Race organizers promised their Christmas present to us would be that the big hills would all be downhills. They lied. In my mind I called this the Pinocchio Race. There was a hill that lasted over a mile (from miles 5 to 6.2). Another runner referred to it as The Big Beast.
I signed up for the race partially because the Saturday before Christmas was empty on my calendar (later I learned I could have had breakfast with Santa at Fedoras with Don and Ashley), but more because of the odd distance. Twelve kilometers works out to about 7.45 miles -- a distance I have never run before in a race, therefor a guaranteed distance and course PR.
The race was marked in kilometers, which as I've said before make the race seem faster.
About two weeks before the race I saw my neighbor Lucy and told her I was running this race. She immediately signed up to do it with me. It is the first time we have run together, though we often see each other on the trails.
Race day weather was miserable. The forecast called for a high of 56 (nice for December in New Jersey), but raining. They moved parking from the field near the start line to a paved lot about a half mile away. Thirty minutes should have been enough time to get to the start, pick up our bibs and shirts, go back to the car, make final wardrobe decisions, and get back to the start in time. There were no signs and we had troubles finding the starting line. Ugh.
By the time we did the running around we made it to the start line 8 minutes late, which coincidentally was when the race started. Normally they are very good about starting on time, so I suspect enough others had troubles with the moved parking lot that it merited them starting late.
It was only misting when we were at the car deciding what to wear. Lucy felt her rain gear was overkill. I ditched my sweatshirt. Within the first kilometer the skies opened up and it rained the rest of the race. Visibility was only about 10 feet. What I could see looked nice.
Lucy stayed with me the whole race. My legs were not feeling the hills. I am a much stronger power walker on the hills than a runner. Lucy struggled to keep up with my walking (for her walking is to rest, for me it is to pick up my pace). When it came to the downhills she ran with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. I laughed and smiled at her expressions of pure joy. She gave me some running tips. which were hard to implement in the moment.
A little hard to see in this picture, but the mile markers were simple images from the song the 12 Days of Christmas. We lost time taking this picture as the few people near us kept ending up in my picture.
After conquering The Big Beast we though we were done with the hills. We were past the 6 mile point. About a quarter of a mile from the finish line another small hill appeared and we both let out a groan. It wasn't a major incline -- but it was a sign we were both DONE. We were by no means the last people to finish. When we left 10 minutes later some people we had seen on the course early on were finishing.
There were some course volunteers, but not many. It was Christmas weekend. There were enough that we did not get lost, which is what matters. Unlike many routes, this was not an out-and-back, but a couple of large loops. As a result, I have no idea how many people were participating in the race. I mostly saw the same few people around us.
We finished around 1:33. Neither of us placed. It wasn't even close for me. Lucy sprinted to the finish line. I tried to give it my all, but with carrying an extra 10 pounds of wet clothes, there was not much "all." I wore a cotton shirt from the Christmas Story 5k/10k race, and a sparkly Santa hat, neither of which repelled water. Both of which looked cute.
As is typical with RunBucks events, the post-race food was fantastic! They had a Thanksgiving Dinner-style spread. Yes, I should have taken a picture. They had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and cranberry sauce. They also had a lot of leftovers, probably because it was too wet to mill around afterwards.
Lucy is enthusiastically looking forward to doing the race again next year (um...with me). I am trying to figure out when and how often I should visit Tyler State Park and work on my hill training. Running 10K in Mercer Meadows was nowhere near the preparation I needed for a 12K hilly run. Another group has a winter running series that mostly takes place in Tyler State Park on Sunday mornings. I should really consider joining them.
The rest of the day was spent wearing my new green hoodie, sitting on the coach reading a book near the fireplace and trying to warm up. It was nearly 60 degrees out, but I still struggled to warm up. Perhaps that is what my post-race picture should be, an easy image to recreate.