For the first time in a few years I won’t be running our local Christmas 5k. And since I have been keeping my “run a race every month” streak going strong for almost four years now, I wasn’t going to let December bring me down! December races are a little challenging to find… apparently not everyone loves winter running as much as I do. I am sure another reason they are hard to find is the fact that most people have so much going on in December. I know I do – that’s why I can’t do the local Christmas 5k and it made finding a replacement race difficult.
I enlisted Paula in finding a race to do together and we ended up deciding on the Dashing Through the Snow & Fire 5k in Fowlerville, MI. It was on December 1st, the day of my sister’s Christmas party, but it was only a short drive from there to the party. It worked out great – we planned to make a girls weekend out of it. My December race would be checked off the list right away and my streak would continue!
Once again, the weather forecast was looking pretty dicey. It appeared that we were going to get rained on, again. I thought, “well, it is a ‘snow & fire’ race, and when you mix those two together it would make sense that you’d get rain. Go figure!” I was not looking forward to yet another cold and wet race.
Paula and I decided to bring all of the options to make sure we were prepared for any type of weather. Ideally we wanted to wear these adorable sparkly running skirts we had both picked up from Gone for a Run. She bought a green one and I bought a red one. I was pairing mine with a tech shirt that says “Run Run Rudolph” and this absolutely adorable headband with tiny little sparkly antlers. If there was pouring rain, though, we didn’t want the skirts to get soaked or ruined.
We also discussed beforehand how we wanted to run the race. Were we running for fun and going to just stay together? Did we want to race and what were our goals; could we stay together? I told Paula I wanted to push myself to get my best 2018 5k time. I was pretty sure I didn’t have a 5k PR in me (29:33, 9:30 pace) but if I could maintain about 10 minute miles or a little faster, I could get my fastest 5k time for the year. If she wanted to start with me in that pace and then felt like she could push it, feel free to leave me in the dust.
Paula and I are known for being almost obsessive over checking the weather forecast, and it was nothing different for this race. Even the day of the race we kept checking the hourly forecast to see if we might get a break in the rain. One weather forecast said we would and another’s radar looked like rain would still be hovering over us. Just before the race started, we made our last minute decision – what should we wear? The rain cleared up – it was still cold, cloudy and windy, but no rain! Cute sparkly skirts were happening!!!
We got out of the car and made one last bathroom pitstop before heading to the race start. Except… we didn’t really know where the race start was. So we just started following people. We found the race just in time. The start line had two hot air balloon baskets (no balloons) and they would blast fire into the air – hence the name, “Dashing Through the Snow & Fire”. The fire helped to warm us up a little bit and it was pretty cool to see.
Not long after we got to the start line we were off! Paula took off ahead of me and I tried to keep up but I knew it wasn’t happening. Then my goal was to keep her in my sights, which I was able to do for a good portion of the race, but the distance between us kept growing and growing. I kept picking people to keep up with… sometimes I could, sometimes I passed them, sometimes they left me in the dust. It was a good way to keep my mind focused on one step and then another, and not giving up.
At mile 1 and 2 they had someone calling out times. I wasn’t looking at my watch so I figured okay, they were probably pretty close to my pace, give or take a couple of seconds. The guy at the first mile marker called out 10:05 when I passed, which I was really happy with. I told myself to try to maintain this pace or pick it up a bit, and maybe my goal would be within reach. The woman at the second mile marker called out 19:50 when I passed, and I was like whoa! I didn’t feel like I had picked it up that much, but maybe I had! I took that momentum and kept going.
The course was mostly flat, but had some nice long gradual inclines here and there. Those can be mentally draining because you don’t necessarily realize they are there, but it just feels harder and you feel like you’re slowing down. The worst part of the course for me was this straight portion along the school that happened to be going straight into the cold wind and was probably a slight incline. Then in the school parking lot right after that were speed bumps. A guy that I had been kinda piggy-backing the whole race made a comment about not letting those speed bumps slow him down, which made me chuckle. He ended up being a huge motivation for me at the end of the race.
The last bit of the race was another nice gradual incline. You could see the finish line from quite a distance – the fire definitely helped. And you could see that you were going to be going up a hill. For me, seeing the finish line for a long time really messes with my head. It feels like it is taking forever to get there. It feels like you’re running on a treadmill. And in this case it was a treadmill with the incline bumped up! I just told myself to keep going. At this point I had lost sight of Paula completely but I knew I wasn’t too far behind, and she would be at the finish line cheering for me.
As I got close to the finish line, the guy who had made the speed bump comment caught back up to me and made a finish push to the finish. I thought to myself, oh no way am I letting this guy show me up now! So I raced him… sprinted as fast as I could to the finish! I could hear Paula cheering for me and afterwards she told me how cool it was to see me push like that to race him.
Once we caught our breath, we headed over to where the results had been posted. Paula said, “I got second in my age group!” So I thought oh well, I didn’t place then. She then said, “And you got third in yours!” That’s when I remembered that we aren’t in the same age group, at least for another couple of weeks. Her age group was super close – she only missed 1st place by one tenth of a second. How crazy!
We hurried back to the car to grab our coats because by then we were freezing our bums off! We got lots of compliments on our outfits as we were heading back and we saw a few really cute dogs, which is always a plus. We made it back to the race just in time for them to start giving out awards. We didn’t know ahead of time how many people would get awards – some races it’s 1st-3rd, some races it’s only the first two, some it’s only the leader. We realized quickly that they would be giving awards to 1st-3rd place and that we would both be taking home medals today!
My official finish time for the race was 32:02.5, making this my second best 5k of the year. My best was the Freeze Your Fanny 5k in January, 31:05, so less than a minute faster. I feel really good about how I’m ending this year’s racing. We’ll see what 2019 has in store for me!