Tacky Light Run

IMG_20131215_154957_703Kurt and I had been pretty excited about this race for a while. It’s a 6K run through a neighborhood all decked out with tacky Christmas lights. Participants are encouraged to wear tacky holiday attire. The more lights, jingle and just plain tackiness, the better.

Kurt had ordered all kinds of lighted things for us to wear, and we’d made a trip to Goodwill to pick up tacky red and green outfits. We were all set for a festive, fun evening.

Then we checked the weather. A week out, they were calling for rain. But the forecast is never right, especially so far out.

For a while it looked like we would get the bulk of the rain in the morning, and it would taper off in time for the race.

The day of the race, the forecast changed. Now they were calling for light rain in the morning, changing to a more steady rain in the afternoon and evening hours, and tapering off by midnight.

The race was scheduled for 6pm rain, snow or shine.

It was raining pretty hard as we drove to Richmond. We parked at the community college, changed clothes in the car, opened our umbrellas and made a dash for the shuttle bus.

My feet were soaked by the time we got to the bus. Without my coat, I was freezing.

It was a short (warm and delightful) bus ride to the event site. Once we arrived, I didn’t want to get off the bus.

IMG_20131214_163903_132But Santa was there to greet us.

We made our way over to packet pick-up and got our numbers. Each participant was also given a couple of glow sticks and a light-up bracelet.

We then needed to attach our race numbers to our shirts, which was impossible to do holding umbrellas. We looked around for a place out of the rain, but there wasn’t a public tent. We eventually found a vendor tent without anybody in it, and ducked in there. The vendor came back after a few minutes, but he was very nice and told us to stay as long as we needed to. Another lady came by and told us that we should get some pre-race cookies and Starbucks coffee. We found the cookies, (and each ate one) but didn’t see the coffee. We did find a vendor selling coffee, though. I bought a cup to warm me up.

We soon realized that we’d arrived too early. There wasn’t anything to do but walk around to try to stay as warm as possible.

A lot of work had been put into the event site. The lights and decorations were pretty spectacular. There were a lot of great photo spots. I tried to take pictures, but I had to keep taking my gloves off, and it was hard to keep my phone dry.  All the pictures came out blurry.

If it wasn’t raining, it would have been a lot of fun. Even in the rain, it was still cool to see everybody decked out in gaudy Christmas costumes and lights.

tackylightrun2013One group of participants had made a sleigh. They were all dressed as the reindeer pulling the sleigh, and a dummy dressed as grandma was sticking out from underneath. It was really creative and cool! I thought it was something the race directors had put together. I didn’t realize until later that it was just a costume. Those reindeer definitely should have won a prize!

IMG_20131214_173850_921Sorry about the blurry picture. If you look closely you can sort of see grandma’s feet hanging out from the back of the sleigh.

As we lined up for the race start, I was also impressed with how many people had come out to run in pretty much the worst possible weather conditions.

Once we started running, I was even more impressed by all the neighborhood people who were outside cheering for all the runners. There were so many lights and people lining the streets playing Christmas music and cheering. Lots of kids were holding their hands out for high-fives from the runners.

It was such a cool experience to run through the streets in the dark and to look ahead and see hundreds of runners all lit up, and house after house with awesome lights and decorations.

I soon discovered that it’s really hard to run in a wig that kept sliding off my head, and about 8 strands of lights and beads around my neck that kept bouncing.

There was a cookie and water stop during the race. It was the first cookie I’d ever tried to eat during a run. It was yummy, but not very easy to eat.

We stopped for a picture in front of a stretch of particularly brightly lit houses. Unfortunately, none of my pictures came out very good.

IMG_20131214_182413_585I had taken my wig and sunglasses off during the run, so we stopped again a little before the finish to put them back on. There was a long, lit-up chute everybody got to run through in the final stretch.

IMG_20131214_172801_524Santa was standing at the finish giving all the runners a high-five as they finished.

IMG_20131214_184835_101The medals were gingerbread houses.

IMG_20131215_155243_046They make great tree ornaments.

IMG_20131215_155430_079I didn’t wear my Garmin, and I don’t think the race was timed at all.

After we finished, we picked up our t-shirts, got some water, went to the post-race food tent (more cookies!), and took a spin around all the vendor booths again.

So, the food offered before the race? Cookies. During the race? Cookies. After the race? Cookies. I felt like we were in some crazy Christmas Land where everybody eats Christmas cookies (and nothing but Christmas cookies) all day long. Sort of like Buddy in the movie Elf.

We picked up our checked bags, which had been placed in plastic bags, but then set out on tables in the rain. The dry clothes we were planning to change into were not exactly dry.

We really wanted to stay for a while and maybe catch the awards ceremony, but we were both wet, cold and tired, so we headed back to the shuttle bus.

The Tacky Christmas Light Run was a fun holiday event. We can’t wait to do it next year, (hopefully NOT in the rain!).

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Smithsonian National Zoological Park and Zoolights

Kurt has gotten me hooked on the Panda Cam at the National Zoo. We both like to check in periodically and see what Mei Xiang and her baby Bao Bao are up to.

I’m pretty sure the Panda Cam is what got Kurt thinking about the zoo, but for whatever reason, he’s been bugging me to go for a couple of months now.

Not that it took much convincing. I love animals, and once he told me about ZooLights, I was actually really looking forward to going. I’m a sucker for Christmas lights.

We almost didn’t go this past weekend, because it was freezing out, but we ended up deciding to brave the cold.

We got off the Metro at a little after noon, walked a frigid half mile and found ourselves face to face with a couple of cheetahs.

