Race Recap: 2014 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot 5K

On Wednesday I posted about how I really didn't want to run this race. I planned to try to beat my last 5K time, which was a PR, which meant I would be trying for a new PR. While I tried to boost my motivation the night before by picking out my race outfit, I wasn't able to muster much enthusiasm for this race. The only thing that helped a little was that my husband Dave decided to go with me and bring our greyhound. I hadn't planned for them to be there, so that was a nice surprise.

On Thanksgiving morning I woke up to tummy distress. I'll spare you the details, but I was in the bathroom most of the morning. Even after I felt that it was all out of my system (sorry), my stomach still really hurt. I wondered how much of it was nerves and how much was something I'd eaten the day before not sitting well with me. The likely culprit was the Tofurky roast that I cooked for Thanksgiving but couldn't help but having for dinner the night before. I love Tofurky, but it's a guilty pleasure since I try not to eat processed foods. Shortly before we were to leave for the race, I seriously considered not going because my stomach hurt so much. But at that point Dave was almost ready to go, so I just hoped that I'd feel better once we got to the race.

The weather was really good--32 degrees, not windy, and not frigid. I wore my new Lululemon Think Fast Pullover and black Speed Tights and Athleta Chi Tank. I could probably even have gone glove-less.
At the starting line
We got to the starting line right near PNC Park on the North Shore, and I decided I'd do a short warm-up jog with Django. He loved it! He was prancing like he was in a parade, and his tail was wagging like crazy. Many people we jogged past remarked at how happy he was. After that, I started to consider running with him for the first part. The course loops around the block, so I'd easily be able to hand him off to my husband. About 10 minutes before the start, I made the decision to run with him for the first part. I knew I wouldn't have a chance at a PR, but because of my stomach, I figured that was okay.

Runners with dogs and strollers were to line up in the back, so we slowly made our way to the back. At that point, it was very crowded and Django wanted to stop, sniff, and greet every person we passed. Pretty much everyone was happy to meet him too, so he got lots of lovin.

We got to the back, and I took off his coat. Shortly after, everyone started walking closer to the starting line. We were all packed in like sardines, and I'm happy everyone around us was happy to meet him, because Django is a very curious dog and there was really no stopping him from sniffing and greeting everyone near us.
Lined up to start the race, before we started moving up and got packed in like sardines.
Then the gun went off. Django is used to fireworks because we hear them so frequently in our house (Pittsburgh has fireworks constantly...like, there were fireworks Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings this week for no apparent reason). But I think the gun startled him, plus I think he was confused in general about why we were standing in a big group of people. I could see his tail was a little tucked (which means he's scared or not comfortable), so I just talked to him and reassured him and told him he was a good boy, then we started walking to the start line.

Mile 1: 9:54 pace
Even after we passed the start line, it was impossible to run. Pretty much everyone was either walking or jogging very slowly. We jumped onto the sidewalk to try to run and got a clear space where he got excited and wanted to take off into a full run, but then there were spectators on the sidewalk so we had to get back onto the road. On the road, and for the entire course, it was crazy crowded. It's difficult enough to weave around people when it's so crowded, but it's nearly impossible to do it with a big dog at your side. When I saw an open space, I would try to push him through first, but he didn't know what I wanted and would try to stop and wait for me and then I'd trip over him. Then when we came across people walking, he would want to stop and greet them. Despite all that, we actually did do a mostly continuous run, even though it was sometimes very slow because we couldn't get around people and in other cases we kept bumping into people or getting bumped into. I kept telling him what a good job he was doing. He must have been very confused about why a.) he was in the middle of a huge group of people, b.) everyone was running, and c.) everyone was running in the road...which he knows he's not supposed to walk in so kept trying to get to the sidewalk, but he did a really good job overall. I was proud of him!

I initially guessed he only ran about .25 miles, but when I mapped it out I saw that it was really .6 miles.

I saw my husband waiting for us on the sidewalk and easily handed him off then continued on. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the end of my interest in the race. I wished I could have stopped then too or could have had Django with me the whole race.
Terrible picture of me, but I'm trying to get Django off the sidewalk to hand him off to Dave.

