I ran the Jingle All the Way 10K this morning. They don’t make road race courses much faster than this – it’s almost perfectly flat, with no sharp turns. This race also always draws a fast crowd. In short, unless the temperatures are absurd, or the wind is up, there are no excuses for not running fast. And today, there were no excuses. The weather conditions were near perfect for racing (if not for standing around afterwards), at 35 degrees, light drizzle, and no wind whatsoever. I ran 40:53, which knocked a minute off of my 10K PR, and was good enough for 12th woman overall and an age group win. So, I’m pretty happy.
I had been debating all week what to wear in this race, and whether I would even run it. Weather forecasts earlier in the week predicted temperatures in the mid-20s and sleet for race time – miserable conditions that would have justified running tights, a jacket, and reduced pace. And I had made up my mind that if it was any colder than that, I’d just skip it. Fortunately, race day ended up being warmer than expected – about 35 degrees at race time, albeit with some drizzle.
I got to the race about an hour ahead of time, and jogged about 3 miles in my heavy trainers, while wearing track pants and three layers on top. I then swapped my trainers for my racing flats, pulled off the track pants (I had shorts underneath), and went to check my bag. My plan was to check my bag (which held a dry change of clothes), and then do some strides. However, the bag drop that I was expecting to take 5 minutes took 15 minutes, cutting into my final warm-up time.
I finally handed over my bag with 3 minutes to go before race start – giving me time to do one stride on my way to the corrals (rather than the 4-5 I had planned). I also was unable to work my way up to my normal place in the corral – I just didn’t have enough time. Oh well – I reasoned that the lack of final warm-up and bad location in the start area weren’t the same obstacle in a 10K that they would be in a 5K – I’d have plenty of time to make it up.
The race started, and I focused on holding an even, steady pace. The first two miles, I was miserably cold, and I never felt like I was warm, even at the end. (I now wonder if I should have worn tights after all). My legs felt tight, but I told myself to keep an even rhythm, and just to run the mile I was in, rather than worrying if I could hold on.
I felt steady through about mile four. But at the 4.5 mile mark, my right hamstring started cramping (odd – I usually have issues with my left). Additionally, at that point, my digestive system started to rebel, threatening things of a most treacherous and TMI nature. I told both the GI system and the hammy that if they could wait another 10 minutes or so, I’d be happy to baby both of them. I then started staring at a lightpole ahead, trying to ignore them. Hammy and GI both agreed to hold off, and I pushed on. My time was a bit slowed for mile 5, but I picked right back up for mile 6.
Upsettingly, I didn’t have much of a kick at the end – my legs felt cold and stiff. I pushed with what I could, using my upper body strength to compensate for legs that were wussing out on me. About 100m from the finish, my (much beloved, expensive) sunglasses went flying. It was a momentary distraction, but I pushed on, with regret. (someone ran up right after I finished and returned them to me, so I managed to keep them after all!)
My splits for the race were pretty consistent:
Mile 1: 6:36
Mile 2: 6:39
Mile 3: 6:35
Mile 4: 6:36
Mile 5: 6:43 (whiny hammy and GI)
Mile 6: 6:30
Final .21: 1:14 (5:53 pace)
Total time was 40:53 (6:35 pace) – good enough for 12th female overall in a very tough and competitive field (heck, the woman who placed third has a marathon PR of 2:38). I was only 4th in my age group, but since the three women ahead of me finished in the top 10, I won the women’s 35-59 age group (getting a nice running vest with the race's name on it and a running store gift certificate).
4th out of 279 women aged 35-39 (top 1.4%)
12th out of 2255 women total (top 0.5%)
111th out of all 3763 runners (top 2.9%)
I’m pretty thrilled about the time, which knocks about a full minute off of the 10K PR that I set on Thanksgiving. I’m less than a minute from a sub-40 10K – hopefully I can get that sometime in the not-to-distant future. This time also meets the open women’s standard for this area (I needed to be under 41:15), which is nice.
Some interesting geeking: I’ve run three 10Ks consistently over the past three years – the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in October, the Turkey Chase 10K in November, and Jingle All the Way in December. Marine Corps is somewhat hilly and net uphill; the Turkey Chase is a challenging hilly race; and then Jingle All the Way is very flat and fast. Here’s my times for the past three years (and whether any conditions affected the times)
2007…………47:27 (bad warm-up,wind) 45:37…………………………45:19
2008…………43:49 (just over flu) ………44:23 (no sleep, very cold) …43:05
2009…………42:03 (sick) ……………… 41:51…………………………40:53
Clearly, JATW has always been the fastest race, and I’ve consistently knocked about 2:10 off of my time for that race each year. Of course, I know enough to know that it’s unreasonable to see that same rate of improvement as I get faster – the closer you are to your potential, the smaller and more hard fought the improvement.
Other notes: I ran this in shorts, my running club uniform tank top, gloves with handwarmers, and a headband for my ears. I had originally planned to run this in a long sleeve top, but my friend Elyse talked me out of it while we were waiting for bag check. This was probably the right choice, but I think I would have wanted the long sleeves had it been any colder. It’s a tough balancing call – how much do I lose from cold muscles that cramp and are unresponsive, versus how much I lose from overheating. In longer races – it’s an easy choice – I wear more clothes, and then toss them as I overheat. But in a race this short, removing clothes while running costs me seconds that I can’t make up.
I took my singulair the evening before, but skipped the asthma inhaler. I’ve found that the pollen-free cold air doesn’t trigger my asthma, and so no need for the inhaler (which does have a slight detrimental effect on my performance). I did carry the inhaler with me while racing, just in case I needed it.