Race Recap: 2015 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot

I'm such a proud momma! This was my greyhound Django's first 5K, and he did great! It was a fun race and great experience with him, and it all made me so grateful and happy that I have such an awesome canine friend!
Django and me at the start

First, a bit of background. This is my third year running the Turkey Trot and second doing the 5K (the first year I did the five-mile race). Last year I made the last-minute decision to run with Django for about the first .4 miles. The course loops around the stadiums before heading into Downtown, so I just handed Django off to my husband and continued on my own. It was a miserable race. I'd started in the back with Django and for the whole race just tried to get around people, which is very difficult and frustrating on such a crowded course. After the race, I made one of my goals for this year to run the whole race with Django.

We adopted Django more than three years ago, after he got disqualified from racing while training and never actually raced. We didn't know why he got disqualified, but we've learned that he has a very low prey drive and has no interest in chasing the lure that's used to train greyhounds at racetracks. Greyhounds are sprinters are not endurance runners. They can reach speeds in excess of 40 MPH but usually only for a few minutes before they get tired and stop. At dog parks, greyhounds are the only dogs I've ever seen that lie dead-tired on their sides on the ground because they're so tired from running! My husband and I take Django on pretty long walks and hikes, so he's more used to long periods of activity than other greyhounds. I started some training runs with him last month. While he was at first excited, usually he only wants to run a few steps and then stop to sniff and pee. On our last training run last week, he had very little interest in running with me, and we never came close to running 3 miles. So I was pretty certain that we would be walking part, if not the majority, of the race.

I wanted to dress a little festive and decided to wear my new Beyond Yoga Shimmer Leggings that I just got. I was a little nervous because I've never worn non-running tights running before! I was worried my butt would jiggle. My husband said I'm a girl and things are supposed to jiggle. That's really not what I wanted to hear! I did a little run test in the house for him and he swore there was no jiggling action. To play it safe, I wore a long white tank under my top that completely covered my bum. Well, it wasn't jiggling I had to worry about. The leggings totally fell down while I was running! I kept having to stop and pull them up, which was so annoying. So there you have it--Beyond Yoga leggings are NOT good to run in! Plus, in a lot of my pictures, you can't really even tell they're shimmery.

It was already a warm 44 degrees when we left to go to the start line, which was just a few minutes from my house. I figured I wouldn't be running that much so left on my warm top and gloves, though I did take my gloves off right before the race started. Usually it's bitter cold for this race, so it was nice that it was so comfortable this year.

As we walked through a park on our way to the start line near PNC Park, our baseball stadium, we ran into a couple we know out walking their greyhounds. Django went apeshit when he saw them, and he and the one greyhound started running around in circles because they were so excited to see each other. I was worried that he'd expended all his energy right then!

We got down to the start and lined up in the back, where people with dogs and strollers are supposed to line up. Django was pretty calm and relaxed and just interested in watching everything around him and greeting people. But when the crowd started to push forward to the start line, I could tell he got a bit stressed. I think he didn't know why we were all crowded together.
At the start line--Django checking out everyone around us.

Django at the start line checking everything out.

We crossed the start line and Django seemed ready and excited to run. The problem was that it was so crowded that it was nearly impossible to run. I knew he'd be more comfortable on the sidewalks--he knows he's not supposed to walk in the road--so I pushed our way through so that he could run on the sidewalks. There were bushes all along the sidewalks, so he seemed pretty happy just sniffing the bushes as we ran and occasionally stopping to pee. For pretty much the whole race, we ran on the sidewalks whenever possible. Our first mile split was 12:17.
My husband took this shot of us in the first mile.

We crossed the bridge to go into Downtown, and immediately after Django wanted to take a poop break. He found a grassy area but was sniffing around for the perfect spot. I was getting out his poop bag and not paying a lot of attention, and before I could stop him he started kicking dirt, which rained down onto the runners on the course! I apologized profusely to them, but they just laughed. According to my watch, we were stopped for about 1:30.

I thought he'd pick up the pace because I didn't think there would be much he'd want to stop and sniff. Well, who knew there were so many trees Downtown! Django found them all! I'd forgotten about the trees and green space in the median strips, so we ran through the median strips instead of the streets.

I have to say that this race experience was so much better than last year's. The course didn't seem as crowded, and I wasn't being continually jostled like I was last year. Also, everyone was super nice and told me not to worry when I apologized for Django trying to squeeze through them or things like that. My strategy was to just stay at the pace of the crowd and only pass people if there was an opening and it was easy; otherwise, I wasn't worried about passing people. I think it helped that we had somehow managed to work our way up into the crowd past the walkers, so because everyone else was running, Django just seemed to take it in stride that we were supposed to run and not walk. The other thing that helped was that there were a lot of other dogs running the race. If Django saw one in front of us, he would want to catch up to get a whiff of doggy butt. Hey, whatever motivates him, right? So our second mile was really good, with Django basically leading and wanting to catch up and pass all the other dogs. Throughout the whole race, I almost constantly talked to him, telling him how good he was doing or reminding him to stay at my side. He really did beautifully. It was like he'd run races hundreds of times! Our second mile split was 10:44.

The last mile started right at the water stop. I took a cup and had a sip and gave the rest to Django, but he only wanted a sip. Shortly after the last mile is a hill. I wasn't watching my watch, but I'd seen the splits and thought it would be cool to make it a progression run and run our last mile the fastest. I figured the hill would be a good place to pick up our pace because people were going slow and struggling. I think between the distance and my starting to pick up the pace on the hill, Django started to get tired. He started to lag behind me, so I slowed up for him. When we got to the top of the hill, I let him take a minute or so break to stop and sniff the trees in a grassy area. It was a little tough to get him to continue on, but finally we were on our way again, across the bridge back to the stadiums.

As we descended the bridge and approached PNC Park, I tried to push the pace but Django wasn't having it. I could tell he was really tired. So I tried to get him excited telling him we were almost there and what a good job he was doing, but he was still slowing down. Finally, when we turned the corner and I saw the finish line, I started to really cheer for him, and he finally did perk up and step it up for the last steps into the finish line. Our last mile split was 11:49 and last .35 was 10:38.

I was so proud of him! I'd told my husband we'd likely be finishing in about an hour, so he wasn't even looking for us when we finished, which according to my Garmin was 38:35 and per the official results was 38:33. My Garmin showed the distance as 3.35, which I could see because we were running on median strips and sidewalks instead of the course, for an 11:31 pace. Official results were 12:26 pace. I thought that was great! He ran the whole thing, except for pee and poop stops! My heart was bursting with pride, not just because he ran instead of walked, but because he's such a good dog, and he stayed with me on that race course whether he wanted to run or not.

When we first adopted him, he was scared of everything. He wouldn't even go on walks because he was so afraid of the city sights and sounds where we live. To see him handling what would be a stressful environment for any dog--the crowding at the beginning, the loud noises, all the people and other dogs, water cups being thrown around, weaving around people, etc.--so well just fills me with pride and love for him.

On this Thanksgiving, I was very grateful for such an amazing dog!
He did it! Django ran his first 5K!

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