You know that nervousness you get the night before a race? The kind that keeps you tossing and turning instead of sleeping? The kind that has you checking the clock every hour all night long?
Yeah, I didn’t get that this time.
I wasn’t nervous for today’s Jingle Bell 5K. Things have just been so crazy this week with all the car issues (this and this), holiday parties on Friday and Saturday night and a whole bunch of other stuff like Santa pictures, I haven’t really had a chance to think about it much. In fact, I didn’t even know what I was going to wear until last night at 10 p.m. after we’d returned from a Christmas party in Seattle. Some of my running stuff hadn’t even been washed, so I didn’t have much of a choice! (I wore my blue REI shirt and my gray capris, then covered up with a black fleece zip-up.)
I set my alarm clock for 6 and drifted off easily. I slept peacefully until I heard T Junior crying around 5:30, but he quickly fell back asleep. At 5:45, I decided to just get up and get ready. I didn’t even make a to-do list for this morning. I got dressed, went downstairs and had some coffee and a toaster muffin with peanut butter on it while I looked up the directions to Zoë’s house (Run, Zoë, Run). Turns out, she lives about 10 or so minutes away from me, so we planned on my swinging by her house at 7:15 to have plenty of time to get to Seattle for the race start at 8:50.
I was actually ready a little bit early and decided to hit Safeway for a Santa hat or some antlers since I hadn’t had a chance to do that and everybody wears at least something fun in this race. I struck out at the first Safeway, but I knew there was another one on the way. As I drove, I remembered there is a Fred Meyer on the way, too. (Sort of a Walmart with a grocery store in it.) I figured they’d be open. It was 6:45. Everybody’s up then, right? I passed Safeway, pulled up to the door at Freddy’s and got out. The sign said: “Opens at 7 AM.”
I got back in the car and went to the Safeway next door. I found a funny Santa hat, but it was too big. I knew it would never stay on while I ran, so I put it down and drove back to the Fred Meyer. It was 6:55 and they were unlocking the door. Surpirsingly, I wasn’t the first one in. I walked straight to the Christmas aisles and found a Santa hat. Really, though, I wanted antlers, but I couldn’t find any. (By the way, I had to go back there tonight and I found the antlers. Argh.)
I made it to Zoë’s at 7:14. I was on time! On the way to the Seattle, we joked about how “warm” it was: 37 and NOT raining or snowing. “It’s not going to snow,” I kept saying.
Zoë had a secret parking place that was free, so she steered me there and we found a spot. Just as we parked, Heather (Almost Running) texted me: “Are you on your way?”
All of a sudden, I panicked. Was I supposed to pick her up? Wait. I didn’t even know she was running this race?
I called her. She was on her way with her husband, who also was going to run. “I didn’t know you were running!”
“You told me to,” she said.
I laughed. “That doesn’t mean you have to!”
Zoë and I walked a few blocks to her warm office, used the clean potties (no Honey Buckets!) there and dropped off our extra layers at her desk. I didn’t want to part with my fleece, but she convinced me to leave it behind. She said it’s better to start cold. (And, yes, I thanked her later because I would’ve been too hot.)
Back outside it was freezing as we made our way into the crowd near the starting line in search of bells for our shoes. The bell people were elusive, so it took a while, but we found some!
We tied on our bells and wandered around Westlake Center people-watching. We saw Jesus, Santa and lots of creative holiday costumes. We also took pictures.
Now you know what cold looks like.
Aha! Did you see what that is in the bottom right corner of the picture?
Here, let me get you closer.
Ahhhhh! Oh yeah, it’s a heat lamp. We camped out underneath one until about 5 minutes before the race started. Then we had to elbow our way through a thick crowd. We couldn’t get very close to the front. In fact, we were sort of around a corner, just stuck. “It’s warmer in here,” I said, which grossed Zoë out.
When it was time to go we had to shuffle and merge until we crossed the start line. It took a couple of minutes.
