Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Race Report: 2012 MEB2 Turkey Trot

The 2009 MEB2 Turkey Trot was my first race. Looking back, the motivation that came with signing up was the tip of an iceberg I have yet to fully discover. My sights are set farther than 5K now, but the excitement of participating in organized races continues to pay dividends and provide motivation to keep getting out there and training hard. Plus, racing seems easier than training. It might be the company, or the competition, but a 7:00 mile just seems easier when others are nearby.

The final Gold Country Grand Prix event of the year, the Michael E Bratton II Turkey Trot is a fundraiser for the MEB2 Foundation. The foundation was created in 2006 to provide sponsorship for "Anew Day, local youth activities & suicide and depression awareness", in honor of Michael E Bratton II, who took his own life. 2012 marked the seventh year of the event. Attracting over 1000 participants, the Turkey Trot is easily the largest field in the Grand Prix.

My schedule called for a pretty rigorous cruise interval workout consisting of 5x5 @ 7:00 pace. Tim gave me the go ahead to race the Turkey Trot in place of the interval workout, and I knew I would need to work hard to place high enough to garner the points I needed to secure second place in the Grand Prix. Machen MacDonald and I were tied for second on race morning, and with such a large field of unknowns, I had no clue to what place I would finish.

My training had been unsatisfying in the weeks leading up to the race: missed workouts due to illness and fatigue, and legs feeling like lead accompanied by labored efforts were frequent. I decided to use the hilly course as pacing practice for the marathon which followed the race a week and a half later. I would go out at marathon pace for the first 5K (8:20/mile), and then use the last 5K as a tempo run (7:45/mile), making up for a failed tempo run earlier in the week. This strategy would both give me a negative split and a good shot at a top five (I hoped), which I would need to earn more than one point towards the Grand Prix standings.

The race director, Mike Bratton Sr., gives an emotional introduction to the event every year. Depression awareness and suicide prevention are the responsibility of a compassionate society, and the Foundation does what it can to help the cause. Mike and his family put on a top notch event and promise every dollar goes back to the community. As the race start neared, Mike asked for a show of hands from people who were running their 7th Turkey Trot, of which there were a few. But when he asked how many were first timers, the hands shot up all around the track at Nevada Union High School. Easily a majority of the participants were first-timers. There were so many people at the starting line, I couldn't see anyone I knew!

Then we were off. The course exited the track through a gate, which bottle necked the 1000+ runners, and then looped around a parking lot before funneling onto single-track trail. I managed to start near enough to the front, and by the time we hit the single-track, the crowd was mostly manageable. There were occasional slow downs, but my pace was a little faster than intended, so I went with the flow.

The first mile went by: 8:07

As the course left the high school grounds, it began climbing up Litton Hill, first along a gravel path and then along the street. this was where the runners began to spread out. The leaders came screaming down the other side of the street as they passed the halfway mark while most of us were trying to maintain some momentum heading up the hill. An aid station at the turn-around was staffed by eager youths cheering on runners, always appreciated.

On my trip down the hill I had a shoe come untied again! Two races in a row my double-knotted laces have come loose. I have to get to the bottom of this issue. Breaking stride, pulling over and then restarting throws off my rhythm and puts me in a bad place. Especially on a downhill where I was trying to stride smoothly. I managed to avoid sprinting to regain my place in the pack this time, which is an improvement on a bad situation.

Second mile: 8:15

The hill bottomed out as we returned to the Litton Trail , and I slowly started picking off runners who had either begun walking or slowed due to a slight grade coming back to the woods in which we began trail running. I knew the 5K runners around me would split towards the track as we entered the school grounds, so I did not assert myself in the latter part of his trail section, saving some steam for the climb ahead, where the 10K course leaves the school grounds along Ridge Road.

Third mile: 8:08

MEB2 Turkey Trot Course Map

As I crested the hill, Twirly was there cheering on the runners. I gave her a so-so sign in response to her query, and began focusing on catching whomever happened to be in front of me. Have you ever used the old "rubber band" trick? Imagine a rubber band pulling you towards the runner in front of you. It works! The fourth mile had another climb along Ridge Road, after an out-and-back along Sierra College Blvd. I passed three runners in that section, wishing each of them a happy Thanksgiving as I went by.

Mile four: 7:41

The fifth mile had the runners return to trail running along the Litton trail. I passed another along this stretch, again expounding holiday wishes. I have run this section of trail before, but it seemed to be more uphill than I recalled. Another runner was in my sights, and as we completed the out-and-back to cross Sierra College this time, I finally reigned him in.

As I passed and blurted my blessings, he said "Hey, your pace looks good. I'll run with you."

The fact that he had headphones on and likely had not heard me was not lost. I picked up my pace a bit, as no one I had passed had taken this tact.

"Your first time?" he asked.

I shook my head and added some more steam. I was not in the mood for conversation.  The last small climb was ahead, and the trail had few foes before me.

Mile five: 7:49

The last mile coming into the school grounds felt great, although I slowed my pace a little once I ran out of people to pass. I managed a little kick coming into the stadium and finished strong.

Mile six: 7:58

I finished in 48:49, in 44th place out of 229 runners. 9th place in my age group meant I only received one point. I knew there would be a lot of competition for the age group points, but I was still disappointed. Ten runners in the top 50 were 40-49 year old men. Ironically, if I had raced the 5K I likely would have garnered more points, as Machen MacDonald took 5th place with a 24:40, earned 3 points and beat me for second place in the Grand Prix series by 2 points! I could have run the 5K, but two of my season goals were met: a top three in the Grand Prix, and run every 10K in the Grand Prix. So no regrets about a successful season. It was my first full year of injury-free running (knock wood).

As always, the event was run well by both organizers and participants. The refreshments were plentiful and the community was out in force. I chatted up some club members, while we waited for results, about the CIM experience. My racing year culminates in next weekend's marathon, and having met most of my goals for the year, I am looking forward to a strong showing.

Here are the details from the Turkey Trot:

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