When my sister-in-law started dating her husband several years ago, she joined in their Thanksgiving tradition of running a turkey trot. I was impressed that she could run 3 miles and a little confused why she would want to (peer pressure’s a bitch). Even after I started running, I did some Thanksgiving trail runs with the tri club but never got around to running in an actual Turkey Trot until this year.
My friend Lindsay was planning on running our local race with her sister-in-law Molly, and I jumped at the chance to do the race with them. It was only after registering that it occurred to me that this was my chance to meet my goal of a new 5k PR after falling short in April. Granted, I’ve done zero speedwork since…well…April, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of running and hopefully that would be enough.
I was serious enough about trying to PR that I was actually disciplined enough to not take up an invitation to run at Pere Marquette with a friend the day before the race. Instead I hung out with Jacob and played some backyard soccer (and got my butt kicked, as usual).
Race morning dawned just as cold as forecast, around 22 degrees with the weather.com app cheerfully noting “feels like 11 degrees”. This cold send to fall is reminding me that I’m not as tough as I like to think I am. Brrr. But I bundled up, grabbed a hot coffee at QT, and huddled in my car until about 1/2 hour before race time.
I said hi to my friends Wade (also known as my nemesis) and Lauren and then hung out with Lindsay and Molly until it was time to warm up. It’s pretty rare for me to warm up — in fact, I think this is probably the second time ever — but it was good because my short jog definitely showed me I needed to lose my scarf and fleece jacket. Warm-up finished, I visited with Wade, Jody, Kevin, and Sherry until it was time to get into our corrals.
The race course was primarily on one of our flat, paved local bike trails. It’s plenty wide for normal bike and pedestrian traffic but had potential for overcrowding with 450+ runners in the race. The first corral was for paces 5:00 – 8:20. I was hoping for a sub-25 min race but not sure how I’d hold my pace, so I lined up at the front of the second one.
It still feels weird to not seed myself at the back of any group of runners, but for once I’d picked a good spot. When it was our turn to go, I took off in the lead. Normally when I race I just run whatever pace feels comfortably hard, but this time I was trying to go fast. I fail at racing smart, because when I glanced down at my Garmin I saw a number in the high 6’s. No wonder I couldn’t breathe.
By the end of the first mile my pace was down to 7:34, and it gradually sank over the next mile. I was relieved to hit the turnaround but not thrilled to see Wade and Jody close on my heels. Redoubling my efforts I held them off for a little bit, but eventually Jody passed me and then I tried to cling to his heels.
Mile two chimed in at 8:12, and there was nothing left but to hang on for the last mile. One great thing about the out and back was getting to cheer for the leaders on their way back and getting to see other friends on my way back. It gave me a boost to cheer for people I knew (and also for people I didn’t know) and to hear them cheer me on, but my speed dropped as the last mile dragged on.
At this point I was confident I’d be able to beat my current PR (26:15) and was trying really hard to keep my pace up, knowing I’d be kicking myself if I missed a sub-25 by a few seconds. Remembering some advice I’d been given, I kept counting footsteps to 100, trying to focus on that instead of thinking about wanting to stop. I’d get to 100, glance at my Garmin, and start counting again.
Finally we got to the turn back into the park. The slight uphill wasn’t fun but I didn’t slow down much. All we had left was about .25 miles around a field and it would be over. My third mile was down to 8:31 (no negative splits for this girl!), but Wade was still behind me and the race was almost over.
Rounding the last turn I heard the footsteps and glanced over to see my nemesis on my heels. I tried briefly to hold him off (and might have called him something not so nice), but he had more left at the end then I did and passed me with authority. As soon as he was by me I know my pace sagged.
I do way better with someone to stay ahead of; for whatever reason I feel very little motivation to catch up when I’m passed. I need to work on that competitiveness quirk, because while Wade finished under 25 minutes I didn’t. My Garmin said 25:01.54. Two seconds off my goal! If that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, my chip time said 25:00.6. So close, and yet so far.
I stayed around for a little bit to cheer for other runners, but I left pretty quickly because of the cold and family plans. It wasn’t until Kevin posted it on Facebook that I found out I’d taken third in my AG. Somewhere there’s a turkey trophy waiting for me.
It’s a little disappointing to know that I’d have had my goal time with a little more discipline or mental toughness, but a big PR and placing in my AG are nothing to sneeze at. Besides, my nemesis beat me, but he had to work for it. That’s something new for shirt distance races. Maybe there’s something to this training thing after all.