Saturday, November 25, 2023

Turkey Trot- I Winged It!

I did not have any goals or this year's Turkey Trot due to its proximity to the Richmond Marathon, just 12 days prior. I knew that I would still have my marathon fitness, but my legs were still recovering.

I took 8 days off after the marathon and resumed the Monday before Thanksgiving, with a very short run of only 15 minutes. In addition to recovering from the marathon, I had caught a cold two days post race. By Monday it had been a full week since I got sick and I had all of my energy back. The congestion lingered, however. I ran short and easy runs on Tuesday and Wednesday and both of those runs confirmed that my legs were still in recovery mode.

My plan for the race was to "wing it" with no goals or pacing strategy. I had run this course 13 times in the past, so I knew what I was getting myself into. This is NOT the course I ran last year that holds my 19:41 PR. It is the course where I ran my first sub-20:00 back in 2018. The elevation profile is gently rolling hills with a larger hill at around the halfway point. 

I had not run this course since 2018 because they did not hold the race in 2019, 202, or 2021. It came back in 2022 but I was not aware of it. Instead I ran a different Turkey Trot.

Before the Race
I had a super casual attitude about this race, which meant I didn't have my normal digestive system clean-out when I woke up. I ate half of a Maurten solid and drank some water, and that got things going a bit!

The weather gets a 9 out of 10 on my personal weather scale. It was 43 degrees, mostly sunny with 8-9 mph winds. It would have been a 10 out of 10 without the wind. I wore fitted shorts, a tank top, arm sleeves, sunglasses and lightweight gloves. I wore the Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 shoes, which makes this my very first time ever racing in Saucony. I had run a few speedy workouts in them during training, and my adidas Adios Pro shoes remained too big, so Saucony it was!

I met up with my friend Meredith at the start line 30 minutes before race start. We warmed up with another friend, Nancy for nearly two miles. I had a caffeinated Maurten gel 15 minutes prior to race start. I didn't have the chance to use the porta potty, but that ended up being ok.

Greg, who is still recovering from his injury, moved to his cheering spot during our warm up. I would see him twice during the race. 

Mile 1
I didn't want to limit myself by looking at my Garmin, so I decided I would only look at it when it beeped for each mile split. After the first few minutes of runners getting out on the course, I settled into a groove. Meredith was in my sights and I figured I would roughly pace off of her. The first mile is gently rolling hills with a net uphill. I saw Greg about 2/3 the way into mile 1. Things felt hard, but I didn't feel like I was running at 5K effort; it felt more like 10K effort during the first mile. The Garmin clocked me in at 6:43. I would have guessed something closer to 7:00, especially since it felt like 10K effort, so I was happy with that.

Mile 2
The first mile has no turns; it's a straight road. The first turn is around mile 1.3. At the turn I found myself closing in on Meredith. This was not intentional, but I was simply "rolling with it" and that's where I found myself. Not that I am usually super-focused on my watch, but the fact that I didn't look at my watch at all allowed me to really be present and focus on my surroundings and effort level. 

The big hill came and it was not as steep as I had remembered it. The hills in the first mile were steeper than I had remembered, but this one seemed more tame. I caught up with Meredith and ran with her for about a minute. Then I started to really open it up on the downhill and told myself it was time to hammer it home at 100% effort with whatever my legs had. Mile 2 clocked in at 6:37.

Mile 3
I was pleasantly surprised with my mile 2 split, given that it contains the big hill. I could tell my legs were really starting to hate me. At that point, I realized I could be drawing power from my arms. I
decided to engage them more and really use them to propel me forward. I focused on my arm swing and forward lean. From an energy standpoint, I had plenty of it - the limiting factor was definitely my legs. If I had 4-5 more days to recover from the marathon I probably would have tried for sub 20:00. But the legs were still cranky. 

I was expecting to see Greg as I ran it in, but he was standing much closer to the finish line than expected. At that point I was too focused on sprinting to see him, but he saw me and snapped some photos. Mile 3 clocked in at 6:23.

The finish and beyond
My final kick was a pace of 6:12 for 0.14 miles, make this a Thanksgiving Pie run at 3.14 miles. 

My official time was 20:34, which earned me second place in my age group (out of 76) and 8th overall female (out of 392).

Meredith finished shortly after looking very strong. I had to sit down because that final kick really knocked the wind out of me! My legs were extremely tired and my body was not happy with me for running so hard!

I ran a half-mile cool down just to get some blood flowing to my muscles. Then I chatted with Meredith and her family before heading out. 

Final Thoughts and Key Takeaways
Probably the best takeaway is that I run really well when I have a super casual attitude. I know that I am going to focus and push hard once the race starts, so there is no need to overthink things before hand. I also enjoy running so much more when I am not glancing at my Garmin to monitor my pace. That's necessary at the beginning of a long distance race, but not during a 5K. 

I really had no predictions or expectations for this race. At best, I thought I could break 20:00 if my legs were fully recovered. At worst, I thought I could injure myself and end up walking it in. I had no idea what was going to happen. The fact that I ran so well 12 days post marathon and 10 days post getting a cold says a lot about my fitness!

Most of all, I am always thankful for any year I am healthy enough to run a Turkey Trot.


  1. Good run Zebra. Any time you can run a 20-min 5k your faring well. Your still running with the kick and power you always had and still have, but I like your approach not over-thinking the race before you start and just run it be feel and heart. You are running well so keep at it and your run philosophy!

  2. Congrats Elizabeth!!! I love how you ran so consistently without checking your watch to adjust your pace. It has to feel so good to run on that reserved fitness from the marathon!

  3. I'm thinking what Wendy said. Because you're coaching yourself, I think that you're in a stage where your fitness is building from race to race instead of getting torn down with each race. Here's to winging it!