On Saturday, I ran my last 5K of the holiday season and 2015, the Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K.
About the Cocoa Cup 5K
In its second year, the Cocoa Cup 5K is hosted by the Nexton development to showcase their neighborhood to local runners. Nexton is a planned neighborhood in Summerville, SC and located just outside of town. Lots of development has happened since last year, with many new homes and apartments popping up in the neighborhood. The race is co-sponsored by Fleet Feet Summerville.
The Cocoa Cup 5K is Charleston’s famous “hoodie race”. Last year’s $20 race sold out with 1,000 registrants who all received gray Nike hoodie sweatshirts. At any given moment, you can find a Charleston-area runner wearing a Cocoa Cup 5K sweatshirt. I’m pretty sure I saw someone running the Cooper River Bridge wearing that sweatshirt on a random “chilly” (70 degree) day in September. Runners who’ve moved to the area since last year’s race have commented on how many of those ubiquitous gray sweatshirts they’ve seen after races.
Nexton’s move was genius, as we were running, hoodie-d billboards for this year’s race. When you 1,000 runners are sporting your sweatshirt, who needs marketing? The 5K sold itself. This year, the registrant cap was raised to 2,000, the price was raised to $30, and the hoodies were blue.
The Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K sold out two weeks in advance.
My Race Experience
The week before the race, I caught the congestion/cold/crud from Clay. ‘Tis the season for giving, right? I was in Wal-Mart at 8:30 PM Thursday night hunting pseudoephedrine only to find out they don’t sell it anymore. I was looking forward to showing my ID to buy cold medicine too!
With the cold and PRing my Reindeer Run 5K the Saturday before, I adjusted my expectations for the race and hoped to pace myself a bit better than my last few 5Ks when I went out too fast. When you race 2-3 times a month, not every race will (or should be) a PR, but I was fine with this being a fun holiday “race-out” and celebrating with hot chocolate.
On race morning, my track buddy Tami and I left super early to carpool to Summerville, and it was a smart decision. We arrived at the race over an hour early, got our packets and shirts, and sat in the car to stay warm. It was too cold to mingle before the race, and I dreaded taking my sweats off for my 2 mile warmup, but I still ran it.
Due to traffic backups off Exit 199 and turning into the Nexton development, the race start was delayed 10 minutes, but I felt like a 9:30 AM race start was a little late- although I was glad the temperature warmed up to a beautiful 41 degrees. As far as I know, no one missed the start, but several runners I talk to made it with only 15-20 minutes to spare and had a hard time finding parking. It was a good call to arrive early.
I lined up about 2 rows from the start and we were off at 9:40. Race starts are always blurred for me; I feel like I’m standing still and everyone is passing me for the first 400 meters. I got over that weird feeling and settled into a pace for the first mile.
During the first mile (6:57), my friend Lisa, who eventually won the masters division, passed me. Lisa beat me by seconds at two races this summer, and I wasn’t happy being passed. I passed back, with authority… to show I meant business.
You know that quote that goes something like “Dance like no one’s watching, sing like no one’s listening, and love like you’ve never been hurt”? I’ll add to the quote for future races… pass every runner like you’re passing Lisa.
In the second mile (7:00), I focused on staying strong and positive. Chris from Without Limits Charleston was on the course cheering for runners by name and it was a big boost seeing him, as several runners he coaches were racing- and set big PRs. Heading back on the out and back course, I heard runners on the other side of the course yelling my name and saw runners from the Moore On Running group. This is what I love about out and back courses!
I paced off some other runners in the last mile as the runners and walkers who’d started later were making their way down the course. I didn’t feel strong enough to pick many runners off, but I passed a few. That’s the work of not starting too quickly. The Charleston Running Club president Ray was at Mile 3 (7:05) cheering and that was another big boost.
I rounded the curve and surged through the finish in 21:45.
Reflections on the Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K
After I finished, I cooled down on the course and cheered for some friends, including some who cheered for me. Then, I headed to the finish area for my mug and hot chocolate.
The mugs this year were very nice, but the hot chocolate was kind of a bust. The Earth Fare crew couldn’t keep the chocolate made fast enough and offered chocolate milk instead. A lot of people like to drink chocolate milk after running, but some were looking forward to extra-hot cocoa since it was chilly out. With 1700+ runners, the finish area was a bit disorganized, with runners crowding to get water, bananas, and cocoa. Lines were long and the race ran out of refreshments.
A lot of post-race complaints were posted on Facebook, and I’m not sure this race was equipped to deal with double the number of runners from last year. I’m glad the race was capped, but I’m not sure all of the 1,700+ runners enjoyed their experience. I personally didn’t experience the traffic hiccups, timing issues, and lack of refreshments, and I had a pretty good time.
I placed 2nd in my age group and received a pint glass as an award. Sandy and Melissa from track placed 1st and 3rd female overall, and we had a lot of age group awards and PRs. The race was a great way to end a successful year of running.
Reflections on My Race
Last year’s Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K was one of the worst races I had in 2014. I didn’t feel well that day and mentally gave up and slowed down in the last mile. My time was much slower than expected, to the point that my coach and friends questioned if I was out on the race course hurt. We all have bad races, and they make the good races mean so much more.
This year, instead of accepting that I didn’t feel well and mentally giving up, I ran fast (for that day) and took chances. You can’t always run a personal best, but you can run your best for that day- and I did.
Hearing runners yell “Go Amy!” was a huge boost (thank you!). For those moments, I felt really loved. I guess I really was giving 90% in this race because normally in a 5K, I’m too consumed with pain to feel feelings like love and thankfulness.
A lot of emotions surge through a runner’s head during a 5K, and it’s not always pretty. Many times, it’s negativity and self-doubt. You never know how much cheering means.
A sub-22 minute finish on a rough day means sub-21 is the 5K goal for 2016!
Race Name: Nexton Cocoa Cup 5K
Location: Summerville, SC
Date and Time: December 19, 2015, 9:30 AM
Entry fee: $30-35
Course: Closed course, completely paved and through developing neighborhoods. USATF Certified.
Swag: Blue Nike hoodie, reusable shopping bag, gym towel, finisher’s mug
Post-race Food: Hot chocolate, chocolate milk, bananas, muffins, water
Weather: 41 degrees, 61% humidity, sunny and beautiful