I traveled to Kirkland on Sunday morning to run the 12 K's of Christmas run with friends. It was only because I'd made plans to carpool that I managed to wake up before 7 am on a cold and dark Sunday morning with a head cold after a late night out (not a crazy night out, but a nice evening with friends in far off Maple Valley that was late due to the long drive home).
As always, however, once awake and on the road, I was glad that I didn't just turn off the alarm and roll over. The day was dawning very cold (for Seattle - below freezing) but very clear, with amazing views of snowy mountains in every direction.
I've only been to Kirkland for races, really (one 10K, one triathlon, and a bike ride around Lake Washington), so while I couldn't tell you the best place for coffee or lunch, I knew what to expect when it came to the course terrain. Hills. 12K is ~ 7.4 miles, so I wasn't quite sure how to pace myself: faster than a half marathon pace, slower than a 10K pace, but making sure to reserve enough energy for the climbs. Since I was still a little sick, I decided not to push it and stick with a half marathon pace (which I know is 8 minutes/mile; I haven't run a recent 10K, so wouldn't even know what that pace is). As I got to the race start, the pace markers were marked with both minute per mile and minute per K paces; a big help, since I didn't always see mile markers. Fortunately, 8 minutes per mile is just about 5 minutes per K; very easy to remember.
Each kilometer was marked with a child's drawing that corresponds to the number in the Christmas carol (5 gold rings, 2 turtle doves, etc.). Every time I passed one, I sang the verse of the carol out loud, hoping that others would join in. Ha! This was the quietest race I've ever run: very little pre-race chatter, almost no cheers at the start of the run; very little cheering for the course leaders as they passed by on an early part of the course that was an out-and-back. So, there was certainly no one else singing. The nice thing about watching clicks rather than miles is that they come really fast. I ran a little faster than expected (I felt surprisingly good), so I knew that after I passed one marker, the next would be less than 5 minutes away, and you can push up any hill or run a little faster for only 5 minutes. I ended up finishing just over 58 minutes, with just under a 7:49 pace overall.
We didn't linger long at all at race end (other than to grab a couple cups of coffee) because it was so cold, and had a delicious brunch at Cafe Flora on Madison. Mmmm.... cheesy grits. All in all, a great morning.