Thursday, November 28, 2019

Turkey Trot PRish

Today I ran my 14th Turkey Trot 5K, but my first Ashburn Farm Turkey Trot.

Every year since 2006, I had run the Virginia Run Turkey Trot in Centreville. I loved this race and it had become a tradition. I was saddened to learn that they were not going to put the race on this year due to the lack of volunteers. But, luckily I live in an area with plenty of trotting options so I chose the Ashburn Farm race, which I had heard good things about.

We had a wind advisory today with sustained winds at 20-22 mph and gusts of up to 40 mph. Needless to say, these are not PR conditions! Thankfully, the relatively warm temperature of 44 degrees ensured that the wind wouldn't be as biting as it could be. Originally my goal had been 19:40 (an 18-second PR), but when the wind advisory came out, I adjusted that goal to simply pushing hard and hoping to squeak out a tiny PR.

Before the race
I changed up my pre-race routine in that instead of having Generation UCAN 30 minutes pre-race, I took a Maurten gel with caffeine 15 minutes pre-race. The gel had worked well for me during the Indianapolis Monumental Half marathon, and I didn't need all that much fuel for a 5K. UCAN provides up to 90 minutes of fuel, but for a 20-minute race, I figured I could get by with one gel. Plus, I had an English muffin with peanut butter two hours before the race.

I decided to wear a crop top and tight shorts because I didn't want a loose tank blowing around in the wind. Plus, after Indy Monumental, I vowed I would never overdress again. I ended up being the most scantily clad person there, and I got a few people asking me if I was cold. But the outfit ended up being perfect me.

Greg and I warmed up on the course to get a sense of the hill profile and the wind direction. The hills and wind were where I expected them to be. A brief tailwind to start, followed by a long section of headwind and uphill.

This race offers a 5K and a 10K. Overall, there were 3,000 runners and the race had sold out. My usual turkey trot has around 1500 runners, so it was about the same size. Greg and I lined up about two rows back from the start, which unbeknownst to me was a mistake. I should have lined up right on the line-- with the kids!

Mile 1: 6:34
I planned to go out hard because I knew I'd be able to fly in the second half, which would offer a downhill tailwind. So even if I bonked, the course profile would be in my favor. Plus, I am in marathon shape right now so I should be able to hold a hard effort for 20 minutes. The first mile was net uphill, with the second half of that mile being into a headwind, so 6:34 was a very hard effort. As I passed the first mile marker, I realized I was next to Greg, and I hoped I would be able to keep up with him.

Initially, I counted about 5 women ahead of me. I had hoped to place in the top three because this race offers cash awards.

Mile 2: 6:41
This mile was painful. The first 0.8 was more uphill headwind and it was sucking the life out of me. I glanced down at my Garmin a few times and saw a 6:50 lap pace. Yikes. Originally I had planned for this mile to be faster than the first mile, but I realized that this mile was harder, given the sustained 20 mph headwind. At the turnaround, I realized I was in third place. I must have passed two women at some point without having realized it. That thought pepped me up. Greg, however, was now far ahead of me. Wind doesn't ever seem to slow him down!

Mile 3: 6:11
Mile 3 was a joyride! My fastest mile ever, but with a downhill tailwind, of course it would be! All of a sudden I was flying and my pace dropped dramatically. I even caught up to the 2nd place woman about halfway through the mile and sprinted past her, hoping that she would not try to stay with me.  I kept glancing at my watch, wondering if I could run fast enough to PR. It seemed unlikely, because I would need an average pace of 6:25, but I was going to give it all I had.

Last 0.8: 5:49 pace
That was a fast sprint to the finish! I was really trying to nab that PR.

I stopped my Garmin about a second after crossing the finish line, and it read 19:56. So I assumed my finish time would probably be 19:55. Yay! A PR by 3 seconds!

Greg ran 19:24, which is a 25 second PR for him!

After the race
My coach wanted me to run 4 marathon pace miles post race. (He's so hard core). So, about five minutes after I finished the race, I headed back on the course for a marathon pace "cool down". I ran 7:18, 7:12, 7:19, and then stopped at 3 miles because the wind was really picking up. At times, I was running in place. After stopped, I realized if I had run 0.1 more I would have officially run two 5Ks, but oh well. 3 "bonus" miles at a pace of 7:16 immediately after a 5K PR in a wind advisory was good enough for me!

