Training Pays Off: 2018 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run Recap

My third race of the year is in the books! The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is the first race I ever ran. I was under prepared and it wasn’t pretty. Last year, I struggled to cross the finish line in 2:14 minutes, 6 minutes short of not being considered an official finisher. I left the race feeling defeated and knew I had two options moving forward. I could feel sorry for myself and give up. That was the easiest thing to do. Or I could accept the fact that I hadn’t trained enough and decide to work harder so I could do better next time. If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you know I chose the latter option and I’m glad I did. This year, I walked out of the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler with a sparkly medal AND a feeling I had rarely experienced post race. I was kinda proud of myself… 

My main problem with running was always more of a mental hurdle than a physical one. Ideally, I’d love to  turn off netflix, jump off the couch and run a marathon. Wouldn’t we all? But that’s not how it works. You’ve gotta couch to 5K to a turkey trot, train up to a 10K, actually run (that’s a big one), consistently (also big) and then run some more. You have to decide that running is important to you and prioritize it in your life accordingly. And that’s what I did. I started tagging along with some running groups, which was very difficult at first since I’m both a slow runner AND an introvert. I struggled to keep up for a while, to make small talk but then both got easier. I ran/walked the Disneyland Paris half marathon (recap here) and mostly ran the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in the fall (recap here). I applied to be a social media ambassador for the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. And I was selected! 

Being a social media ambassador came with some cool perks like skipping the lottery process altogether, new tennis shoes and most importantly for me the opportunity to participate in one of the Potomac River Running’s training programs and blog about the process (added accountability is not negligible!) I’ll dedicate a whole post soon to discuss the advantages of joining training groups or social running clubs, but for now I’ll just mention a few points quickly. First of all, it was great to be surrounded with people who were struggling a bit like me. Sure running with more experienced, faster runner forces you to push yourself a little bit more, but it can also be very discouraging to always feel like the slowest one. Sometime it’s just nice to be with people more at your level (or pace I guess). Second, this winter SUCKED. Let’s be honest, there were plenty of cold rainy Sunday morning when I would have stayed in bed instead of going out for a run if it hadn’t been for my training group. I know I wouldn’t have stuck with the long runs the way I did if it hadn’t been for the extra incentive and motivation the group provided. 

Rain or shine, though mostly rain, my Potomac River Running distance spring training group met every Sunday at 8AM in Georgetown

I stuck with the sunday long-runs, progressively increasing the mileage, Monday fun-runs with Pacers and cross training at Cyclebar NoMa. I ran the 17.75K “access granted” race (recap here) a few weeks before the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run and felt pretty good coming out of it. That race is a tiny bit longer than the 10 Miler and way more hill-y so it definitely gave me a nice confidence boost, especially since I still had three weeks to train. But then I strained a muscle in my upper thigh and had to stop training and exercising altogether. Whatever confidence I had was completely shattered. I even debated downgrading to the 5K. Ultimately, I decided to stick with the run after participating in a shake-out run organized by Garmin and The DC Run Crew at the Potomac River Running store in Chinatown. It didn’t feel great but I thought I could at least limp my way across the finish line a little under the 2:20 cut-off time. 

With that in mind, I decided I needed a plan to make it through the race, and that plan involved sticking with one of Gold Gym’s pace group for as long as I could, at an “easy” 11:30 that would still get me to finish the race in around 2 hours but wouldn’t be too strenuous. I still have a hard time pacing myself so I figured I’d let someone else do the work for me this time. On race day, my friend Caitlin and I walked over the starting area (the race starts and ends around the Washington Monument). We had brought old Icelandair airplane blankets to keep us warm while we waited in our respective corrals. Caitlin was red, of course, she’s a fast one. And I went over to the green corral to find the 11:30 pace group. 

