As a result of winning this contest, my travel, hotel accommodations, and race bib were sponsored by Cabot Creamery Cooperative.
Hi friends! As many of you know, this weekend, myself and a friend were sponsored by Cabot to participate in the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in our nation’s capitol. What an exciting experience and opportunity to have had. Doing a D.C. race has been a bucket list item of mine for a while now, with this one specifically on that list! I had heard from friends and other bloggers how pretty, flat, and fun the course is so it’s safe to say I was pumped when I found out I was able to snag a bib to a race that is so popular entry is awarded through a lottery. My running buddy Mary and I were flown in for the weekend early Friday, so I’ll recap our non-race adventures in a second post later this week.
Our race related obligations started out with the race expo. Mary and I both agreed to avoid major crowds, we’d hit up the expo as soon as it started Friday. It was a great plan because at 3:30 Friday afternoon, crowds were already starting to build. We got our bibs and our Cabot cheese race shirts and wandered around for a bit before heading out.
Saturday evening, Mary, myself, and the rest of team #CabotFit (thrown together by Anne) all met up at the VIP / Elite dinner for the race. How cool is that?! Running has always been more of a recreational sport for me so getting to attend an event like this was definitely surreal. We were surrounded by elite runners and members of the race committee and even had a chance to meet marathon superstar Meb Keflezighi. The meal itself was delicious–by far one of the best hotel buffets I’ve evert eaten. I obviously had to try a taste of everything, dessert included! Had to fuel for the race, obviously.
At the VIP race dinner, we learned there would be some pretty important changes for race day. The D.C. area weather predictions included strong winds, upwards of 30mph. This resulted in the race committee removing all signage from the course, and tents from the start and finish. We were strongly encouraged to finish the race and head out. No more post race party. While all of this, plus the less than ideal weather conditions, were definitely a bummer, I was still excited and ready for this race. The “safety first” mindset the race committee took in handling the wind predictions was definitely appreciated!
When we arrived bright and early to the race Sunday morning it was freezing. Those winds really made a mild forecast of 37 F feel much colder. Thanks to Cabot, we got to hang out in the elite runner tent before the race. This was absolutely incredible. We had access to our own private porta potties (no lines! score!) and were stretching right next to all the elite runners, Meb included. Around 7:00, we started to head out to the race corrals to get ready to run. It windy and cold, but I was ready.
As the race kicked off, I decided that instead of making a conscious effort to really push pace, I’d start out fast, but comfortable. With the winds blowing pretty aggressively, I wanted to be conservative to avoid potential injury since I still have the Kentucky Derby Marathon later this month. At the same time, the competitive person inside of me was still seeking redemption from the unpleasant race experience I had at the Heart Mini Half Marathon last month. So, I went of feel, and kept a close eye on my watch. I started out feeling good and the first mile was done at about an 8:30 pace. Awesome! That was encouraging because that was just around the pace I had originally set my mind on running. After that first mile, I decided it would be my goal to finish in 1:25 or less. I was ready for some Heart Mini Half redemption! I kept running based off feel and my pace did not slow–8:30 seemed to be the comfort zone I found.
As we got closer to the 3rd and 4th miles of the race, the wind really picked up. The whole course is along the water so there were definitely parts I expected to feel the wind pick up but I had never run through anything quite like this before. It was definitely a challenge to keep the pace up and make sure my hat didn’t fly away. My pace slowed down a little here, but not by much. Thankfully, my training group ran a super cold and windy / snowy run back in February which more than prepared me for this part of the race. I conquered these miles and kept going.
My pace stayed pretty steady and I was feeling good. I kept up with the “go by feel” attitude and knew that I would be able to save up some energy to really push it at the end. The more miles I ran, the more I realized running a 1:25 10 miler was incredibly realistic. I eventually caught up with a fellow #CabotFit runner around mile 7 and that was when I decided to pick up the pace a bit. I felt good and had a ton of energy left in me so I was ready to prove to myself I had some speed left in my legs. My last 3 miles of the race were completed at about an 8:00 pace and according to my watch, I was fluctuating between 7:50 – 8:00 paces the entire last 3 miles (depending on where the wind picked up). Since there was no signage whatsoever on the course, it took me a minute to realize I was about to cross the finish. I looked at my watch and realized that I was about to cut it pretty close to my 1:25 goal time so I kicked it into high gear as I crossed the finish. Guess what guys, I did it! Official race time was 1:25:00 on the nose. Couldn’t have timed it any better. Redemption was definitely earned!
As I wandered through the finish area in search of nourishment, warmth and water, I tried to figure out what I did so differently that made running that pace feel so easy. It wasn’t until talking to Mary (who also crushed this race, go Mary!) that I realized why. This race was completely flat. There was a hill at the end which I barely noticed and I have to thank Queen City Running Club for that. We train on some pretty brutal hills so my legs were refreshed and ready to run quick on a flatter course. Finishing this race was not only redemption, but left me in a good headspace going into this upcoming marathon. I’ve been aiming for sub-4 for a long time now and after yesterday, it finally seems like a realistic goal. Couldn’t be more motivated or excited to see how the marathon goes.
Obviously, no race is truly complete without some post-race victory photos and rehashing how it went with other runners. After taking some photos in the cold and chatting with all the team #CabotFit ladies, it was time to head back to the hotel for a much deserved cup of hot coffee and a shower.
Also, WAY TO GO to all the ladies who PR’d yesterday. Clearly we all crushed it 🙂 And thanks again to Anne for providing me and Mary with the opportunity to race on team #CabotFit. We had an absolute blast.