Did you know that Buffalo’s Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot is the oldest race in the United States? According to Wikipedia, it’s the oldest continually running public footrace in North America. It’s only five months older than the Boston Marathon.
For me, the Trot has been somewhat of a tradition. In high school I would go with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, we’d run our own race and then meet up at the end and see each other a few hours later for dinner. When I went to college, I promptly stopped running and Turkey Trotting all together. Now that I’ve been running again for three Thanksgivings, I’ve run the TT every year, with exception to the year I was in Manhattan for work. The intention (and paid race fee) was there, so I’ll consider it a year not totally lost.
Last year’s race was painful. I over-corrected my form, landing mostly forefoot, and cramped up terribly. I ran it by myself, finished in 40:59, and it took over a week to fix my knotted calves and sore body. This year’s race wasn’t painful in the same way, but I also didn’t push it much, nor did I intend to push. I finished in 47:08, my worst 8k race ever. Surprisingly, I’m completely happy with this. I don’t know if my expectations for myself are lowered, I’m smarter about running, or I have a genuine lack of caring for racing at the moment, but it’s probably a combination of all three.
Since I didn’t intend to actually race this race, I went out on Wednesday night with my best friend from college who was in town for the first time in months. I behaved because I drove, but I didn’t get to sleep until around 2am. For somebody who has to be up at 6:30am, this was not ideal, but I like to think I’m still 21. I got my large coffee before the race, drove to the finish to pick-up the shuttle, and made it to the start around 7:30am. The shuttle took us the long way to the start (as per usual) and I spent the entire time listening to the girl behind me talk quite loudly to her race partner about not drinking coffee before races, how much she does drink before, when she does, her poop schedule, and runners trots. Then it somehow turned into a birth control lesson. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone on my shuttle, right? (I continued to suck down my large Tim Hortons double double during the entire coffee lecture). When we reached the start, I went into the YMCA to stay warm as the race doesn’t start until 9am, where I ran into familiar faces including a friend from college, the Crossfit group, my cousin, and aunt.
The weather was in the 30s but comfortable and as usual, I overdressed. I don’t seen my cousins often, so we continued chatting and ended up running the entire race together (so grateful for this). Given how much running still sucks for me with endurance next to nil, this would have been a complete struggle without a distracted mind. I convinced him to start at 7 minute mile flag because nobody actually pays attention to the flags in this race. We were still stuck running around a 12 minute pace for the first half mile, unable to gather a complete and even stride.
The first mile was basically a live version of Frogger with people, rather than cars. We’d get about ten good strides in before somebody abruptly stopped or decided to step in front of you trying to pass you, even though you were trying to pass somebody else, too. It’s the thing I absolutely hate about this race. The tradition is great, but it’s frustrating when people aren’t familiar with road races — you just cannot stop in the middle of a road when you have 14,000 people running. And you certainly shouldn’t dodge in front of people and then slow down immediately, either. Basically we spent the first mile in a cycle of sprint to pass, fall back into the pace of that group, sprint to pass again. If we weren’t running over 10 minute miles, a lot more energy would have been wasted (10:53).
In the second mile, the uphill begins. “Why do we do this on Thanksgiving again?” was said more times than I can count. Our pace picked up, despite the uphill and we finally found a comfortable stride. I looked at my watch a few times and called out our pace, not that either of us were attempting to set a PR, and we both groaned. It was going to be a very slow Trot this year (9:39).
The entire third mile is continuing the steadily uphill. Right around here we stopped talking except a few breathy sentences every couple of minutes. Most of those breathy sentences were grumbles from me about how hungry I was, how we still had another two and half miles to go, how I was running fueled by gin and caffeine, and how I couldn’t wait for beer at the finish. One of the coaches from CrossFit ran up behind us at this point, “How ya feeling?” and I realized I hadn’t thought too much about it. Well, my ankles hurt a little, but my calves feel good so… good, I think (9:24).
Unfortunately, being asked about how I was feeling made me think far too much about how I was feeling. I spent the fourth mile wondering about my achy ankles, which just felt like I had pounded the pavement far too long. I was running in the Saucony Mirages last Spring, but have since turned into my causal use sneakers and I’m fairly certain they’ve lost their shock absorption. Coincidentally, things started to ache on the right side similar to how my tibialis posterior tendonitis felt on the left side. My brain started to panic. I adjusted my stride and just as mysteriously as the pain came, it disappeared. Over thinking (some might call it focusing) on what my body was doing was all I did in that fourth mile (8:50).
The pace during our final mile picked up considerably. We acknowledged it, I looked at my watch, and was saddened that mid 8’s felt like low 7’s. I didn’t think I could keep up the pace we were at, but my legs didn’t want to stop, and my cousin was running along seemingly without an issue so my competitive nature led me to not even consider defeat. The crowd is still full and with many people beginning to slow, we had to get back into Frogger mode. It felt kind of good to be passing people in hoards as opposed to running out of steam, but there were a couple close calls and near death experiences (or just accidentally tripping over other people’s feet). When we finally saw the finish, we both began sprinting and it appeared there was this unspoken “beat the cousin” mentality between the two of us (8:16). We finished together in 47:08.
Despite wanting to vomit in the last quarter mile, I actually felt relatively good in terms of coming back from an injury. I spent a couple hours hydrating after the race (finally, those beers) and catching up with people. I was a little sore for the rest of Thanksgiving, but today I’m much better. The only thing I haven’t done that I need to do is spend some quality time stretching and with a foam roller, which will come very shortly. I’m hoping how great I feel post the longest run I’ve had since February is a sign of good things to come.
Wait a minute.
This was my longest run since February. It’s 24 hours later and I feel good. This was my longest run in 9 months, I didn’t even know it, and I feel good! I think I’m going to take the rest of the holiday weekend to marvel at this, including a Sunday filled with friends, tailgating, and Buffalo Bills football.