I ran this race not out of any particular race or pacing goal (haven't been doing speedwork or otherwise training for it), but just to have a race every month of the year. It's also a smaller holiday-themed race that I hadn't yet had the chance to do, so it seemed like a good one to fit in.
The Ho Ho 5k is in the Tigard/Tualatin area, starting in the same conglomerate of parks as the Twilight 5k I did last summer (but was a different configuration of course). There wasn't any early packet pick-up, just day of, starting at 8:30 for a 10:00 race start. I got there just a few minutes after 9:00. At that time, there was plenty of parking and no line for pickup, but as we approached 9:30 it was starting to get crowded, so I'd definitely err again on the earlier side for arrival if I did the race in the future.
I was able to walk right up to get my bib, used the bathroom (real! albeit slightly dingy park bathrooms - some of the units were closed for the season, but enough were open), and headed back to my car to wait for a bit. About 20 minutes til I headed into the park for a brief, half mile warm-up, then went to the start. The race was underway just a minute or two after 10:00. They could have done a bit more in terms of encouraging proper lineup (there was a pair of walkers in like the third row), but small enough race it didn't matter too much.
The course starts heading out of the park, and through some residential neighborhoods. There was a small out-and-back around the halfway point (with Santa directing at the corner with runners goings both ways), then down a hill back into the parks. Over some paved trail, a little bit of dirt trail, than park roads back to the finish line. Kind of cruel - you come very close to the finish line - twice! - in the last mile for additional out-and-back sections.
I wasn't sure I could beat my PR (9:25 pace), but figured I should at least try, so my plan was to get as close to 9:00 (or slightly below) as I could and just hang on as long as I could.
Mile splits: 9:21, 9:27, 9:29, 8:29
Official time: 29:52
I saw some high 8s within the first mile, but couldn't keep it up. I even walked on one incline in the second mile. I kept my watch to show lap pace, rather than overall pace, and just focused on being in each mile. But I got tired as I went along and gradually slowed down (slightly, but slowing down). As we went by the finish line before the second to last out and back, and I saw 27:something on the clock, I decided I could at least get another sub-30 finish, so did my best to at least hold steady. I even got a nice little kick in the last bit.
Considering the lack of training (or maybe benefiting from the slow heartrate training), I'm pretty happy with this time. Though I'd be happier if I'd at least negative split (as I did in my current PR 5k).
I stuck around briefly after the race, got some water (there wasn't a water stop on course - I know it's cold (ish - actually unseasonably warm at 50 on race day), but I still think one water stop is a good idea, especially if you're walker friendly), and a ho ho. Saw my friend Windy, who I haven't run into at a race for a while, and turns out she and her husband are part of the running group that puts on the race.
Rather than traditional race foods, there were a variety of Hostess snack cakes, including the title ho hos and seasonally appropriate sno balls, along with candy canes and a few other treats. Supposedly there was hot chocolate, but I didn't look for it. Overall I'd call it a well put on race, and I liked the cheaper price (I think it was $25) and the option to not purchase a shirt. Fairly abundant parking and flushing toilets are a plus, and it's a good size - not too crowded, never alone.