Shortly after, I looked at my Garmin for the first and only time during the race and saw my pace was an even 10:00. I didn't think that was bad at all given how slowly we had to run and our difficulty getting around people. Still, seeing that pace--I had originally planned to try for a 9:20-9:30 pace--took a toll on me mentally, even though I knew I wouldn't be able to PR. I decided to just try to run as fast as I can, run each mile faster than the last, and keep passing people.

Mile 2: 9:40 pace 
We turned the corner and went onto the bridge near the Andy Warhol Museum. I run these bridges a lot on slow runs, and the incline never really seems tough. Well, it felt tough when I was trying to run a fast pace! Once we crossed the bridge and were in Downtown, I felt my stomach pain really kick in. It hurt bad.

The thing about races is that the flow helps to carry you along. When you are trying for a hard pace and others are running that pace, it definitely helps you. I think that's what happened at the ZooZilla 5K, when I was following Amanda and trying to keep up with her (and when I got my PR). But when you are running with people who are running slower than the pace you want to run, it's so easy to fall in line with them and run at their pace. I caught myself doing that a bunch of times, and each time I made myself pick up the pace, push, and pass people.

Still, the course was tough because is was so crowded. At the last water station, a little boy in front of me was zooming back and forth across the course because he couldn't decide whether he wanted to take water from the left or the right. Four runners, including myself, tripped over him. People were tripping over and bumping into others nearly the whole race.

Mile 3: 10:06 pace
I didn't see a mile marker, but I knew from the map when we got to the last mile, so I tried to pick up the pace. Right then was an incline and then right after that was the bridge to go back to the Northside, and I felt myself slowing on the uphills but kept trying to push myself, which was very tough because my stomach hurt so bad.

After the crest of the bridge, I knew it was a downhill and then a very short section to the finish line, so I tried to pick up the pace. I was obviously unsuccessful. I would feel much disappointment later on about this slow mile.

Mile .16: 9:21 pace
Yep, so for the last .16 (per my Garmin), I finally managed to run the pace I wanted to run the whole race. UGH.

Per my Garmin, I ran 3.16 miles in 31:10 for a 9:51 pace. Official results were finishing in 31:08 for a 10:02 pace.

Overall, I think Django enjoyed it despite being a little confused. He got to meet lots of people and dogs, including two other greyhounds. But if I want to run a race with him again, I should not expect to run fast and instead should just enjoy running slowly and not try to keep passing people. I should also start even farther back to try to run where there's more space instead of being so crowded in.

Even though it was chaotic and a bit of a pain to run with Django, it was the most enjoyable part of the race for me. I didn't enjoy the rest at all. Not only didn't I enjoy it, but my performance was abysmal. I felt like I put in as decent of an effort as I could have with my stomach being so upset (my stomach continued to hurt the entire day and evening), but my pace was awful. That last mile--a 10:06 pace? Terrible considering I was trying for a 9:20-9:30 pace. Even though I didn't plan to PR, I expected to finish close to 30 minutes. In fact, my overall pace was 4 seconds/mile slower than my pace in the five mile race last year. I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family but as soon as I came home was sulking over the race results and my splits and was just really upset.

I know it's really bad to wallow in negativity and that I should use bad races as learning experiences. Plus, I'm always talking about how I should be positive and not so hard on myself. So here are the positives from the race:
  1. Got to run with Django in our first race together, which is definitely the highlight.
  2. Showed up and ran the race, which I didn't want to do.
  3. Kept passing people the entire time. I started near the back of the 3,975 participants and finished 1,634.
I think this was my worst race and performance this entire year. While I was thinking this would be my last race of the year, now I'm wondering if I should do another 5K (there was one more I was potentially planning to do) to redeem myself and end the year on a more positive note. Or maybe I'm just done with races and should just run for fun instead of trying another race. I'll have to think about that, but for now I just want to put this race behind me.

Did you run a Turkey Trot? If so, I hope you enjoyed it more than I did!

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