I don’t know who the runner on the picture above is, but I stuck with him for 7.5 solid miles and that was a smart move for me. At mile one I wanted to die (I’ve always been a little over dramatic). At mile two my knee started to hurt and I considered stopping at the first medical tent and quitting the race. But then I realized I actually didn’t feel *that* bad and that I just needed to shut down my brain for a bit, which is actually quite hard when you’re not running with music, and focus on that neon yellow shirt in front of me, making sure I always kept it in my sights. I got into a pretty good grove. I was able to see my own pace and time thanks to my brand new Garmin (another perks of being a social media ambassador for the race) and started to realize that I could potentially finish the race in less than 1:54 (my fastest time on a ten mile course ever) and maybe even close to 1:50 if I picked up my pace a little bit, which I actually felt good enough to do. There were just two things standing in my way: 2.5 miles and the fact that I had to pee 😉

I had stopped at most water stop along the route. While it was freezing that morning, once we got moving it was actually a beautiful, sunny day and we got warmed up pretty fast. I knew I wanted to make a quick bathroom break but all the porter potties had super long lines. And then I spotted it behind the Batalá drummers: an actual real restroom operated by Parks Services. I figured there’d be at least 5-6 stalls and the line wasn’t coming out the door so I made a break for it. I lost a few minutes, of course, but I also lost the pace group at that point so I was on my own for the rest of the run. Looking at my splits (which is super easy with my Garmin!) I can see that I ran the last two miles at my fastest pace (10:35/mi and 10:12/mi) chasing for that elusive PR I keep hearing other runners talk about. Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it. I crossed the finish line at 1:55:35, a minute shy of a PR and 5 minutes past my initial race goal of 1:50. But it still felt great. I shaved off 19 minutes from my time last year despite dealing with quite a few setbacks. Of course I couldn’t help myself: what if I hadn’t stopped to go to the restroom? To say hi to Rachel when she was handing out water? To snap a photo of this awesome oh-so-DC sign?

Would have done better if I had been able to complete my training the way I wanted to in the final weeks? The answer is probably yes, but the truth is I’ll never know so I’m really trying to push those thoughts out of my head once and for all. I did well! I put in the work and it showed. For once, I feel good after a race! Well, mentally at least. My body is a whole different story 😉

CUCB Training Recap ~ About the past two weeks

So the last two weeks were very much a whirlwind and I skipped last week’s Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run recap… but I didn’t necessarily skip running. Actually, on Saturday March 10 I ran a pretty big 13.1 miles “training run” through the city 😉 I hadn’t planned on running the Washington, D.C. Rock’n’Roll half, but my friend Caitlin convinced me to enter the lottery for the New York half. When I didn’t get in, I kinda registered for the Rock’n’Roll half on a whim. It was actually not the best idea I ever had since my biggest professional event of the year, Access Intelligence’s Satellite conference, kicked off the next day but hey… I figured I would take it easy and just run it as opposed to race it, which is exactly what I did. So I finished in 2:41 minutes, 16 minutes faster than the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon I ran in September (the one where I wasted a ton of time waiting to get my picture taken with Mickey!) and 2 minutes faster than when I first ran the Rock’n’Roll half back in 2013. I hadn’t really trained at all back then, so it’s a little discouraging to be getting basically the exact same time now that I am running on a regular basis. At least I felt really good at the end of this race, unlike in 2013 when I remember not being able to walk properly for days 😉

As a result of running a half marathon, I drastically altered my training schedule that week: I ran 5K with pacers on Monday and I went to Cyclebar NoMa on Wednesday. That’s about all I did since you’re not supposed to exhaust yourself too much before a race. I could probably have squeezed in a little yoga here and there, but it was also a really busy week at work… 

The race itself went really well. It was a cold but sunny day in the District and once we got out of running on highways it was really fun to run through various neighbourhood including Columbia Heights and H Street. While I wasn’t “racing” I did want to keep my eye on a few benchmark times:

    • 10.3 km – 1h12 (as close to 10km as I could get)
    • 16.5 km – 1h58 (a ten miler is 16.09 km race)
    • 21.6 km – 2h41 (a half is 21.09 km)

At the 10 km mark, it’s good to note that I was a bit slower than during the St. Patrick’s Day 10K a few weeks ago, and even a bit slower than during the Marine Corps Marathon 10K back in November.

