2021 Cherry Blossom Race

After nearly 2 years of training, I finally was able to run the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 mile race on 12 Sept. Yeah, last year I ran a virtual race, but that was really no different than a training run. This year we finally had the COVID-19 vaccine and so the race was able to take place in person. It was worth it. 

I’m new to the sport, but in my conversations with others, it’s a well-worn trope that you have to wake up early for race day in order to be there on time to find you spot, line up, and wait for the race to begin. Since I had to make it all the way to Washington DC, I got up at 0445. When I did the 10k, I only had a handful of raisins before the race started. Since I was doing four more miles and waking up about 2.5 hours before the race, I decided to have 1 cup of cereal and milk. It turned out OK – I didn’t feel sick or throw up or have to stop mid-race to use the bathroom.

By the time I arrived at the parking garage and had my bib pinned, I had about an hour before it was time to get into the corral. RunCoach recommended running an easy mile before the race and I saw various people jogging around. I wasn’t 100% sure if that would be a good or bad thing (especially since I didn’t sleep well – I think it was anxiety for the race) so I split the difference and jogged from the parking garage to the race site. 

Once there it was just a waiting game to get into the Red Corral. It was interesting, for a race of this size and prestige (it was an official race with $25k in prize money for the top runners), people essentially entered the corral at the last minute. I got in there as soon as it opened so I got a front position as usual. As I did for the 10k race and my virtual race, I pre-programmed it into my Garmin as a workout so that I could monitor my pace throughout. 

Overall, I was able to keep a nice, steady pace – that made me proud. When I did the virtual race my mile times were all over the place. I was able to pick things up a bit for the last mile and I was able to sprint the last 400 meters to the finish line. Unlike the 10k, I didn’t feel like I was dying as I did that. I felt great and had a good time with the run. Also, when it comes to running, nothing beats that cheering crowd at the finish line.

Because this race had a lot of loops, it was interesting that we kept seeing the yellow group (the professional athletes and those with seeded times) throughout the race. There were definitely a few reds who caught up with them. I wonder why those folks weren’t given yellow bibs if they were that fast. Were the reds doing personal bests? Were those yellows who were lagging? Speaking of that, a few yellows definitely had a bad race since I saw a few result to walking – again, surprising since they were the elite group.

I was happy with my finish time (10 seconds faster, as I mentioned before) and VERY happy with my rankings! For my age group and gender I was in the top 20%. And overall 13%. It makes me proud that the training paid off.

Where do I go from here in running? Well, I didn’t feel exhausted at the end, so I have not hit the ceiling of my abilities yet. I felt more bushed when I did the virtual run last year. That said, to move up from my time of 1:14:38 (ten seconds faster than last year’s virtual race) just to 1:10:00 would require me to go 30 seconds faster on each mile – quite a feat. I’ll be running a 10 mile trail race this December and next year’s Cherry Blossom race in the spring (when it’s supposed to take place). Other than that I’m planning on training for at least a half marathon. Part of me would like to at least get one full marathon checked off my bucket list. But I do know that for my age/fitness level/etc that’ll definitely be a tough one. I didn’t feel exhausted after my run, but my right knee was hurting enough that I took some Ibuprofen when I got home.