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Monday, April 12, 2010

From Tacos to Cherry Blossoms: A Tale of Two Cities, and Two Measurement Systems

My story of my - yay! - very first ten mile run, DC's Cherry Blossom Run, starts, as I'm sure many good stories do, in Denver. To be more precise, it starts on the carpeted floor of the city's convention center next to an outlet as I simultaneously juice the iPhone and call the husband in between panels on Thursday, the first day of the American Writers & Writing Programs annual conference, known as AWP. (Writers are good with words; not so good with acronyms.)

"I think if I run tomorrow, then I can take Saturday off when I'm in DC, so I'll be fresh on Sunday," I say to Alex, briefing him on my ad hoc training plan. "And it's so beautiful here - maybe I can run to the mountains!"

"Caitlin, are you INSANE? Why do you think they call it the Mile High City? If you tried to run outside tomorrow, you'd probably pass out, Miss Altitude Training."

It is then that I realize that the chronic headache I've had since getting off the plane the night before isn't from bad soave in the JetBlue terminal but from the great heights of the city. So I bag my training plan, and instead focus my efforts on energy -- specifically, eating enough good Mexican food to power me through an Iron Man -- with a quick stint on the treadmill in the Marriott fitness center for good luck on Friday morning. Then it's bye-bye Mile High, hello Potomac!

I spend the day on Saturday walking around with the friend I've recruited to this race with me, alternately worried about the blister I'm sure I'm developing from my ballet flats and excited for this challenge I've inadvertently gotten us into. In DC, apparently, there are lots of ten-mile races. Here in New York, at least as far as I've seen, it's 5ks, 10ks, and half-marathons. So when I convinced my friend to do the race with me last fall after I finished my first 10k and she finished her first 5k, I thought I was signing us up for a 10k -- not a 10-mile run. My friend, being French, was, to her credit, extremely gracious when I corrected my metric mistake.

The morning of the race -- Sunday -- is much warmer than the day before. We powerwalk to the start line, picking up another (French) friend of hers along the way. I down this energy shot thing she gives me even though it taste like super concentrated Tang. We giggle nervously as we wait for our wave (actually, we couldn't figure out how to get to our wave, so we started with the last wave, which I nicknamed "the Rainbow Tribe"). I run the first mile with the Frogs, and start to pull away - slightly - when we make it to the bridge. I turn around a few seconds later and they are gone. Totally vanished in the crowd. Guess I'm running the next eight and a half miles myself.

And you know what? It was FANTASTIC. I thought I would be bored, or in pain, or just pissed that I had lost my friends, but instead I had the best time watching the other runners, the crowd, and the scenery
(though not the cherry blossoms - they'd all been fried in the previous week's heat wave), and thinking about - really! - my run. When I got to mile 8, I felt like I still had a lot left, so I sprinted for the last two miles, which just felt amazing. My time was 1:35:46 - way faster than I would have guessed.

1sts are good places to draw lessons from, so here's what I learned:

1) There really are hills in Central Park! Who knew?! I didn't realize what a difference a totally flat course would make.

2) Running sunglasses are cheap and awesome.

3) Those energy/electrolyte beans are a good choice for someone like me who would absolutely gag on goo, but even those are not as easy to eat while running.

4) DC is a great place to do a big run like that because there are tons of hotels so it's very easy to avoid the port-o-potties.

5) Starting with a slower wave is annoying in the beginning but psychologically great during the race because you pass EVERYONE.

Perhaps a half-marathon is next? Or a 13k?

1 comment:

FrenchTwistDC said...

Half marathon. Phillie. Sept 19.
Love, your favourite frog ;-)