The next benchmark is a good indicator of how I might do at the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run I have been training for. It’s faster than the 2h13 it took me to complete the 10 miles last year but a bit slower than my time of 1h54 back in 2011. But given that I didn’t really push myself, it makes me feel ok about my goal to complete the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in 1h50 and the GW Parkway 10 Miler a few weeks later in 1h45. If I keep at a 7/km pace (I typically average between 6:30/km and 7:30/km based on the distance, my shape that day etc.) I could finish the race at 1h52 which wouldn’t be great but would be close enough to where I would like to be. 

My time at 21.6 km wasn’t what I wanted (I was shooting for 2h30) but it’s still the fastest I’ve ever ran a half marathon and it gives me a time to built upon for my next half marathon, the National Women’s Half Marathon on April 29th.  And the next one on  May 19th. And the next one on June 2nd 😉 

Last week was Satellite, a giant conference at the DC Convention center focusing on satellite-enabled communications and all the people that make that happen (like the company I work for, which launches satellites into orbit.) Between prepping for 7AM breakfasts, treating journalists to steak at Ruth’s Chris,  hosting a dinner for our customers and partners at the Phillips Gallery or just plain being on my feet all day I just did not have any workouts in me. My colleagues who are training for the Paris marathon in a few weeks managed to squeeze in some early morning jogs despite their jet lag and I wish I had joined them at least once but I was really just trying to make it through the week. Once the conference was done, I went back to Cyclebar on Saturday and made it on the first half of the board for the first time ever. I ranked 18/43 which, despite going to Cyclebar all the time, is actually really good for me. I guess I needed a good workout after the stress of the conference. The next day, I went back to my Potomac River Running Training Group and ran 13 km. It was a beautiful (but cold) sunny Sunday though I lost the group pretty early on somewhere in Virginia and, as usual, struggled to maintain my pace without the motivation of having to keep up with everyone else. But at least the view was quite gorgeous along the way!

I wish I could say that I’m looking forward to getting back into my workout routine this week, but I am running the Marine Corps Marathon’s 17.75K race on Saturday so I do have to take it easy a bit (and skip my training group run on Sunday!) That race is definitely more trail-y and hill-y than I am used to so I know it is going to be a challenge. But as they say, you’ve gotta earn that entrance granted access to the Marine Corps Marathon, it is not given. Wish me luck, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it next week!

Learning to Celebrate the Small Running Victories

Last week felt meh but this week was a good one so let’s dive right into it!

  • Monday: I went back to Pacers’ 5 miles group and while I was still the slowest runner, the run felt easier. Maybe it was the shoes! I ran on a loaned pair of On Running Cloud X and they felt great! I’m still in the market for a “good” pair of running shoes and love it when reps come and let us test out different pairs for runs. The Cloud X is definitely a contender, though I still want to try out a few more.
  • Tuesday: I went to Cyclebar in the morning.
  • Wednesday: Since I was invited to preview Drink Companys latest spring pop-up bar, honoring the city’s iconic cherry blossoms, I had kind of written off Wednesday as a potentially rest day. But in a move that rather surprised me, I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go for run! So I only had a few sips of some of the cocktails, took tons of pictures, and headed out for a solo run on the mall. I have really struggled with running outside of a group setting but this run felt good. I think that in addition to some me-time to clear my head of negative thoughts, a part of me was motivated to get in one last February run so I could add a few kilometers to my monthly “mileage” as well 😉 I wrapped up the month with 92 kilometers, which may not seem like a lot, and is short of the 100 km I was aiming for, but is still 3x more than what I ran back in January. I’m really trying to focus on that small victory and not the falling short part!
  • Thursday: I went to Cyclebar in the morning. Shane was back, though he was not wearing his fab Golden Girls cropped top this time…
  • Friday: Rest day! 
  • Saturday: I joined Elyse from the Pacers 14th street group for a special Biker Barre class benefiting Girls on the Run — DC, a fantastic running non-profit that helps young girls build confidence through accomplishment and encourages them to develop lifelong health and fitness habits. I thought the class was great and definitely want to incorporate more of that type of workout into my weekly routine (after Satellite though!). Afterwards, we headed to Summit to Soul and I dropped some major $ on this fabulous pair of eco-friendly disco camo leggings. They’re so comfortable and already my new favourite!
  • Sunday: Race day!! I skipped my usual training group long run to participate in my first race of 2018: Pacers’ St. Patrick’s Day 10K.  I was expecting the run to feel a lot easier than it did since I’ve been running at least 8 kilometers per run for a few weeks now and long runs of 10 to 11 kilometers. I finished in one hour and 7 minutes, just 2 minutes short of my time at the Marine Corps Marathon 10K back in October (race recap here). I’ll be honest, I felt a little defeated, like all I had to show for four months of running was two minutes. But as my friend Madalene  (check out her awesome blog Musings of Ms. X!) pointed out, that’s still a PR and I should still feel proud of myself.Easier said than done of course but I still have a few weeks before the Cherry Blossom 10 miler to train so I that can put myself in a position to feel good at the end of *that* race.

