Back in December, a large group of family and friends of all sorts applied to the Cherry Blossom race lottery on a group ticket, meaning all of us were in or none of us were. We named our team Blooms of Doom and luckily we all got a bib! That was four months ago, and I’d been looking forward to this race ever since. Normally I’m prone to post-race blues, but I’m so glad I get a chance to relive it through my little blog!
First I have to say that I had an incredible weekend in DC/Baltimore with my friends and family. I’m so blessed to have people around me that understand the balance between health and indulgence. Ryan and I flew into Baltimore and met with our friend Garrett there. We stayed with their friends and sang the night away in a little all-karaoke-all-the-time bar called Nevin’s in Federal Hill.
I woke up on Friday morning feeling just fine, but still in the mood to rest. We took our time getting to DC, and even then ran into some aggravating traffic and confusing roads, but when we finally found our hotel, we found that we’d been placed in a corner suite. Unexpected, but welcome!
That night, every bloom of doom went around the corner from the hotel to Continental Pool Lounge, a cool little happy hour bar/restaurant/adult arcade and ate dinner, played skeeball, and even met up with my college friends I haven’t seen in entirely too long. We stayed until closing time, and then Ryan and Garrett and I went back to the hotel with bottles of water, for which we were all grateful in the morning. Ryan has been spending some qt with his mandolin, and so the four of us (three humans and one mandolin) wrote an 8-minute long song that was mostly just inside jokes and giggles.
Saturday came and went with all of us treading the traditional tourist track and carb-loading before bed. I didn’t get much sleep this night before the race; I was nervous, and fell into the same old trap of getting angry at myself for doing things I know are bad for me, like staying out late the night before. Inwardly, I scolded myself and promised to do better next time until I fell asleep.
On race morning, I was easily up and out of bed. Garrett is a Chiropractor, so I very sheepishly asked him to adjust me, and he agreed.
“Are you sure?” I asked again.
“Is this a good idea?”
“Yes, it is.”
He was totally right. My neck and back made horrifically loud cracking noises, but afterwards it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I immediately felt ready to race.
After a few quick pictures in the hotel lobby and a short subway ride, we arrived at our stop. Looking towards the starting line, the bright white Washington Monument split the dark morning sky in half.
After getting separated from the group, I found Lindsay and Tim again (Ryan’s sister and future brother-in-law) and we decided to watch the elite runners start. Ryan would be among them, or so we thought – at bib pick-up he nearly had a panic attack when he realized his normal pace is actually quite fast. We assumed (correctly) that he’d moved back a wave and took our places in our corrals.
Lindsay and Tim were one corral ahead of me. I was in green, the second one from the last, which I was comfortable with at the time. I really didn’t think it mattered all that much – after all, if I just ran normally and trusted in my training, I’d finish the race in my goal time, right?
Wrong. It’s not typically my style to rain on someone’s parade, so if you have one of these:
And you wear it to a small 5k where nobody cares and everyone’s having fun, I say go for it – Heck, I’ll even wear your extra one. But if you find yourself in a corral filled with thousands of other running tutus, just buckle up and accept that you’re going to ride the slow train all the way to the finish line.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
MILES 1 – 3
We started shuffling to the start, and I thought we were going to get moving along fairly fast I heard the horn and started doing the traditional starting line hop-step – you know, when you’re excited and want to get running but there are too many people directly in front of your face so you have a wait a few minutes before actually running? One minute passed, and I was still hop-stepping. Then another, and then another, and slowly I realized that this sea of tutus would mean the ultimate demise of my (super secret) time goal.
I wove in and out when I could, asking myself occasionally if this meant I was going too fast and instantly correcting myself. I hated to do it, but I ran into the grass to pass several times just to avoid running on other’s heels.
Going over Memorial Bridge was lovely, and it was nice to see the runners on the other side both going across and coming back. The same was true for the run next to the Kennedy Center, but I think you can tell that I’m just reaching for positivity here. The truth is that these were the most maddening three miles in my short lifetime as a runner. So many tutus!
MILES 3 – 5
Still overcrowded, but the water stations were a nice chance to move to the outside and get away. We ran down the road where we’d seen the first wave fly by us. Now on the other side was a golf cart following behind for sweeps.
I nearly resigned myself to just laying back and shuffling along with the crowd, and I might have, had it not been for the water station at the end of mile 5. I avoided it and finally caught up to runners with mostly orange numbers, the wave ahead of me. I started thinking that I may have a chance to run a negative split after all and picked up the pace.
MILES 5 – 8
I felt much better after this. It was sort of disorientating to try and figure out a good pace at this point, but eventually I think I did, had fun passing people around the tidal basin, and inwardly cheered other runners on when they passed me.
Keep in mind, there were still far too many runners for me to have looked on it as a normal race. It was still badly overcrowded (and this coming from a girl who was shoved into Beijing subways daily) but it was nice to be around other runners who actually came to run. And here is where we got our first glimpse of Cherry Blossoms! They were beautiful!
MILES 8 – 10
Mile 8 felt like a breath of fresh air. I was glad that it was nearly over, and the crowds were still manageable. Normally, around the last few miles of a race, I actually slow down out of regret that this has to end. I mean, you spend months looking forward to it and training for it and then it’s suddenly over and you have your medal but you want to do it again. Not so with this race. I was ready for that finish line!
I had been reading about the infamous “hill at the end” and actually welcomed it with open feet when I saw I was approaching it, knowing the end was near. I had never been so thankful for the frighteningly steep but awesome hills by my house, which made this little thing look like a pothole. I was on top of it sooner than I thought I’d be and crossed the finish at 2:03.
My net time was 1:45, much slower than I’d wanted and just what I’d feared: the last bloom of doom to make it across. And I’ve got a ton of excuses, but I’ll save them for now and concentrate on the positive:
1.) My mom ran the 5k in 35 minutes!!! For those of you who don’t know her, this woman started running for the first time in her life at age 47 last summer and couldn’t run a quarter of a mile. Now she’s running 3! And fast! I’m so lucky to have such an marvelous role model…when I saw her on Sunday and she told me her time, she made me feel like I could do anything.
2.) Ryan had a great race too – his average was 6:50/mile! He’s so modest that I very often forget that he’s actually very good at this. Either that or it’s the moustache; that thing catches the wind and away he goes!
3.) The most important thing is to remember how blessed I am to have a healthy body, use it, and have loved ones around me who have the same values about wellness.
Seriously, it’s incredible to have running as something that brings both of our families and friends together. For that, I’d run through ten more miles of those stupid tutus.