Zoë disappeared into the massive wave of people heading down 5th Avenue. I’m not sure how she went so fast, I was having a hard time weaving in and out of people and not falling. But I was smiling. Bigger than I smiled in the Seattle Half just a couple of weeks ago. We were even on the same road! I was having flashbacks! It was a little different, though.
In this race people were just so joyful! There was a couple running and holding hands in front of me for a while. And I didn’t even get annoyed! I think this group of runners was just out to have fun! Going down 5th in the half, it was quiet and loud at the same time. The noise was just feet pounding and people breathing. This time, people were yelling, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” and screaming and waving to onlookers 10 stories up in their condos or hotel rooms or on balconies. As we entered the Express Lane tunnel, a round of “Jingle Bells” broke out. I didn’t sing, but I enjoyed listening and I was still smiling.
We ran under I-5 in the express l
anes. It was dark under there and smelled like urine. However, the sound of the bells echoed beautifully. But I was also wary of those bells. I had to look up (to weave around people) and then at the ground, up and then down. I didn’t want to step on a bell and have something happen like poor Lisa! I kept thinking about her ankle.
My Santa hat kept slipping backward and I had to readjust it every 10 steps or so. But I refused to take it off.
It was under the freeway somewhere that I started wondering how far we had gone. I never saw any mile markers! Before I knew it, we were turning around and heading out of that stinky, dark place.
Outside, stray snowflakes fluttered around. At first, I thought they were cherry blossoms, but then I remembered that it was December. “It’s snowing!” I shouted to some random women running to my left. They didn’t hear me…or, they ignored me…one or the other.
Seriously, like a minute later there was a monster of a hill. As we started up, I heard a man say, “The key is to not look up.” I took his advice, but I’m not sure that is the key. I’m pretty sure the key is to keep saying, Almost there, almost there, to yourself all the way up.
I was almost there and I heard a volunteer yell, “The finish line is at the bottom!” Oh, okay, that was the key! I dug down, turned the corner at the top and kicked it in.
A downhill finish! Woohoo!
I felt great and let gravity pull me down. I took great big strides. Man, I hope nobody stops in front of me now! Because there’s not way I would’ve not hit them.
I was somewhere in the middle of the downhill when I heard the announcer call out 30:54! Darn, I wanted to finish at 30 minutes! I tried to go faster and faster.
I passed three young girls with capes that said they were representing Jewish runners or something like that. I couldn’t read them because they were flying out behind them as they ran. A TV camera followed them and I passed in front of it. Maybe I’ll be on the news! Well, maybe the side of my face…
As I approached the finish line, I heard Zoë yelling for me from the crowd on the left. That was so awesome and it made me run faster. She snapped a pic of me in action! (I’m in the blue shirt.)
I crossed the finish line at 32-something and was a little bummed. But then I remembered that I was wearing a chip and it had taken me a couple of minutes to cross the start line. Oh yeah! I couldn’t wait to get home and see what my chip time was.
Zoë found me, gave me a hug and then took my picture.
I had Santa-hat hair.
Zoë and I shuffled through the booths. Top Pot was handing out doughnuts and we each scored two! (Later, I shared a half of each with Mr. T and felt awful about 30 minutes after that. Too. Much. Sugar. Need. Nap. Now.)
I texted Heather, but we never found each other. I was a little bummed we couldn’t meet up, but I knew she had her husband by her side. How great is that?
And how great was this race? Seriously, so fun. Zoë and I decided that next year we will go all out with costumes. Tutus with bells on them! Maybe some red-and-white striped tights! Who else wants in?!
Oh, and of course, before we left, we had to get our picture with Santa!
(That reminds me…after the race, we saw this woman in a “naughty” Mrs. Claus costume and fishnet stockings. What? Fishnets? Ouch! Don’t those chafe?)
I think running a half before the 5K is part of what made this race so fun. In my mind I felt like after 13.1, I could pretty much do anything for 3 miles! I felt like I ran hard, but easy. Know what I mean?
Back home, I was thrilled with my time: 30:16 with an average pace/mile of 10:21.
Mission accomplished. I’ll be sleeping good tonight!