I spent this past weekend in DC to run the Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler. Until then, I’d never been to DC in early April when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, so when the lottery opened up I figured I’d give it a shot. With a trip to Fredericksburg, Virginia in May for the Marine Corps Historic Half and the Ragnar Relay Niagara coming up shortly, I didn’t want to have too much money involved, so I chose to drive down Saturday and only stay one night. I’ve been to DC enough times before, particularly in the monument area, that I wasn’t too concerned with making it a short trip. I have a handful of pics to incorporate into this post but for some reason they are not transferring over so I will add them soon!
I got into town just after noon, parked my car in the designated garage for the hotel, and made my way to the race expo at the National Building Museum. The volunteers at the door were very helpful in directing runners to the right place for their bibs and then T-shirts. I made it down to the vendor area pretty quickly and explored who was there. I picked up a $10 Under Armour shirt from the Baltimore Marathon booth, some Gu Chomps from National Running Center and checked out a couple other booths. I find that I have very little patience with expos and try to get in and out as quickly as possible. My biggest frustration is when there are crowds walking through and people suddenly stop in the middle of the walkway. I got out of there and on my way to my hotel stopped in at a place called Luke’s Lobster and had a lobster roll and a beer. The lobster roll was delicious and made for a perfect lunch. The beer was an IPA from Peak Organic out of Maine, which also hit the spot and helped me chill out after the expo.
I booked a room via Orbitz for the Harrington Hotel, which is on 11th Street at E Street. I found it slightly outdated, but certainly sufficient for an affordable overnight stay or for someone who wouldn’t be spending a significant amount of time in the room. You can’t beat the location of it – so convenient for everything. After checking in I walked over to the Tidal Basin to see how much the cherry blossoms had bloomed. There was definitely more buds than blossoms, but there were at least some blooms. I sat down for a little bit at the World War II Memorial. Of all the monuments and memorials I am always drawn to this one because my grandfather served in the Army and fought in Austria during the War. He recently passed away (at the age of 97!) so a visit there was in part to pay my respects and reflect on him.
For dinner Saturday I didn’t have a plan but had looked up a few spots on Yelp that were close to the hotel. After looking at menus and crowds at a few spots along the way, I decided go up 10th Street, passing Ford’s Theater. As I approached F Street I saw one of the restaurants I’d seen on Yelp, CoCo Sala, and decided that I should just go there. CoCo Sala is a lounge-type restaurant which specializes in chocolate-infused recipes. To start I had the Apollo from the cocktail menu, which was basically a hot chocolate with a shot of Orangerie Scotch Whiskey and topped with a white chocolate foam. I’m not normally one to partake in whiskey but this concoction sounded worth trying and it did not disappoint. For dinner I had scallops that were seered and topped with some chocolate shavings, and a strawberry caprese flatbread. The combination of the strawberries and mozzarella was far better than I would have expected.
After dinner I headed back to the hotel and settled in. I figured out the hotel wi-fi and watched Dark Shadows on MaxGo and went to sleep early knowing I would have my alarm set for an early wakeup.
Race day I was up at 6:00 am, ate a hard-boiled egg along with a banana and 2/3 of a Kind bar. I put on my race outfit, brushed my teeth, filled my water bottle and started to walk to the Washington Monument where the start line was set up. I began checking the weather forecast for the weekend much earlier in the week, and decided on a pair of Oiselle Long Roga shorts, my Nike Dri-Fit Phillies shirt, green Pro-Compression Marathon socks and my Olive Houndstooth Sauce visor. It was a little chilly at the start but I was glad to see I was not the only runner in short sleeves and shorts. I did not have to check anything because my shorts had pockets where I stored my money, ID and room key, and I wore my FlipBelt to carry my Gu Chomps and phone.
The race started promptly at 7:30am and my wave, Green (second to last!), was released at around 7:45. I had heard in advance that the course was very flat, but that because of the number of runners it was not PR-friendly. With the wave start and flat course, I disagree with it not being PR-friendly. If I had trained better and worked more on improving my speed, I very well could have run a PR. That being said, I was undertrained and was in the mindset that I just wanted to finish.
The first six miles were uneventful and for every downhill there was a slight uphill afterward. The course takes you past the World War II and Lincoln Memorials and then run across the Memorial Bridge to the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. Runners turn around there and go back across the Memorial Bridge and then up Rock Creek Parkway. I wore my Garmin and lost the signal for a brief period as we ran along Rock Creek Parkway at mile three. The course then took us back toward the Tidal Basin and we wound around to the Jefferson Memorial before entering East Potomac Park. Miles six through nine went through the East Potomac Park and were challenging because of a headwind coming off of the Potomac. I pushed through knowing that once I reached Hains Point and turned around the wind would be at my back. I remembered running this section during the Marine Corps Marathon and kept my eyes open for golf balls from the golf course – during MCM another runner stepped on one in the course and it barely missed hitting me.
The last half mile was gradually uphill and we crossed the finish line exactly where we started. I knew I’d finish somewhere around two hours and my official time was 2:08. Definitely not my best, but right in line with what I was expecting, so I’m not upset. There were great crowds along the entire course and at the finish there were plenty of volunteers handing out water, bananas, medals, muffins and more. I only lingered a little bit before going back to my hotel. I had hoped In the sea of other runners I had hoped I’d see some friends who were also running, but never did.
After a quick shower and some social media updates, I checked out and walked to my car with my stuff. Not far from the garage was the Capitol City Brewing Co. which sounded perfect for me. I had a Pale Rider Ale along with an order of nachos and onion rings. Nachos are fast becoming a favorite post-race food, something I normally reserve for fish and chips. I decided to have one more beer, the Capitol Kolsch, before heading out. The food, drinks and service were great and I will definitely try to get there again next time I’m in DC.
The four hour drive to DC is certainly not difficult, however it’s not a drive I would do more than once or twice a year. Considering that it’s been nearly three years since I was last there, I hope that it doesn’t take me as long to go back after this trip. In talking to my parents, my mom has not been there in over twenty years and my dad has never, so it would be a fun family weekend sometime.
Have you ever run any races in DC? What are your favorite things to see, eat and do when you are in town?