If you are looking for an event where you can run at whatever pace is comfortable for you and still have just as much chance of winning as the fast runners, this is it. For this race relay, the Boise Y-Striders Turkey Trot, there are teams of 4 persons. Each member of the team gives their best estimate of how long it will take them to run a 2 mile loop of Ann Morrison Park in Boise, Idaho. These estimates are added together to give a total projected team finish time. Which ever team finishes in the time that is closest to their estimate, wins in their category.
Probably the best way to prepare for this race is to train at a comfortable, endurance building pace. This sets your pace into your muscle memory. Without the added adrenaline of feeling like faster is better, you can just relax into this familiar stride. Anyway, this is what I did. After about 6 weeks of only running at a perceived effort of aerobic threshold 2, I was able to easily settle into a pace very near what I had been running. At the time I signed up, I knew that there would be a small boost from running around others, so I estimated my time to be about 20-30 seconds per mile faster than I was running at the time. There was the added factor that I might have built up my endurance some by race time and be running comfortably a tad bit faster. This all turned out to be correct thinking and my leg of the race was only about 30 seconds off of my estimate.
I want to tell you about the whole race using two different approaches. The first is my perspective as I continued to run the 2 mile loop after I passed off the baton. This gave me a unique view of the whole event, spending some time with each wave of runners. The other information will be from the other members of my team.
The option is given to begin the relay earlier than the official start time. This is mostly for teams who think their total time might be more than 1 hour 30 minutes. However, with morning temperatures around 20°F, I was getting chilled, so took advantage of the early start in an effort to keep warm. I was wearing my Moc3’s with wool socks, so it wasn’t that my feet were getting cold, but I could feel the frost trying to settle everywhere in my bones. I remembered how cold I had gotten waiting for the Hot Chocolate Run last winter and didn’t want to go through it again.
It was fun to start off pretty much by myself. There was a slow trickle of early starters, and a youngster around age 7 set off just before me, but the course was wide open. No shuffling for position or tripping over anyone in an effort to hit my pace. The only downside was that I took a wrong turn once. Fortunately the volunteer and a couple of racers behind me whom seemed to know the course, yelled wildly at me. I only added about 20 feet to my run.
The child who began just in front of me seemed a little stressed by my presence for the first half mile. I did not get the impression that he had much running experience, but was running almost like a scared fawn, darting ahead every time I gained on him. I tried to say a couple of things to make him comfortable, but he seemed to be in an twilight zone kind of frame of mind. Don’t talk to strangers and don’t let them pass you. Finally, I could tell he was getting quite tired and I managed to convey that I am used to running 10-12 miles and he should not feel pressure from me. He immediately slowed down and let me pass. Phew!
At about one mile, a couple of other early starters in front of me took off into the bushes. There was a race volunteer straight ahead on the road and the runners were not even staying together. I called to everyone to ask what was going on. I was told there were turkeys to hunt! Huh. As much as I was relaxed, I had no desire to climb around in shrubs looking for turkeys, which I am only assuming were actually frozen birds from the grocery store. I told the volunteer that I am not a hunter and continued on my way. He smiled and called me a “gatherer.” I can see how starting early would have given the hunters an advantage. I did hear yells later about 2 different successful turkey hunts.
As I was on the final stretch of my official 2 mile leg of the relay, I could see the rest of the teams start. At first I was worried, but they all barely passed before I reached the turn back to the start/finish/baton exchange zone. If I had been going any faster, I would have ended up going up against a thick flow of bodies straining in the opposite direction. Lesson learned. Make sure an early start is timed to avoid this. Split time 36 seconds faster than predicted. (click on any photo to enlarge)
With no baton, I took off around the course again, feeling fresh and forming a plan. Should I run 6 or 8 miles? I had my new Luna sandals in a hip bag, just in case my feet got too hot, but it was never enough for me to want to stop running and change footwear. Not carrying a baton while wearing a race number was a giveaway that I was doing something out of sync, but there was still plenty of room. If there was any hint of congestion, I yielded to baton holders. There were also people in the park doing regular dog walking, playing frisbee, and on their own personal jaunts, so the area was not sealed off just for the event.
I kept waiting for my team members to lap me, but it never happened. They were all going to run quite a bit faster than me, but it was never enough to catch me! Here are their brief race reports:
When we signed up a few weeks ago, I had just run a 10K at a 7:15 minute mile pace. So I thought I could relax and run my relay 2 miles at about a 7:40 minute mile pace. However, between then and this relay I had not been running much, partly due to a lot of business travel. When I did run, it was more of an 8-9 minute mile pace. So, I decided that the Thursday before this race I would run hard for 3 miles and see how it went. It was close enough to my predicted pace and I got a sense of how hard I would need to run to hit my target. Unfortunately, when Laura arrived to hand me the baton, the timer at the start line was still running. I estimated her run time with a wrong memory of when she had started. I thought I would get to run a bit faster to make up the difference.
