Race recap: Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K 2015

I ran my last race of 2015 on Saturday at the Nexton Cocoa Cup. Initially I had the wild idea to attempt a 5K PR, but my running recently has been so terribly off and I've had so many blows to my confidence that my coach advised me to just have fun and push a little. So my goal for this race was to run strong and have some fuel left in the tank at the end. Not really a tempo run, but not a PR race-attempt, either. It was a beautiful day for a race, though, that's for sure. And after lots of less-than-ideal racing weather, this was a very welcome change. 


So here's the mile-by-mile recap: 

Mile 1: I wanted to start slower and build my speed over the course based on how I felt. And starting slow was definitely not a problem. There were 2000 people at the race and lots of walkers, several of whom were in front of me (even after being told at the start to move to the back if you were slower) and the road was too narrow to really pass anyone. It took a good quarter mile for me to break away from the crowd. Once I did that, I locked into a pace that felt comfortably hard. Mile 1 clocked in at 7:50, which is just around my current tempo pace in the 7:45-8:10 zone, depending on the day. 

Mile 2: Other than my legs feeling a little heavy, I felt good after the first mile, so I picked up the pace a little. This mile took us out to the halfway point loop and sent us back toward the starting line. Again, I just found my pace and locked in. Mile 2 was a 7:42 pace. 

Mile 3: Like the first mile, I was still feeling good after mile 2, so I decided to kick it up again in mile 3. At this point, I figured if I just pushed a little bit in the last mile that I'd probably come in at 23 something. So, I took a deep breath (which was a great feeling, by the way - no asthma issues!) and started moving faster. This time into a slightly more uncomfortable, but still fairly sustainable pace. I gradually picked off several runners over the course of this entire mile and no one passed me, so I knew I was on my way to my goal of finishing strong and running a smart race.

Mile 3 came in at 7:25, which left enough in the tank for me to start a finishing kick just before the 3 mile marker. That kick came in at 6:33, which isn't as fast as some of my previous finishing kicks, but still better than I've done in the past two 5Ks I've run. I saw 23:5(something) on the clock just as I was getting ready to cross the finish, so I figured based on my actual start time that I had come pretty close to my PR without having to go all-out for it. I was pleased with that, thinking chip time would be somewhere in the 23:4x-23:5x neighborhood. At least it was 23:xx!


Unfortunately for me (and probably a ton of other runners), this race was gun start and chip finish, even though the start and finish were the same and there were timing mats at the start. I mistakenly assumed there were chip times at the start, so I had started back a little farther than I would have if I wanted an accurate time. I also would have started my watch as a crossed the starting line so I would have at least known what I ran in spite of the lack of chip timing.

Sadly, I did none of these things. I don't think I turned it off immediately after I crossed the finish, and I definitely started it several seconds before I went over the start line just after the gun went off. My official time on the course was 24:02 and my watch said 23:57, so I'm disappointed my official time wasn't sub-24. 

EDIT: They updated the race times with chip times (guess they did track it, but for some reason didn't post it) after lots of people complained. My official time was 23:53! YAY!

But considering all of that and how terrible my runs were earlier in the week, I'm getting faster. When I ran my PR back in February, I ran it all out and was trying much harder. Saturday, I just wanted to run strong and smart, but not all-out race. I felt like my overall pace was comfortably hard, but sustainable and a little faster than my normal tempo pace (thanks, race day adrenaline!). I did still feel a little sluggish out there, but that's probably because we had a rough night the night before with B (yes, again - I'm as tired of living it as you probably are of reading it).

Speaking of February, I would hope that I've improved since then, since that was a few training cycles ago and I was only 7 months post-baby! But really, to be honest, I thought I would have improved more than I have. At this point, I expected races like this where I didn't race all-out, but pushed just a bit to be easily faster than my current PR. Sadly, that's not the case.  

Overall this year has been pretty awful for me with running and racing, so my confidence isn't the best right now. I also think I need to remember how to push for an all-out race effort in a 5K. I feel like I've forgotten how to do that since none of my training right now is 5K specific and I do a lot of longer, slower running since I've been in a mileage building phase. But still, I'm improving. Just not as fast as I'd like to be.

But I did execute a smart race. At least there's that. And after I finished, I looped back on the course to find D and B, and ran their last 1.25-ish miles with them, so it was fun to be out with the family. 


What I liked about this race:

  • The swag - everyone gets a hoodie and a mug
  • Post-race hot cocoa
  • This year's perfect weather (in the 40s)
  • The out-and-back course

What I didn't like:

  • No chip timing at the start
  • No corrals at the start. In a race with 2000 participants, you need corrals.
  • Traffic getting into the race was crazy and there weren't enough (any) people directing traffic.
  • Parking was difficult for people who arrived later. We were able to get a space, but I heard lots of people had some trouble. 

While overall I enjoyed this race, I'm not sure if I'll be back for it next year. If I do go back, I'll probably just run it for fun with D and B, knowing that my time is going to be wildly off unless they get chip timing and corrals. If they get chip timing and corrals, this is an excellent race to PR in since it's a fast, flat course. So I'll see if they make changes next year and then decide. I like the festiveness of the race, so either way, it's fun to participate. 

And with that, I'm closing the books on some very disappointing 2015 racing and looking ahead to (hopefully) a much better 2016.