I ran the Wobble After Gobble 5K (ish) yesterday afternoon, finishing in an official time of 19:48 on this uncertified course.
It felt really good to race again. Really really good.
The fact that I haven't been racing hasn't been for lack of races or lack of trying. Races have been happening, even in the time of Covid, and I've been entered in them. But I keep having to sit them out due to my hamstring, or my folate deficiency, or my bad ankle, or recovery from PRP for the bad ankle.
The irony of my personal 2020 is that I've missed many more races due to injury/health than due to cancellations. So when I saw the "Vienna Caboose" 5K/10K was being held on the W&OD trail on a Sunday morning I signed up with great excitement.
Only to have the race swapped to virtual. As happens.
The race management offered registered runners the opportunity to switch into several other races, including the Wobble After Gobble races to be held at Lake Accotink park on a Saturday afternoon. I read the race description, and signed up as soon as I saw the word "paved" in the course description. At this point, I'm not picky.
I got to the race venue around 2:30 pm and began my warm-up by jogging the course. The trail was paved with either asphalt or concrete, and had a fair amount of users on it - I noted that since the trail would not be closed for the race, I'd likely have to dodge bikers, dogs, and pedestrians at some point. It was mostly in good shape, albeit with some broken up sections, some leaves, and a very short muddy section. No mile markers, so I made sure my watch was set to autolap for the race. The turn-around was marked by a collection of cones.
After warming up with my standard 3 minutes at half-marathon effort; 4x30 seconds at 5K effort, 4x10 seconds at mile effort, I went over to the start area to await my wave. The race was run in waves, 3 minutes apart, of 25 runners each. With 3 minutes until our start time, my group was called to near the start line, where we stood spaced apart with masks on. In a departure from "normal" racing, we wouldn't actually start grouped up on the line (presumably since there wasn't enough room to keep adequate space between us there). Instead we would stand, spaced apart, until "go" at which point we'd run to the start line and start the race.
The timer gave us notice of 30 seconds to go, then 15 and then 10. At 10 seconds to go everyone removed their masks (I tucked mine in my sportsbra) and then we were off.
I had noted a few high school girls in my wave, and so I wasn't surprised when one of them jumped into the lead and pulled ahead of me. It didn't take long for her to come back, and then I had the female lead. A few men passed me, and then I was alone, though I could focus on them pulling ahead of me to tow me.
And so I ran down to the orange cones (monitored by a nice masked woman), turned around, and ran back. I was pleasantly surprised that the dodging of dogs, walkers, and others was nowhere near as bad as I had anticipated.
I had set my watch to autolap each mile, and so it was a bit deflating when my watch beeped for the 3rd mile and the finish was nowhere in sight. But this was also good, in a way.
To explain, I believe that part of racing well is being presented with a question, and answering it correctly. That question usually arises around 2/3rds into the race - it's the moment of truth/gut check moment. It's important to race regularly so that you get practice answering the question correctly.
I was already working on my answer to that question when I realized that the course would be long, and that I had no idea where the finish was (except ahead of me). And that made the question a bit tougher.
But I had come here to race and to practice answering important questions correctly, and so I did that, successfully. And then the finish line finally, blissfully, came into view. And I was done.
As I finished, the timer handed me a medal and a nice plaque for the first place woman. I was surprised to get the award - weren't there several more waves behind me still to run? He explained that they had seeded the waves so that all possible winners were in the first wave.
I was also surprised by my reaction to getting a medal for finishing a 5K. Normally, like many of us, I'm a bit dismissive of stuff like that. But in the time of Covid, running a race felt magical, and the medal compounded that.
The medal makes me happy when I look at it. I wasn't expecting that.
So...with medal and plaque in hand, I quickly removed myself from the start/finish area so I could catch my breath in a socially distanced manner before putting my mask back on. It felt weird to not be engaging in the standard post-race banter with competitors that become friends on the other side of the finish line. But such is life right now.
My autolap splits were:
Mile 1: 6:17
Mile 2: 6:16
Mile 3: 6:10
last .17 miles (1:03) (6:11) pace.
As noted, my Garmin + footpod showed the course to be longer than 5K. I'm not surprised at all that the course was not exactly 5K - they were clear on the website that the distance was approximate. As for whether my Garmin+footpod was accurate? I know that since I've fixed the calibration it's been accurate to slightly short on the track or measured road distances, so I have no reason to doubt it here.
But of course, no technology is perfect. Only certified courses, accurately set, are.
What I can conclude is that I ran somewhere between 19:18 (my Garmin's reported split for 5K) and 19:48 for the 5K distance. And, since I was pretty sure my current fitness was in the mid-19s for 5K, either number makes sense.
But what's more important to me is that I got out there and raced again, and successfully managed the questioning and discomfort that is part of any race. I got what I came for.
- The weather was pretty nice - temperature of 58, dew point of 35. There was wind of 13 miles per hour that should have been a headwind for the second half of the course. However, I barely noticed it, most likely because the trail was surrounded by trees that blocked most of it.
- I wore my Vaporfly Nexts for this race. It felt good to put those on also.
- The morning of this race, I did a 3 mile shakeout, trying to jog very slowly. And proved to myself once again that the slower I do my morning shakeout, the faster I run in the aftenoon/evening.