Jingle Bell 5K Race Recap

Oh, Jingle Bell, how you break my heart.

After walking away from my first Jingle Bell 5K in 2012 with a surprise third place finish in the 20-24 age group, this race has been on my calendar every year. Knowing the 25-29 age group is typically much more competitive than the 20-24 age group, I had every intention of not running this race after my 25th birthday (because in all honesty, I was primarily there for the potential to do well in my age group. Sorry not sorry.), but had I been 25 last year and run the exact same time I ran last year, I would’ve won the 25-29 age group.

Breaking from the theme of bare-bones goodie bags, Jingle Bell actually had a plethora of things to give us, including a nice bag and an another cotton long sleeve t-shirt to add to my collection. I love my Jingle Bell shirts!

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I got to the Nature Museum just a little more than an hour before the race began. I didn’t really intend to arrive so early, but I don’t mind getting there with a lot of time to spare since the race opens up the entire museum. I sat around for awhile, played with my watch for awhile, did some PT exercises for awhile, and then headed outside to do some dynamic stretching and get my legs moving.

Though I’d hardly call Saturday “beautiful,” in terms of temperature, this was just about the sweet spot. It was a tiny bit misty/foggy, but there was no wind, and we had a real feel of about 48 degrees or so. Yes. Please.

I lined up one or two rows back from the very front and sized up my competition. Last year I finished in the top 10 women and I was hoping I’d be able to pull that off again, but my primary concern was women ages 25-29. I saw one Three Run Two girl I worried may be in my age group, and one other girl who looked like she could be my age as well, but other than that, it looked like I stood a decent chance at placing.

I…have multiple GPS watches and for Jingle Bell, I chose to wear a newer one to my collection that features wrist-based heart rate monitoring. To be honest, I’m not all that wild about this watch or its running functions, and generally only wear it indoors when I don’t need GPS but would like heart rate monitoring (since my Polar HRMs all bit the dust. Still smarting over that.). I don’t like any of its displays for running, and I don’t like that you have to finagle with it mid-run to get it to display your time/pace/distance. I’ve taken it out for a few runs before and have never once noticed it telling me when I hit a mile marker, so I was very surprised on Saturday when my watch vibrated just before I got to the one mile sign. I was even more surprised (and concerned) to see that it told me I had run a 7:57 mile. I wasn’t opposed to running that fast, but it has been quite some time since I last ran that fast, and I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d be able to maintain that kind of pace.

Well, I wasn’t. I slowed to an 8:12 second mile, which is really probably more of where my 5K pace is these days, and hoped with all I had that I could hang on for the last 1.1. I actually don’t have any watch stats on my last mile, because for whatever reason, my watch thinks I only ran 2.85 miles o.O. #notimpressed. The course for Jingle Bell has been the exact same for the past three years, so I know the course distance is right, meaning my watch is ridiculous, and I’m probably not going to wear it for running outdoors any more, because .25 miles over the course of 3.1 miles is WAY too inaccurate for my liking.

Anyway. The last .2-plus-a-little-change miles of Jingle Bell are more or less a straightaway, and I was trying my hardest through this stretch, particularly after we hit the 6 mile sign for the 10K. Right around here, a woman passed me, and I didn’t get a good enough look at her to estimate her age, so I kicked it into high gear. Unfortunately, high gear only lasted for a few hundred meters before I thought I may throw up, and then she passed me again. Womp.

I finished in 24:54, which was a huge surprise for me. Out of all of my 5Ks, only two have been 24:xx, and both of those have been Ravenswood, where the competition was stiff and I had months of run-specific training under my belt, rather than a few weeks of haphazard sorta ish training for a half marathon. Granted, I’ve done a fair amount of interval work since…the week of Thanksgiving (lulz. Oh, this half marathon training cycle. I’m so behind.), so it’s not like I’ve been phoning it in on all my workouts, but I certainly didn’t expect the few interval workouts I’ve done to pay off that quickly. Three cheers for non-steady state cardio!

I wheezed my way through the finish area and eventually headed upstairs to the big event room the Nature Museum has on the second floor, where the timer was stationed to give you a receipt with your finish time and place (I knew he would be there from last year). Unfortunately, they were having some technical difficulties, so I ended up sitting around for a little while metaphorically biting my nails in nervousness over my age group finish. When he finally had results available, I headed over to get my receipt, and…

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😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦

Disappointed, I put on my sweats and headed for home.

Obviously this race is not the most important thing in the world, but damn was that a bummer. Even though I’m quite happy with my time, it was tough to take much consolation in “third fastest 5K ever” when I was ultimately more concerned with my age group placement than my finishing time. I looked up the full race results, and I would’ve just about had to PR to take third (the third place girl ran a 24:22; my PR is a 24:17). The woman who passed me near the end clearly wasn’t in my age group, so that made me feel a little bit better. Still sucks, though :/

But, it is what it is. I know I left everything I had on the course, and I do not at all think I could’ve run 33 seconds faster. This is actually the second time I’ve gotten fourth in my age group at Jingle Bell, which, if we look at the pattern (2012: 3rd, 2013: 4th, 2014: 2nd, 2015: 4th), clearly means I’m due for an age group win next year 😉

Speaking of age group wins: if I were a mere three months younger, I would’ve won the 20-24 age group by four minutes. This is why I didn’t want to turn 25!!

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8 thoughts on “Jingle Bell 5K Race Recap

  1. I assume all the 20-24 year olds were at TBOX lol. Nice race! I know what you mean about sometimes just wanting to place well and not care as much about your time – that’s sweet you ran one of your fastest though!

    • Ha, fair point. Though even in the three years I did run that race while in the 20-24 age group, with times no slower than 1:30 slower than Saturday’s, I still didn’t win the age group, so it must have been particularly uncompetitive this year. Alas. It was nice to break 25, though!

  2. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the 25-29 age group is so much more competitive but I am. Congrats on a great time though! I love when they surprise you. I swear, sometimes less training=better. I’m looking for a race to do New Years Day and I haven’t been doing a ton of running lately either.

    • It’s CRAZY competitive. I don’t know why–if maybe more girls get serious about running in their late 20s, or the ones who got burnt out in college have started to feel the itch again and get back at it–but almost across the board, the 25-29 age group has more participants and MUCH faster participants, at least in races I’ve run. The good news is that according to older runners I know, if I can just hang onto my participation in running for another 40 years or so, the age groups start getting much less competitive once you get into your 60s. Hahaha.

  3. I know what you mean about the age group disparity – it can be really frustrating! Although, I’ve benefited from it the other way, too! I once won my AG with a 5K time of 26-something. Had I been in the AG either just younger or just older than mine, I would have had to finish at least 5 minutes faster to place, let alone win! So it does work both ways – and hopefully it’ll swing the other direction for you soon! In the meantime, congrats on a super-strong time!!!

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