Sunday, December 11, 2011

Race report: Jingle All The Way 8K, December 11, 2011

I ran the Jingle All The Way 8K this morning, finishing in 31:51 – a 54 second PR that was good enough for ninth place female overall (meaning no age group award) out of 3024 females.  I also learned that, no matter how hard you try, you can’t outrun your early childhood failures.

More on that later.

Jingle All The Way” is a fairly big deal race in the DC area, and quite competitive.   In past years, it was held as a 10K on Hains Point in DC, meaning the course was insanely fast (each year I’d set my PR there).  But this year, they had to swap it to an 8K course held in downtown DC near Freedom Plaza.   I was disappointed when I learned it had been changed – I had been looking forward to a shot at a 10K PR.  But the 8K course, though far slower than Hains Point (a slight uphill/downhill, plus 4 180 degree hairpin turns) had its own appeal.  In March of this year, I had run my first race after healing from my broken foot.  And I had gone out stupidly fast, and crashed hard (time – 33:55).  This was a chance for revenge.

The race had a 9:00 am start, which was oddly luxurious.  I got to the race site around 7:30 to get a good parking spot, and then kicked back and caught up on some magazines in my heated car.  Around 8:10, I stepped out to drop off my bag at bag check, use my inhaler, and start my warm-up.

It was low 30s, with a bit of a wind, and pretty darn chilly.  I felt ridiculously tight and stiff at first, and so jogged very slowly until I began to loosen.  I finished my warm-up with about 12 minutes to race start, and a nice slight sweat under my throw-away shirt.  Perfect.  I walked for a moment, and then started my drills and strides.  I’d normally like to do 4-5, but I felt super zippy after 2.  I didn’t need anymore, so I decided just to lightly jog for the last five minutes.

And then the race was delayed – flash backs to one aspect of last week’s Hot Chocolate 15K Fiasco.  But with two key differences:
  1. The delay was the result of a police stop on the course – we could see the flashing lights a mile away near the US Capitol (which the race runs past).  This was completely out of the race management’s control, in clear contrast to the Hot Chocolate delays that were the foreseeable result of planning failures.
  2. The race management did a fantastic job of explaining exactly what the situation was, and giving all the accurate information that we needed, while also not making light of the situation.  With no lies (again, direct contrast to last week).
Races always have snafus – it’s all in how the management company handles them.  And the difference between this week and last week was like night and day.


But still, I had been warmed up, and now I was cold.  I was wearing my team’s tank top, shorts, and a throwaway light polar fleece that would have been perfect for a 5 minute wait.  But now we were waiting longer than that.  

With a delay of indeterminate length, I also wasn’t sure what to do in terms of modifying my warm-up – I didn’t want to expend tons of energy, but also didn’t want to freeze and lose the benefits of my warm-up.  Finally, I settled for a combination of walking, slow jogging, and skipping drills.

I was also retying my shoes continuously.  I usually CRANK my shoes tight right before a race – they feel good while running, but hurt otherwise.  For 5 minutes or so, I can take it, but my feet were started to cramp and scream.  So I loosened them up, fiddling continually in an attempt to find a tightness that wouldn’t make my feet cramp even more, but still be enough to keep the shoe on for some drills and strides.

At 9:22, they announced that the race would start shortly, and gave us a 2 minute warning.  I did another two strides.  Crap.  I was cold and stiff.  But, everyone was in the same boat, and nothing to do except be careful to go out slow so I could warm-up on course.  I retied my shoes again, but couldn’t get them as tight as I would normally like.  Oh well.  First world problem.  I double-knotted them, and jumped into the starting area.

(are you seeing the foreshadowing here?)

The race started, and I rode the brakes, watching (per my norm) teammates that I normally run with zipping ahead (I’ve made my peace with the fact that I am VERY slow off the line, and can only do myself harm by pushing hard to keep up with my perceived peers in the first few miles).  

I focused on not racing, but simply warming up, for the first 2 miles or so (missed the first mile marker).  Once I felt good, then I started easing into race effort, and relaxing past others.  Things felt OK.  I was pushing an honest solid effort, but still relaxed and in control.   My shoes felt a bit looser than I’d like, but heck, only 3 more miles to go, right? 

And then, somewhere around the 3 mile mark (which I missed), my right shoe came completely untied.  Laces flopping; shoe falling off of foot.


