Thanksgiving is said to be the biggest day for running a road race in America. I’ve only raced on Thanksgiving a couple times but I felt the draw to be a part of the fun this year. The two times I have raced on Thanksgiving I stuck close to home and participated in a low-key trail race at Stony Creek Metropark. Part of me wanted to return to that race because I enjoyed it but I still have some tweaky spots lingering on my left side six weeks after the Toronto Marathon. A test run on the trails a week before the race confirmed that it would be too ambitious (and not very smart) to try to race through the winding ups and downs on that course.
One great thing about racing on Thanksgiving is that there are plenty of options. When I browsed the list of races posted on RunMichigan.com I came across The Mighty Gobbler 5K in Troy. It would take place a couple miles from my mom’s house which would make it easy to go see her afterward. Another thing that was especially appealing was that I knew the course would be flat. Even though my leg has issues, I’ve been able to run through it and flat conditions are ideal for me right now. I waited until a few days before the race when I saw that the weather looked good then signed up.
The 5K race was due to start at 9:00 with a 1-mile race starting half an hour before that. I got there an hour early to allow time for collecting my packet and to avoid any possible last-minute rush. The race started in a huge parking lot across from Somerset Mall by the old Kmart headquarters. I walked through the lot to the Lutheran Church of the Master next door to pick up my stuff.
It was in the low 30s so I hung out in my car until 15 minutes before the start, which is when I went out for a half mile warm up jog before heading to the start. Although it was a bit chilly it was a beautiful morning.
I saw plenty of kids who looked anxious to take off quickly and tried to gauge a spot that would be appropriate for my pace. When 9:00 came we were off!
As I suspected, some of the kids flew at the beginning. Also as I suspected, a bunch of them were already spent a quarter mile into the race from sprinting so hard. I was breathing pretty heavily myself and was worried about whether I’d be able to keep it up. I usually end up somewhere around a 7:00 pace for a 5K when things go well and I didn’t know if I could pull that off. A glance at my watch showed that I was around a 7:25 pace early on and that already felt hard enough.
We started on an office park drive until we got out to the main road. We got to run in one lane of Big Beaver for a brief segment until the majority of the race took us through neighborhood roads. I may have made it about a mile into the race when I felt like I’d been punched in the diaphragm. The pain just below my ribs stuck around for the rest of the race and for a little bit afterward. 5Ks usually feel like torture to me anyway because I rarely run that fast and the extra pain didn’t make it especially great. I told myself that it was “only” 20-some minutes of running and I could manage to suffer through that. I distracted myself for a brief moment when we ran past Beachwood, a swim club that I went to several times as a kid for swim meets. It was fun to think back to those days. That was about the only fun part! I like to push myself and see what I’m capable of but sometimes it’s a bit miserable doing so!
I had to slow down for a sharp turn from the neighborhood onto a sidewalk that took us down Coolidge and toward the final turn for the finish. A kid and a guy passed me in that stretch but there was only so much I had left in me. As I approached the finish line I kind of jokingly thought about how I was too close to the guy in front of me and that would mess up my photo!
I was happy with my official time of 22:35, especially considering the chest pain I ran through. At first I was second in my age group until the winner was shifted to the female masters winner slot and I took the lead for the age group.
I knew I started out slower than I’d hoped, but didn’t pay much attention to my pace after the first mile. I was kind of surprised to see that I got faster throughout the race and ran a negative split! I actually got down to that goal pace of a 7:00 mile by the end.
I collected a bottle of water and a Clif Bar then went to my car to get a coat. Within 5-10 minutes the chest pain started to fade. I have a feeling it happened due to the combination of the cold and trying to run so fast. People often ask me if my lungs can handle running in the cold. Usually I don’t even notice! When it gets below 20 degrees I usually wear something to cover part of my face and I’m sure that helps, but it was in the 30s for this race which isn’t that cold. I haven’t done any speedwork lately though. I probably haven’t run below an 8:00 pace in the six weeks following the marathon so aiming for a 7:00 pace in the cold may have been a rough combo for me. The only other time I recall feeling that kind of pain in recent years was when I returned to running after having food poisoning this past March. Getting sick had left me with that same feeling of being punched in the diaphragm. When I felt the same kind of thing during the race I wasn’t overly concerned that I was going to have a heart attack or anything, but it definitely made it uncomfortable!
Eventually it was time for the awards ceremony and I won both a glass and a scarf!
A raffle took place after the awards. People received raffle tickets by bringing canned goods to the packet pick-up. I felt a little guilty about it, but I wasn’t brave enough to go to the grocery store in the couple days before the race so I didn’t participate. Instead, I headed to my mom’s house and it was awfully nice that she was just a 5-minute drive away!
Putting aside the suffering aspect, I’m glad I was a part of the Thanksgiving tradition of running a turkey trot. It was nice to try a race that was new to me, and especially nice to be able to run a flat course. I favor longer distances and it seems like every time I run a 5K it reminds me that I really ought to prepare myself by doing more speedwork. My gradual return to running after the marathon and hamstring issues have kept me from wanting to run fast lately, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that I still pulled it off fairly well. I really didn’t predict that my hamstring would feel totally fine and my chest would be the source of pain!
This hamstring/glute (piriformis?) problem hasn’t kept me from running but I know I still need to get it worked out, especially since I’ll officially start training for the Boston Marathon by the end of December. I have my eye on a few potential Christmas/New Year’s races over the next month but will probably wait until the last minute to make sure the weather will cooperate. I’m glad I didn’t register for one recent race that got canceled when a slight coating of snow made the course too slippery. I actually went out and did a little bit of speedwork a few days after this race so maybe I can reduce my level of suffering if I try another short distance race!
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