Realizing I was the only thing stirring, I threw off the blankets and groped in the dark for my running shoes. Santa was scheduled to appear that night, but I had things to attend to prior to his arrival. I'd consulted the USATF website two days prior and mapped out a 13.1 mile course that led from my doorstep to my place of work via a long arcing loop. Considering it a present to myself, I'd created the Crack of Christmas Eve Dawn Half Marathon.
The preceding weekend had brought with it 9 inches of snow that hadn't budged in the chilly days after. Though the roads were clear, ice and hard pitted ground lurked just to either side of the pavement. The sun hadn't yet crept above the horizon when I left the house, so I had on a headlamp and a Petzl Signal safety beacon. I'm pretty sure they don't actually do much in the way of alerting motorists to my presence, but I appreciate the sense of security they perhaps falsely provide. As race director, I knew that there were no water stations to be had, so I grabbed my Osprey Raptor 6 hydration pack (coming to retail stores in Spring '10). I topped off my ensemble with my beloved windshirt, an Outdoor Research balaclava and a newly purchased Santa hat. I may have looked ridiculous, but I was as "geare up" as I get and feeling great.
With less traffic than I'm used to in the morning thanks to my early start, I enjoyed confident footing as I rarely needed to venture off of the road. It was extremely cold, but the effort of the run kept me from feeling the effects...at least during the run. The only disappointment was finding that my failing to insulate the hydration pack led to a completely frozen drinking tube and no way to access the 2 liters of water that I was toting on my back. Thankfully Osprey has built a pack that fits well enough that I didn't really mind the extra weight.
Upon reaching the historic town of Lititz, I paused to snap a few pics to confirm that I'd made it that far before picking up my feet again and turning back towards Manheim.
It wasn't until arriving at work that I realized just how cold and thirsty I'd become. Despite the cold and the dawdling in Lititz, I'd covered the 13.1 miles in under 2 hours without really feeling like I'd pushed very hard. I'd enjoyed the sun coming up on a cold and beautiful December morning that was brimming with the exuberant holiday expectations of my two little girls. I'd grinned like a lunatic and felt truly blessed to be gifted with a beautiful, healthy family and the luxury of my own health and happiness. All I needed was for my beard and toes to thaw.
Santa was free to pass me by entirely as I didn't need any more gifts than I'd already received.