and options to upgrade the premium shirt, purchase a finisher medal, or purchase an enhanced finisher medal (which has your name and time added to it). I elected to upgrade my shirt and buy a standard race medal. All tolled, I paid under $80 for everything.
This race takes place during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC. If you don’t know anything about the Cherry Blossom Festival, it is a celebration of the blooming of the 3,000 cherry trees that were a gift from Japan in 1912. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries. The first festival was in 1927, and has grown over the years to include performances, artwork showings, a parade, music, cultural events, and of course, the races. The 10 Miler was founded in 1973. There’s also a 5K race and a half mile kid’s race.
I ran this race with my friend Randi and her husband Aaron. My friend Dawn was supposed to run this race with us, but ended up being scheduled to work and couldn’t go. Aaron took Dawn’s place instead. We got to our hotel in Greenbelt and dropped off our stuff before heading to the expo. The expo was held in the National Building Museum. I had never been there before, but it wasn’t very hard to find off the Metro. Once at the expo, we wandered our way around to bib pick up, then wound around to floor level to get our shirts. I’m glad I upgraded my shirt, as it was a bright neon pink! (Despite the title of my blog… pink is my favorite color!)
We browsed the expo a bit. I wanted to buy new shoes because they are often times discounted at race expos, but I couldn’t find my size. I headed over to a headband booth called Sparkly Soul. I wanted to buy a pink sparkle headband to wear in the race. At the RnR expo, I bought a green sparkle headband from Sweaty Bands. (I also have a purple one I got from Glam Bands at the Disney expo in 2012.) I decided on Sparkly Soul because of the design. They claim that since the headband has solid velvet lining all the way around (vs Glam Bands or Sweaty Bands brands, which has a piece of elastic in the back) I figured I’d give it a try. I would say.. it works as good as either of my other two. It is virtually impossible for me to wear normal elastic headbands.. they slide right off my head. Even Bondi Bands, which I sold a couple years ago as one of my fundraisers for TNT, will slide off if I don’t clip them on. My Glam band has built in hair clips on top.. but still slides up in the back. I find that the sparkle bands with the velvet lining have the best stay power.. although they do still slide up a little in the back. So, I’ll stick with this type, regardless of the brand.
I was browsing at a few apparel stands and found one with shirts on sale, I bought one tank top and one short sleeve, 2 for $25. I don’t have anything in these colors at home.. plus it’s fun to update the running wardrobe for Spring.
I also decided to sign up for two more races.. well three more actually: the Frederick Running Festival (5K and half marathon) and the Baltimore Running Festival (half). I was a little wary about Frederick, as I’m running Nike Women’s half the week before it.. but I got a small discount and a free shirt out of it. Frederick is also one leg of the King Crab Challenge, which includes the Baltimore 10 Miler in June and the Baltimore Running Festival in October. I LOVE the Baltimore Running Festival.. it’s probably my favorite next to Disney. I was already signed up for the Baltimore 10 Miler, so I really didn’t see doing only two of the three races for the challenge.. so I signed up. Randi said she would sign up to run with me.. so least I’ll have a friend. (And yes.. I know I’m crazy..)
After we left the expo, we headed to the National Mall and found ourselves in the Smithsonian Museum of American History and Technology. We saw exhibits on the History of the Military and ventured over to the First Lady’s dresses. Then we headed back to the metro to get back to Greenbelt. We hit up Chevy’s for dinner. It was my first time at that restaurant and I was rather impressed. I elected for tortilla soup, and two chicken tamales with black beans. Pretty darn good!
We headed back to the hotel and got ready for bed. Nothing too exciting.. but we were getting up at 5:30 to get ready for the race. My legs were really tired from all the walking.. and I was a little worried, but figured I’d just go slow and do what I could. My goal for this race was to just take it easy and enjoy the experience. I wanted to take it easy because running RnR took a lot out of me, and I had a bunch of races left to do this Spring. I can’t afford to go hard on all of them and hurt myself.
