Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jingle Bell Half

On Saturday, December 14, I ran the Jingle Bell Half Marathon in Atkinson, NH.  My friend, Lori, had asked me if I wanted to do it with her.  I was a little unsure about committing to a half marathon in December, in NH, but she had just committed to running the Vermont City Marathon with me in the spring, so I figured I owed her one.  The Jingle Bell Half would be my last race of 2013, and put an end to a long, but rewarding, year of racing.

As race day approached, I became more excited about having one more half marathon to finish out the year.  My training lately has been going great, and I've been seeing and feeling a lot of improvements.  I PR'd the half marathon in Boston at Boston's Run to Remember in May, but have struggled to finish close to that time since.  I only finished under 1:50 one other time this year recently, at the Seacoast Half Marathon in November.  I didn't verbalize a time goal for this race.  Most importantly, I just wanted to have fun and finish the year with a good memory.  But, in the back of my mind I know I was hoping to finish sub-1:50 and as close to my PR time as possible.

The week of the race, I did as most do, and began checking the weather forecast for Saturday.  Apparently Jack Frost wanted to remind us it was winter in NH.

I would have been happy if the temp had actually reached 15 degrees that day.  Instead, we were hit with 9 degrees at the start, and a balmy 12 degrees at the time of the finish.  It was cold.  Due to the weather, and the elevation chart I figured I should take a look at…

My goal for the race quickly turned in to:

Race morning began as most do.  Wake up, make coffee, drop a nuun tab in some water, check twitter, sit on the couch, eventually eat a gluten free bagel with peanut butter and jelly, then begin to get dressed and gather my race day essentials.  I dressed lightly for the hour ride to the race, but made sure to pack extra layers and a change of clothes for after so I didn't freeze on the ride home.  In case you're crazy like me, and end up running a half marathon in single digits…here's what worked for me: Oiselle new lesley tights, winona tank, 2 lux layers, and the flyer jacket.  I also wore a headband to cover my ears, gloves, and a neck warmer.  

Flyte tank instead of winona, and only one lux layer,
but these are my go-to layers to stay warm.

Thankfully, the race started (and finished) at the Atkinson Country Club.  This meant a warm room and bathrooms before the race, and motivation to run as fast as possible to return to the warmth after.  We stayed inside as long as possible, until we were told to get our butts to the starting line.  Ready or not, it was time to run.  

Lori and I staying warm for as long as possible

We gathered at the starting line somewhere around the middle of the pack.  We jumped up and down, did some last minute stretching, and thankfully after just a few minutes, it was time to go. 

This is my pretending to be excited face.

To my surprise, once we started running, I didn't feel as cold as I thought I was going to.  Again, thankfully, there was no wind, which helped make the cold somewhat bearable.  Lori was aiming for a PR and told me she was going to try to stick with me as long as possible.  When we started she took off and was in front of me for the first mile or two.  I didn't try to catch up to her, I've made that mistake in other races before.  I just tried to stay calm and run my own race.  Unfortunately, my Garmin was set on kilometers, which I didn't realize until I started running.  I decided to stop my watch, switch back to miles, and start it again at mile 1 so I would at least know what my pace was like.  So dumb.      

I don't remember much of the course.  It was mostly through residential areas.  There was a section that was on a main road, with cones along the right side of the road that we were supposed to stay inside of.  We basically had to run single file, which made it difficult to pass people.  I felt better than I had expected running up and down the rolling hills that were promised on this course.  Lori was now running right by my side, or slightly behind me until mile 8 or 9, which helped to push me forward.  It was around that time that my ears started to feel cold and I became very aware of just how cold it was.  Looking around, most people had frost on their headbands, hats, gloves, water bottles, and beards.  It was pretty funny actually, but also a constant reminder of how cold it was.  

At mile 8 I struggled to chew a shot block that was pretty frozen at that point.  So was the water I attempted to drink after.  I still felt good while running, but needed something to take my mind off the cold.  I pulled out my iPod and frozen ear buds and started listening to music that would carry me through the rest of the race.  The miles went by pretty quickly.  My face felt numb, but other than that I felt good.  I pulled up my neck warmer a few times to try to breath in to it and warm my face.  It worked for a couple minutes, but the cold air always found its way back in.  

Around mile 10 I started to pick up the pace a bit.  Since I didn't start my watch until the first mile, I wasn't really sure what my time was at that point, but I tried to figure it out based on what I thought I ran the first in.  I thought I would be close to a PR, and definitely sub-1:50 as long as nothing crazy happened.  I felt myself running faster with each mile…11…12…13.  I was passing people who had passed me earlier in the race.  As I climbed the last hill to the finish line I gave it all I had left.  

1:47:59…8:15 av pace.

Not quite a PR, but it is my second fastest half marathon time.  The course in Boston I PR'd on was the flattest half I've done, so given the elevation and the cold, this felt like a PR to me.  It was the perfect end to a year of racing.  

Side note: as I was typing this I tried to upload the data from my Garmin and it died (again).  I guess my splits are forever lost inside Garmin world.  Sad day.  


  1. Congrats Jess!! What a strong race in not so great conditions! Do you have any halfs on your schedule for the Spring?

    1. Thank you!! I don't have any planned yet. I haven't signed up for anything but the marathon next year. I'm sure that will change though and am open to suggestions!

  2. Awesome job! The weather wsa ridiculous on Saturday and you still kicked ass.

  3. You did awesome!!!!! You are rocking it!!! I am super impressed with you as always lady!! All there is left to say is come run with me Sunday. That will be all :)