Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turkey Trotting: Massive 5K PR

This morning I ran my 10th consecutive Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K. That's right- my 10th year in a row! I'm thankful that I have never been injured on Thanksgiving and I have always been able to participate in this race since I discovered it.

After running the Richmond Half Marathon 12 days ago, I took a full week off from running. I made the mistake of not stretching or foam rolling during that time. After two days, my legs felt fine just walking around, but I didn't realize how tight my left IT band and calf were. When I returned to running, my entire left leg was tight and and everything felt like it was pulling on everything else. I started foam rolling twice a day and eventually my hip/hamstring/IT band felt better, but my calf was still an issue. It had seized up and was tender to the touch. I was actually worried that I wouldn't be able to run this race, but I went for it anyway.

I aggressively treated my calf by having Greg massage it twice a day, foam rolling it, stretching it three times a day, using Salonpas patches, taking Aleve, and wearing a compression sleeve. Instead of running yesterday as originally prescribed by my coach, I took the day off entirely.

Compression socks for my calf, and matching shoes!
I had this race planned down to the second. Since I had 9 of these Turkey Trots under my belt, I knew the course profile like the back of my hand. Last year, I ran the first two miles at the same pace, and then the third mile was about 10 seconds faster. The first two miles are a net uphill, with a significant hill in the second mile, and the last mile is a net downhill.

The McMillan calculator predicted a pace of 6:37 for my 5K. I wasn't sure I wanted to go for that, though, given I had taken a full week off of running and I was optimally trained for the half marathon, not the 5K. My plan was to run the first mile at a pace of 6:43-6:45, and then run the second mile at the same pace as the first. My plan for the last mile was a 6:35, and then an even faster final kick for the last 0.1. This would give me an average pace of about 6:40, putting me comfortably below 21 minutes.

My previous PR was a 21:29, and I was hoping to smash it, just as I had done to my half marathon PR just 12 days prior.

Before the Race
I think I set a PR for the most amount of quality sleep the night before a race. I slept for a full eight hours, and then woke up extremely gradually. I was so relaxed and rested that it took me about 45 minutes from coming into consciousness to actually feeling awake. I also slept insanely well two nights before the race. I think I have this no-anxiety thing down pat!

Greg and I did our normal pre-race routine: bagels, bathroom, and bib affixing! We arrived at the race 35 minutes before the start, with just enough time to warm up and then line up. We warmed up for 20 minutes, and I felt ready.

The weather was absolutely perfect. 40 degrees, mostly sunny, with 0 mph winds. Usually this race is in the low 30's, so it's rather chilly at the start. But this year, I was rather comfortable at the start line in my shorts and short-sleeves after having warmed up.

Mile 1: 6:43
I hate the first mile of this race. There are so many slower runners who start at the front, go out at a pace of 6:30, and then slow down to an 8:00 mile shortly thereafter. This equates to quite a bit of passing and weaving. I knew to expect it, so I managed as best I could. At one point, there was a group of 3 people running side-by-side and it was difficult to pass them. I tried to not let it fluster me. When I saw my Garmin beep at 6:43, I was pleased. I was executing on the faster end of my narrow 3-second window!

Mile 2: 6:43
This mile features a significant hill. I've gotten much better at hills over the past year, and was able to pass quite a few runners on this hill. Regardless, I was happy to be over it and running down the hill on the other side. I stayed focused, and tried my best to run the tangents. The good thing about mile 2 is that the course opens up with a wider road, so it's easier to pass people. I was pleased to see that I logged another 6:43, exactly as planned.

Mile 3: 6:35
I knew my PR and sub-21 was in the bag if I just continued to execute the plan. The last mile is a net downhill, but of course I was getting tired, so I had to really work for this. Since I've never run a 1-mile race, this 6:35 is also a 1-mile PR for me.

The last 0.14: (6:03 pace)
I gunned it to the finish and was happy to see the clock was still in the 20's.

My official finish time was a 20:51. This is a PR by 38 seconds from my 21:29 that I ran at the 2011 Turkey Trot. Last year, I ran a 21:30, missing my PR by just one second.

I was slightly annoyed that even though I was trying to run the tangents, my Garmin measured 3.14 miles. Greg's Garmin was closer to 3.1, and in the past mine has been closer to 3.1 as well, but I think all of the weaving during the first mile was the culprit. Anyway, according to Garmin, it was an average pace of 6:39 for 3.14 miles, which is very close to what the McMillan calculator had predicted.

Even though Greg hadn't done any speed work since the Columbus half marathon nearly six weeks ago, he ran a 22:01, which pleasantly surprised us both.

After the race, we found one of our friends and cooled down with him for about 15 minutes. The cool down was really important. When I first started running, my left leg was extremely tight. I was worried I had done some serious damage. But after a few minutes, it started to feel better, and by the end of the cool down, my left leg felt semi-normal again.

Final Thoughts
I think that having a well-defined plan was critical to my success. I knew exactly how I wanted to race this one, and my execution matched my expectations perfectly. Could I have run it faster if I set a more aggressive goal? I think maybe by just a few seconds. I was feeling really exhausted by the end of it, so I don't think I could have squeezed out more than 2-3 seconds extra. I'm trying to move away from "playing it safe" in races so I can run at my full potential. I don't think I played it safe here, but on the other hand, I wasn't quite as risky as I was in Richmond. There was also my tight calf to consider, and I definitely didn't want to pull it or tear it.

In any event, a 38-second PR in the 5K is HUGE, and I am super excited that I have reached a new level of fitness and I can run a race without anxiety.


  1. Congratulations on your new shiny 5K PR! With the 5K you almost have to plan it down to the second with pacing because it really counts. You can't go out too conservatively for the first mile but don't want to bank time either. I do think knowing the course helps big time, if nothing else to relieve anxiety about hills, turns, etc. But hooray that you're now in the 20's too!

    I too PRed this morning although not by that much (I don't think I fully recovered from my half as I didn't take any time off). I too hate when courses are a little long even when I try to run the tangents- I had 3.15 as well and it's hard in a big race when you have to weave or when kids are at the front and abruptly stop 100 meters into the race!

  2. What a terrific results, congrats! Amazing what some rest can do...

  3. You just keep improving, girl!! The 5k is a funny animal- we need to have strategy but at the same time be courageous and take chances as well. Thanks for the kind words on my side of things:)

  4. Congratulation on your PR! I think that from now on you should get a free race entry. :-)