Santa and the Sleighbaru led us up the first hill of the familiar course. If a course has significant hills, I prefer to face them early on, as it keeps me from going out too fast. I bided my time up the hill, letting a lead pack charge up it ahead of me, then settled into my pace as we took a left turn into the residential neighborhood.
A quiet tour of neighborhood streets made up most of the first half of the race. I followed a runner as he adjusted his elf hat, and tried to balance my competitive effort with my lack of training, relatively successfully. We did a short out and back along a street at the end of the neighborhood, while Santa hitched the Sleighbaru to the curb and cheered us on, then it was time to take a short steep downhill and join the park path along the Tualatin River.
The next half-mile or so was along the paved path, which had a few gentle turns and very short hills, with the river on our right. I gradually caught up with the guy in the elf hat and encouraged him with the news we had only one mile to go. We entered the park again, and with the finish line within sight joined a brief stretch of dirt trail.
We left the trail, took a wide turn around some cones on the park road, and headed back toward the finish. I caught up with another runner at this point, and here I made a big mistake of thinking we were on the home stretch. I put on a semblance of a kick and charged toward the finish banner, excited by the time on the large red digital clock.
Alas, it wasn’t quite the finish yet. More cones guided us out on a final out-and-back, which was actually relatively short but seemed like an eternity after making that premature surge and realizing I still had some work left to do. But I knuckled down and got it done, crossed the line, and took a spot on the curb to catch my breath.
I headed back to my car to change into my Timbers gear. Normally I would have hung around afterward, but with the MLS Cup Championship Game looming, I couldn’t stay long. I headed back to the picnic area to pick up a couple Hostess HoHos and a Sno Ball, and then made my exit from a great December running tradition. It was a jolly good time!