You never know what the weather gods will throw at you when you sign up for a race in New England in December. But once again I rolled the dice with New Hampshire's Jingle Bell Half on December 6 (Race #51 of the year).
On a wild and crazy Friday night, I spent time working on my Jingle Bell Half outfit. It always calms me the night before a run to focus on what I will wear rather than the miles themselves.
The Jingle Bell Half would be my third-Christmas themed race of the year and I didn't want to duplicate. BUT we had heard that there was a potential for both rain and snow the day of the race so a game time decision on an outfit would be necessary.
Additionally we would be traveling to the race day of and how long it would take to get there seemed varied based on traffic. Therefore the alarm was set for 5:45am so I could check how long it would really take. With google maps telling me 39 minutes, I'd be able to go back to sleep for 45 min! Woo! :)
When the alarm went off for a second time, I checked the weather to make a final outfit decision. The weather app was calling for rain, cold and wind... umm YAY? ;)
We piled into the car, stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for the wife and hit the road.
The roads in New Hampshire were slick as it had snowed then rained so the police and race director would be making a call on the race - on time, delay or postpone - at 8am. We pulled into the parking lot of the Atkinson Country Club and Resort at 7:57am.
As we walked into the Country Club and down the stairs to bib pick-up, the announcement about the race going on ON TIME rang over the loudspeaker. Yahoo.
Bib and t-shirt pick-up was a breeze and we headed back to the car to warm up and drop off my t-shirt. We were able to park RIGHT outside of the Country Club, which was awesome.
Around 8:30am, we headed back inside so I could use a real bathroom and avoid a port-o-pottie. The lines were long, but really I had nothing else to do and preferred waiting inside in a line than outside at a port-o-pottie.
Just after 8:50am, I kissed the wife goodbye and headed outside. The Country Club let spectators hang out inside while we ran and the wife was very appreciative.
When I almost slipped on the way to the Start, I made the decision to take this race easy as Boston Marathon training would be starting in exactly one week and I don't have time to get injured (okay injured further) before that.
Now the Start line wasn't the most impressive one I have seen, but it served the purpose. :) The race director once again went over where water stops and port-o-potties and just after 9am we were off.
I wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to run in the cold and rain, but I had a discussion with myself during Mile 1. There was a lot of look how lucky you are to run, you were given a complimentary entry (thanks again Club LOCO) and you will love it once you are in it. Of course I was right and the other part of me quit the bitchin'!
I knew from the email that the race starts on a downhill goes to rolling hill and recommended keeping some umph in the tank for the final two miles.
The cool thing is the race would take place in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
The race did in fact start on a serious downhill, which reminded me of the Boston Marathon start.
I noticed right away I was going too fast and needed to tail it back.
Mile 1: 8:09 Mile 2: 8:11
As I mentioned the roads were slippery and covered in slush so I took the turns and downhills especially easy. I was too scared of falling and inuring myself.
We took a right onto Hovey Meadow Road and the start of the rolling hills. We were winding our way through some really quaint New Hampshire neighborhoods. It was nice getting lost in the houses and nature rather than the pace or miles.
Mile 3: 8:39 Mile 4: 8:36
I was also 100% caught up in costume envy. Before the race the wife turned to me and said "You are seriously outdone today." 1) Ouch and 2) I wasn't bringing my A-game I know.
This woman was!
Her shirt said: I Am Tall (For An Elf)
I was also wicked jealous of runner Pam. I don't know who she is, but she had quite a cheering section at one point. About 6-7 people under a tent in a driveway with music and a light-up sign. I mean A+ to that group.
Mile 5: 8:30
I hadn't looked at the course beforehand (shocker), but knowing there were rolling hills. I tried to take advantage of the flats and downs as much as possible.
Plus the scenery was pretty eye-catching.
Mile 6: 8:17
During Mile 7, we crossed over to Massachusetts. Oh hey home state! :P
Mile 7: 8:12
Just after the Mile 7 water stop, I opted to take a walk break to refuel with part of my KIND Snacks bar - dark chocolate & sea salt. This year I have really played around with fueling options for me and like using 1/2 a KIND bar pre-race and the other 1/4 or 1/2 during the race. This has been working pretty well during my recent half marathons. Might keep that plan going. :)
I appreciated the guy holding a "Make 8 Great" sign during this mile. It was my slowest mile by far, but I made the most of my walk break during it.
Mile 8: 9:27
The snow that had fallen earlier wasn't helping road conditions, but it was making some pretty scenic views.
As we hit Mile 9, I started playing the mind games. Okay four miles left, you can do that. Pretend the first 9 didn't happen. Haha!
My legs were tired from the rolling hills and I was ready to be done. I find miles 8-10 of a half are the toughest for me especially when running alone. I was super jealous of all the people around me running with a partner and I was out there just with my music.
Mile 9: 8:31
During Mile 10, we crossed back into New Hampshire.
Mile 10: 8:04
I cannot tell you what happened with that pace in Mile 10. I think I was wicked excited to get to the hot chocolate and chocolate station that would be happening during Mile 11.
Yes I grabbed my piece of Lindt chocolate (I didn't see the hot cocoa anywhere) and asked the kid handing them out to take a selfie with me. Kid was a natural. He was in position before I could even turn my camera around to selfie mode.
I decided to wait to eat the chocolate after how my stomach felt during the Santa Hustle Half.
Visions of the race email were whizzing through my head: save umph for the last two miles. Well they were upon me so it was time to buckle down and get to the Finish.
Oh hey incline I hadn't had enough of you yet. :P
Mile 11: 8:39
I wanted the climbing to be over... but there was more in store for us. I just kept thinking: Beer, Beer, Beer! I mentioned that to the guy next to me and it didn't seem to motivate him as much as me.
As we approached the Mile 12 marker, I thought the road looked familiar. Well it should've been as we were running on it at the beginning of the race. Yes I am slow on the uptake sometimes.
Mile 12: 9:05
Rough Mile 12 as you can see.
I focused on one foot in front of the other. I wanted to stop and just sit, but I had come too far. I knew it was all mental since my body kept moving forward.
We made our way back onto the Atkinson Country Club grounds and I could hear the Finish announcer.
Mile 13: 8:27
I gave it everything I had to get across the Finish Line in one piece. ;)
Final Time: 1:51:37.2
Good for 278th out of 887 overall and 36th out of 177 in my division.
How cool is this medal? It is real wood, made in Vermont and doubles as a Christmas Tree ornament! :)
I grabbed my medal/ornament, heat sheet and water and headed back into the Resort to meet up with Tori. Oh and grab my free post-race beer of course.
I haven't been so happy to sit down in a warm room in ages. The race offered participants free Smuttynose Bouncy House IPA, Hot Chocolate, Stonyfield Yogurt and soup. Pretty sweet spread in my opinion.
I warmed up, enjoyed my beer then headed out to make the trek back home.
Overall, the race was indeed fun and really challenging at the same time. The rain pouring down starting in the middle of the race was tough and the hills were felt. The volunteers and police were great and I made sure to thank each as I passed by. Having the Grand Ballroom at the resort was the perfect place to hide pre-race and spread out post-race.
Would I do this race again? Absolutely!!
Does the time of year make you weary of signing up for road races?