|2014 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run / USATF Championship|
USA 10 Mile Championships (Cherry Blossom) - 50:12 - 26th overall, 16th American.
[Also posted on Fast Running Blog]
I've had Cherry Blossom on the calendar since the day it was announced as this year's USATF 10 Mile Championship back in January. I have a lot of friends in DC and lived there for a summer, so I've been excited all winter about this trip. Andrea and I flew in Friday evening and spent Saturday relaxing and catching up with friends (and did the same all day Sunday after the race). It was a really fun weekend.
On race morning I got dropped off at the Lincoln Memorial and proceeded to warmup around the National Mall. I've run here many times, but its always a cool place to be early in the morning. The elite women started at 7:18, and then we were off 12 minutes later. The field was solid - plenty of high caliber African runners, plus the USA Championship field.
As you can see on the race video (starting ~17:00 for the guys, I'm still in there a few minutes later), I was able to latch to the very back of the main pack for a little over a mile, as the real elite runners were out at a somewhat conservative pace. The pace accelerated before we hit the Memorial Bridge and I knew it wasn't sustainable to be in the back of that group any longer. The two-mile split was 9:51 (plenty fast). I was already running solo - I recognized some of the guys up in front of me (Sean Brown, Ben Sathre - bibs with names on the back of our singlets was nice) but it would have taken a huge effort to close that gap. I tried to keep them in range and focus on maintaining a steady effort.
I came through 5K in 15:21 and 5 miles in 24:55, picking off a few guys during these miles.
The first half of the course has several 180 degree turns, but the out and backs make it an excellent course for spectators. Andrea was at 5-6 spots during the race with Curran and Baumann, the Merkels (on bikes) were all over the place, Luke (running the race) yelled for me during the out and backs, Big Cat Brett was prowling around in the trees, and the ElliptiGo team with Jeff Caron was out cheering as well. It was almost like a track meet during the first 10K - feedback and encouragement every quarter mile!
I was running well as we came through the halfway point and headed out for the loop in East Potomac Park. Miles 6-8 were 4:59, 4:57, 4:52. Sathre pulled away after 10K (30:57), but I passed a few guys before we got to Haines Point including Sergio Reyes, who was clearly having an off day.
I don't know what happened in the 9th mile (5:22!!!). We were running into a slight headwind at this point (look at the flags on the race video as I finished - 1:06:00 on the video - and yes I had to out-kick a girl - we caught a few of the elite women in the final miles), but I don't feel like I slowed down THAT much. I tried to maintain/close the gap to the guy ahead of me (Brown). It was definitely a shock to see that split. In hindsight, that mile was probably marked a bit long and the previous one was short. I came through 15K in ~46:45 and just like that, I was climbing the final hill and the race was over. Finished in 50:12 - 26th overall, 16th American. Five mile splits were 24:55 / 25:17 (yuck).
After the race I spent some time chatting with the other athletes and coaches (Hansons) - that is one of the best parts about championship races... these are the best athletes and coaches in the country - the ones you want to be competing against and interacting with. Andrea and I ran a cool down from the Washington Monument to the Capitol building and back... again, just a cool atmosphere and great location for a big race. And it's a BIG race (17,000 runners!).
I'll make a strong attempt to come back and run this again next year. Now that my parents will be living in the area, I'll be heading to the East coast for races instead of Arizona. Hopefully they'll be hosting the USA Champs again and I can do the Gate River / Cherry Blossom double. I shouldn't be thinking about 2015 race schedules yet, but I can't help myself sometimes.
Overall I'd say this was a good, but not great, performance. It was my best run of 2014 so far (season bests for 5K, 10K, and 15K en route), but I still feel like I should have broken 50 minutes. The good thing about this race is that it tells me exactly where I'm at... and that means probably aiming for 65:15-30 instead of 64:XX in Indianapolis next month (although things can change with another good month of training). I'm very glad I already made the decision to skip the spring marathon and keep my focus on the half through the end of June. I think that I'm definitely on the right trajectory (steadily improving) but it is going to take some more time (and laser focus on the little stuff) to achieve my goals this spring. I embrace that challenge.
Andrea took a bunch of great photos (scattered throughout this post and below).
Playing with Maggie the puppy and hanging in the sunshine took up the rest of the weekend...