I survived. Besides the miserably cold windchill and the fact I was sure I was getting frostbite on my hands and feet, I had my fastest 5k yet. I think it's because I just wanted to finish. Balls, it was cold.
Instead of going out to celebrate the New Year last night, I opted to stay in, lay out my clothes, and figure out if I was bringing enough. Although I run in my "ninja gear" all the time, I've never run in these windchills. It's hard to believe these few layers were supposed to keep me warm. It looks like a bunch of thin clothing, but I had a pair of knee-high nylon socks, thick double-layered athletic ankle socks, leggings, shorts, arm warmers, a short-sleeve technical tee, a long-sleeve technical tee, a water- and wind-resistant sweatshirt, two pairs of mittens, a face guard, ear warmers, and my signature bright-pink hat.
I slept pretty poorly last night for a number of reasons; lots on my mind, loud drunk people returning from the bars and finding it fun to yell in the hallways, etc. I woke up bright and early to try to eat a bunch of easily digestible food that wouldn't upset my stomach. I don't find it necessary to carbo-load the night before short runs like these, but I knew I was going to be burning a lot of calories standing around in the cold waiting for the race to start. I also knew I would burn more than usual during the race trying to stay warm. I made two mini bagels with peanut butter and jelly (one I ate for breakfast, the other I ate an hour before the race with a few swigs of fully leaded coffee), had half a banana, and drank a bunch of water in preparation for what The Weather Channel was showing me:
After test-running a few laps around my apartment's parking lot while I waited for my friend to pick me up, I decided to bring an additional layer. At the last minute, I removed my white long-sleeved technical tee and put on a nerdy vest. I know, I know. I looked like a dork, but I am so glad I opted for the additional body layer around my core. (I am also glad I had a pocket so I could bring my camera!)
Like all of Team Ortho's races, the Polar Dash was a very well-organized race. My friend and I arrived early to pick up her packet and race bib. We tried hanging around indoors as much as we could, but the volunteers were very good at finding our hiding spots and shooing us out to wait in a heated tent. All for good reason -- the Shiner's Hospital for Children wasn't large enough to house the 1,500 registered participants. Fair is fair, so we went out to the heated tent and waited with the others:
All the states representing this run:
My friend and I before the race ... I moved toward the front, she opted to stay near the back.
Many of the other running fools: (The yellow shirts are in honor of a registered runner who recently passed away. You can see her story here.)
The first mile was my personal hell. Despite the two pairs of gloves, my hands were throbbing from being so cold. I couldn't stop thinking about how much they were inflated and on fire. I tried moving them around as much as I could to get the blood flowing, but the more I thought about them, the more they burned. Likewise, my feet literally felt like cement blocks -- square, fat, heavy, and huge. They stung everytime I landed on them, so I tried to take short steps to lessen the impact of landing hard. There were lots of slushy puddles and I did my best to run around them, but there were a few times I landed square in the middle of a puddle and felt the instant freeze on my toes. Hey, at least I was feeling that!?
Mr. Anastos's screen (he would be my Garmin Forerunner) was lagging because it was so cold. I tried tucking it under my sleeve to keep the display warm, so I didn't have ready access to checking my pace or distance. I remember looking at him at 1.14 miles and saw something like 8 minutes, and then I saw 14:46 somewhere before the 2-mile mark.
There was a turnaround after 1.5 miles for the 5k runners while the 10kers branched off another direction. The race directors and volunteers were very helpful at this turnaround. It was very slippery and they warned each and every person to watch their footing. I watched my footing, and of course I still slipped a little -- but I caught my fall before they needed to reach out to grab me.
The second half of the course felt downhill, and it was nice being able to see that there were just a few people in front of me! I was shocked at how many people I was passing left and right ... especially the boys. :) I mostly just wanted to get indoors and heat up my hands and feet. Here are the yellow shirts again after I passed the turnaround.
I saw the finish line with a half-mile to go and knew I was very near the front of the pack. I snapped a picture of myself nearing the finish line, and I noticed when I uploaded my pics that my eyes were freezing over. Sick.
A lady handing out awards to the 10kers congratulated my on my great finish, noting that I was one of the first females to cross the finish line that early. There were no awards -- or even time-recording -- for 5kers. I asked her to take a picture of me with my finisher's medal; thanks, you wonderful, brave volunteer!
Amazingly, I set a new PR by 9 seconds (23:25 v. 23:34 on December 5, 2009). And, I finished in the top 5 women who ran the 5k (I was No. 5). If only I could run every race like this, I may win something for my age category someday! Maybe there is something to running in frigid temperatures...
My splits: 7:40, 7:39, 7:35, :30
Windchill: -12F (Actual: 4F)