Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jingle Jog Surprise

 I love it when I go into a race mainly for the people I'll be running with or the charity it is for, expecting a completely mediocre performance, and then surprise myself with my time. Such was my experience at the 2nd Annual Matamoras Jingle Jog on Sunday.

I had made plans to run on Saturday with my running buddy, who has taken on a temporary job during the holidays and can't make any of our normal week-day morning runs. Another friend told me about this 5k jingle jog on Sunday, and I kept it in mind, but I knew that a 5k the day after a long run would not work out that well.

So my buddy, her sister, and I ran a hilly 6.5 miles on Saturday afternoon after I got out of work. We ran an average pace of 9:21 per mile and climbed over 500 ft (I love RunKeeper's stats!!).  I felt pretty dead on a lot of the hills, but by the end, after a downhill, it leveled off and I had a huge burst of energy and finished feeling strong and really good. In that moment, I thought "Sure, I could run a good 5k tomorrow. I'm in!" I borrowed red-and-white-striped knee socks from my buddy, and texted my other friend to commit to the race.

And then I stayed up until 1 am working on a final group project for grad school. And then I woke up at 6:15 am to get to the race over an hour away.

As my friend, his dad, and I registered and got ready for the race, I tried to calculate what kind of time I'd be able to run. It was a flat course, but I was seriously tired. My guess was about 26:30. That was my last 5k time, and even though I was physically tired today, I was also fitter than I had been before. I figured that if I was overestimating the strength of my legs, and they felt really dead, then I'd probably finish more around 27:00-27:30. One thing was sure, I was going to push as hard as I could and see what I was capable of.

I was dressed in my green sparkle skirt, the red-and-white knee-socks, and a santa hat. This was a fun race because so many other people dressed up as well - everything from full elf suits to a snowman, and lots of santa hats and red and green colors.

It was chilly, but not frigid, and I seemed to be dressed just right in knee-socks, capris, and a thin wool long-sleeve shirt. I warmed up a little and found that the socks wouldn't stay up when I ran, so I safety-pinned them to my capris. Someone joked that I should make sure they didn't pull the capris down, too!

We lined up for the race and wished each other good luck, and before we knew it, the race was started and I was fumbling with RunKeeper and to get my iPhone back into my ifitness belt. The iPhone 5 is just a little too long to slide into the pocket easily, and I don't have an arm-band for it yet, but I wanted it with me so I knew my pace at regular intervals. I don't run a a very consistent pace, and I hoped that knowing both my average and current pace would help me if I started to slow too much.

I got the phone into its pocket and followed the group ahead of me. The race was chip-timed, so I knew that I just had to run my own race. It didn't matter how far behind I was if they stepped over the start before I did. But there were an awful lot of people ahead of me....

Within the first quarter mile, I knew that I was going to have hat trouble. I had jammed the santa hat on over a red ear-band to keep it in place, but all I could hear was it rubbing with every step. I pulled it down tighter, but that only pulled the ear-band down, and I felt like the hat on top would fall off any minute. I don't think that I made it to a half mile before I took off the hat and held it. I felt like I had wasted time and energy fiddling with it, so I focused on running and maintaining the fastest doable pace.

At one point, a little boy sitting outside his house who was watching us called out "Is this some kind of show?" I shouted "It's the Jingle Jog!" in a much-too-cheery voice.

I sounded cheerier than I felt. I told myself that if I just kept up this pace, I'd be happy. But I couldn't. Every other time I got a RunKeeper update, it would show that I had slowed down, so I sped up a little until it reminded me that I was slowing down. Not by a lot, just enough to make the average creep up. I passed some people and was passed by others. In the last mile, someone who seemed like she could be in my age category passed me, and I didn't feel like I had it in me to fight for the spot. I let her go by and told myself that I'd keep her in sight and try and pass her in the end if I could. With a half mile to go, I started to get a little closer to her. At mile 2.9, I made a move and passed her. I could hear her right behind me, but at mile 3 we turned onto the straightaway to the finish, and I pushed hard. It was a deceptively long straightaway, and I tried to hold on to my pace as long as I could. I heard footsteps coming up behind me, and a long-legged girl came sprinting up to pass me. We still had a ways to go to the finish, but I surged forward and passed her. I didn't win that fight, though, as I just didn't have enough in me to keep up that speed. She pulled ahead, I dropped back, and I stepped over the finish a second after she did.

When I saw the clock, I was really surprised. I finished in 25 and a half minutes! My chip time was 25:31. I hadn't run that fast in over a year and a half! What a great feeling! I caught my breath, and 2 minutes later my friend's dad came down the straightaway. I cheered him on as he came through the finish. It was one of his faster times, and he was pleased with his performance, although he was annoyed that one of his rivals has apparently been training and improved his usual time by several minutes.

A minute after that, my friend came through. I cheered him on as he made a nice fast kick toward the finish.

After congratulations were exchanged, I cheered on many of the other runners who came through and congratulated the girl who had beaten me at the end. She was about 12 or 13,  and it was her first 5k. She was really sweet, and I she definitely has a good future in running ahead of her. When I found my friend and his dad again, I was shocked when he told me that he had checked the score sheet and that I was first in my age group. What?! I thought for sure that I would have had to have run sub 24 to place in this race. Not so! I was 1st out of 5 in my group. Awesome!

My friend was 2nd in his age group, so he got a medal, too. His dad was in for disappointment. His age group was the largest and most competitive group in the race. He still had a good time, though. He had run this race alone last year and felt a big difference in the fun factor to have other people there too.  

Hurray for the Jingle Jog! 

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