Disclaimer: I received a registration to the Allstate Hot Chocolate Virtual 5K - Houston as part of being a Bibrave Pro. Learn more about becoming a Bibrave Pro (ambassador), check out Bibrave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.
Sometimes, though, a virtual race can have all the feels (or most of them) as an in-person event. Like, for example, when a runner rallies back from her first-ever stress fracture...Granted, I'd had a couple of virtual half marathons, back in the fall. These were races that I'd long-since registered for, only to have them get postponed, and then eventually go virtual. With the stress fracture already in place (since mid-August), my only option for those half marathons was to do them via my bike. Certainly not an ideal scenario, but since I already had the event swag, it was a better option than taking a DNS.
After nearly three months of recovery, and a gradual re-building of my running base, a late-January race was ideal timing. There had not been any speedwork on the roster, but there had been consistent easy-paced running since late October. Why not test the waters and attempt a 5K "race" experience? So what if it had to be a virtual race? I was game!
Enter: the (virtual) Allstate Hot Chocolate 5K. Problem solved.
Let me set the scene...
The Allstate Hot Chocolate series hosts races in numerous locations, but I was registered for the Houston venue. Houston's race day was Saturday, January 30th. The morning's weather wasn't ideal (cold and windy), and there was an impending winter storm due to arrive (later that afternoon). Don't forget, I ran this on the streets of my hometown, in Iowa (though it probably was a tad bit warmer in Houston).
|the temps when I finished|
Having done 12 weeks of 5K time trials (spring of 2020), I had a perfect race course for this Hot Chocolate 5K endeavor. Our local college's central campus is bordered by sidewalk (that's almost always cleared of debris) and has no through streets. Also, running this in the early hours, on a Saturday morning (starting at 6:45) ensured there would not be much, if any, pedestrian traffic. And, the perimeter is a mile in distance. It's an approximate 1/2-mile run to this spot from my house. Combining the jaunt to get there, with 2.5 loops around the central campus, would net me a 5K distance. Boom!
My plan was to run the 5K, then meet up with a friend for a few extra miles afterwards. I texted Barb, and told her I was leaving and would see her in about 30 minutes (at our meet-up spot), and I was out the door by 6:45.
The first 1/4-mile, from my driveway, was all uphill. After that, the rest of the route was pretty flat. Already, I could feel the fierce, cold wind as I headed due south towards the college. The unfortunate thing about a SE wind is that one feels it every time they're facing south OR east. Oh well, that also meant there was a hefty tailwind every time I went north or west (glass half full).
Anyways, right outta the gate, I ran several blocks south, then several more east, and a couple more south before my route finally headed west. By then, I was just under the 1-mile mark. Despite the wind, my pace felt strong and things were going well.
I'm not much of a Garmin stalker when I'm running or racing. Sure, I glance at my wrist periodically while in motion, but that's more to gauge the distance. That said, I was hoping to run this 5K somewhat fast. I wanted to run it on my own (without the crutch of a pacer), and I wanted to simply run it by feel. Just coming back from injury, I knew a PR wasn't even a remote possibility, so there was no reason to overdo it.
The time seemed to go pretty quickly, maybe because I was constantly changing directions every 2-4 blocks as I made my way around the campus. As I finished my second loop (approximately at the 2.5-mile mark), I could tell my hamstrings were starting to burn. I didn't have the energy to do a full-on sprint to the finish, but I was able to up my pace a bit. As I crossed the makeshift finish line (railroad tracks LOL), I felt a huge sense of relief to be done.
My "benchmark" 5K time is usually around 27 minutes. Given the fact that I had to fight the wind on a cold morning, and had not done any speed training, my 28:49 finish time was more than satisfactory. Even though it felt like I'd run steady and strong, my splits reflected a progressive slight slow-down (9:10, 9:19, 9:26), so there's that. Oh well. I'm still happy with how the race played out considering there weren't any other runners or crowd support to draw on for mojo.
The Allstate Hot Chocolate medal was just too cute! Check it out...it opens up, and it came with a surprise chocolate inside. My only misgiving, and it's a very small one, is that it would have been a nice touch for the ribbon to have the specific city's name on it. But, given the fact that I didn't actually run this race on the streets of Houston, I can easily let that go.
And, the jacket! Can I just say how refreshing it is to not get another ill-fitting tech shirt or 1/4-zip? This jacket has a removable hood, full-zip front, and three zip pockets. I also love the deep charcoal color (I already have too many black swag items from other events).
In addition to the requisite medal and jacket, the swag also included a drawstring bag with hot chocolate packets, more chocolate candies, and a personalized race bib. Other items, from event sponsors, included a Nuun tab, a Honey Stinger waffle, and a sample of Sacred CBD-infused balm. Nice haul!
So, although this was another virtual race, it felt like a lot more to me. Rallying back from injury is no walk in the park (quite literally when it's a stress fracture LOL). Although it was not the same as starting over, I did have to act much like a new runner with gradual distance increments and very short, easy paced runs over the course of (almost) three months. This race felt like the grand finale of my recovery. Even though I ran it alone, it felt like quite a victory. I'm totally good with that.
Have you ever treated a virtual race as a rally-back race? Ever done a Hot Chocolate-themed race?
I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up
So fitting that your rally-back race is a windy 5k, Kim!ReplyDelete
It's not easy to run a race without a pacer, the cheering crowds and a proper race track. Your cross-training during your fracture has kept you going and now you see the results. 2021 is going to be a great year for you!
