On November 24th, 2022 I ran a 31 second personal best to finish the Frederick Turkey Trot with a 19:23 5k time. I was the third woman overall, which brought immense happiness and pride after a month of more limited training--accumulated fatigue necessitated an extra down week, followed by getting into a car accident with a deer ten days out from the race requiring even more rest.
Since giving birth to my daughter in early March of 2022, I had thought about signing up for this race and going for another sub-20 5k attempt. Four years previously, my husband had paced me to my first (and only) sub-20 when I clocked a 19:54 at the same race and placed 7th woman overall.
In 2018, we paced the race perfectly, running even splits with a strong kick at the end. I was absolutely gassed and had to take a breather on the ground for a moment before the race marshals directed me to go all the way through the finishing chute. I made it under the 20 minute mark, but barely.
In the four years between these races, I spent a season injured, but most of my time was taken up by my two pregnancies. How I ran between the pregnancies is a blog post for another day; for now, I have had an amazing 7 month training block that resulted in absolutely smashing my PR and taking me far enough that I am thinking of trying to break 19 minutes next year.
So, how did I tackle this year's race? Well, I went out a bit faster than intended. The first 400 meters went by in less than ninety seconds (95 seconds would be the ideal pace), so the first mile clocked in at a 6:06, about 8-9 seconds faster than goal pace. I told myself to move on and not get hung up on thinking I had gone too fast, but rather to focus on racing. There is a small crest shortly into the second mile, so I caught two people and spent the next half mile catching another guy in front of me. I saw the first place woman speeding off (she almost broke 18 minutes!), and I realized I was in second place. I had a feeling someone might try to catch me at the end, so I kept focused. Funnily enough, a man with a roasted turkey hat was in sight, so I tried to stay in contact with him. Back in 2018, I barely beat a guy with the same hat in the last 400 meters of the race, so I wanted to do so again. It was a funny thing to think about, but it channeled my efforts.
While settling in with a pack may feel good, it is better to remember that everyone is likely to slow down from the original pace. A good sign (at least in the second half of a race) that you are either keeping your pace or not slowing down too much is if you are able to catch and pass people.
Before I knew it, the second mile marker passed by. I knew I had to pass by the local school, then we had a fair hill to crest before reaching the last 500 meters. There are two turns in the last 500 meters before the 0.1 mile straightaway. I gained on the turkey hat guy and passed him; however, as I reached the hill, another woman caught me. I almost mentally let her go, but I forced myself to fight a bit and passed her halfway up the hill and down to the bottom. After the first of two turns, she laid down the hammer and left me in the dust. She put a nine second gap on me in the end, even when I started pumping all cylinders, so it was a well-earned spot for her, and she spurred me to a strong finish myself.
Turkey hat guy was right behind me at the end, so my sprint to the finish was well worth the effort, along with crushing my goal of a 19:30 5k (6:17 pace). My last two miles were split 6:26/6:22, so my opening mile plus my finishing sprint secured the goal. Ideally, my first mile would have been at goal pace or a few seconds slower, my second mile would have been goal pace, and then my kick would have brought the third mile slightly under goal pace. Overall, I am proud and happy with how the race went, and I will be enjoying the weekend off.
What's next on the calendar? While addressing my weaker 800/1500m PRs is on the calendar for early summer, I'll be motivated this winter by a new and exciting challenge--my first 50k! I will post the training for my first ultra each week. I've chosen the Mid-Maryland 50k, a looped course at a nearby park with relatively easy terrain for a beginner on trails. The logistics of being close to home when I have a nursing baby, the ease of a looped course and easier trails, and the number of runners I will know at the event made it an easy choice... Well, that and the low cost, if I am being extra honest.
Did you turkey trot this year? How did it go? Comment below!