This was the inaugural race at Santa's Wonderland, and it sounded fun to me because I am a sucker for Jingle Bell runs. With this race, we got to run through the lights at Santa's Wonderland, which was a cool bonus about the race entry fee. The race benefited the local food bank and we were asked to bring canned goods on race day as an additional donation.
The race t-shirts were very cute, and we actually wore them for the race - traditionally, in runner's lore, you don't wear the race shirt until after you've done the race, but hey - rules are made for breaking, right? Along with the shirts, we got jingle bells in our race packets (plus a really pretty race bib), so we were all set for a festive race:
Occasionally I can get Jeff to dress matchy-matchy...although I don't think he would have gone for the socks!
The look on my face pretty much says it all:
"What was I THINKING, signing up to do a race after our long run in the morning?!!"
The 5K race started across the highway - they had to run down the access road, cross an overpass, and then run toward us, still on the access road, until they hit Santa's Wonderland, where the last mile (and our only mile) was all in the lights. We didn't start our run until most of them had hit the park...it was pretty exciting to see that the first runner was none other than our teenage prodigy Gus Roman Jr., who pretty much wins every race he enters. We cheered everyone on, and then finally, it was our turn. We got to run with pace group elves - we choose Buddy, of course!
Now honestly, we were both really sore and tired from running 12 miles that morning. Plus I had "runner's gut" - my stomach just hurt after the long run, and except for a breakfast taco during the post-race party, I hadn't had anything to eat all day. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do much beyond a nice stroll through the lights - and that would have been perfectly fine. But the race started, and we ran. Not only was I surprised at that, but also, that we were running on rocky dirt and gravel...I'd never been to Santa's Wonderland, and had no idea that it wasn't paved. So we were running through a dust cloud that was kicked up by other runners, and trying to stay balanced on the rocky terrain - but we were running. The lighted displays were awesome - we ran through tunnels of lights, past the Alamo (lol, this IS Texas), some longhorns, oversized cowboy boots, and the Texas flag, along with more traditional Christmas displays. It was bright and cheery, and really fun. We ran and I didn't feel that bad, which surprised me. Before I knew it, we were at the finish line - a mile goes pretty quick when it's only one of one, instead of one of a dozen!
We collected our candy canes and hung around the park for a few minutes where snow was falling:
Snow in south Texas in November? Magic!
Jeff thought we'd run pretty fast, and the next morning when the race results were posted, I got the shock of my life - I ran that mile in 11:58! After running 12 miles earlier in the day, I'm surprised I could even walk, much less run fast. And on a rocky dirt road, no less!
One last picture as we left the park:
The colors, they're so pretty!!!
So I've mentioned that we ran 12 miles earlier in the day...we originally planned on only running 8 miles, but this ended up being the benchmark run for our running club - the longest run for both groups. The halfs were doing 12 miles and the fulls were doing 21 miles (I pitied them). When the course map was emailed out earlier in the week, I looked at it and thought "that doesn't seem so bad" - what can I say, I had runner's amnesia after the never-ending 13.1 miles the week before. Plus Coach Dale made this like a real race - we had to get there early to register and put on our bibs, and there were supported aid stations along the way (it's always so nice to see a friendly face when you are going through torture). At the end, he even had medals and breakfast tacos for us. So how could we NOT do the full 12 miles?
Well, we did the 12, but not without some massive rethinking on this whole running long distances thing. Right around mile 5, I thought "I feel pretty good - why not stop now, before all the aches and pains start?" - and it took me a couple of miles to get back into the run. Then, around mile 9, I was running so slow that I'm sure it looked like I was in slo-mo. I needed to take a walking break, which is something Jeff has been opposed to doing, unless it's scheduled. Well, after a come-to-Jesus meeting with him, I finally got the point across that taking a short walk break actually revives me and I run much better afterward. And when I need a walk break, it might come at unscheduled times. Crazy, I know...not predicting and therefore scheduling when I might get tired. The last few miles of the run ended up being really good - yes, it was tough to finish, but we did it in much better moods than the previous week, and I'm actually willing to run the BCS Half, and even looking forward to it, with Jeff. Miracles happen.
(But after that race, I'm still going to reevaluate running long distances. Five miles STILL sounds pretty appealing to me right about now!)
Post 12-mile run picture:
12 and done - with smiles!
Close up of my newest medal!