I ended up running my leg of the race almost 1 minute faster than I should have. Oops. It was a comfortable run, except for the baton touching the tips of my fingers sticking out of my fingerless gloves. I kept having to switch it from hand to hand to deal with the aching cold it was transferring to me. Final race pace was 7:12 minute mile
I really didn’t feel like warming up for the race today, but since it’s *protocol* I did a little jogging around anyways. Running in small circles, starting to think it was about time for Dad to get back from his leg, the adrenaline started to work. That and the niggling feeling that I had better not run too slow since we thought we were “behind target time” got me off to a fast start.
One of my larger calf muscles has been giving me trouble on a regular basis and was still sore from running a few days earlier, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep pace. It turns out that adrenaline can help you relax if you do it right also. I am happy to say that for nearly the entire race I was able to land without pounding. And it’s not my fault that I had to speed up in the end when someone tried to pass me. (yeah, I know it technically doesn’t matter in this race, but it’s a race!)
Before I quite knew what was happening, my mother was off running the first leg of the relay. Knowing that I still had approximately 50 minutes before I needed to run the last leg, I became preoccupied with finding a warm place to huddle. My fingers and toes grew steadily numb as I stood by a strategically-placed heater, which allowed me to stare directly at the cases of hot chocolate only two yards away. It was truly tempting.
After those torturous 50 minutes, my time finally came. I gave up my coat and accepted the need to run a loop around the park just to get it back. Okay, so it turns out I ran a little too fast… Aaaand was responsible for three of the five minutes below our projected time. Oops. Hey, but I’m warm now. And I got my hot chocolate. (Natalie ran at a 6:27 minute mile pace in her Moc3’s)
Now back to little old me. I finished my 4th time around the loop just a half a minute before Natalie finished for our team. I cheered her in, then ran to follow her way back behind the finish line to ask if she wanted to run a loop with me. Turns out she was running to the portapotty line, so I went on by myself.
By this time, the volunteers all recognized me. On the 4th time, they had started saying things to me and cheering me on. One group of runners, older teenage or college age girls (it gets harder and harder for me to tell!), was running by as a volunteer commented. They said something about being impressed, but I assured them I was just running slowly …. as I passed them. Which they commented on, but playfully. So I turned around and ran backward a few paces, explaining my aerobic conditioning training and my search from mitochondrial density. They got a kick out of that. Then, I turned around and pulled ahead.
That was one of the things about this race. It truly drew out the novice, which I think is great. This makes it a very comfortable environment to run along at a slower pace. There are not many races you can go to and move along at a 10 minute mile pace with complete comfort. There were certainly runners who passed me, but most people were not competitive or trying to be. A few times, the faster runners would say encouraging things to me, to which I would reply about what lap I was on. This was received with astonishment. It was apparently not the crowd that runs distance for fun.
When I was on lap 5, around mile 9, I gradually passed a small group of mixed ages. One 40 something woman made a comment to them that, see, this lady (me) is running a second lap, too. She doesn’t have a baton either. Being happy with my accomplishment for the morning, I just smiled and said it was lap 5. She immediately began yelling in a semi-friendly way, “I hate you!” I tried to assure her that I have worked up to it, but she was frustrated that she had had to work up to being able to run 4 miles. I ended with, “We all have to start someplace,” and hope that upon reflection she will find encouragement.
When I got back to the finish line for the second time (for the interim loops I had run off to the side of the line to stay out of the way), the earlier group of girls asked how many times I had gone around and were very happy for me. The race directors wanted to call my number again, but I didn’t want them to get confused about our team results. My waving and shaking my head did the trick. It just felt good to cross the “finish line” when I was done with the whole run.
10 miles total, which brought me to a new high mileage for a week, equaling 31 miles (12 miles Monday, 9 miles Thursday). I am not sore or exhausted like is common after a race, so I think I stayed well within my aerobic training zone. It was inspiring and social to be running with so many people around, talking to people here and there on the course, commenting on costumes, receiving and giving attaboys. In the race packet, there was an ad for signing up to run with the Boise Y-Striders on Saturdays throughout the year. This is tempting for a $15 a year fee. They say they have groups for all speeds. Also, I now know a loop in Boise that I can run on, should circumstances come up. It was a great way to start off Thanksgiving Week!
Oh, and we were 7th closest to our predicted time in our family team category. Grand fun!