As I was running these marathon pace miles, I started to process the race. My Garmin read 3.08 miles at a pace of 6:28. So is that really a PR? When I ran my 19:58, my Garmin read 3.13 miles at a pace of 6:25. Hmmmm.

Then, the bad news came. My official time was 20:00, for both gun and chip. I knew I had run faster than that! Thankfully, I was still officially in second place.

For placing second, I ended up winning a cash award of $100 plus a plaque. I was very happy with that, and this is something that my traditional Turkey Trot did not offer. I would win the same hat each year.

I asked the timer why my gun and chip time were the same. He said, "Did you place in the top 3?" and when I said yes, he replied with "We erase the chip time for the top 3 finishers. It's a new USATF rule."

"Can you tell me my chip time?" I asked.

"19:55," he replied. “But that won't be recorded anywhere official, since you placed in the top 3.”

I had never heard of this rule and I was't going to argue with him. I was still second place, and I still
ran a strong race, and that's what really mattered.

Final thoughts
After much deliberation, I am going to call this "PRish". Even though my coach encouraged me to consider it a true PR, it's not really.

1. My official gun and chip time are 20:00. There is no record of me running 19:55 expect for hearing the timing guy say it.

2. The course measured 3.08 on my Garmin. Greg got 3.1, so the course may not have been short. But, I know that have run 3.1 miles at a pace of 6:25 in the past and today I ran a pace of 6:28.

What if the course had measured 3.16 on my Garmin and I ran a pace of 6:23? That would not be an official PR, but I would have known it was the fastest I had ever run that distance.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: the race was during a wind advisory. So running that close to my PR and having a chip PR in those conditions is something I'm proud of, and it tells me I am in excellent shape. Had it not been so windy, I think that 19:40 would have been mine.

So, I'm calling this PRish. I'm not going to update my PR board at home or on the sidebar of my blog. I still consider my PR to be 19:58. However, I know that right now, I am in better shape than when I ran 19:58, and that's what is important to me, just 10 days out from a marathon.

Am I bummed about the chip/gun time thing? A little. But given that it was a short course based on my Garmin, and given that they compensated me $100, I'm fine with it!


  1. Well Zebra you continue to run and perform astoundingly. A bit too finicky for me regarding results or how you assess it. The USATF rule stands, just a new one. I bet if you lined up at very front...your gun time probably may have been a few seconds sub 20. placed 2nd, take $100 kash home and a plaque, and you did it all in challenging windy conditions! Gutsy running by got some "Desi" in you!

    I get a bit on the downside when you assess that Garmin GPS miles and pace vs what it actually is when you cross the line. Especially you....being in the amateur elite and you go by official race course distance and gun time! So it matters not what Garmin records or what pace based on that distance it says. Official USATF certified course, then the distance is 5000 meters or approx 3.11-mi, and the Total time from Start to Finish divided by that official course distance is what you ran. And despite it not an official definitely is your PR-ish!

    I am a big fan of your running journey, so I hope you don't misinterpret anything I say as I just want you to see and accept the race for what it was....damn, superb running/racing to your terms! And yah, that Coach of yours cares about you and really pays attention as he wants you to succeed at all these goals you seek. Soooo....a few miles post 5k doing your goal marathon pace....simple cool down for you given your conditioning! You are running perhaps the best and sharpest of your life...enjoy that adventure!

    1. I always appreciate your comments and support. I understand what you are saying. There's "official" and then there's "personal". For me, personal means I ran really fast in the wind, so that's my main take away! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Congrats on running such a fantastic race under not so ideal conditions! You've worked so hard this year and it's paying off big time! This was the first time in years that I didn't run the Ashburn Farm Thanksgiving Day 5K. Instead, I ran the Turkey Dash 4-Miler in Charlotte, NC where it was about 50° with no wind at the start.

  3. The USATF rule is news to me - I had no idea. I'll have to keep that in mind! You ran very strong for this race in some windy weather, and a solid 5k in marathon training is a good sign: your legs are fresh and peppy and you kept some speed. CIM will be an easy PR for you!