Monday, April 16, 2012

Race Report: Wolftrap Run for the Arts 5k

This past weekend, I headed north to the DC-metro area to participate in the Wolftrap Run for the Arts. This was the second year for the relatively small race, which had a turn out of about 500 people (according to my good buddy, Shannon, who happens to work for the Wolftrap Foundation).

For me, it was a nice trip down memory lane and a good excuse to get to see two of my favorite people in one weekend. So let's get to it!

Expo/Packet Pick Up - A+ (according to BFF)

Luckily for me, I didn't have to take part in my least favorite part of any race - packet pick up. BFF works in the area, so she was good enough to stop by Wolftrap after work on Friday and get our stuff. Here is what she had to say:

"Unlike Katie, traffic was not an issue for me on Friday afternoon. I left work at 4:45 and made it to Wolftrap by 5:15. My GPS lady guided me to the education center via scenic Vienna. Parking was a breeze; I scored a front row spot. When I walked into packet pick-up there were 3 people sitting behind tables, each playing on their phones... I suspect they were playing Draw Something with each other. I walked up to the table and told them I needed my bag and Katie's bag, and 2 of the 3 jumped to help me. Thirty seconds later, I was on my way. I really wanted to stop at the Barefoot wine sampling table, but since I was driving I figured it probably wasn't the best idea. The free stuff was pretty good too - white tech t-shirt with the race logo, a water bottle, a News 4 plastic cup, a Barefoot winery magnet, anti-bac keychain, and info for upcoming races."

Race Day Arrival/Parking/Start Area - A

As this race is in the DC metro area (Vienna, Virginia to be exact), there was a good chance that a surprise traffic situation could make race day arrival a nightmare. The night before, for instance, it took me an hour and 20 minutes to go 3 miles on the inner loop of the capital beltway... at 8 pm. So you never know what's going to happen.

Luckily for us, there was not much traffic on our drive from Maryland to Vienna (unless you count deer and countless bikers who don't have the good manners to get the heck on the side of the road). Wolftrap is located right off of the Dulles Toll Road, which makes it super easy to find. There are also lots of (free) back roads you can take to get there, but we were opting for fast and didn't mind paying the toll.

The race start and finished at the Filene Center, which is an outdoor concert venue and therefore has a ton of free parking. We quickly found a spot and were parked by 8:00 am. Race start was 8:45, so we elected to wait in the car for a few minutes because it was still on the chilly side and we had stupidly worn short sleeves/tank tops and shorts.

Once we decided to tough it out and get into the cold air, it was easy to find the start area thanks to plentiful signage. We also managed to find Shannon (though without the help of signage). Cue pre-race photo session:

Pretty decent self portrait. And yes, we did plan to match.

Race Day Outfit (toe to head):
Lululemon Groove Biker Shorts

Someone (I wasn't paying attention to who) led the group of runners in some pre-race warm ups and stretches. I didn't partake and opted to take pictures of BFF in compromising positions instead:

After group warm up we were directed to the start line (which was crowded but hey, it's ok). Then before you knew what was happening, the race started. I didn't even hear the start, but off we went.

Course - B+

For a 5k, this course was surprisingly challenging.

The good:
  • Downhill start - always fun.
  • We went through a wide range of scenery from the grounds of Wolftrap to a lovely neighborhood with flowering trees to a bit of woods to around the backstage side of the Filene Center.
Flowering trees along the course in a neighborhood with
street names like"Trombone Lane." I am not joking.

 BFF coming over a cute bridge in the wooded last leg of the race.

  • Course was well marked and well staffed with volunteers providing directional assistance.
  • Water available at each mile (though I didn't partake of any).
  • On-course entertainment from a mini-pep band and of course, the Green Machine.

Pep band stationed at mile .5 and then at about mile 2.5 (stationed at a looped part of the course).
When I passed them at mile 2.5 the tuba guy decided to run with us while playing
Journey's "Don't Stop Believin"

The bad:
  • Hills, and lots of 'em. Of course what goes up must go down, so there were also opportunities for downhill. Unfortunately the worst hill was right at the end in front of the Filene Center, but the reward was a fast downhill as you ran behind the center.

Hill at the beginning of the course

Downhill reward, headed back behind the Filene Center

  • Part of the course was through a parking lot, which isn't the most beautiful thing in the world. Unfortunately that was also part of the loop, so we ran through it twice. However, organizers were wise enough to place the small pep band in the parking lot, making it not quite so bad (see photo above). 
Finish - A

The finish was immediately after the small jaunt through the woods. Since it was a small race, it was not overcrowded at all.

BFF approaching the finish

The chute. Bananas, water, and packs of granola were plentiful.

The Filene Center made a nice backdrop.
The only bad part about the finish was that you had to then walk UP the hill yet again to get back to your car. But there was entertainment along the way:

Overall Grade - A

Small races don't have all of the bells and whistles of the big ones, but I think they can be just as enjoyable. Sometimes they suffer from lack of organization or support, but this one was great on both fronts. The course was nice, the weather was perfect, and the amenities were just right. I didn't have to compete with 30,000 other people for a parking spot or post-race refreshments. And best of all, I got to hang out with BFF, Shannon, and Doc Nix:

Personal Performance - A+

When we arrived at the race, I was thinking it wasn't going to be a good one. The day before I hadn't exactly eaten well (ok ok... I ate a Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich and fries and a coke on my way to Maryland... and 3 cupcakes...) and those cupcakes were sitting in my stomach like rocks for the whole drive to the race and until we got up to the start area.

Luckily, as soon as I started running I felt great. I hung with Krystal until close to the mile mark and then decided to take off. And take off I did. At one point I looked down at my Garmin and saw that my at-the-moment pace was 7:15! This was while running down a hill, but still, whoa nelly!

Here's the actual breakdown:

Yeeeeah...speed demon. Where in the heck did those 7-somethings come from?? I am going to attribute this to the Run Like a Girl Group. Going out with them makes me run faster, obviously. My pace for both training runs and races has increased dramatically since I started with them, and I'll definitely be keeping it up.

This was a big PR - shaving 2 mins 18 seconds off of my last 5k record of 27:23 (Jingle Bell Run, December 2011)

After I finished I started walking back up the hill to get a photo with Doc Nix when I spied a girl in a short sleeved blue shirt and black hat starting up the last hill. When I realized it was BFF, I took off running to catch up with her. We met at the top of the hill and I jumped in with her to run the last bit of the race. Just before the wooded area I left her to cut across a field and get some good action shots as she came across the footbridge and through the finish. I felt like I could have run the whole thing again, easily.

BFF did great too, especially with all of those hills. We haven't gotten official times yet, but her running app on her iPhone said 31 minutes and a handful of seconds.

Next up is the Run Like a Girl 8k at Pocahontas Park on May 6. I think I'm lookin' for another PR!

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