We were up and out around 6:15 am. We elected to not switch from the green line to the orange line on the metro… it was only one stop and I knew it would be packed with runners trying to switch trains. We walked a bit to the start, cutting it a little close time wise. As we were walking up the Mall towards the Washington Monument grounds, we could hear the National Anthem being sung. I still had to find bag check.. and I kinda needed to pee. Once we got over to the corrals, there was a huge mob of people. I had to fight my way through the crowds lined up for the start. I could see a big tent that was bag check across the field on the other side of the corrals.. but couldn’t find how to get there through. People were standing in between the fences making up the start area, and I couldn’t find a break in the fence. The elite runners were starting and the first corral was lining up to start. I managed to slip through the bars in the fence and ran over to bag check. After I checked my bag, they were calling the second corral forward. I was supposed to be in the third wave, but I noticed the line for the port-a-pots was pretty reasonable. I figured that there were still two more waves after mine, and it wasn’t worth running 10 miles and needing to pee. So I elected to use the bathroom. When I got out they were starting my wave. I jumped in line and headed forward with the heard. Not sure if I started with my wave or not, but I was starting and that’s all that mattered.
We headed out, past a few monuments, on our was to Memorial Bridge. it was a glorious day.. the best we’ve had in a long time. it really helps to have good weather during races.. keeps your spirits up and you really enjoy the moment.
While crossing the bridge, I spotted Randi as she passed back the other way. I was able to give her a cheer and a high 5! I’ve crossed this bridge in every race I’ve done in DC.. it’s a pretty neat feature.
We headed down Rock Creek Parkway.. again, this was a route I’ve done in several DC races, only for this one, we looped around and came back. I spotted Randi again as I passed the runners coming out of the turn around point. But I was too far away to yell or high five again, and she was in the zone! Our loop back brought us under Memorial Bridge and along the Potomac river. It was very scenic. Only thing was.. because it had been so cold recently, there were barely any trees with blossoms on them. The peak bloom was predicted for the week before the race, but very few trees had blooms. I was kind of disappointed.. especially for Randi and Aaron, as they had never been to the Cherry Blossom Festival before. I did manage to catch some pictures of a few trees though.
I took my GU around mile 5. I had bought a few flavors from Charm City Run on my way down, and decided to try the Salted Caramel flavor. It was heaven. Tasted like the real thing. I’m going to have to buy a whole box of that stuff.
We wound around East Basin Drive and got great views of the Jefferson Memorial. Usually the Tidal Basin is FULL of cherry blossoms.. but most the trees were bare. Took a quick selfie with Jefferson. There was a great African band playing us along. Once we crossed into East Potomac Park along Ohio Dr., you could see the airport across the water. Watching the airplanes come in and go out was REALLY cool. The park itself was very beautiful.. although I have to say this was probably the most boring stretch, because the scenery didn’t change much over the 4 miles.
As we exited the park towards East Basin Dr. and the finish, I saw a group of runners carrying the American flag.. it was pretty awesome. I saw the marina where rich people keep their yachts.. always cool to watch and wonder. At mile 9 I was feeling pretty done. I still had a little left.. but my knee and ankle was starting to hurt, and my legs were really tired.
Before I knew it, we were in the home stretch. I was surprised how fast the finish came up. Once we rounded the corner near the monument grounds, the streets were lined with huge amounts of cheering spectators. It was a great pick-me-up! I picked up speed and crossed the finish line in 1:44:12. 10 minutes behind my current PR.. but I really wasn’t disappointed. I knew I wanted to take it easy, and I did just that. I took a finish line selfie, grabbed my water and my Mylar blanket and headed to the food table. I grabbed a banana and got in line for my medal. I walked slowly over to bag check to grab my bag, and found myself a spot on a low wall to stretch and eat my banana. After about 10 minutes, I started making my way back to the meeting spot where Randi and Aaron were waiting.
It was such a beautiful day on the Mall. I had traded my shoes for some flip-flops and enjoyed the sunshine on my walk back. I met up with Randi and Aaron, who finished before me, and made our way back to the metro. We took quick showers and checked out of the hotel. We found an IHOP for lunch where I gleefully ate my Blueberry Harvest pancakes.
I would definitely do this race over given the chance. I would just hope next time, the trees would have more blooms. The course was pretty flat (could be why my knee/ankle started hurting) I also had a hard time getting to bag check, but had I gotten there earlier, I probably wouldn’t have a problem. All and all a great race a beautiful day. I have more pictures posted up on my Facebook page, check them out if you like!