Thursday, November 23, 2017

Race Report: Alexandria Turkey Trot, November 23, 2017

I ran the Alexandria Turkey Trot today, finishing in a gun time of 32:24 for 5 miles.

I went back and forth about whether to race today.  I've been sick the past few days - nothing awful, just moderate fatigue and an achy throat and sinuses.  However, my runs this week had felt OK (I did take Sunday off, which was the worst of it).  By Wednesday night I was confident that I was no longer contagious.  I was still sleeping a ton, but my fatigue was much improved.   Additionally, since my chest wasn't congested, I wasn't worried about running myself into an asthma flare, which has happened in the past.

 So I gave it a shot.  Some of my best races have been when I had a headache or sore throat.  And it was Thanksgiving, so I had to run a Turkey Trot (I'm pretty sure it's a law somewhere).  Plus, I think you gain both experience and fitness every time you race - if I wasn't going to get others sick or set myself back, there was no reason not to give it a shot.

So I packed up my car for the day and headed down to Alexandria.  My Thanksgiving schedule traditionally involves driving directly to my parents' home on the eastern shore of Maryland post-race, so I loaded up with a change of clothes and a packed cooler containing all the food I was bringing plus some ice packs.  Thankfully (you see what I did there) it was a cold morning, so I had no worries about stuff getting too warm in the 6 hours between when I left home for the race and when I got to my parents' place.

I arrived at the race around 7:30 am (it started at 9), which was the perfect time to find parking.  I've learned that Turkey Trots, though massive, are packed with people who don't show up until 30 minutes before the race.  So no matter how big the race is, if you just show up at a reasonable time, you should find a decent parking spot.

Picked up my bib, swapped into my shoes (I went with the Takumi Sens this time) and then started warming up.  I didn't feel great on the warm-up, but that's normal for me, so it didn't bother me.  The weather was wonderful - just the perfect temperature for running fast.

I lined up and we started.  It's been a while since I've run a Turkey Trot - it might have even been a whole year.  Thus I had forgotten about the unique brand of idiocy that infects these races, with those who run once a year sprinting out to the front in the first 400m.  I almost got pushed down twice, until I raised my elbows and started running a bit more defensively.  Sheesh.

The Alexandria Turkey Trot is a variant of an out and back - basically you run a bit to the north, go around a curve and head south for a long time, do a loop at the south end, and then run back north a bit past the start area before curving around to the finish.  There was a bit of a headwind and an elevation climb in the first part of the race before we'd turn.  My game plan was to stay conservative until we turned south, and then start building.

Plans don't always go the way we want them to.  In one of those "of course" moments, my right shoe came untied just as I came around the corner.  I unleashed a volley of profanity (mostly with my inside voice), and stepped off course to remove my gloves and retie my shoe.

The unfortunate thing about this happening so early (besides the fact it happened at all) was that the course was still packed with runners.  I had stepped off on the inside part of a turn, which meant a steady stream of runners that I now had to merge into from a standstill.  More lost time as I waited for a gap - only a few seconds, but it seemed like longer.

Finally, I was able to rejoin the race.  I reminded myself not to panic, but instead to stay patient and build.  Sprinting wasn't going to accomplish anything except a blow-up.

Plus there was the unfortunate detail that my legs were feeling dead anyway, with no spark to them.  Unfortunate, but not all that surprising.  Oh well.  I resolved to put that out of my mind (along with the shoe issue) and just try to chase down as many people as I could during the remainder of the race.

And so that's what I did.  My breathing was actually good the entire race - great even.  And I was pleasantly surprised to discover that what had felt like a downhill run heading south also felt like a downhill run heading back north. I'm not sure how that was possible, but I really didn't mind.

The bad news was that my legs were maxed out.  There was no power and I couldn't turn them over.  Even when I'm dying, when I see the finish line I can still usually find something.  But I had nothing this time.

My final time was 32:24 gun time (this race didn't do chip time).  I unfortunately accidentally paused my Garmin during the shoe tying episode and didn't notice it was paused for some time, so my watch reads 30:15 (not right).  The "elapsed time" on my Strava reads 32:20, so I'll go with that.  Not like it matters anyway.

My splits were:
Miles 1-2: 1.67 miles in 11:02 (I think this was actually 2 miles in 13:08)
Miles 3-4: 2 miles in 12:57
Mile 5: 6:16

I had originally hoped to run significantly faster than 32 minutes here, and I think I'm actually in shape to do so.  But between headcold recovery and the shoe issue, it just wasn't meant to be today.  Oh well.  Sometimes things don't go your way, and at least this wasn't a goal race.

Other notes:

  • The weather was perfect today - low 30s and clear, with mild wind.  The wind was notable in a few stretches, but not awful, especially compared to the past few weeks.
  • This is a really fast course and a great race.  I've done several different Turkey Trots in the DC area over the past few years, but I think this one is my favorite.
  • My one suggestion for improvement - the mile markers were very hard to see here.  This could be improved very easily by purchasing some brightly colored balloons, inflating them, and tying them to each mile marker.
  • I wore the Takumi Sens for this race, rather than my Adios 2s.  In retrospect, I think I would have been better off with the Adios 2s.  The two shoes are very similar, except that the Takumi Sen has a much lower heeldrop and more of the boost in the forefoot (in the Adios, more of the boost is in the heel).  My footstrike differs depending on how fast I am going, and it seems like the Takumi Sen only feels good when I'm up on my forefoot, which means I'm running close to 6:00 pace or faster.  At slower paces - even 6:30-ish, the Takumi Sen feels awkward.  I'm not running 5 miles in 30 minutes right now (no matter what my Garmin says), so I need to stick with the Adios for this distance.
  • The weather was great - temp 34, DP 23.  I wore shorts, a tank top, and arm-warmers, which ended up being the perfect choice for these temps.


  1. Congrats on your turkey trot! Sorry that you didn't meet your goal time and had things go wrong with the crowds and shoes, but I love your wisdom behind racing. I'm nowhere near as fast or experienced as you, but I do agree- even if I don't meet my goals in a race, I always learn something and I get a better workout out of it. I've also run coming off illness and when others may have DNSed, and think that's made me mentally tougher, that I can indeed do hard things.

    I bet with those temps, you passed a lot of people who were dressed for the arctic tundra and went out way too fast!

  2. Perspective...I ran a similar race today and it was my PR! ;-) So IMO - great race!

  3. I'm surprised that a race of that size doesn't do chip time! Anyway, I think your mentality was really good- you had a lot to gain from racing this and not a lot to lose. It's unfortunate that your shoe came undone and you had to navigate through the sprinters at the beginning. I love your point about parking-- I have found that to be true as well at Turkey Trots! Anyway, given all of the stuff that happened, you still pulled out a strong performance. Congrats!