Turkey Trail Trot Half Marathons Recap

Three weeks after running the Indy Monumental Marathon I made the questionable decision to run back-to-back half marathons on Thanksgiving and the day after. It’s not only wise for me to take some time to recover after a marathon but my body often pushes back and won’t let me start back too quickly even if I want to. However, recently it feels like I may have reached a level where my body has gotten used to it. After running 33 miles at the Twilight Zone 6-Hour Run in June I’ve managed to maintain good tolerance for long runs through the summer and fall.

I took a week off after the marathon and was surprised that I didn’t feel rusty at all when I ran again. The Saturday before Thanksgiving I ran 10 miles followed by eight miles the next day to see if I might feel up for trying 13 miles two days in a row later in the week. My body still felt fine so I decided to go ahead and sign up. Why two days in a row? Well, basically because Move-It Fitness offered that challenge and I’m always tempted by these crazy challenges. Once the thought was in my head I knew I’d want to go for it even if it wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

In 2017 I ran the Turkey Trail Trot at Stony Creek Metropark and really enjoyed it. The race takes place on the mountain bike trails that I like to run somewhat regularly. That year I signed up for the 10K Run Eat Run challenge – a 10K on Thanksgiving morning then again on Friday. That year they also had the Leftovers Half Marathon on Saturday. I hadn’t planned to run it but people told me I should come back and I couldn’t resist. This year the race offered 2-mile, 4-mile, 10K, and half marathon races on Thursday and Friday. In order to earn the Run Eat Run medal people had to run the same distance both days. The 10K probably would have been a smarter choice but I’m so drawn to the endurance events now that when the option is there I can’t help but go for it.

Although Detroit’s Turkey Trot may be the biggest draw around this area, I like the idea of only driving 10 minutes away to one of my favorite parks for a low key race where I don’t have to deal with big crowds or parking issues. It was nice to leave after 7:00 for an 8:00 start. The part that wasn’t so nice was that it was around 40° and raining. I told myself I would have gone out to run on my own anyway so it really didn’t matter.

When I did the race in 2017 I believe all of the distances started at the same time so it was especially crowded at the beginning. This time the 10K people lined up five minutes before the half marathon people, and the shorter races started half an hour later. I think that approach worked well.

It looks like 133 people started the 10K wave then 47 of us took off for the half marathon. We had an extra little loop early to add some extra distance before getting back to the same course that the 10K people ran. I’m in the blue jacket in the photo below.

My ultimate goal for these races was not to fall. Between wet leaves, mud, and roots, I knew it could be challenging. I made it through the 10K races fine last time but I wiped out pretty hard during the half marathon. I hoped not to do that this time.

For the most part the trail conditions weren’t too bad. We splashed a little in some areas because of the rain. There was one short stretch early on where the trail was completely covered with leaves. The stretch between miles one and two was the worst. One spot was an unavoidable mud pit! I was able to hop around one of the edges fairly successfully, but there was no good way to avoid either getting muddy, wet, or both. A couple other spots were fairly messy but the area seen below was the worst. It’s all a part of trail running though!

One of my favorite stretches came a couple miles into the race. That trail is called “the pines” and it twists and turns around a bunch of trees. The conditions were pretty good there but I started to catch up with some of the 10K people and sometimes it can be tricky trying to pass on single track trails. It was fine with good communication though. I just let people know I was coming up on their left side so I wouldn’t shock them and risk a collision. That’s the most courteous way to share the trails. A couple people thanked me for letting them know because there were some runners who didn’t.

The course was pretty easy until somewhere around 4.5 miles. That’s when the first climb hit.

That one wasn’t too bad, but I’d say about three more followed before getting back to the start/finish line. The last of the hills was especially harsh.

Then I got to twist and turn through some newer single track trails which are a recent addition for mountain bikers. I hadn’t run those before because I usually figure I should stay out of the way of bikers who could be flying through. That was a fun stretch then I continued through the finish line for a second loop.

