Yesterday morning was the Santa's Hustle 5K at Montrose Harbor here in Chicago. I've never done this race before but I wanted a 5K to work towards and this is my last free weekend until mid-January, so seemed a good fit. As you can see above, the race shirt is a Santa costume (hat and beard included!) so the race ends up being nearly 3000 Santas strong. As they told us at the start, it is the "largest Santa race in the Chicagoland area". Hmm....I wonder how many there are??
Somehow, despite my being up at 6:30, I was almost late to the 9am start. I ended up jogging to the start. I did NOT sprint- I learned my lesson about sprinting to the start at the Monster Half, so I jogged at a warm-up pace. Actually worked out perfectly because I got to the start w/ 2 minutes to spare. I'm so used to doing large 1/2 and full marathons w/ start corrals based on pace that I had no idea where to stand in the free for all that was the starting line. I tried to eyeball the people around me and make a guess about how "fast" they were. I knew the course was going to be tight and snowy so I sure didn't want to be too far back having to dodge people in my PR attempt. So I settled for about 30 lines of people from the front (maybe 100 people or so ahead of me).
I was really impressed- the vast majority of folks were wearing their Santa hats and beards- some even had full suits! Everyone was feeling jolly and full of X-mas spirit esp with the 3 inches of snow on the ground and the fat flakes that were still falling from the sky! I had no idea it was supposed to snow so it was a wonderful surprise yesterday morning!
General Race Experience
The race in general was well organized with a true to distance course (my Garmin said 3.12 miles). The race starts on a wide road so there is plenty of room, and feeds onto a bike path after mile 1. Because of the snow, it was crowded, but I think it would be okay if the full width of the bike path was available/visible. There were 2 "aid" stations- one had cookies and one had hot chocolate which was fun, though I was too busy working on my PR to stop for either. The miles were marked, but I think only the first one had a clock. Plenty of food and drinks at the finish (bananas, water, peppermint sticks, cookies, Cliff bars). It's a good race for the whole family- easy to spectate at multiple places, they have live reindeer and sleigh rides at the finish for the kids. I would say to get there plenty early (at least 20 mins) to ensure you can park and get to the start because the parking is at least 0.5 miles from the start. Overall I would recommend this race as a fun winter 5K.
My Race Experience
As I said above, I somehow got to the race late so had to do a warm-up jog to get to the start. The temperature when we left was 22 w/ light snow. It felt warmer than that. Because of my 'hustle' to the start (pun intended), I was moving the whole time I was outside. After some group 'ho, ho, hoing' at the start (really-it was pretty funny), we took off. It....was....snowy. The road and the bike path were covered in snow. Parts were sorta plowed, other parts weren't. Cars had driven over the road, so most people were trying to stay in the tire tracks. I spent a lot of time passing people (yea!) so I had to make my own trail most of the way. I'm glad I wore old shoes because they were WET!
Mile 1 went well. I quickly got up to an uncomfortably hard pace that I hoped I could keep for the whole race. I was running by feel and just trying to stay uncomfortable. I figured that was about as fast as I could go! I knew looking at my Garmin would stress me out, plus I really needed to pay full attention to the snow and other runners so I didn't fall. My first mile was in 8:12. My fastest mile to date! Woo-hoo!
Mile 2 we got on the bike path. It was crowded and I lost all hope of taking advantage of tire tracks so I just plodded on through the snow. I had to work really hard to continue to pass people because I could have easily become complacent and just started running behind the folks in front of me. Around 2.25, I started doubting whether I could hold the pace. I gave myself permission to slow down just a tad during Mile 2, with the plan to speed up again during Mile 3 when the end was closer. (I can do anything for a mile, right?) I was happy to see on my Garmin that running by feel worked- my second mile was 8:43. Slower than I would like but appropriate given that I decided to slow down a bit.
Right at the beginning of Mile 3, I had a happy surprise. Adam was there! I didn't know he was going to be out there, so that was fun. I tried to smile and wave to the camera but didn't want to slow down because I knew I was doing well. I'm so glad he came out because I think the pictures are HILARIOUS! Starting about mile 2.5 I started to push it a bit again. Mile 3 ended up being 8:20.
The last 0.1, I tried SO HARD to kick it into high gear and sprint! I guess I did, because my pace was 7.23 but people were passing me! I usually have a very good last kick and don't get passed, but maybe because I was hanging with the fast(ish) people for the first time EVER, my sprint wasn't good enough to pass folks. Okay w/ me!
My official finish time was 26:10:10 for a 8:26/mile pace. I've NEVER finished a race w/ all <9> I'm completely satisfied and proud of my time! I just know that under more ideal conditions, a sub-25 5K is a very real possibility! I guess I'll be waiting a while for the snow to melt for those conditions, huh?
Running w/ the Santa beard was not a bother at all. I forgot it was there. Just in case you were wondering.
Later that day Adam and I went on a recovery 9 miler outside. I got to take the time to enjoy the scenery and the snow. It was great!
I hope you all are enjoying this wonderful weather! Get out there and run/walk/ski/sled/snow-man build....just do something!!