Running a race in subzero (Celsius) temperatures is harder than going out for a training run at the same temperatures. It is because of the waiting around for the race to start. For a training run, I am either running right out of the door, or traveling somewhere in a warm car and running right away. With recent memories of long exposure to cold while waiting for the Thanksgiving Day 5K, I was prepared to stay warm while waiting for the Hot Chocolate 5K at 20 degrees (Fahrenheit.)(-6.7 C) Not only did I have on:
- fleece lined running pants and
- a mock turtle neck, insulated, fitted, long sleeve shirt,
- the new light weight, wind blocking jacket,
- a double thick polar fleece gator,
- a twice thick polar fleece ear warmer,
- insulated leather gloves,
- wool socks, and
- my solid leather RunAMocs, but
- I had thick sweat pants over my running pants,
- all topped with my heavy duty winter coat.
My husband and a daughter had volunteered for the race, so needed to be there almost 2 hours before it started. I mostly stayed in the car, getting out a couple of times to move around, as well as pick up my numbered bib and timing chip. The early arrival had it’s advantages for me. It meant we had a close parking spot such that I could easily keep an eye on what was going on, plus stay in the car until much nearer to the start time. I ventured out of the car permanently with 30 minutes to go.
I saw many other people trying to keep warm in just their running attire. Even dressed as I was, I had to keep constantly moving to be comfortable. I worried a little about getting tired before the race, but remembered that I have been running distances up to 11.5 miles lately! I decided 15-20 minutes of moderate walking, dancing, and occasional high knee lifts was okay. I kept on my extra layers until 10 minutes prior to the start time. Then,
- I shed the sweat pants
- and coat.
- I also traded the leather gloves for some polar fleece ones.
- I unzipped my running jacket, since I had pinned my number on the inner shirt. I wasn’t sure how much I would warm up while running.
My toes and the soles of my feet were getting numb, so I was thinking of beginning my run carefully, making sure I wouldn’t trip due to lack of feeling and function. I had chosen my RunAMocs, instead of the usual Moc3s, because it had snowed in the last couple of days. Conversations on my Barefoot Runners Society forum (scroll to bottom of the forum page) had me alerted to frost bite from wet feet and the Moc3s are NOT water proof. Not only are the RunAMocs solid leather, but I had sprayed them for waterproofing.
The race would begin through a funnel of sorts, and I didn’t want to get stuck back too far. Since the day before, I had had visions of enjoying a speedy (for me) run. It may not work out in reality, seeing that my fastest pace lately had been an 8:20 minute mile, but I was feeling inspired. I set my new Garmin Forerunner to find my location and listened for the start signal.
For the first half mile my legs felt particularly stiff, so I was surprised to look down and see my Garmin was recording a 7:45 minute mile pace. Greg always tells me that it’s surprising what resting a couple of days before the race, plus some race adrenaline, will do. Nonetheless, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to maintain that. My Turkey Day pace had been about 8:15-8:20 and I had felt like I was really trying hard the last mile. I backed off my pace just a bit and a friendly lady, whom I judged to be a few years older than me, glided past. That was depressing. Oh, well. I could only do what I could do.
Long patches of packed ice on the trail were noticeably slippery, but I think my barefoot style of lifting my feet helped me feel comfortable on them. I didn’t see anyone fall, though. Everyone was quite polite about passing on the (average) 5-6 foot wide path, even after the turn around when there was two-way traffic. The path varied off and on between asphalt, thick gravel with some thin dirt trails in the gravel (where I tried to run), and wooden bridges. The race coordinators had taken time the night before to spread de-icer in a few crucial spots, like corners and bridges, which was appreciated.
The course markers seemed to be disagreeing with my Garmin, but either way, I was still holding a gratifying pace. If the course marking were right, I was on turbo-jet (at an approximate 7:24 minute mile pace); but if my Garmin was correct, I was still keeping just under an 8 minute mile pace. Happy happy!! The one friendly lady who had passed me early on, came back into my sight. Another younger lady, who had passed me at about half-way, was beginning to lose some of her advantage over me. I began to strategize if I might overtake them. That’s one of the fun and motivating things about races!
With my 40/20 workout on the last Monday fresh in my mind, I only mildly increased my speed until I could see the finish area. I just needed to gain some ground, then stay close enough. Soon, I actually passed the lady in purple. I don’t think she was having as much fun at that point as I was. (I talked to her later and she said the cold air was bothering her lungs. I was not having any similar trouble.) Rounding the last curve, I didn’t see the chalk markings encouraging me, but the sprinter in me broke out in joy as I whizzed past the other lady, hearing her shout out in surprise and disappointment, then the gasp of the finish line crowd. I guess I gave them a good show! (After the race, she told me she didn’t hear me on account of listening to her music. She also said nice things about me looking like I was in the 30-39 age group, so you can see it was an all around good day!)
I found I could do nothing other than bend over and rest on my knees a few feet after the finish line. My support crew was all volunteering or back on the course where they had captured such nice photos for me. I barely remembered to stop my Garmin timer, breathing taking extra concentration for a moment. It was only a few seconds before I was able to proceed to look for something to drink. I wanted water, but the hot chocolate provided in my commemorative mug was a reasonable substitute for the moment. And the marshmallows were fun!
Since my Garmin was showing a distance of 2.89 miles, I wanted to ask one of the race coordinators about the course. I met them when I ran the Lake Lowel 10K in May. They are very nice and approachable. I was told they had measured it at 3.1 miles, twice with a Garmin, but the mile markers and turn-around-cone had been set out later by someone else. They were grateful for the input.
Greg says GPS watches are not continually in contact with the satellites. Because of that, the faster the wearer is moving and the more curves in a course, the more error there will be. This course had a lot of curves. The accuracy of the original course measurement depends on how fast the original runner was moving. Thus, walking would be the best way to use a GPS watch to get the closest to accurate measurement.
Greg found race stats for the second place male finisher in this race and was able to compare them to the same runner (placing 86th) in his Idaho State Cross Country meet 5K this fall. The times for his two races are within a few seconds. The state meet happens to be one our daughter (at right volunteering with her dad) ran in, so we know details about the course. It had hills, compared to the flat course for the Hot Chocolate 5K. However, a cross country runner should have been at the peak of his training for the State meet. So many possible considerations!
My race standings are just as fun as my race pace.
- first in 50-59 gender age group
- ninth of just over 200 women
- 36th out of just over 300 race participants, but a few were walkers