The second time through wasn’t as crowded and I was on my own most of the time which made it easy to go my own pace. I knew I was pressing my luck by trying this challenge and I better not push myself. I was not attempting to race at all. Since no one was around, I made a few quick photo stops which helped reinforce my casual approach to the run. When I was nine or 10 miles into the race I could tell that a guy was gaining on me. I started to feel like I was being chased and I really wanted to minimize any pressure so I would keep things easy. Once we got off one stretch of single track, I kind of stepped aside to make sure he could go ahead for the next stretch of single track. Then I felt more relaxed again. The first hill this time around was tough and the hills that followed finally broke me and I walked a little bit. I told myself again that I was taking things easy and time really didn’t matter.

I made it to the finish line in 2:08:27 and most importantly, I made it through without falling! My watch showed somewhere around 13.4-13.5 miles each day so it may have been slightly longer than a half marathon.

I saw later that I had completed the first half in 1:01:55 and the second half in 1:06:31. Being around people at the beginning surely affected my speed during the first loop, then my photo stops and brief walks surely slowed me down during the second loop. In addition, I didn’t do such a good job of avoiding the mud pit the second time through. One of my shoes was soaked and I could hear squishing with each step for the rest of the race.

I collected my medal and stuck around briefly after I finished. They had some bottles of water and some sugar cookies. Not too many post-race treats since we had to leave room for big Thanksgiving meals anyway! I decided to buy a knit cap and a buff was thrown in as a bonus.

I’d spend the rest of the day eating and hoping soreness wouldn’t kick in to tell me it would be too ambitious to try this again a second day.

I seemed to feel good enough when I woke up the next morning and knew that unless something was really tweaked I was bound to return anyway. If I had to I’d even walk a chunk of the course but I would at least get out there and try.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be one of the biggest days for running events in this country. I knew the crowd size would drop on the second day and it definitely did. Across all of the events there were about 470 people on Thursday and 119 on Friday. Not everyone was necessarily back for the Run Eat Run challenge. I talked to one woman who had volunteered at the Detroit Turkey Trot the day before and came to do her own race on Friday. Only 17 people did the half marathon.

Although Friday was colder with some wind and a few snowflakes, it was better than rain! The ground hardened and most of the course wasn’t as sloppy as it had been the day before. One day wasn’t enough for the muddiest spots to suddenly disappear though.

I knew that I had to be careful because it could be a little too ambitious trying to do this again. Once I got to the race I realized my right hamstring was a little annoyed so I really wanted to take it easy. It helped that the crowd was much thinner and we ended up spacing out quite a bit although I was right behind one of the guys for most of the first loop. We caught up to some 10K people once again but only 46 people did that distance on Friday compared to 133 on Thursday.

After walking through some of the hills during the second loop the day before I just assumed it could happen to me this time too. Maybe it helped that I started slower. I ran 1:04:15 for the first loop this time versus 1:01:55 the day before. The first four miles of each loop felt pretty good before the hills began. Even though I was going so slow I probably could have been walking, I was able to power through the second round of the hills a little better on Friday than I had on Thursday. I finished my second loop faster than the first in 1:03:35. My finish time was 2:07:51. That was 36 seconds faster than the day before. If I hadn’t stopped for a few photos the day before my times may have been about the same!

I got another medal that matched the previous day’s, plus a Run Eat Run medal. Thanks to Move-It Fitness for capturing and sharing some photos of the action.

I got some hot chocolate, a granola bar, and some Christmas tree sugar cookies. As a few of us learned our overall/age group placings, we joked about how there was no one to compete with because we were the only ones stupid enough to do it. I had joked with Geneva, the race director, that she inspires me to do these stupid things. She has to go and offer back-to-back half marathons and I can’t resist doing them. I was told that I was the first place woman which was cool, but only four women did the half marathon! Still, I got another buff for my “achievement.”

When I got home I put my medals down to take some photos and it didn’t take long for Rusty to settle on top of them for a nap. I chose to think that he was tired just thinking about what it took to earn those.

It all worked out despite my worries that I was doing too much post-marathon. I know it helps that the trails keep my pace in check. They’re not easy though with those hills! The hamstring that was bothered before the race got through it just fine and isn’t bothering me now. I have a sports massage lined up which will surely bring a lot of problem areas to the surface though! I seem to have escaped unscathed but know that I really ought to take some rest days. I plan to take at least three days off and will likely ease back in after that. I only have a month to go before I’ll begin training for the next marathon!

– Janet

Follow me on Instagram @janetboltz and Twitter @reidphotography


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