Monday, November 28, 2011

Beating the Turkey

Several people have told me last year's Turkey Chase race recap is one of their favorite race stories of mine.  This year's race went a bit different, starting with the fact my stinking sandbagging cheating husband didn't register.  The turkey I was going to chase this year was the one in my mind!

Here's the thing...I knew with a fair amount of certainty I would set a new PR.  I'm in considerably better shape now than I was when I ran the Firecracker 5K in 27:37 last July; I can usually run a 9:00 pace on any given day.  My tempo pace during the marathon training runs has been around 8:15-8:20 so I felt fairly confident in setting the goal to break 25 minutes...if my mind didn't let me down.

In all the marathon speed training runs (except one) I've been running with someone else.  I ran the first three miles of the Huntsville Half in 24:40 (but was running with someone I was trying to race-albeit unsuccessfully in the end-as well as a pacer) not to mention I would have an additional .1 mile to run, which would add on about 45ish seconds if I were running at an 8:00 pace.  I was a bit sore from my long run the Sunday before.  I had been in the car a total of about 40 hours in the previous 7 days (driving/sitting that much is exhausting!).  The wind was blowing about 14 mph according to

My mind was throwing up obstacles to my sub-25 goal faster than I could shake them loose.  So, I told myself what I would tell anyone can't change your training at this point, all you can do is EXECUTE.  Time for that turkey in my mind to get the ax!

I set a plan...I wanted to run the first mile in 8:20, the second in 8:10 and the third in 8...that would leave me with pushing hard for the last .1.  The biggest problem I was facing was not trusting my Garmin.  It's been acting very strange lately and not giving me accurate pace information during runs.  Last week I was running fairly hard and looked down to see 14:30.  Granted, it doesn't stay there and the splits seem right, but if I can't see the correct pace how can I run it (because I CERTAINLY can NOT feel it)??  So when I met a women who said she thought she'd be keeping between an 8 and 8:30 pace I just about hugged her!  However, I should have known that was subject to change when her first answer to, "what kind of pace will you be running?" was, "it depends on who shows up today!" which was followed by some start line smack talk with another (obviously) local gal who was there to run with her son in his first 5K.

As the race director made final announcements, I took a deep breath and told myself to stay calm the first mile, run comfortably uncomfortable the first two miles, then hammer down the last mile, and kick the final .1.  The horn blasted and we were off.  I knew it felt a little fast at first, but when I looked down and saw 6:30 I thought I might faint.  Was the Garmin right?  I didn't think it could be by the way I was feeling, but could that just be adrenaline?  My "pacer" was about 15' in front of me.  The mom/son team were just behind me.

I told myself to stop watching ANYONE else.  The only race for me on this day was against the clock.  Sub 25 was my goal.  Sub 25 was my target.  But...without having a reliable watch to gauge my pace, how on Earth was I going to be able to make sure I didn't blow up in the last mile???  I reminded myself I KNOW about what an 8ish pace feels like.  What I needed to do was try to take myself out of the race, erase all the people who were running with me, bring my focus back to my body and stay centered. race was against the clock, it didn't matter who passed me, even if the man pushing the stroller just trucked by as if I were standing still....even if my "pacer" was getting slightly further ahead with every step...even if the 12 year old boy running with his mom just trotted by...even if the FIFTY EIGHT YEAR OLD WEARING SHORT SHORTS AND A SPORTS BRA went passed me as if I were taking a walk in the park.  (Yes, I checked her age after it was said and done, she was 58, and no, I never caught her.)

I had to keep reminding myself to block out every other thought and remember what an 8ish pace feels like...and HOLD that.  When I saw the mile one flag, my Garmin only showed .9, and it read 7:23.  I decided I needed to stop looking at it and just run.  ...Yeah, right, like that was going to happen.

My mind was racing (7:23, holy stink...that's way too can't hold should slow, you are THIRSTY...there's water at 2 miles, you should take a cup and get a sip, just to wet your throat...this isn't the goal race here, you don't want to get hurt running a stupid 5K...).  I could feel myself slowing down.  Garmin: 9:23.  I knew that was wrong.  I knew there was no way I had slowed that much.  I decided I needed to stop looking at it and just run.  Just let the time fall as it may and know I did my best.  But, what is my best???

