Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The 2012 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler: 51:57

One of the most competitive races I have ever run in is the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  The field is loaded with top World Class Athletes and Americans all competing for prize money.  In addition, all the top VA, MD, DC runners compete for top local.  Awards are 25 deep(although not all top 25 get money), which is the deepest award structure I can recall in any race.  I have never made the top 25 in this race.  Ever.  Until this past Sunday.

I woke up at 4:00 AM.  On my own.  I didn't even need my alarm clock.  I knew I was ready.  I could hardly fall asleep the night before, which usually is a good sign for me.  I think I got about 5 hours.  If I sleep like a baby for 8+ hours, I usually don't run very well for some reason.  I had one of my favorite cereals, quaker oatmeal squares, and a little bit of orange juice.  Later, when I was on metro, I would eat my favorite pre-race snack: 1 chocolate powerbar.  There is something about powerbars that sit well with me before racing, in addition to having me feel ready and energized.  I would sip on powerade up until the start.

I arrived at the Grosvenor Metro at 5:00 AM on the dot.  The train arrived around 5:10-5:15, and I was off to race in our nation's capitol.  There weren't many on the train and the whole ride was really ease of stress.  It was nice.  I got off metro center and took the blue line where there were more runners-still not packed and easy.  It was only 5:40 or so.  I arrived at the Elite Tent a little bit before 6:00, and there were only a few others there.  I did my usual stick massage to loosen up my muscles.  Some stretching.  Finally I saw familiar faces walking into the tent, GRC guys, and some of my own racing team members-Wendi and Peggy, who would start with the elite women.  Wendi and I chatted nervously before getting ready to warmup.  Teamates Matt, Andrew and DJ also arrived ready to race.  I got in a 20 minute warm up and felt nice and loose.
The race announcer called the elite women to the starting area.  They were off at 7:20, and soon we would start at 7:30.  I put on my Wave Universe 4s and headed over.  The Line was PACKED.  I did a stride out and saw several people wishing me luck.  The start of this race is always pretty nerve-racking.  The more competitive the race, the higher the nerves.  Still,  I made sure to take a deep breath and get myself in "my zone."  I got ready to toe the line with the elites and all of a sudden the race announcer said step up to the line...and very quickly sblew the horn almost without me even realizing it.
My body jolted to life as the gun went off and put myself immediately in the top 15.  There was a lead pack already beginning to break away which was of about 10 people.  I stayed behind and looked around for others to join me.  Certainly there were.  GRC's eventual top finisher, David Burnham pulled up next to me along with other GRC runners Paul and Jerry.  Pacers runner Frank Devar pulled in front of our forming pack.  We rolled together across the Arlington Bridge and I split 5:03 the first mile.  We stormed across the bridge like our lives depended on it and ran around already seeing the lead runners forming a gap.  Mile 2 we hit around 10:07.  I then passed Paul and Jerry with Burnham and DeVar leading the way along with Darryl Brown(PA), and Jay Luna(Colorado).  People cheered like crazy on the Arlington Bridge.  People cheered for me, cheered for others behind me.  Others who were chasing me.  We made our way towards the Kennedy Center.

As we made our way towards the U-TURN under the Kennedy Center, we saw on the opposite side the lead African runners FLYING.  We made the U-TURN-I hate UTURNS.  The faster I get, the more I hate them.  For some reason I like to slow down so that I can make the turn as close as possible-other guys I noticed ran furthur out and only ran slightly slower and used their momentum to sling shot around.  I couldn't tell which would be better.  But it does suck slowing up around the turn and then trying to pick up your turnover again.  I just like to run the tangents as close as I can.  We made our way to the 3 mile split in 15:10.  It was kind of odd as I saw on the opposite side GRC runners Klim and Dusen, who I've never beaten ever.  Usually I was used to the direct opposite.  I knew they were going to give it their all to run me and anyone else down though.  I pressed on and hit 5k in 15:40s.

