Posted by: Karen | November 22, 2004

Jingle Bells

Yesterday I did the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 10k here in Calgary. I gathered with some training buddies from Gord’s store and some Roadrunners and we enjoyed looking around at different costumes that showed up. There were lots of Santa hats and reindeer antlers. Some teams dressed up as Santa’s helpers, there were Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat, a whole team of reindeer used a shiny garland as reins, and a team of frogs in Santa hats also showed up. The best costume was the girl dressed up as a Pointsetta.

It was about 5?C/41?F, with a very slight breeze. The road was dry and clear of ice and the course was fairly flat. Sounds like perfect conditions for a PR, right? If you’re not in the mood for a grumpy whine-fest, you might want to skip the rest.

I don’t want to run with a jingle bell again for a lo-o-ong time. The only good part about the jingling all around me was that it made it harder to hear my beeping watch, which kept beeping before I hit the km markers.

Before the race I set my watch to beep every 5 minutes and 54 seconds. If I could keep to this pace per km, I would be on pace for a 59 minute 10k.

I had a race strategy – I would run the first 3.5 km easy and feel good warming up. I would pick up the pace in the next 3.5 km and feel challenged, but amazingly strong and full of vigour. Then I would kick the last 3km like I was running to keep up with a bad bomb technician.


The first 2 km were a very gentle up slope. Not a hill, but my legs stiffened up and were NOT cooperating. In the first km several of us were pleasantly distracted by 3 deer (2 stags and a doe) nestled in a copse of trees near the University dorms. My watch at the 2k mark said 12:30 and I was less than thrilled. I kept telling myself I’d feel better in the second third of the race, and forced myself to get back on pace, even though the legs and lungs resisted.

By the 3rd and 4th km (ever-so-slightly downhill) I was passing the km markers when my watch beeped. Physically I was still not feeling any better, but was mentally comforted that I had indeed picked up the pace, even if I didn’t feel like I had. I barely made the 5k point by 30 minutes and gritted my teeth for a second loop.

You know that groove you get when you’re having an amazing run? Sometimes it’s only a few minutes, sometimes it’s the whole run, but that feeling like you could just do this forever? Didn’t happen this time. The whole darn hour was a struggle. Sometimes it happens, eh, and you always hope it doesn’t happen on a race day. Yesterday it did. I tried to talk myself out of it with proclamations of “I am STRONG!” and “I am AMAZING” but my body said “who are you kidding? and what are we doing out here? and what’s the rush, anyway?” If this had been a regular weekend long run I would have bagged it half way through and walked home.

I slogged through the rest of the race, just barely squeezing in the km markers on pace. At 8 km I was 32 seconds late and gave myself a 20 second walk break and pep talk. I WAS going to do this. I could rest LATER. Get the butt in GEAR.

By 9 km I was wheezing like a squeaky toy and barely able to control my breathing. When the watch beeped for the last time I saw the finish was still just way to far away to make it in 1 minute, but I sprinted as hard as I could anyway.

No official results are being published for this event, but I happen to be friends with the timing crew and the “real” time agrees with my watch – 1:00:46. Sigh.

I am a bit comforted with the fact that both the winner of the race and a couple of other reliable sources suspect that the course was a tad long (up to 500 meters!), due to a detour around some construction.

I’ve been fighting a cold, too. Had sniffles and itchy ear-nose-throat stuff the last couple of days. Hubby has a full-blown cold, too. (yeah yeah, whine whine whine…) I’m looking forward to lots of nice, hot drinks in the next couple of days.

I am also comforted by the perception that I did indeed race harder and more consistently in this race than I have ever raced before. And that is why I race, isn’t it? To push myself to/through limits not tried before? I made myself work even when I didn’t feel like it, because I challenged myself.

I’ll log this as another learning experience. I have a planned scale-back of my running plan for December, and am looking forward to taking it easy over the Christmas season. I have two more XC races before the end of the year, and then in January I’ll start ramping up the mileage and speedwork again.

No sense trying for more 10k prs until the weather warms up again in the spring, and I’ve got a few other running distractions to keep me busy until then. 🙂



  1. awesome, awesome attempt at breaking the 60 min 10k! one of these races you’ll be in the zone and you’ll crush your goal! exciting to see you push hard, despite not feeling ‘on’.

  2. Hello Karen,
    Fabulous and funny post.
    I was laughting and laughting when I came to
    “By 9 km I was wheezing like a squeaky toy”
    Keep posting and running


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