The wind was brutal.  My mouth and throat were so dry.  All I could think about was the water at the 2.something mile marker.   The mile 2 flag was coming up.  I wanted to look at my Garmin, but knew I needed to just run.  I knew I had slowed down but I just didn't want to know how much at that point. I know I looked, but the time didn't register with me.  I saw the water table.  I had a decision to make.  I could let the turkey in my mind have it's way with me, allow myself to get water and slow down, or I could remember my plan to hammer down the last mile and kick the final .1.

I sailed passed the volunteer offering me a cup and started the chant in my head (only .9 to go, .90, .90, .90; only .89 to go, .89, .89, .89......I know how dreadful it sounds, but it works wonders on speeding me up and keeping my mind occupied).  I concentrated on my breathing.  I concentrated on strong legs and arms.  (Thinking about arm swing is another thing that usually helps me speed up.)  I tried not to notice when the NINE YEAR OLD body and TEN YEAR OLD girl raced by, or when lady with a dog on a leash passed me.  I took a deep breath and heard Chick Pea's voice in my head telling me to run my own race.  I heard the three Erics telling me to SUCK IT UP.  I heard Daisy telling me, "you got this."  About that time, I heard my sweet husband yelling, "DANA YOU GOT IT...YOU'RE GOING TO MAKE IT...GO GO GO!!!"  (It was at this point last year that same sweet husband left me eating his dust as he FLEW to the finish line.)

I focused in on the finish clock which read "24:something"...and I KICKED as hard as I could.  I was so focused on the clock, I didn't even notice I sailed passed the woman running with her dog.

Me after the race before pulling out the 20/20 hindsight glasses!
24:43.   Good enough for third out of 30 in my age group (40-49) and 42/181 over all.  More importantly than that...good enough to beat that turkey in my head.

...At least it was for about 5 minutes.  When I looked at my Garmin data, it said the first mile was about 8, the second about 8:25, the third about 8.  Immediately I started beating myself up for that second mile.  I could feel the slow down.  The prattle in my mind only got worse when I realized one of the women who passed me in the very end was the 2nd place winner of my age group (thirteen measly seconds ahead)...and first place???  THE LADY WHO WAS RUNNING WITH HER SON!!!!!  (They were less than a minute ahead of me.)  I don't think I could have realistically knocked off a full minute on that particular day...but I KNOW I could have knocked off 14 seconds.  I vividly remember her passing me because she was wearing a bright blue shirt.  I remember thinking I needed to hang on to her and take her DOWN.  It was about that time the little boy and girl raced passed both of us and the woman with the dog made her move.  I felt totally demoralized at that point...but my mind kept telling me I would be happy if I beat that blue shirted woman.

You know mind was wrong.  Yes, if I'd have beaten the blue-shirt I would have beaten my goal AND would have come in second place.  But then I would have beaten myself up for not trying harder to beat the nine year old boy and ten year old girl...and if I'd have beaten them both, hindsight would have me upset I didn't target the mom and son.  The truth is I'll always be chasing a turkey, and the truth is...I like it that way!!  I'm not beating myself up.  I'm reveling in the fact I broke my 5K PR--blew it out of the water in fact.  I'm thrilled I didn't stop for water.  I'm ecstatic I pushed through all the thoughts in my head and had the ability to hammer down the last mile and kick the final .1.   On that day...I beat the turkey I set my target on.

Turkey chasing only makes me stronger.

What's next?  A sub four hour marathon on December 10, 2011.  The things that will get me there are trusting my training, making a plan, and EXECUTION.  That bird is MINE.

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon!


  1. Gobble, gobble! I'm sidelined due to Knocked Up'dness and a wonky back... So, thank you for this post! I just ran a sub-25:00 5K vicariously! Congrats to you on a great run and overcoming all those mind games along the way. That sub-4:00 is all yours!

  2. Awesome PR! And I know the chant very well!


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