Saturday, November 30, 2013

Race Report: NWA Turkey Trot 2013

Of course I started out my Thanksgiving Day with a run! Third year running (see how I did that? haha), I did the local Turkey Trot. It's been unusually cold around here the last couple of weeks - morning temperatures have already been in the twenties and even the teens once or twice - so it was a good bit colder this year than last. Not one to let cold deter me once I have paid for a race, though, I was up, dressed, and headed to the ballpark for the race by 7:15.

I finally got out of the car after about 10 minutes of contemplating the cold, since I knew some of my friends would be there and I wanted to find them before the race. It's really something to be a part of the running community here - not only did I see friends from the group that I run with every weekend, but I found fellow triathletes I have trained with; runners I recognize from passing on the trail; others I've met through work; and I even saw a few familiar faces from church. I never thought I'd say it, but I think I kind of really like living in a small town.
Jennie Horton, triathlete extraordinaire, with me and Nate the photo bomber!
Brett and Jeff, two of my running buddies - and again, Nate the world's cutest photo bomber
Greg and Kim, recent NYC marathon finishers!
with Joon and Jeff
As the clock ticked toward 8:00, I made my way to the start line, still contemplating my race strategy. Run with my 5k group? Run a good pace but not so hard that it hurts? Go all out and see if I can repeat my win from last year?

Turns out, I had plenty of time to contemplate - there was some issue with the computer and the timing system, so we stood. And stood. And STOOD. Holy cow, it was cold - we were all shivering, and after about ten minutes of standing, my feet were numb. Not the best way to start a race, I would say. Finally, after maybe twenty minutes, we were ready - steady - GO!

And, of course, given my All In nature... I was off like I was being chased. Which, technically, I suppose I was, since most of the field was behind me. Even though my feet were numb, it was a pretty good day for a run - sun was shining, air was cold but crisp, and not much wind to speak of. I'm familiar with the course now, too, so could anticipate the rolling hills and turns in front of me.

I decided to keep my eye on a guy in a red shirt - I would just try to hang with him. Then, of course, I started noticing the women around me... and trying to guess their ages. Which was when I officially decided I would be really happy if I placed in my age group again this year. So, laser focused on the guy in the red shirt, I picked 'em up and set 'em down, faster faster, pounding, pushing, and did what I could to keep up.

Right around the one mile mark, I realized there was a woman who very much looked like she was in my age group that was right behind me - then passing me - then behind me - then passing me. I shifted my focus from Mr. Red Shirt to Mrs. Age Group Competition, and she pushed me. Past the first turnaround, around the second corner, toward the two mile point. Then we hit an uphill - and that's where I pulled ahead. Since every run here in NW Arkansas has a hill (whether you like it or not), I've gotten pretty good at putting my head down, pumping my elbows, and even accelerating up those hills.

By the time I got to the flattening out of the rise, she was a couple of steps behind me, and I didn't see her again. Back to looking for Mr. Red Shirt, now a good ways ahead of me. Refocus: pick 'em up, put 'em down, control the breathing, keep pushing pushing pushing.

I'd caught up with some of the kids from the local cross country team who run every year, always starting in the front of the pack - now it was old lady vs. the youngsters. I hung with a couple, passed one or two here and there, and finally got to the last hill of the race. Little bit more pushing, turned the last corner, and the finish line was in sight.

I knew I hadn't run as fast as last year when I won my age group, but I also knew from the pain in my lungs that this was at least a good effort for a tempo run, which happened to be the workout on my marathon training plan for the day, anyway. Just as I began to mentally congratulate myself on a race well run, I heard footsteps, coming up fast on my left. I picked my knees up just a little bit more; lengthened my stride as much as I could; but I didn't have enough left to keep her from passing me. Turns out she was 24 years old, so I guess I don't feel too badly about being passed at the end!

Almost there...
Almost there............
I crossed the finish line with a time much faster than I would've guessed given that I still consider myself in rehab from my broken ankle - 22:49 for 5k (3.1 miles). An average of 7:22 per mile, a pace that for the vast majority of my running life I never would've considered remotely possible for me to run.

Third in my age group, ninth female finisher, and 49th overall - I'll take it! I never did catch Mr. Red Shirt, and despite not having seen Mrs. Age Group Competition again, it turns out she was literally just a step behind me - 1.7 seconds, to be exact. Whew!

This year, the turkey trot was extra special - it was graduation day for my Couch to 5k group that I led at work! I was so proud of those that had finished the program - especially the ladies who had never run a race before. I'm always ready to preach the gospel of running, and I hope that they had as much fun with the program as I did.

Tonya and Malisa tore it up!!
C25k Graduates Kimberly and Kennetta with their kiddos - second 5k in six days!!
Gobble gobble, wobble wobble - another turkey trot in the books!

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