There’s a bit of a history here:  I have HORRIBLE fine motor skills.  I can barely thread a needle, let alone sew a straight line.  Heck, I had trouble coloring in between the lines in kindergarden.   

As a young kid, the two things that I failed repeatedly were a) tying my shoes and b) handwriting.  I was told repeatedly that my truly lousy handwriting would keep me from achieving my potential as an adult.  In reality, as someone who types all day and runs for fun, the shoe tying thing has been the much tougher obstacle.

The shoe-tying thing’s become a bit of a joke, even.  I can quadruple tie my shoes and run the loops through my laces, and they still come undone during long runs -- it's a tradition.  The problem’s especially pronounced in my Kinvaras (which I wear for all easy runs and nearly all workouts).  I race all distances in the Saucony A4; in that shoe I haven’t experienced the same issue.  Until today.

[and yes, I’ve also tried “Yankz” and other shoe-tying substitutes – the problem is that I also have tendencies towards bad tendonitis on the top of my feet, and lace substitutes aggravate that – the cure is worse then the disease.]


I pulled to the side, indulging in language generally associated with adolescent males in drug rehab programs, rather than a lady of my (questionable) maturity and stature.  Yanked my gloves off, retied the right, checked the left, and then took off again (holding my gloves in hand – I didn’t want to lose any more time). 

I was livid, and I was surging.  This was not good.  I run my best when I channel my inner Bob Marley; I was feeling a lot more like Trent Reznor.

I grabbed hold of myself mentally and relaxed – the time lost was gone, and I’d only destroy my race if I tried to make it up in the next half mile.  With a sigh, I started patiently relaxing past the same backs I’d seen 2 minutes ago.

I kept my flow until almost the end – a woman was right ahead of me, and I forgot myself and gunned it.  Had I just stayed patient, I might have had her, but the forced surge cost me and she answered and held me off.  My legs tightened and stiffened like heck, but I held it together to the finish line – noting with satisfaction that the clock was under 32 minutes (since I run with a blank watch, I generally have no idea what my time is until I cross the line).  


Splits ended up being:
Miles 1-2: 13:06 (6:33 pace – includes uphill and downhill, plus 2 hairpin turns.
Miles 3-4: 12:56 (6:28 pace– includes a hairpin turn and the stop to tie my @#&(#! shoes)
Final .97 – 5:49 (6:00 pace – includes a hairpin turn)

Final time was 31:51 – 6:24 pace.  Good enough for 9th female overall (no age group, since they don’t double dip).  My previous PR was 32:45 – set on an extremely fast 8K course a year ago (albeit I was sick that day).  To bust that PR by nearly a minute on a much slower course while taking a break to tie my shoes is nice, though it would have been nicer to bust the PR by more with well-tied shoes….

Looking at my Garmin data, it looks like I was stopped for at least 15 seconds to double tie everything (I took a bit extra care, to make sure I didn’t stop again).  I can’t really say it cost me 15 seconds though – I think you also gain back a bit of time from the brief breather.


Other notes:  my mildly asthmatic lungs were having a bit of a problem with the cold air, so I took 4 puffs of the inhaler (ended up being an hour before race start).  Lungs ended up not limiting me during the race, though I struggled again to catch breath post race, and have a nice bit of track hack.  I’d rather have the lungs hamper me AFTER the race than during.

Took a shot of Pepto 90 minutes before race start.    

Warm-up was 3 miles continuous, starting at very easy jog and working gradually into tempo effort.  Felt really good, and would have been set had race started on time.

Next time – someone’s tying my shoes for me. 


  1. Ha, love the Bob Marley/Trent Reznor reference of your mood. Great job!!

  2. Congrats on another great race! Sorry about the shoe laces!

  3. Nice work on the PR.

    I also have issues with my asthma and cold air. That sucked big time when I lived in Boston.

  4. That's so exciting! Congratulations. You may know that I usually run with YANKZ and they are awesome for preventing things like this. My husband has fallen down twice due to laces, but now he wears YANKZ and problem solved. Anyway- nice report and congrats-- speedy!!!

  5. You are crazy! I'll tie your shoes for you next time. FWIW, last year my double-knotted shoes came untied during the JATW 10K. Maybe it's cursed.

  6. Nice job! Maybe have someone with fine motor (and sewing) skills modify your shoes to velcro. It worked in kindergarden, and it can work again!