The next two weeks, though, are going to be tough. I think I already mentioned that I am running the Rock’n’Roll half marathon here in D.C. next weekend. This will mean missing my Sunday long run with my Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Potomac River Running Training program group. Instead, I will treat that run, for which I am grossly under prepared, as a training run. I should be running 8-9 miles as part of my training and that is what I will strive to do, walking the rest of needed (especially that incline in Rock Creek Park!) After that race, I am very unlikely to have any time as all to run or even go to Cyclebar. Satellite 2018 will pretty much suck up all of my time. But I’ll deal with that next week. For now, I’m mostly sticking with my usual routine with a few edits. I’ll be running with Pacers tonight and doing a fun run with Medstar Sports Medicine on Tuesday (you can still sign up here) followed by sessions on hydration during running, nutrition and other fun topics. Wednesday and Thursday will be cyclebar and then rest day before race day.

Do you have any tips for carving out time to work out when your work schedule is just absolutely nuts (during a big conference in my case…)? Send them my way please 😉 

 

Cherry Blossom Training Recap~Week 2

If it rains – we will get wet.
If it snows – we will get wet and cold.
Amy, =PR= Training Program Coach

I’m happy to report that we did not get wet this week, a marked improvement from last weekend’s training long run. And while I didn’t increase the number of kilometers I ran on Sunday, sticking with 7.5km, I did improve my pace so I am starting to see some small results. And it’s a good thing I did run a bit faster because otherwise, I would have gotten wet and cold as it started to snow slash pour rain just around the time I ended my run! Otherwise, my mini-goal this week was to run 4 times, as opposed to 3, and I’m happy to report I met my goal, though I didn’t quite meet my “mileage” goals 😦 Baby steps I guess. Here’s what I had planned to do last week and what I ended up doing:

  • Monday: the plan was to run 5K with Pacers and that’s exactly what I did. I thought I might be tired after my “long run” Sunday but I kept a pace of 6.18/km which is pretty good for me. 
  • Tuesday: I had planned to visit a friend’s new apartment at Navy Yard so I took care of my workout early with a morning Cyclebar NoMa class. 
  • Wednesday: Wednesdays are tough. My friends plan things. And I love attending Valerie’s Cyclebar class after work, but I also love running with the Hill Runners of Summit to Soul. Since they were doing a special No Buts Night Run in partnership with REI (REI donated $1 per person who pledge to and ran in the dark that night to the American Hiking Society in support of the National Trails System 50th Anniversary) I made it a point to join them for a run around the Capitol. It was a fun group that included 3 dogs too! Bonus.
  • Thursday: that wasn’t quite the plan, but Thursday ended up being my rest day. I had ballet tickets so I knew I had to either get my run in or go to Cyclebar that morning. I chose to do neither…. 
  • Friday:  Since I had missed it to see Star Wars last week, I was glad to be back at Haley’s Happiest of Hours class, especially since it was la chandeleur, a big French holiday that mostly involves eating crêpes and I was definitely planning on celebrating!
  • Saturday: that was supposed to be my rest day but I *had* to get in a run or I wouldn’t meet my four runs goal. I ended up struggling through 4km on the treadmill.
  • Sunday: I learned my lesson from last week and had a coconut-chocolate RX bar before heading out. That way I could think of other things beside “OMD I’m hungry” while running. Like “OMD why am I doing this when I could be watching the Sunday Talk Shows in the warmth of my home” or just “OMD why am I doing this.” I’m basically in between the intermediate runners and the beginners, so I spent most of the run by myself in between the groups and that was fine. It was fun to be able to compare my pace on the same distance from one week to the other, and while I plan to run more next week (aiming for a 10km or at least 6 miles), I think I’ll still track my time at the 7.5km mark just to see… 

