On Saturday, I ran the Westfield Turkey Trot 5-miler for the third time, managed to not freeze, and scored a PR!
Since I wasn’t a runner growing up, even though my hometown puts on quite a few road races, I didn’t start participating in them until I was 23. I remember being envious of the people that did run, but I was busy doing lap after lap in a pool with a coach who could somehow build you up, knock you down, make you laugh, and make you cry all in one fell swoop. But I digress…
Even though this is a “turkey trot” it doesn’t take place until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Thankfully the weather was slightly warmer than it was on Thursday, and with a start time of 11:15am I was in much better shape than anyone who ran a turkey trot on Thanksgiving. But don’t be fooled – I was still freezing before the race. I left my parent’s house about an hour before the start, and stayed in the car until 15 minutes before gun time. My mom was kind enough to walk with me to the starting line, so I was able to shed my extra layers (a pair of pants, a track jacket, and my dad’s fleece) right before starting.
While there aren’t any corrals or pace groups, they did have signs for approximate paces by the start line, so people could (in theory) line up accordingly. I happened to be standing right where they marked 7 minute miles, and decided not to move. An older gentleman jokingly said, “I don’t think all of these people in front of us are going to run 6 minute miles…” to which I replied, “they won’t.” I used to get annoyed at the people who just wanted to be up front, but I’ve learned to just not care. Most people that don’t belong up front are out of the way quickly enough, and 5 miles is plenty of time to not have to worry about weaving much. The race starts with a loop in the park to get you just over a mile before heading out onto residential roads (that I know like the back of my hand) for 3-ish miles before coming back into the park for the last half mile. It’s a pretty flat course (except for a slight incline in the park), and the roads are wide enough that it never really feels crowded. Basically, it’s a very PR friendly course.
I didn’t really have a plan going into the race, and my only goal was to beat last years’ time (37:34). I figured if I was able to throw down a 7:20 for my first mile and hang on, that would be good enough. My first mile was a 7:20 (by miracle more than by perfect execution), but it felt too easy. I didn’t want to push the pace too much, but knew I was capable of a lot more. So the next mile, I clocked a 7:16. During the third mile I saw my good friend’s boyfriend who was running, and we chatted and ran together for about a quarter mile before I decided it was time to try and pick up the pace a little more. I ran the third mile in 7:13, and in the process, beat my current 5k PR. I couldn’t help but laugh, since the exact same thing happened to me when I ran the race last year. I know I’m capable of a lot more as a runner, but seem to never be able to get my shit together long enough to actually make it happen. By this point I knew unless I had an accident, a PR was likely; I just had to fight through the last 2 miles. Mile 4 came quickly in 7:07, and I passed a few high school girls who looked like they were moments from tripping one another in an effort to make it to the finish first. The last quarter mile of the race is downhill, so I knew to push it enough the first three quarters and the hill would carry me home. I don’t know how, but I managed to clock a 6:56 for the last mile, and get passed by those two high school girls throwing elbows in the process. My official finish time was 35:58, a 7:11 average. Miraculously my watch had me only one second slower and one tenth of a mile further – talk about exceptional tangent work!
As it turns out, my time was good enough for second place in my age group (22nd female overall). This was by far the highest I’ve ever finished at this particular race (Westfield seems to have a lot of graduates that come back to race that are speedy), and I got a cute little scarecrow and a box of Emergen-C (?!) for my efforts. My cat has already tried to eat the scarecrow multiple times.
After I finished I met up with my good friend Kir, who is so speedy she could run laps around me. She doesn’t like to brag, but let’s just say that her marathon pace is significantly faster than the pace I ran the 5 miler. We’ve known each other since middle school when we were both avid swimmers. It never ceases to amaze me that I somehow went from being a swimmer (a sprinter, no less) to a distance runner. The thought of racing for more than a minute in the pool used to elicit whines and eye rolls from me; yet here I am running for hours at a time. Go figure.
This was an awesome way to finish up 2013 in terms of running – I managed to somehow PR every distance I raced except for the 4 mile and marathon distances… But I’ll be coming for them (big time) in 2014!
Did you Turkey Trot this past week/weekend?
Do you like Holiday-themed races?