My resolutions for 2019 are hardly radical or game-changing. I will try to lose at least five pounds, to make up for those I gained post-surgery in 2018. I will try to exercise every day. I will continue to cut back on red meat and eat as healthy as I can. I will try to be nice to all my co-workers and others.
Maybe this is a little more exciting: I would like to get back to playing the drums, after a long time off. These days, I’ll I play is my steering wheel. And I want to write a book (or two).
Lastly, I will continue running races and doing bicycle rides in 2019, including running my 40th half-marathon and more than 300 miles total (I ran 272 in 2018). I got started on this one by running the Club Northwest Resolution Run 5K last Tuesday, January 1.
For hardcore runners who don’t go crazy on New Year’s Eve (I’m in bed by 11), this event is a great way to start the new year. Change that — there are likely a large number of people who do go crazy and still come out and run with a hangover.
No, the race venue, Seattle’s Magnuson Park, is not exactly a dream course in early January. Its muddy puddles, cracked pavement, and narrow hilly sections are safety hazards. But it was still a thrill to be back running in this event after a year’s absence. A year ago at this time, my ankle fusion surgery had me on a scooter.
Two-thirds of runners took the plunge
I joined some 950 runners and walkers, of which nearly 650 did the Polar Bear Dive into Lake Washington. I ran the dry race again and didn’t jump into the lake. The Polar Bear Divers, at the three-mile mark, take a detour into the lake and splash their way through a 50-foot section of water before getting back on course to the finish line. The rest of us just run straight to the finish line.
I did the Polar Bear Dive in 2016, and was surprised that the water temperature was not as shocking as I’d expected. Actually, I was nonplussed; it was OK, but I’d rather take advantage of the relatively flat course to improve my time. Boring, I know. I have done this event 12 times now, and for the other 11 have been content to skip the lake plunge and stay dry.
But as you might imagine, the biggest reason for most others to do this run is to indeed get wet. My friends, Chris and Sally Norred and their sons Louie and Oliver, are veteran Polar Bear Divers. They gracefully splash through the water and get to the finish line in swift times, and are usually already changed into dry clothes when I see them at the chili feed that follows the race. It’s always good to catch up with them.
Instead of getting wet myself, I hurry after I’ve finished the dry run to go take pictures of the others frolicking in the water. Most don’t simply wade in like I did in 2016; they dive in head-first and swim and jump through the water, coming out dripping and sopping wet. Some couples and families hold hands as they scream and laugh and share the experience together.
I am totally good with watching it all. The Polar Bear Divers’ 0.1-mile lane to the finish line is often icy and slippery in cold weather, though I’ve seen no one take a spill.
Running carefully in the last mile
Fortunately, the weather itself was mostly dry for last Tuesday’s event. Temperatures were in the chilly 30s, but the sun was out, and it was just nice to not have to run or eat chili in pouring rain.
The 3.18-mile loop course is entirely inside Magnuson Park. You start not far from where you finish, and run on streets and trails around the soccer fields and along the lake. It’s generally flat except for a hilly section around the halfway point.
I mentioned the muddy puddles and potholes; these are mostly around the two-mile mark when you are coming off a small hill and trying to speed your way into the home stretch. It’d be nice to have an easy way around these muddy pools of water that form in and around the asphalt. But because many days of Seattle rain and cold weather lead up to this race, I don’t see this ever changing. You just have to run carefully here.
Most of the last mile is a flat trail run along the lake where you say to yourself, “C’mon legs, get me there!” There are cracks and holes in the pavement, so you can’t stop being careful.
While the majority stay left and go straight into the lake for their wet romp, I get excited about taking the right turn to the finish line. As I said earlier, that path is generally dry and not as slippery for a finishing kick.
First place in her age group
I finished in 38:35 (12:27 per mile), good for 205th place out of 313 runners. It was not my best time for this race, of course, but not my slowest either. Full results are here. It beat my 2016 Polar Bear Dive time and my 2012 Resolution Run time coming not long after my first ankle surgery. (It also was much better than my recent 12Ks of Christmas 5K time.) My Resolution Run PR is 24:59 in 2007 (8:02 per mile).
A shout-out to all the Norreds, but particularly Sally, who beat her husband to finish the Polar Bear Dive in 25:14 (8:09 per mile), good for first place in her age group! Congrats also to Microsoft friend Jen Gaudette, who always runs well in this event.
What’s next? I need some time to work on my other resolutions, and won’t be running another race or bike ride until early February. Then, I get a chance to see the end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the beginning of the Highway 99 Tunnel along the Seattle waterfront.
Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for reading.