Overall, I ran 21.6 kilometers last week, slightly better than last week’s 18 km but I know I’ve gotta start increasing my distances. My goal is to get closer to 30 kilometer this week, and still run four times. February was my deadline to move up to Pacers’ 5 mile run group, but it looks like it won’t happen this week since I’m actually not able to make it to my usual Pacers run due to work and other commitments. But I’ll still try to run five miles by myself at least once this week! Wish me luck!! 

As I mentioned, I’m training for #CUCB2018 as part of my involvement as one of the race’s social media ambassador. If you’re training for the race too and blogging about it, link up with us right here!!

Cherry Blossom Training Recap~Week 1

Last week, I officially kicked off my training for the Cherry Blossom 10 mile race, which is now a mere 10 weeks away (*insert panic emoji*). Aside from the cheer trickiness of trying to design a training plan for a 10 mile run when my brain still refuses to function in anything other than kilometers (Everyone else might be running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler but I’m running Les Seize Kilomètres des Cerisiers en Fleurs!), the first week went pretty well, culminating in my first “long run” with Potomac River Running Training Programs yesterday. 

Since I’ve been sick on-and-off since mid-December, I  decided to give my body the rest it seemed to need and took a 16 days break from running. The frigid temperatures didn’t help making want to get back out there any sooner! So last week I set a simple, realistic goal for myself: to slowly get myself back into running by doing three easy runs. Concretely, here is what my first week of training looked like:

  • Monday: ran 5.2 km with my Pacers‘ fun run group. My goal is still to move up to the 5 mile group in February (so next Monday).
  • Tuesday: ran 5.3 km with Pacers’ special Shake Shack Run. We all got to try the new Griddled Chick’n Club, which is probably not the best food to have after a run, but oh well 😉

  • Wednesday: I took Valerie’s class at Cyclebar NoMa. It’s one my favourite there, though Wednesdays get busy so I hadn’t been to her class since my birthday. 
  • Thursday/Friday: break! I normally would have taken Haley’s Happiest of Hour class at Cyclebar NoMa but I went to see Star Wars instead. I can’t believe I still hadn’t seen it!
  • Saturday: instead I took Haley’s Sounds from Y2K class at 11:30AM class on Saturday. The playlist was *awesome.*
  • Sunday: I met with Potomac River Running’s D.C. Credit Union Cherry Blossom/Spring Mid-Distance training group. I have *always* struggled with long runs (why run when you can walk?? Walking is SO fun!) so I’m really looking forward to this weekly group run even though I’m not that excited to have to wake up at 7AM every Sunday for the next 9 weeks… Goodbye social Saturday nights… it’s been nice knowing you. Yesterday, I had set myself a goal of running 8 km and made it to 7.5 km with some walking. I can make excuses (it was raining which sucked… I didn’t eat anything before running) but truth is I know I need to push myself harder next week.  

So, I ran a total of 18 km and went to Cyclebar twice last week. For week 2 of training for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, my “mini-goal” is up my number of outings to 4/week. I’ll be running 5 km with Pacers on Monday and Summit to Soul (part of the No Buts Night Run in Partnership with REI and Ragnar) on Wednesday. I’ll attempt to do 6-8 km on my own either Thursday or Friday (probably Friday morning though) before clocking in my last run, ideally an 8-10 km with my training group on Sunday. And I’m planning on going to Cyclebar NoMa Tuesday and Thursday mornings (or Friday evening instead of Thursday morning depending on when I end up doing that run.) Right now, it seems daunting, I’m not going to lie. I’m also trying to watch the State of the Union Tuesday, eat all the crêpes Friday (I’m french, I would NEVER miss celebrating la chandeleur!) AND see a ballet at the Kennedy Center Thursday. As I contemplate this schedule, I can’t help but think of #11 and #12 from this list of 12 hacks to become a better runner. I’ve got number one down (“Start slow”) but I’m having a harder time getting to “Don’t Overexert Yourself” and “Maintain an Overall Healthy Lifestyle.” Good thing I have NO intention of watching the Super Bowl (not even the half time show, not even the commercials!) because I might need all of Sunday afternoon to rest and recover! 

