Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Tale of Two 10 Milers

After two marathon weekends in a row, it was nice to have two 10 miler weekends. My first two Sundays in April were spent running the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run and the George Washington Parkway Classic 10 Miler.

On April 6th, both Scot and I ran the Cherry Blossom. It was Scot’s first time running one of his new hometown’s iconic races. I had run it several times in past years and always enjoyed it (here's my race report from 2012). To get to the race, we parked at the Courthouse Metro in Arlington and rode the train to Smithsonian station, which was super crowded, as that’s the station most people used to get to the starting line near the Washington Monument. We bumped into fellow Marathon Maniac Charli and her husband Coco and got a few pre-race pics. We didn’t see anyone else we knew before the start.

Charli, Coco, Me and Scot before the Cherry Blossom

The Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin
It was a chilly morning, but that was OK. Better slightly chilly than too hot. I was happy that I had worn long sleeves. The sun was out, but unfortunately, most of the cherry blossoms were not yet out. Peak blossom days would come later in the week. Still, there were some random trees in bloom, and the course took us on a scenic journey through Washington DC. Those who don’t like crowded races won’t like this one, which had over 17,000 finishers. But if you go into it with the expectation of lots of runners, many of whom you may need to maneuver around, then it can be a good experience.

Drummers we saw twice on the Cherry Blossom course

This Cherry Blossom runner was from Fukushima, Japan - a place I've visited!

Beer and Oreos on Hains Point…who could say no to that?

During the last little uphill climb to the finish, I saw Shirlington Running Club friends Pam and Megan, who had come out to spectate. It was nice to see friendly faces and I stopped for hugs before pushing through to the finish line. The ladies told me they had already seen Scot come through, and it took me a while to find him in the finish area. Shortly after we were reunited, we found our friend Lori. After taking some time to get some finish pictures, we said goodbye to Lori, who was meeting up with other friends to drive back to the Hampton Roads area. Scot and I took the Metro back to our car and went to California Tortilla for some post-race burritos.

Cherry Blossom finishers: Lori, Scot, Sandy

On April 13th, I got up early for the Parkway Classic 10 Miler, which was celebrating its 30th year. I parked in Old Town Alexandria and took the race shuttle to the starting line at Mount Vernon. We would run north up the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a scenic road along the Potomac River, and finish the race back in Old Town at Oronoco Bay Park.

I knew a few people running this one, but Gary was the only one I saw at the start. I met one of his newer running buddies Mel, and she and I would leapfrog each other for most of the course. There were some gentle rolling hills on the parkway, but overall the course was a net downhill.

The gate to Mount Vernon (we couldn't see the house from the start)

This day was warmer than the previous Sunday, and maybe a little too warm. It was great to start, but with the bright sun and the climbing temperatures (I think the high was around 80 that day), I got a little hot toward the end of the race. Still, it was a pretty day and I was happy to be out there running ONLY 10 miles! Yes, even though I’m on a quest to run marathons in all 50 states, I definitely enjoy the break of running a 10 miler or a half marathon.

Runners running north on the parkway with the Potomac to their right

There was one last hill in Old Town just after mile 9, and it was a steep one. But after climbing that hill and turning a corner, the finish line was in sight. I was a few minutes slower in this race than I was in the Cherry Blossom, but I achieved my drop-dead goal of breaking 2 hours in both races. Given my recent slow marathon performances, I was happy with this. However, I later looked back at my times for these races the last time I ran them both. It was in 2006 and I was in better shape and running fast (for me). My times in 2006 were about 20 minutes faster for the 10 mile distances. So…I will have to do something about getting back to that level.

At the finish line, I was presented with my finisher medal, the first time this races has offered medals. The medal was a big “30” in honor of the 30th anniversary, and there was a spinner inside the zero that had an enameled Alexandria city scape. The after-party was awesome. While the temperature was a little warm toward the end of the race, it was perfect for a post-race party along the Potomac. The beer tent was stocked with none other than Alexandria’s own Port City Brewing Co. I enjoyed an Optimal Wit and part of a Monumental IPA after being reunited with Gary and some of his friends. Then I chose to stop off at Chipotle for a take-out burrito. Hmm…I seem to be creating a trend with these post-race burritos. They are great recovery foods as they contain protein, carbs and sodium, all things that the body needs to replenish after a distance race.

The finish area beer garden sponsored by Port City

GW Parkway finishers: Gary and Sandy

Close up of my medal with the Potomac in the background

Two weekends, two 10 milers, two burritos – and they were both local races! What a refreshing break from my marathon schedule. Next up is a weekend off of racing (my first weekend without a race since January), and then another marathon weekend which will earn me my 39th state.

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