PHOTO - Yuchen Nie
A few days ago, I received a text message from Bert Rodriguez, my once arch nemesis in all things life, but especially in running (in the DC-area). He asked if I was ready for Cherry Blossom. It was a simple question, which normally would have required a straightforward answer, but his inquiry made me think - was I ready? Yes, most certainly, I thought. In thinking about it more, I felt as if I was in my best 10-mile race shape since 2010. I'd put in some miles, not a ton, but more than I had in the last 2 years, I was running well in workouts, I was healthy and, because of all of that, I was feeling confident. But, there is always an act of randomness in racing - will you run well on race day? Will the stars align? Will you be tough enough to run through the pain? Time would tell.
On Monday, I ran an easy 9+ around Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. Apparently this 3.3-mile loop is a go-to for those who live in the area. I randomly bumped into Tim, who I had raced on Saturday. He was running the opposite direction, but I joined him for a few miles of slow running.
On Tuesday, I ran an easy 7 in Arcadia. I did my best to avoid hills, but hills here are unavoidable. Later in the day, I flew back to DC.
On Wednesday, now in taper mode, I ran an easy 7 in North Bethesda.
On Thursday morning I ran my standard pre-10 mile workout: 2 (or 2.5 miles) at race pace. Unfortunately, my GPS died and I was forced to run by feel on the Rock Creek Trail. In the end, I am confident I ran much slower than my intended pace (5:10s), but the effort was there, I suppose, as I had to negotiate around muddy puddles. 8.5 miles total.
I took Friday off in an effort to get extra rest.
On Saturday I ran an easy 30 minutes in preparation for the big race.
My goal going into Cherry Blossom was to run 5:10s, or 51:40, but possibly a little faster. Of course, if there was a pack of dudes running 5:07s, or whatever, I was going to go with them. I thought I could handle this pace for 8 miles, but holding it for 10 might be a different story.
The 2015 edition of the race would be my 7th Cherry Blossom:
2013 10M Klim Jake M 32 0:52:25 5:15 17/7215 M3034 3/1455 North Bethesda, MD
2012 10M Klim Jake M 31 0:52:32 5:16 24/7195 M3034 6/1490 North Bethesda, MD
2010 10M Klim Jake M 29 0:50:56 5:06 22/6910 M2529 9/1475 North Bethesda, MD
2011 Did not run - recovery from injury
2009 10M Klim Jake M 28 0:51:29 5:09 26/6652 M2529 14/1420 North Bethesda, MD
2008 10M Klim Jake M 27 0:52:37 5:16 23/5904 M2529 13/1150 North Bethesda, MD
2007 10M Klim Jake M 26 0:52:53 5:17 34/5217 M2529 11/919 North Bethesda, MD
At the end of my warm-up on race day, just before 7:00am, I heard an announcement over the PA system, which gave me pause: race officials were altering the course due to a "crime scene" that had occurred early in the morning near the Tidal Basin. The new course, which would be 9.5 miles, or so, meant times today were out the window. Although this news was unfortunate, I must say that the event organizers did an amazing job rolling with the punches.
PHOTO - Cheryl Hendry Young
I got a good start and found myself in Jerry Outlaw's wake. The pace felt quick, so I dialed it back a bit. By the time I hit mile 1 (5:08 on the GPS), packs were beginning to form. I found myself dueling, once again, with Howard County's Carlos Renjifo and Andrew Madison (see photo immediately above). Madison asked what my goal was. I told him. It seemed like we would all be working together. Charlie Ban was there, too. We hit mile 2 in 5:19, which was right on pace. As our pack worked its way towards the Watergate it was clear that I was hurting more than I should so early in the race. Although we weren't running too fast, I was laboring and my right glute was burning (like it did in last weekend's 5k). It was distracting, but hey, it's Cherry Blossom, so I suppressed it as best I could. I ran 5:11 and 5:12 for the next 2 miles, but I wasn't paying attention to splits at the time; I was just trying to hang on. Paul Balmer, Renjifo and a runner from CAR took command of the pack as we looped over to Hains Point. I heard Coach Jerry and Sam yelling at me to stay with the pack. By now, my legs were achy and negative thoughts were running through my head. I was doing my best to hold on to their coattails, but they pulled away ever so slowly. To add to the disaster unfolding before me, I now had a side stitch. A quick glance at the GPS indicated I was running mid-5:20 pace. I was dying a slow death on the Point. Part of me wanted to give up, but part of me wanted to keep fighting as team money was on the line. Madison came storming past me at mile 8 and a duo of PR guys, including masters superstar Philippe Rolly (photo below), came up on me at mile marker 9. I ran with them until we caught back up to Madison, but then the race was in its final strides and I was completely beat (see photo at top).
I finished 26th. Although as of Monday morning the actual race distance is still in question, it's clear I ran downright terrible. But, sometimes it takes a bad race to put things in perspective and sometimes you need a bad race to run a good race (I think? Or, at least, I hope). I still have two more races planned for the spring season, but, man, I really love Cherry Blossom and it pains me to no end to not race well here.
Later in the day I drank cold beers in the warm sun and did my best to forget about the race. Then I slept 10 hours. Onward.
PHOTO - Cheryl Hendry Young