Nonetheless, this is my plan and I’m going to try and stick to it! Wish me luck and stay tuned for an update next week… if I survive 😉

ps: I’m participating in Potomac River Running’s Credit Union Cherry Blossom/Spring Mid-Distance training group as part of my commitment as one of the race’s social media ambassador and if you are planning on running the race on April 8 and think that you might need that extra little help to be ready for it, you can still sign up to participate too (more information here). They have groups meeting in Georgetown, Reston and Vienna. And if you didn’t get a bib for the race, you can still get one by signing up for one of the premium programs that comes with an entry to the 10 miler. 

 

I’m Running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler Again!

Thursday, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run will hold a reception at the National Building Museum to officially kick off the 2018 edition of DC’s iconic spring race. You might be thinking that December is a little early to kick-off a race that’s in April, but it’s actually the perfect timing. You definitely want to decide now if you want to try running this race since the lottery for entries opens Friday, December 1st (you can sign up to get an alert when the lottery opens here). Runners will have until December 11th to submit their application and the “winners” will be notified a few days later. 

Last year, I entered the lottery on a whim. I needed something positive and healthy to focus on at the time. And I got in… It actually wasn’t my first time running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. I’ve ran it three times already and have a 100% success rate at the lottery so far 😉

The first time I ran the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler was in 2010. My friend Caitlin and I actually thought we were signing up for a 10K. Oopsie. It was my very first race EVER and I ran it in 1:57 (11:43 pace). I ran it again the following year, just a tiny bit faster, in 1:54 (11:28 pace). And then I kinda stopped running. The truth is running is hard. You have to train consistently to see results and I simply wasn’t putting in the work so I struggled through races and felt disappointed and discouraged after crossing the finish line. But I decided that I wouldn’t take the easy way out and that I would get back into running. I entered the lottery. I got in. And ran my worst race ever. I finished the 10 miles in two hours and thirteen minutes,  a mere 7 minutes short of not being considered a finisher. What did I do wrong? There’s no easy way out, I didn’t put in the work again. I did all the cross training, I swam and took body pump classes regularly. But I didn’t run enough. I skipped all the long runs and you can’t expect to a good 10 miles when you can barely make it through 3 miles during training. So 2018 will be my redemption year. I’ve joined some running groups and I’m starting to enjoy the social aspect of running a lot more. I ran the Marine Corp Marathon 10K (race recap here) and a half marathon (race recap here). I’m still slow but my pace has improved. I can do this!

For additional accountability, though, I applied for a different kind of Cherry Blossom “lottery” this year. I sent in my application to be one of the ambassador for the race. I still have a 100% success rate at this lottery because I got in! I’m so excited to be running this race again on April 8, 2018 and I’m so excited that I get to take you along with me on this journey to *actually* set myself up to have a good race I can be proud of. One of the “perks” that comes with being one of the Social Media Ambassadors for the 46th Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run is joining the Cherry Blossom Spring Mid-Distance training offered by =PR= Training Programs. The training will start the weekend of January 27-28, 2018 (I’ll be training with the DC/Arlington group, but there are groups in Reston and Vienna too) with weekly group weekend run. Long runs! The kind I struggle with the most 😉 I’ll have a coach to help guide me through the process (and who will design a 10-week schedule for me based on my experience and goals for the races.) I can’t wait! If you think you could use some training as well, or if you want to tackle the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run as one of your first race, I highly recommend checking out =PR= Training Programs. Bonus: if you sign up for the premium program (details here) you are guaranteed a race bib so you don’t need to worry about your odds at the lottery…

I’m excited to kick off this new chapter on Thursday. Unfortunately, the kick off reception is no longer accepting rsvps but you can check out my blog Friday for a full recap, including the reveal of the official t-shirt design and colour (we’ll actually be voting on the colour during the reception!)