IMG_20131207_132513_118The National Zoo is free, which is just crazy to me. Bring your own water, though. I forgot my water bottle in the car, and had to pay $3 for a bottle in the park.

Most of the public feedings and shows happen earlier in the day, but we got to see Tian Tian (Bao Bao’s father) enjoying a frozen treat.

IMG_20131207_134446_166We also lucked out and walked into the Elephant Community Center right when they were feeding the Elephants.

IMG_20131207_143642_787The trainer was asking this elephant to raise her hoofs, put her ears back, and turn in different directions, all of which she did.

We also got to see a couple of elephants pee. Wow. If you’ve never seen an elephant pee, it is quite a sight. Floodgates definitely come to mind. Just wow.

The spectacled bears were a lively bunch. They were climbing all over the place and wrestling.

The two cubs started wrestling behind me while Kurt was taking my picture.

IMG_20131207_153608_849

IMG_20131207_153500_413They were really just too cute.

I loved that the animals were just free to roam around in the Amazon exhibit. Monkeys were climbing around above us.

IMG_20131207_155555_676IMG_20131207_155403_913IMG_20131207_155620_827A bird flew right into our faces, which gave us a good laugh (once we got over the initial shock).

IMG_20131207_160047_220The Bird’s name was Mike, and we’d been warned that he wasn’t afraid of people.

IMG_20131207_160037_519This is Mike.

There were so many animals to see. A few of the highlights that I didn’t get pictures of were the seals, sea lions, orangutans and huge boa constrictors. I personally loved the sloth.

Once it got dark, the lights came on.

IMG_20131207_182259_039And it got crowded. There were several rides for the kids. They had the standard carnival rides like the carousel and tea cups. There was also a cool snow-free sledding hill. I was tempted to try that one.

IMG_20131207_173933_184IMG_20131207_173254_742IMG_20131207_173753_056IMG_20131207_183558_787Hot drinks, eggnog, Kettlecorn and roasted nuts were for sale. All of it was over-priced, but the proceeds go to the zoo, so we didn’t mind paying, especially considering the zoo is absolutely free. I still have trouble believing that.

We will definitely go back. Possibly when it’s warmer. Although I wouldn’t mind making ZooLights a holiday tradition.

If you live anywhere near DC, go to ZooLights!

Gallop and Gorge 8K

IMG_20131129_193631_163Running a Turkey Trot has officially become a Thanksgiving tradition. No matter where we are spending the holiday, Kurt and I make it a point to start the day with a race.

Thanksgiving this year was with my family in NC. I was happy to learn that EVERYBODY was on board for an early morning run.

My sister, her friend Tim, Kurt and I left early to run the 8k and my parents brought my niece and nephew a little later for the kid’s fun run.

It was a frigid 28 degrees (real feel 21 degrees) Thanksgiving morning.

We snapped a quick “before” photo in the parking garage before heading to the start.

IMG_20131128_073511_654Tim and Jen (my sister) had looked up their age-group winning times from previous years. Tim had a shot at placing in his age group. Jen said that with the super-fast field, she didn’t have a chance. Since Jen and I are in the same age-group, that meant that I most definitely wouldn’t be placing.

Not that I’d ever considered it.

My only goal was an 8K PR. I haven’t run many 8Ks, so my current 8K PR was at a slower pace than my current half marathon PR.  I was pretty confident I’d be leaving with a new PR.

It was kind of crowded at the beginning, but I love the fun, family oriented feel of Turkey Trots, so it didn’t bother me. As usual, there were people running in silly turkey hats and some brave people standing out in their driveways in the cold to cheer on the runners.

Other than the fact that I couldn’t feel my feet, I was feeling pretty good.

I hit mile 1 in 7:55.

Mile 2 was 7:38.

A guy dressed like Big Bird was shaking his tail feathers around mile 2. He was really getting into it, and it made me smile.

Mile 3 was 7:52.

The race photographer caught me right after I’d pulled my hat off my head.

2013gallopandgorge-175-(ZF-10720-35027-1-001)Even so, the picture didn’t come out too terrible, especially by race-picture standards.

After I passed the 4 mile mark (7:28 pace), it occurred to me that I didn’t know exactly how far 8K is. I knew it was about 5 miles, but I didn’t know if I had just a little more or just a little less than a mile to go.

My Garmin went off just before I reached the finish line (7:19 pace for mile 5) so I assumed that 8K is just over a mile.

But I assumed wrong. 8K is 4.97 miles.

Now I know.

I also have a new 8K PR (38:11).

Instead of t-shirts, all race participants got the red knit hat that Kurt is wearing. I wanted to get a picture of Jen, Tim, Kurt and I all wearing our hats, but it never happened.

1128130848aMom and Dad were at the finish line with my nephew, Owen and niece, Avery. I was happy to see that both kids were full of energy and grinning from ear to ear.

There was a patch of ice in the parking lot and all the kids were having the time of their lives playing on it.

Nobody in our little group won any prizes, but the run got us outside for some fresh air and exercise before the long day of cooking and eating, which in my opinion, is the reason to run a Turkey Trot, anyway.

It’s too bad that I’m way too slow to place in my age group though, because the prizes were beautiful hand-made pottery.

1128130850I would have loved one of those mugs!

I was thrilled to find the free hot coffee.

IMG_20131128_091542_053I was extra impressed that it was locally roasted, organic and fair-trade, but at the time, I would have been excited about anything hot and brownish in color.

Apparently the soft pretzel sticks were pretty spectacular, too. Kurt was still talking about them three days later.

The kid’s race was after the awards ceremony. I wasn’t surprised that not very many people had stayed that long.

It was the adults who were cold, though. The kids were having so much fun, they didn’t seem to even notice.

IMG_20131128_093730_526I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!