I remember signing up for the lottery to run the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Miler like it was yesterday. I crossed my fingers and entered my credit card information hoping that I'd be one of the lucky ones...and I was lucky indeed! My mom had always wanted us to see the Cherry Blossoms. She talked about the festival all the time and we were making plans to go, but she passed away suddenly last March. When I received my acceptance email, it was bittersweet. I was ecstatic to finally run in DC, but sad that I was going to see the Cherry Blossoms without my mom...but then again, I knew she would be there with me. My sister drove up as well to visit her husband's family (who live an hour outside of DC) and to also attend the Cherry Blossom Festival. I was so happy that she made the trip because it meant so much more to us than just seeing beautiful flowering trees. We were there with my mom's spirit and she was all around, surrounding us with her love. The weather was gorgeous - clear blue skies that enhanced the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms even more! Also - they were in peak bloom that weekend!! It's been since 2007 that the blossoms peaked on race weekend! I have to think my mom played a part in that :)
I turned this into a family trip (aka - "race-cation" for me). The kids were on Spring break and Michael took off for the week so we jumped in the car and made a pit stop in Williamsburg, VA to visit family for a few days and then drove up to Haymarket and Centreville, VA (an hour outside of DC) to visit more family before heading to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival on Saturday, April 11 and the 10-miler on Sunday, April 12. What an experience!! On Saturday, we drove into DC, found our hotel (Washington Hilton in the Dupont Circle area), checked in early, and immediately went to the nearest metro. Michael and I looked like deer in headlights trying to figure out how much money to load onto each card and which train would take us where. Luckily, I had already studied the map on which stops to get off for the packet pick-up, the Smithsonian, and our hotel. Because of the festival, we were packed like sardines on the train and inside the Smithsonian stop. Oy! What a mess! All you could do was just breathe, exhale, be patient, hang onto each other's shirts, and go with the flow. My sister and cousin and their families met up with us later at the Smithsonian. We had a great time exploring the Natural History museum and the Washington monument with the Cherry Blossoms all around us. My kids surprised me and went into the Rocks & Minerals section and bought me a beautiful pink mineral Cherry Blossom tree. As soon as I got home last night, I put it next to my mom's framed picture on my windowsill. It was so sweet!!
By the time we said our goodbyes to my sister, cousin, and nieces, Michael and the kids were ready to go grab a bite to eat and get back to the hotel. We were so exhausted and of course, the metro was a mess to get back onto. We ended up walking down to another metro stop a couple blocks away to get back to the hotel. Our hotel was in an awesome area with plenty of restaurants, cafes, and shops within walking distance. We walked to one of the nearest restaurants, ate, and then went to bed. Both of the kiddos weren't feeling too hot - maybe allergies? We were plum tired! I had been on my feet since 7 that morning!
So.....this is the first time I've ever run a race all by myself. This is when all the anxiety and stress kicks in! As before the night of every race, I set aside all my race gear before I went to bed. I picked my Skirt Sports Lioness (flirt) skirt and Kelly (surf) Support Tank with a cute Cherry Blossom Sweaty Band that I purchased months ago from Fleet Fleet. All of it screamed Spring! Afterwards, I tried to go to sleep, but my mind was racing! "What time do I need to get up to catch the metro?" "Will there by any other runners in the lobby that I can tag along with?" "Am I going to be walking in the pitch dark to the metro all by myself?" "Was I hydrated enough?" "Check out is at 11:00. Will I get back in time to shower before we drive home?" Gah!!! Go to sleep Cecilia!! Before I knew it, my alarm started going off at 4:45 and I got up, got dressed, and headed down to the lobby. Luckily, there was a group of 4 from New Jersey who were running also so I asked to tag along and they obliged. I love runners :)
We got to the Smithsonian stop and walked over to the staging area by the Washington Monument. It was a brisk 45 degrees and people were covered in beanies, tights, and gloves and here I am from Savannah, GA - wearing a skirt and a tank and a throwaway long-sleeve tee. I'm glad I went with my choice because as soon as I started running, I was warmed up completely! An announcement was made prior to the race start about an emergency situation in which part of the course was closed due to a criminal investigation. Our race would be shortened due to a re-route - half a mile according to my Garmin. I wasn't bummed at all. I patiently waited at the start in the Green corral, which meant that I'd indicated in my registration that I'd finish within 2:00 hours. I was in the wrong corral. It was so congested (as it should be - there were 17,935 finishers!). This is also a race that attracts some serious competitors - a $40,000 purse was up for grabs! Wow! Because it was so crowded, I ended up running most of the race on the sidewalk and/or grassy medians. However, it wasn't a big deal. I was so engrossed with the beauty all around me and the energy of all the runners! I also ran with my GoPro in hand so I could take shots of all the scenery - especially around the tidal basin area and this one street that was lined with Cherry Blossoms on both sides, providing us this beautiful canopy of white and pink blossoms! I cannot say enough how pretty this race was!! I would totally do it again if possible! I ended up finishing in 1:23:49 (8:22 pace)! I didn't look at my Garmin during the race at all and just ran by how I felt. It felt incredible coming through the Finish chute and I love being pleasantly surprised by my finish time!
The only complaint is that I didn't like not having a run buddy with me! I didn't have anyone to give a high-5 to or ramble on about how awesome the race was at the finish line :( It totally makes a difference when you have a run buddy with you!! You get to share in the race excitement and energy so when you don't have one, you're just standing there at the start line like a bump on a log. I was also supposed to meet up with Lara Zoeller (who moved from Savannah to DC), but because my kiddos were sick, I had to bail :( I was really looking forward to catching up too! Oh well, maybe I'll get another change to run in DC! Because I was alone and didn't have anyone to bask in the glory while in the post-race area, I ran through the finish chute, walked over to the medal station, snapped a few pictures, and made my way back to the metro. It was around 10:00 AM when I got back to the hotel so I speedily jumped in the shower, made sure everything was packed and ready to go, hopped in the car, and said goodbye to DC as we made our way home to Savannah.
This race and the Cherry Blossom Festival was just spectacular. Gorgeous. Vibrant. The Runner's Rite of Spring. It's totally one that I would recommend! When the lottery opens again, I highly suggest you sign up!! If you're like me and don't like to run alone, sign up as a group. If you get picked, your entire crew gets in too.
So now I prepare for my next race - the Big Sur 21-Miler with Michael in 2 weeks. We'll be joined by my friends, Stephanie Roach, Jacy Vergara, and her husband Joel, who are all running the marathon. Can't wait!
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!