Once upon a year ago, I spent two months in physical therapy after the Chicago Marathon with one goal: rehabbing my hip strain to the point where I could defend my third place age group title at the Jingle Bell 5K. An ill-timed snowstorm thwarted that dream, and ever since then, I’ve had my age group hopes and dreams pinned on the 2014 Jingle Bell 5K.
I opted to pick up my packet before race day this year, which proved to be a wise decision.
Yikes. I don’t remember the setup inside the Nature Museum being nearly this…crowded…last year, and I hope in the future, they’ll move day-of packet pickup somewhere else, since this (right by the entrance to gear check) was stressful, and I didn’t even need to pick up my packet.
Because I wanted to do quite well at this race, I spent a fair amount of time warming up. I even did a few strides, which I had never done before (since, as we all know, the best time to try something new is immediately before a race you care about :P). They didn’t have any pacing signs in the start corral, so I lined up near the very front and hoped for the best.
Per usual, my grand plans to hold back at the beginning and gradually increase my pace over time immediately went out the window once the race began. Someday I’ll develop self-control. My Garmin, which I could have SWORN was all set and ready to go, never started, so I don’t know my actual splits. I passed the one mile mark somewhere around a clock time of 8:08, though.
My one and only priority for this race was placing in my age group, so the only competitors I really cared about were women who appeared to be between the ages of 20 and 24. As we approached the turnaround, however, I realized I didn’t see that many women, period, heading back towards the start line. I didn’t count them, but there were so few that I figured I may have a decent shot at cracking the top 10.
I ran an 8:01/8:02ish second mile and pretty much felt like dying, but hung on as best I could to the finish. Jingle Bell has both a 5K and a 10K, and right around the 6 mile sign for the 10K (so .2 miles left in the race total), I just about caught up with a girl in front of me. I really did not feel like I had much more to give, but I worried that beating her could be the difference between 10th and 11th place, so I forced myself to run as hard as I could and passed her (though not in nearly as dramatic fashion as the girl I passed at the Santa Hustle last week 😛 ).
I finished in 25:12 for an overall 8:07 pace. Since I ran the Santa Hustle in 25:10, I think I have a pretty solid idea of where my 5K fitness is at the moment haha. A small part of me is frustrated that that’s the best I can do at the moment, since I ran a 24:17 earlier this year, but I need to remember that I have now only run six times since the marathon, and when I ran that 24:17 in April, I had been training hard, including weekly tempo runs and intervals, since January 1. It’s probably not at all fair to compare the two situations.
I heard my name as I crossed the finish line (!!), and as I panted my way through the finish area, an older gentleman came up to me and said, “I tried to catch you, but I just couldn’t do it!” I’ve never felt so legit in my life! Haha. I assured him I wouldn’t have minded if he passed me, because I was really only concerned with my age group, and as it happens, he was only concerned with his, too, and wanted to know if I had seen any other 60-year-old men ahead of me 😛
I was pretty sure I had at least placed in my age group, so I headed back into the Nature Museum after the race, where they were printing out receipts with your results, to make sure. And sure enough…
😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
While I was quite excited about my second place finish in my age group, I was absolutely OVER. THE. MOON. about finishing in the top 10 women. I’ve managed to squeak out an oddball age group placement every now and again, but I’ve never finished in the top 10. I…may or may not have almost cried. Haha. (But only almost!)
(And for those concerned: the man who couldn’t catch me found me at the awards ceremony and was happy to report that he got third in his age group. Happiness all around!)
The funny thing about all of this is that I had every intention of never running Jingle Bell again after this year. The 25-29 age group is always so much more competitive than 20-24, and I really only run this race for the chance of nabbing an age group place. Well. This year, not a single 25-29 year old woman even made the top 10. Soo…guess it looks like I’ll be back at Jingle Bell again next year 😉