This morning I ran the Jingle All The Way 15K in Washington, DC. The 15K is a fun distance, but rather uncommon. The 10-miler is much more popular here in the DC area with the Army Ten Miler, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and the GW Parkway 10-miler. As such, I had only run one 15K previously!January 2015 in pouring rain. Part of the course was flooded and I ended up running 9.5 miles according to my Garmin. My main goal there ended up being to survive without getting hypothermia. I was underdressed for it being in the mid 30s with rain, and I was happy just to finish in a time of 1:12.
I did run this Jingle All The Way race back in 2007 when it was a 10K. But never since!
I chose this race for a few reasons. First, I had a free entry. Well, not exactly free - I had registered for a 10K in March of 2020 that got cancelled. The race management company didn't start up racing again until 2022, and the choices for deferral were a 4-miler in March, or this race. So I chose this race. Seems crazy to finally be using a registration fee from nearly three years ago!
This race was also my tune up for the Houston Marathon, which will take place in 5 weeks. I typically prefer to run a half marathon as a tune up, but those are difficult to find this time of year and I didn't want to travel.
Before the Race
I slept very well last night. We recently bought a new mattress from WinkBeds. And it makes such a difference. I didn't find my old mattress to be uncomfortable, but I think the memory foam trapped too much heat. So both Greg and I have been sleeping better than ever for the past two weeks!
For breakfast I had some almond butter pretzels and a Maurten Solid, along with plenty of water. We left the house at 7:10 for a race start of 8:30. There was no race day packet pickup, and one of my friends had gotten my bib from DC yesterday. I had driven to her house to get it. She ran the 5K so I didn't end up seeing her on the course.
We parked and then I got a text from my friend Anna saying she was also running the race. Perfect! Greg and I walked to where she was parked and we warmed up together. Greg is unfortunately still injured so he was on photo duty.
I somehow got the timing wrong and didn't have enough time to run my full warm up of two miles. When it's cold I typically need at least two miles to get the legs to move fast. I only ran 1.1 miles, but I included strides. I also jogged in place at the start line. I took a Maurten CAF gel 10 minutes before the start.
The weather was really nice. I give it a 10/10 on my race weather scale. 42 degrees, completely overcast and almost no wind. I debated giving this a 9 because with the overcast sky, it was extremely cold when I finished and I could not wait to get warm. It was like 42 with a "feels like" of 32! But for running, I think it does get a 10 out of 10.
Strategy and Goals
My goal was to run a sub-6:50 pace. My 10-mile PR is a pace of 6:47, so I figured if I could do that today, I would be very happy. I think my 10-mile PR is my strongest PR out of all of them. And the McMillan Calculator agrees. The 10-mile distance is truly my sweet spot.
I would count this race as a PR if I was able to beat my 6:47 pace from that 10-miler. My strategy was to run even pacing and just hold on to the sub 6:50 as long as possible. The course was pretty much flat, so I didn't have to factor in hills.
The race started in a pretty narrow area, which was surprising. But after about a minute of running things really opened up. I felt amazing at the race start. I was running a pace of 6:50 and it felt totally manageable. Almost like half marathon pace! I was very encouraged. Sometimes the first mile feels stale, especially with a shorter warm up. But this mile felt amazing and it flew by.
Miles 2 and 3 also felt really good. I couldn't tell exactly how many women were ahead of me, but it didn't look like too many. Historically there have been many fast women at this race, so I thought I would be lucky to place in the top 10. I definitely knew I was in the top ten during these early miles.
Mile 1: 6:50
Mile 2: 6:48
Mile 3: 6:42
I was pretty shocked by that 6:42, but I had told myself in advance not to let a fast split psych me out. Who knew what I was capable of? I took a Maurten gel at 4.5 and it went down easily. It was around this time when I passed a woman who had been ahead of me. I had been gaining on her for the past mile and I finally passed her. I was feeling energized and confident! I don't have too much to say about these miles, other that I tried to hold a steady pace and think positive thoughts.
Mile 4: 6:47
Mile 5: 6:49
Mile 6: 6:50
Mile 7: 6:51
After mile 7 things suddenly got very hard. My energy level was high, but my legs started to feel heavy. All of a sudden, they just didn't want to move at the same pace they had been. I tried to fight it and really lean in, but I had to work much harder to maintain my pace. And I wasn't able to run as fast as the first seven miles.
This is when I started to regret my tempo workout from Thursday. On paper, it hadn't seemed like that big of a workout, but when I was finishing it, I realized my legs were getting tired, and that was not a great sign for a Sunday race. That workout was 15 minutes at marathon pace (7:12), 10 minutes at half marathon pace (6:51), 5 minutes at 10K pace (6:32) and 1 minute at 5K pace (6:21). All with 2 minute recovery jogs. This ended up being just over 5 miles, which was pretty long!
So during the 8th mile, I was regretting that workout as my legs did not want to move. Regardless, I stayed positive and focused on retaining my place in the field. I knew my goal of a sub-6:50 pace was slipping away, but placing well in a competitive field would be a nice confidence boost.
Things went from bad to worse after I hit 9 miles. It was only 0.4 to go, but my legs were not having it. I didn't have any final kick and that was my slowest portion!
Mile 8: 7:01
Mile 9: 6:57
Last 0.41: 7:11 pace
After the Race
I met up with Greg and we looked up the official results. I ran a time of 1:04:35 and was the 5th overall female. A top five finish at this race? I'll take it!
We watched Anna finish and then I wanted to leave pretty quickly. I did not want to stick around for my award because it was really cold and my Achilles were hurting. Racing sometimes causes a flare-up, and sometimes not. They feel decent now, but they were definitely on fire after finishing. All I could think about was getting home to my new bath tub.
Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
I'm happy with how this race went. I definitely think I could have run a sub 6:50 pace for the whole race if my legs had been fresher. They were the limiting factor, not my energy level. And I had averaged a pace of 6:48 all the way up through mile 7!
Mentally I stayed positive and I kept pushing hard even when my body wanted to slow down. Great mental toughness training for Houston.
Most importantly I had fun. This was a festive race with a scenic course in DC. It was a unique distance and a great challenge. Now back to training for Houston!