Race: Tunnel Vision 5K
I signed up for the 2019 Tunnel Vision 5K in Mobile, Alabama, a few days before the race, replacing a closer Saturday morning 5K race with one about an hour away for one reason: the chance to run through a tunnel.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of crowd size or elevation, but the tunnel route would be a first for me. Turn out was decent with runners and walkers of all ages. 77º heat wasn’t bad — that’ll get a lot worse in a few months — but the 88% humidity was sticky.
The pre-tunnel stretch of the race felt pretty good. Running through that area of Mobile with the roads closed for the race is the sort of experience that makes running rewarding. I thought my initial pace was already behind target based on how slow and heavy I felt, but I was relieved to finish the first mile at 8’42” pace.
The tunnel portion started at the beginning of mile two, although it only made up about a fifth of the second mile. There was a downward slope in and an upward incline out. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was motivational, but it was also still very early in the course.
More than half the course remained after the tunnel, but my pace had already started to fall. I don’t think it ever picked back up after the upward climb out of the tunnel.
I enjoyed the course, passing the USS Alabama Battleship and seeing the I-10 bridge in the distance, and all of the police officers working to direct traffic during the race. I also realized before the second half of the course that changing shoes on race day was a mistake.
My ankles hurt, my legs hurt, and I didn’t feel like running was sustainable. I never stopped to pause or walk (mostly out of concern I wouldn’t start again) but I did consider how long it would take to simply walk to the finish line.
Like the Crescent City Classic a few weeks before, the Tunnel Vision course was a one-way race with a trolley at the end of the course waiting to bring you back to the starting line. I would have preferred turning around after a mile and a half, doubling the tunnel run portion of the course, but I suspect traffic accommodations were a factor. (There was also free beer and tacos from Cafe del Rio at the finish line.)
Instead, there was a bridge to conquer before meeting the finish line. Caving to the reality that my lower body ached, I’d already left the race mentality and simply wanted to finish the course without walking. I wouldn’t finish in 28:30 and I wouldn’t finish under 30:00, but I would run the whole race.
My form actually started to feel better around the middle of the second mile, but I still couldn’t wait to finish and stop running. I finished the race at 31:32, three minutes over my goal for the race.
But I didn’t actually know what amount of incline I was up against, and changing shoes on race day I believe was the biggest factor.
I decided the night before to revert back to a pair I wore regularly two years ago with totally different cushioning when I was much faster, ambitiously hoping some good luck and fast speed would be attached, but instead I was gifted a painful lesson: race in the shoes you train in.
There was one redeeming factor after the race though. Despite not finishing with my goal time (which is still a couple of minutes behind my best for now) or even finishing in under 30 minutes, I was the first in my age group (25-29) to finish … out of two.
Many races include medals for all finishers, but this was my third 5K race in the last few weeks that only included a medal or trophy for top finishers. Each time I benefited from relatively low turn out for 25-29 year old males, but I’m not complaining.
I am curious about any past awards I might have missed before I started staying for award ceremonies when I ran faster.