It occurred to me that i had never been that far up in this race before.  Someone counted our places as we ran by...13..14...15.  Shit, I was in the top 15!  Mile 4 was another daned U-TURN.  This U-TURN was an absolute killer...1 u-turn in a race is ok...2 is too much.  I again put the brakes on like a mad driver and then sped up again using full acceleration.  Then a runner pulled up beside me.  A runner who I DEFINITELY have never beaten before.  It was Jake Klim's arch-nemesis top Pacers runner Bert Rodriguez(pictured below in blue).  He was behind me??  This guy was a stud.  He and Jake had run sub 51 on this course in an epic race in 2010.  Come on Chris, stay with him, you can stay with him.  They can't hurt you unless you let them.  Then I saw Beth cheering so loudly for me right around mile 5.  I immediately fell in love with her all over again.  She has come to so many of my races, and has been there for me when I've had to deal with some of the toughest points in my running career.   I hung on with Bert as we closed in on mile 5 in 25:32.  But the race was far from over.   Crowds cheered and I saw so many people cheering and calling my name.  I saw Pat Savoy a runner who I coach going nuts on the opposite side and jumping up and down on the grass yelling my name.  I threw him a smile-it was all I could do.        
We made the turn onto Ohio Drive towards the toughest part of the race- Hains Point.  I hit the 10K mark in 31:45 or something around there. That's my 2nd fastest 10K EVER.  I still saw Burnham not too far ahead.  Stay focused on Burnham.  I tried to stay in contact with Rodriguez.  I fought hard and stayed tough.  But he was really starting to hammer.  I was losing.  I was no match for the veteran.
By Mile 7 I had lost ground on Bert, and saw him begin taking down Burnham, which he would eventually pass as well.  Still, I kept my head tough and stayed in it.  Don't back out.  Keep pressing.  Then fellow friend Brian Flynn came up alongside of me.  He encouraged me and I did the best I could to stay with him.  We made the turn around the point and hit mile 8.  I saw Jean Arthur(mcrrc's president) cheering for me.  By now, I was in pain.  Lots and lots of pain.  This is probably the hardest part-you still have 2 to go and you just gotta say to yourself "get to mile 9."  I knew if I could just get there, I would be alright.  Then Karl Dusen pulled up next to me and I gave him encouragement and so did he.  He was closing nicely.  He always does.  I tried to key off of him as he moved up with Burham and Flynn.  Not much more left...

Mile 9 I hit in around 46:40, which I knew I would be able to run high 51s at that point as long as I gave it a good go the last mile.  My PR for an open 10 is 52:54 from last year's race, so I was running considerably faster.  I had split faster though in my recent half marathons-but I really shouldn't count splits.  52:54 was my previous best time.  Sub 52 would be a new zone.

I clawed like hell to kick it in.  I could hear crowds roaring loudly as I ran underneath the bridge towards the final half mile.  This was the test.  The "hill" at the end can really get you.  I pushed and pushed and had the gag reflex once, but that always happens in my best races-it lets me know I'm pushing to the MAX.  This was all out.  I had nothing left.  It was all will.  I heard people on the other side cheering for me but it was all a blur.  I pushed and pushed up the hill, using my arms not my legs.  After all, what is the point of doing all those pushups if I can't get up this bloody hill?? FINALLY, I got over it, and ran towards the crowds at the finish line.  Ironically, I saw racing teamate Wendi finishing, who started with the elite women 10 minutes before.  Pretty awesome we ended up finishing at the same time.  People cheered really loudly GO =PR= GO =PR=! as we finished.  Wendi ended up running just over 62 minutes.  Peggy was PR's first woman in just ticks over 60 minutes. 

My final time was 51:57, an average of 5:11 per mile.  22nd place, my first top 25 finish ever.  I am extremely proud of myself and how I ran.  I couldn't have asked for more.  I went out aggressive but stayed tough and ran perhaps the hardest I've ever run.  This race was a good build-off of the half marathon 2 weeks ago and I am really excited for the Pikes Peek 10K on April 29.  I have plenty of time to recover and get in some sharp speed training in for that race.  I have also decided to book my ticket to the USA Half Marathon Championships in June.  Things are going great and I'm feeling awesome.

1      9 Allan Kiprono           22 Kenya                45:15(world leading time!)
2     11 Lani Kiplagat           23 Kenya                46:28
3     31 John Korir              36 Kenya                47:33
4     15 Ian Burrell             27 Tucson AZ            47:34
5     19 Jesse Cherry            24 Blowing Rock NC      47:40
6     37 Ketema Nugusse          31 Ethiopia             47:50
7     13 Josh Moen               29 Minneapolis MN       48:38
8     17 Patrick Rizzo           28 Boulder CO           49:14
9     41 Stephen Hallinan        26 Washington DC        50:18
10    345 Paolo Natali            31 Washington DC        50:44
11    346 David McCollam          32 Bridgeport WV        50:56
12    299 Frank Devar             23 Washington DC        50:57
13    112 Bert Rodriguez          32 Arlington VA         50:57
14    290 Chris Juarez            41 Alexandria VA        51:10
15    108 Darryl Brown            29 Exton PA             51:16
16    119 Jay Luna                28 Denver CO            51:17
 17    110 David Burnham           27 Arlington VA         51:23
 18    296 Karl Dusen              29 Rockville MD         51:27
 19    357 Brian Flynn             28 Bridgewater VA       51:29
 20    114 Carlos Renjifo          29 Columbia MD          51:43
 21    358 Dustin Meeker           30 Baltimore MD         51:53
 22    107 Christopher Sloane      28 Rockville MD         51:57
 23    116 Patrick Reaves          27 Durham NC            52:16
 24    111 Jake Klim               31 North Bethesda M     52:32
 25    298 Will Viviani            29 Alexandria VA        52:41

1 comment:

  1. Did they really include the equals sign when they yelled go =PR=?