When I started my return to running in January after three months off to deal with the Kikuchi Fujimoto Disease, I marked the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler as my comeback race. The Cherry Blossom Ten Miler has a special place in my heart: it was my first race ever, it is the first race I run every year, and I have run in each of the previous six Cherry Blossom Ten Milers. There was never really a chance that I would not make it seven years in a row. My goal was to get to the starting line as healthy and fit as I could get in three months time. At least, that was my goal when I set out on the comeback trail. By the end of March my heart really wanted that PR even though my head knew I was nowhere near the shape I needed to be in to run 7:25 splits.
I don’t know how I let myself think it would be possible to run sub 1:14 after three months completely off of running while dealing with a serious illness, only having been running for three months, and only about six weeks of those three months included actual workouts. Looking back at my running logs and e-mails sent to friends, the training leading up to the race was way too inconsistent. I found it difficult to recover between workouts/hard runs, I could never string together a solid two weeks of running, and about every other week I would have to take an extra rest day due to fatigue. Still, I kept pushing myself to get back into shape and hit splits that my body wasn’t fully capable of handling, hoping I could will myself into shape. A week and a half before the race, I became completely demoralized after struggling through a short tempo run and a strength training routine that left me exhausted. I wondered how I could run 7:25 miles for ten miles if I couldn’t even run 7:30 miles for five miles. Part of me didn’t even want to do the race anymore.
I usually make plans to meet up with a few people before the race to chat and warm up. For this race, not knowing how I would do, I just wanted avoid as many people as possible. While warming up, I ran into my friend Pete and we commiserated over our mutual lack of fitness for the 2012 Cherry Blossom Ten Miler. Pete and I got into our starting corrals and as the gun went off, we gave each other a little fist bump and we were off. I felt great the first few miles of the race, running them a bit…okay, a lot…faster than I intended. I was able to settle in a little more the next four miles and run even splits. Everything was going great until the last two miles when my legs started feeling heavy, my breathing was labored, and I just felt exhausted. I died pretty hard the last mile and a half and had to take a few walking breaks. I didn’t even enjoy crossing the finish line that much, just relieved to be able to do so and eager to put the race behind me.
All said, my final time was 1:15:32. Immediately after the race I was disappointed in both my time an effort. But as the week went on and I got a chance to look back not just on the race, but also on the buildup to the race, 1:15:32 was not too shabby. While not a PR, it was only a minute and a half slower than my PR set last year. In addition, this training block based on any measure was not ideal (the word rollercoaster is apt). At least I got this race behind me, I know where my fitness level is, and I know what I need to work on. One of my training partners e-mailed me a picture of a group of us at the finish line ending the note with “good race.” Yes, it was a good race all things considered but next time, I will run a great race.