Its spring and Cherry Blossom season in the DC area! Last week I got the opportunity to run around the Tidal Basin and Hains Point and view the cherry blossoms before the area was overtaken by tourists. Apparently, the cherry blossoms peaked two days ago and will be going through their blooming phase through April 7th. You wouldn’t know it by the cold weather we’ve had this week, but this is a sign that spring and warm weather will be here to stay very soon! Unfortunately, along with that comes the allergies everyone develops when moving to this area, but I have learned to cope with that.
Last weekend was my first race of the season, the National Half Marathon. This was the first High Cloud race on my schedule. My coach, Mackenzie Madison, told me to race the half hard and use this as a test to see where my training is at right now. Goal: 1 hour 35 min. I knew this would be a challenge but if I were to run this time, I’d be very happy with the way my training is going so far. I have to admit, last week I was feeling a little burnt out. Not just from training, but from being on the go all the time. I think this winter was more of an 'on season' instead of 'off season'. Don’t get me wrong, I love keeping busy with everything I’m involved with, but last week I just needed a few days to take a deep breath, relax a bit and spend some time with my DVR catching up on some Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds. Coach Mackenzie said use the rest of the week as a ‘recovery week’ (except the race of course) and that is just what I did. And, boy did that help!
Race morning was cold and in the 30’s when I woke up at 5:15 am. The race was an early 7 am start and the best way to get to the start at RFK Stadium, was driving. Metro opened its doors an hour early, but that didn’t help anyone at all when trains only run every 20 minutes and it was suggested to be at the race by 6:15. I got a ride from my good friend Kathryn and her boyfriend, Eric, who was running the full marathon (who by the way had a kick ass 2:50 time! Way to go Eric and not bad for ‘not really racing’!) Traffic in the city was horrible! We were afraid we were going to be late, so hopped out a mile from the start and jogged. Hey, I needed a good warm-up anyway so I didn’t mind. The bag drop and restrooms were inside so of course it was packed. There was no way I’d be able to get to the bathroom in time before the race. Luckily, I was ok to just start, but that’s always a risk when running hard. The High Cloud Dream Team got a quick picture together and then it was time to start.
It’s so fun to do a race right in your backyard. There were over 95 people from DC Tri and about 15 members from the Dream Team racing. I found a group of my friends at the start and we were off! Fellow DC Tri team member, Janie Hayes, had warned me to not start off too fast, that mile 4-7 were going to have a few hills, and once you get past that, it’s smooth sailing from there to the finish line. I took your advice Janie! I have a terrible habit of starting off too fast. I had my new Garmin 310xt to help me pace. Boy, am I glad I had that with me! I hardly saw any mile markers along the route and heard that complaint from a lot of runners after the race. Apparently, a lot of them were on the ground out of site.
I did start out at a good pace and then at mile 6.5 the 1:35 pacers came up on me. It was right in the middle of a hill so I had to push myself faster to keep up with them because I was not about to lose sight of those guys! I hung on to the back of them the rest of the race. They must have started off a little slower b/c at times my Garmin said we were running 6:40 pace. I heard someone ask the pacers how they know what pace they are going and the one guy said, “I just go by feel.” He didn’t even have a watch on! I made it known at that time were going 6:40 pace and they backed off a bit. Whew! We still had about three miles to go. I found my friends, Janie and Alejandro, and we pushed each other those last few miles. It helped a ton and I made my goal, 1:35:47! I didn’t feel totally wiped out either so was very pleased with how this race went. And, I finally ran a race with negative splits...that never happens! My Garmin actually said I ran 13.47 and that is 7:03 pace. I’ll take that! I can definitely tell the track and tempo workouts Mackenzie has been giving me are working. This ended up being a great day for racing! The cool weather felt great during the race, there were familiar faces out cheering all along the route and the race wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. Plus, many of my friends got PR’s! Dream Team member, Anna McGeehan, qualified for Boston her first marathon....simply amazing Anna! Our DC Tri President, Steve Carlson, and fellow DC Tri team member, Stephanie Ewert, were even riding their bike trainers half a mile from the finish while cheering people on. I’m just sad I missed them because I was 'in the zone'.
Next up, my 8th Cherry Blossom 10 miler this Sunday. My dad and I made a tradition of running this race every year from 2004 – 2009. Unfortunately, he was not able to make it out last year because of an emergency at home, and this year we decided to try a different race, the Broad Street Philly 10 miler in May. So, this year my mom came out to visit and will get see the cherry blossoms for the first time. I will be one of those ‘annoying tourists’ tomorrow looking at all the blossoms. ;) Can’t wait! I love this time of year in DC (alright, minus the crowds!)