Before loading up on savory turkey and delicious desserts, I kicked off Thanksgiving 2012 with a local race, the 3rd Annual F-M Turkey Trot.
This was my second year trotting on Turkey Day, and it was my first time tackling the 8-K (4.9-mi.) course. Last year, my dad and I ran the 4-K route, and it proved to be a challenge. I was a semi-recreational runner—I ran four or five days a week, but I would simply go out and run, so no speedwork, tempo runs, etc.—and I didn’t know what a “cross-country course” entailed; the hills, mud, and roots surprised me! To top it off, it was my first semi-trail/off-road race, so when I finished in about 24 minutes, I was very, very happy
to be done.
Anyway, I knew what to expect this year. My knowledge of the conditions, combined with my swimming and biking focus and my laid-back approach to running, basically determined my game-plan: I wanted to take it easy, and even though it was my first time running an 8-K event, I didn’t want to go in with the mental approach of PR-ing; given my training, or lack thereof (just some speedwork and one tempo run), “racing” wouldn’t have been a smart goal. Instead, I planned to use this semi-competitive environment to practice pacing: For the first four miles or so, I told myself to stay in the 8-8:30 min. ballpark; for the final mile, if I felt strong, I would “race.”
The race had a late starting time of 10 a.m., I arrived at F-M High School around 9:30 a.m. and had no trouble finding a parking spot. After picking up my t-shirt and bib, I wandered around a bit and looked for my friend Cathleen. We played field-hockey together in high school, and we went to the same college (she’s a few years older than me), and it was great to see a familiar face. And we totally forgot to take a picture—whoops!
After the kids’ fun run, we were directed toward the start line, which was in the middle of a vacant field, and before long, we were off! Cathleen and I didn’t position ourselves close to the front—we were too busy talking!—so we got stuck behind slower runners; at one point, my watch read 10:35 min./mi. Luckily, though, the environment didn’t seem competitive, and since I wasn’t racing, it was fine.
I used the first 4-K as a warm-up and slowly increased my pace to 8:07. However, the second 4-K proved much more challenging than the opening segment: As I made the turn at the halfway point to continue onward (the 4- and 8-K participants ran together until we reached the start line, which is when the 4-K runners headed toward the track to finish and the 8-K runners continued), I was surprised when the course went into a forest. In an effort to avoid wiping out, I slowed to 8:20 as I traversed rocks, stumps, and tree roots. Coming out the clearing, I met a huge hill that appeared to go straight up like a 90-degree angle. Obviously, my pace slowed there, too. The remainder of the course contained smaller hills, so I hung out in the 8:07-8:15 range; the pace felt comfortable, so I kept it in cruise control. However, I did pick it up as I approached the finish line—how can you not?—and picked off about seven runners in the final 100m. It’s all about finishing strong!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a 100 percent accurate finishing time—there were no timing chips, and most people (including me) didn’t even wear race bibs. As each runner finished, they had the responsibility of checking the scoreboard for their time. (I also think there was one person relaying times at the finish line, but I was so hyped up on endorphins I didn’t hear anything.) However, since I wore my Garmin, I didn’t bother to look. That said, though, I started my watch about 15 seconds before I crossed the start line—oh, bottlenecking—and it measured the course as slightly longer than five miles. My watch read 40-ish minutes, and Cathleen told me my scoreboard time was around 39 minutes. (She’s battling an injury and decided to run the 4-K.) Either way, this ballpark equates to 8 min/miles, which I will totally take, especially for not racing.
Overall, this race signified more than meeting a time goal. First, I was really happy with how I followed my plan, dialed into the target pace, and held it. There were segments when I wanted to ease up, and there were moments when I wanted to go faster, but I reminded myself to execute the plan; running really is 90 percent mental. Second, it’s been a while since I’ve done a “straight-up” (no swimming and biking beforehand) race, so it was nice to have a successful, no-stress outing. Third, I think this event bodes well in terms of Olympic-distance triathlons. Right now, I’m simply maintaining my running base, so if I can hold this pace without a ton of training, then maybe it would be a feasible target pace for a triathlon 10-K. Yes, I definitely have work to do, and I’ll be the first to say running off the bike is completely different, but it seems like a challenging, yet feasible goal.
Did you do a turkey trot this year? How are you staying active this weekend?