April 3rd finally arrived. The Cherry Blossom 10-miler! I had been waiting for this race since watching it last year on a bicycle. And I had been really anticipating it since my failures at the Philly Distance Run and Veteran's Day. I wanted to prove I can indeed run longer distance races well and conquer Hain's Point. With a new coach who puts emphasis on racing and my new attitude toward races, it was time to do or die. My fitness was at a high level leading up into today and my training has been going really well. No full taper, but Todd felt this wasn't necessary.
The race started and I sought out Matias to pace the first mile together. He's a solid pacesetter and even if we went out faster than our planned 5:40, it wouldn't be bad. We did go faster, 5:32, but that is still conservative and sustainable. The next 2 miles were solid, 5:26 for both, and I tucked in behind the taller Karsten Brown, a solid racer and windshield. Mile 4 was placed on the wrong side of the Ohio Drive turnaround, so the times appeared a lot slower, but I didn't panic, and estimate a 5:20 split. Our group of Dave, Karsten, Matias, myself and a couple other guys stuck together on Independence Avenue leading into mile 5 (5:18). This was my favorite part of the race. Just a long straightaway heading into the sun. I had felt a little off in mile 4, and this refreshed me. I got my legs back to full strength and started to put away Karsten and a Howard County strider, Mark Buschman, leading into Hain's Point. Matias had put out a bit of a surge and got about 10 seconds ahead by the time we got to parking lot A on the Point and crossed mile 6 (5:21), and 10k (a 33:40-:50 estimate, which would be a 10k PR!).
Matias and me... next time he should lend me his calves, or at least a piece of them.
At this point I found myself in a bit of a no-man's land. Matias was too far ahead to group with him, and Karsten, Dave and Mark were 10+ seconds behind me. I didn't want to be in this situation, but I just focused on Matias and the guy he had just caught... that guy was my next prey as well. I caught him about half a mile later, and hit mile 7 in 5:20. Mile 8 included the turnaround at the end of the Point, and by now I had TEXAS PAUL, who was barely coming back from injury, in my sights and was gaining ground back on Matias, with a 5:16 split. By mile 8.5 I was 4-5 seconds back of Paul, when I felt the cramp develop in the bottom-center of my chest, diaphragm area. Suddenly breathing became more difficult and painful. My pace leveled out and I knew this wasn't going to be good. I hung onto the pace as best I could, but the headwind + cramp began to take its toll, and came into the 9mile marker in 5:28. The RED FOX came up beside me and shouted bloody murder at me, reminding me I was on pace for under 54 minutes. I knew this too... but I was merely hanging on now, the cramp had gotten worse. I was right on Paul's shoulder but I couldn't muster up a pass. My pace dropped quite a bit, into the 5:40s. I pushed up the hill and gave it what I had for the last 200m... but I saw the clock tick 54:07, 54:08, 54:09, and I was disappointed I wouldn't get under 54.
The struggle against the cramp
BUT I had a chance to meet my epic goal of the day, 54:29, and I did, crossing the line in 54:22, a 7-minute PR off my last 10-mile race and a 3-minute shave off my 10-mile split in last year's National Half. Happy with the time and placement, 40th overall (I expected top 60), but a little disappointed, as if I had drank more before the race, perhaps I would have been under 54. Splits were -- 5:32, 5:28, 5:26, 5:20?, 5:18, 5:21, 5:16, 5:20, 5:28, 5:50.
It was a really fun race, and I look forward to getting into the 53s next year. GRC won the team competition and everyone ran awesome times. Michelle was the 2nd American female with a 59:20, Matias ran 53:45 after predicting a 55:20, Lindsey was 14th with a 60:48 and established herself as one of the elite area runners, and Dirk showed the world he's back with a 51:40. Training is going according to plan, and now it's time to get back to work.
Up next is the Pike's Peak 10k.