Yes! Bring on a 5K (on that familiar route) and the wind is sure to show up LOLDelete
Wow, lovely swag! And well done for getting so near your usual time under difficult conditions and coming back from your injury.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Liz! It felt good to just run and see what my body could do after all that recovery time.Delete
Congrats on another 5k! That is some nice swag for this race! I've done this once or twice in Chicago and remember all of the chocolate at the end. Yummy!ReplyDelete
There's a hot chocolate race in Des Moines, but I think it's a different race series. I've never done that one because I've always had a scheduling conflict.Delete
Of course this felt like so much more, Kim! Rallying back is always sweet & you had a great finish time considering the conditions & the fact that it was virtual.ReplyDelete
I had considered signing up for this long ago (like early last year), because you know, chocolate, and the jacket, but somehow I could just never pull the trigger on it.
Glad that you enjoyed a great comeback (and yes, i've had a few!).
I had heard great things about this race series, and had seen the swag from years past. When the opportunity came up to run it, at a perfect time with my rally-back, I had to take advantage ;-)Delete
I envy you. I cannot motivate myself to do a virtual race as a race. I just run them as aneasy run.ReplyDelete
Yes, I did run this race in Brooklyn a few years ago but they now don't have one nearby. The closest is Philly. Road trip?
I loved the swag and St Jude's is a great charity.
Kudos to yo on a speedy race. I lost my speed mojo and not sure if I need to find it lol
Well, I don't always have the mojo for a virtual such as this. Coming off my stress fracture, though, the timing was ideal to see what I could do. And, there are no live races happening yet LOL I'm glad I have the medal and jacket as keepsakes, though the chocolate is long gone!Delete
Awesome job #KimTwin :) You know I'm a big fan of their race swag and it looks like they didn't disappoint this year!ReplyDelete
This was my first experience with this Hot Chocolate series, and I sincerely hope to do another (preferably in person, though, and not on my own streets).Delete
Congratulations! That is an excellent rally back! Me running Rock 'n Roll Nashville in 2019 was me rallying after my long PF battle. They really went all out with the hot chocolate swag, the medal is amazing and the zip up looks so cozy!ReplyDelete
The zip-up is awesome! I swagfess that I have been wearing it around the house ever since it arrived, which was a good 10 days prior to the race LOLDelete
I've heard a lot of raves about the hot chocolate series, but none of their live races are near me so this would be a great pick for a virtual race. The most telling part for me is that you still had something left to put into after 2.5 miles. I used to be pretty good at pacing myself in live 5ks but I haven't been able to transfer that to virtual racing and 2.5 is when it starts to hurt.ReplyDelete
Yeah, I could really feel the hurt around the 2.5-mile mark! Knowing I didn't have much left was incentive enough to just get it done and finish as strong as I could muster.Delete
Congrats on your first race back! Its nice to be able to do virtual races when and where they are convenient. Love the jacket!ReplyDelete
This was a lot of fun for a virtual race! It would have been great to have a live race to run, but those aren't happening yet, so this was a great option for my rally-back ;-)Delete
Love it! I think the Hot Chocolate race is one I'd love to do in person. I love the chocolate bowl you get at the end, which is a huge selling point for me. That being said, they have great jackets, and awesome medals. Well done!ReplyDelete
The medal and jacket will be a great keepsake for my journey back from the stress fracture ;-) It's been a great ride!Delete
That sure is nice swag! Even though I say that I am over virtual runs, I keep doing them. They are motivating and fun. Congrats!ReplyDelete
I'm kind of "done" with them as well, but this was too great of an opportunity to pass up. The timing was ideal to test out the legs after the past six months of minimal (running) action.Delete
Oh, it must feel good to put that injury behind you! Yes, you probably would have been faster in a real race and in better weather- but this is a solid finish time. You can use it to gauge your progress going forward.ReplyDelete
Great swag! Before I hurt my foot (grr) I did some virtual "races" on my own, but just ones I made up. Really more of a time trial. You're making me want to do an actual virtual race. Wait, did I just say that? You know these are strange times when I'm differentiating between "real" and "fake" virtual races, ha ha.
The virtual races (real and "fake" ones) have served a valuable purpose this past year. And, many have supported worthwhile causes and charities, so that's always a good thing. I actually had an appointment with my podiatrist this afternoon, and he gave me the green light to gradually UP the mileage ;-) If you're interested, I'll be hosting a Week of Pi in March...where we run 3.14 miles every day for a week, culminating on March 14th (National Day of Pi, and also my birthday).Delete
Congrats on the virtual race!It looks like you are making a strong comeback from your stress fracture! It is hard to push the pace alone in winter!ReplyDelete
Thank you! It feels good to be recovered and back at it ;-)Delete
Great job, Kim! Running in the wind and turning frequently for corners definitely makes the race harder. Congrats on your strong comeback from your stress fracture.ReplyDelete
As I mentioned, I still wear my Hot Chocolate 15K jacket from my 2011 race. If you want to read why it was never invited back to DC, just read my recap. ;-) I still had a great time and the post-race refreshments were yummy!
I'll have to find your recap! It seems like you've told me the story, but I'm not remembering it LOL This jacket is really nice! I plan to be wearing it for a long time ;-)Delete
Congratulations both on your race and your comeback! That was a great time for a virtual race, especially your first one back. I'm one of those that thinks of virtual races as training runs. I haven't even tried a 5k virtual race (though I did 4 in a row a few months back for the All Day 20k). Great job!ReplyDelete