Thursday, November 27, 2014

Every Second Counts: Turkey Trot Race Report

When I qualified for Boston last month with not a second to spare, I realized the importance of seconds while racing. Things like running the tangents, avoiding weaving, and being quick about water stations all really matter, no matter how short or long the race.

This morning, I ran my 9th consecutive Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K. I'm very thankful that I've been able to run this race since 2006 without injury. My fitness for this race usually depends on what fall marathon I ran, how well I recovered from it, and how much time I had afterwards to knock out some fast workouts.

This year, I was pretty confident in my ability to PR. I took 9 days off after the Columbus marathon, but then had nearly 4 weeks of training that included some interval work.Two weeks prior to the marathon, I shaved over a minute off of my 10K PR from 2011, so I figured I could probably take at least 10 seconds off of my 5K PR, which was also set in the fall of 2011.

Before the Race
Greg and I parked in our normal spot and did our normal warm up, just under two miles. The weather was perfect. Overcast and 33. I wore my CWX capri pants and a light weight long-sleeved shirt. The pavement was still wet with a few icy patches from yesterday's snow event, but safe enough to run on.

I know this course very well, and my splits are always very similar. The second mile has a large hill, so that's always the slowest mile. The last mile is slightly downhill, so that's usually the fastest mile, if I can hold onto my effort level.

When I PR'ed at this race in 2011, my splits were 7:00, 7:05, 6:42 with a time of 21:29. I wanted to run a similar pattern today, but with everything about 5 seconds per mile faster.

Mile 1
This race is notorious for being very crowded with kids and slower runners lined up at the front. Greg and I lined up close to the front, but the problem was that the people behind us went out at like a 6:30 pace for the first quarter mile and then slowed down, which meant a lot of people to pass. I didn't want to waste energy on weaving, so I wasn't as aggressive pace-wise as I could have been. I felt like I was putting out a hard effort and I didn't worry that I was slightly slower than planned.

My first mile clocked in at 7:01 and it felt tough. I was a little surprised that it felt as hard as it did. When I ran my 10K six weeks ago I ran some 7:03 miles that didn't feel nearly as hard, but I guess that course was flat and this one has hills. The thought crossed my mind that a PR wasn't likely but I immediately dismissed it and told myself that it was definitely still possible.

Mile 2
This is the mile with the big hill. One of my goals for the race was to stay strong on this hill and to not let it slow me down. This mile has always been my slowest of the race, but with a 7:01 first mile, I really wanted to speed up and not slow down.

Before the hill I developed a strong rhythm and cadence that was keeping me at about a 6:55 pace. I told myself to keep up the pace, and increase the effort. Typically my strategy is to run an even effort level, which means slowing down on hills. But today I told myself to run a steady pace, and just be mentally tough up the hill.

It worked, and for the first time ever, mile 2 was faster than mile 1 at 6:54.

Mile 3
I wanted to really drive it home here, but things were getting hard. 5Ks hurt. They hurt a lot. It's a
constant mental struggle to tell yourself to endure that kind of pain and not slow down.

Tights are never flattering in race photos.
I had a few women in my sights that I wanted to pass during this mile. I think I passed two of them and I'm not sure about the other one because the finish line is a bit of a blur. I had remembered this mile being mainly downhill, but there were some inclines that really hurt. I clocked a 6:45.

The last 0.13 + Finish
I usually have a very strong final kick and regret not starting it sooner. But that was not the case today. I stayed strong, with a 6:15 pace for that last bit, but there is no way I could have started it sooner. I know I gave 100% and no less.

My Garmin credits me with a 6:52 average pace and my official race time was 21:30. That's just one second off of my PR.

I placed 3rd in my age group out of 242
I was the 15th female out of 1,351

My first age group win at this race!  And with 10-year age groups too!!!  I wanted to stay for my award, but it was just too cold to hang around in such a lightweight shirt. Hopefully they will mail me whatever it is won.

Even though I didn't PR, I wasn't disappointed. My immediate reaction was I qualified for Boston by one second, so if I miss a 5K PR by one second, it's really not that big of a deal. In other words, I am so thankful for that one second in my marathon, that I'm not going to get upset about not having that second today.

Plus, I ran this race hard. I don't think I could have found an extra second. I guess I'm a little surprised that I wasn't faster, given how much time I shaved off of my 10K. But I know I gave it my all.

Final thoughts & takeaways

  • I finally won an age group award at this race, after 9 years!
  • This was also the first time that the hill in mile 2 didn't slow me down
  • Next year, I will be more aggressive on that first mile and not afraid to weave if necessary.
  • Every second counts, and I need to remember that when things get tough
Now it's time to enjoy Thanksgiving!


  1. You did a great job! You are soooo right that seconds count, like running the tangents and also starting position (especially when it comes to awards since that's gun time and not chip time, so if you thin you may get an award, being at the front helps). I am always outkicked in races so some other girl beats me by a second, sometimes fractions of a second (in one race, I was 5th OA female but 2nd 25-29 just because the 1st 25-29 female outkicked me). It's something I have to learn for my half coming up since I'll need to utilize water stops there and possibly fuel along the way too.

    You should be super proud of your PR and your great splits. My coach and I are trying to work on getting my splits even or slightly negative, and it's a big accomplishment to do that because you are racing really effectively.

  2. One second. Yep, they do count. Not sure if you watch football, but did you happen to see the Alabama vs Auburn game last year? If so, you know the importance of one second. Hahah.

    Congrats on a STRONG race. Like above poster said, negative splits are tough, especially in a 5K. Keep up the good work!