When I started running last March, one of the first races to make it onto my bucket list was the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run. So when I entered the lottery back in December and found out I had been accepted to run the race, to say I was ecstatic was an understatement. Sadly, my experience didn’t live up to the hype that I’ve heard about this race, or the high expectations that I had going into race weekend.
Preston and I kicked off our Cherry Blossom race weekend at the expo Friday evening after work. The expo was held downtown at the National Building Museum. We debated driving vs. taking the Metro, and opted to drive. We were very lucky to find street parking right out front of the museum without having to circle to find parking at all. I thought this would have been a sign of good things to come that weekend.
Given the course time limit of 2 hours and 20 minutes, I knew when I registered that I’d be considered a fairly slow runner for this race. Preston and I walked inside the museum, and immediately were directed to the second floor to retrieve our bibs. When Preston ran this race in 2012, he was in the Red Corral (the second of six corrals), and once again was in the Red Corral this year. Based on the corral breakdowns that had been published online, I guessed that I had been placed in the Green Corral (the fifth of six corrals). Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d wind up in the last corral, but low and behold, I wound up placed in the Purple Corral (the last of the six corrals). I could have sworn that I had submitted an estimated finish time of 1:50 or 1:55 when I registered for the lottery, and even double checked my race registration e-mail confirmations to see if the time was listed on them, but the estimated time that I sent in was nowhere to be found in any of those e-mails, including my original lottery entry confirmation e-mail. Thus, I had no proof to take to Runner Relations to try and argue my case. I had been placed into the wrong corral, and there was nothing I could do about it.
The disappointment didn’t initially hit me, partly because I was excited about meeting Cyanne from Run Stretch Go. After picking up our bibs, we immediately ran into Cyanne in the second floor hallway, and it was great to finally meet her in person! Big blogger fail though, as we didn’t take a picture, but at least we got one after the race on Sunday!
After saying goodbye to Cyanne, Preston and I headed downstairs to get our race shirts and to browse the expo floor. We quickly got our shirts, chatted for a few minutes with a fellow member of Team Red, White & Blue who was volunteering at shirt pickup, and then stopped at a few expo booths. The Cherry Blossom expo was much smaller compared to many other race expos, but I was still able to visit Sweaty Bands to pick out a new headband to commemorate the race. Preston and I also picked up 26.2 and 13.1 magnets for our cars, which we’ll put on once we get our cars washed. The other highlight of the expo was meeting Cynthia from You Signed Up For What and Mar from Mar On the Run, who are two of the bloggers who host the Friday Five linkup that I participate in every Friday. No picture again (I know, bad blogger!).
Overall, I found the expo to be extremely organized and efficiently run. Because of its smaller size, there weren’t many booths to browse, but from the time we entered the museum, being immediately directed upstairs to bib pickup, and then returning downstairs and easily finding the t-shirt back up area couldn’t have gone more smoothly. They were also offering beers to runners as part of the after work “happy hour” experience, which Preston and I both opted to pass on. While the expo floor was a bit crowded in some areas, that could have easily been due to the fact that we went during after work hours when many other local runners were also at the expo.
After spending about an hour at the expo Preston and I headed home. The reality of my corral placement didn’t hit me until the next morning though. Because I was in the last corral I knew I wanted to get into my corral as early as possible. Since I had noticed on the schedule of events at the expo that the time that the corrals would open hadn’t been published, I posted on Twitter, asking if anybody knew when they’d open. A sweet volunteer, Molly, worked very hard to get my question answered, and despite becoming increasingly upset about the situation (she told me that the corrals would open at 7:15, only 15 minutes before the start of the race, which didn’t seem right to me at all), Molly was super helpful and patient with me. (I was also at work at the time, proctoring a practice AP World History exam, and the early Saturday morning wake up call didn’t help my mood either.) After the exam, I headed home, feeling utterly defeated and at that point wasn’t looking forward to the race the next morning.
The reality of my corral misplacement had finally hit me. I would be starting the race with runners slower than me, which would make it difficult to finish the race in a good time and meet my race goals. I began to panic about the water stations running out of water, and there not being any food at the end of the race, two horror stories that I’ve heard from other runners about their experiences at other races when they’ve started in the back of the pack. (Unfortunately, they did run out of most of the food by the time I finished, as all that was left was bananas, but thankfully the water stations still had water.) I was now going to be one of those runners, and felt as though I was going to be punished for being a slower runner. I was so upset to the point that Preston suggested that we not run the race, and for a moment I actually contemplated his suggestion. But then I refocused and refused to let myself not run the race. After dinner, we set out our race clothes, prepared our bags to check, and set our alarm for the 4:30am wake up call.
I wasn’t as mentally prepared for this race as I should have been. I knew that there was nothing I could do about what the race directors had handed me, and that I’d have to do the best that I could given the situation. Despite how defeated I felt before even arriving at the start line, I tried to put on my best game face as I went to bed the night before my first ten mile race.
QOTD: Have you ever gone into a race not in the right mindset? How did it affect your race experience?