Thursday, December 5, 2013

2013 PNC YMCA Turkey Trot race recap

Sorry this race report is coming to you on such a delayed basis! I had a wonderful Thanksgiving but when I came back to the office I got completely slammed with work. It's been a crazy time.

On Thanksgiving Day I ran the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot in Pittsburgh for the second consecutive year.

In both years, the organizers have offered a 1-miler, a 5K, and a 5-miler, and both years I opted for the 5-miler. You can read last year's race recap here.

I felt more prepared this year going into this race compared to last year. In 2012, I had barely run at all between the Chicago Marathon in early October and the Turkey Trot. This time around, I had run a few races in November so I had been training more consistently.

My biggest concern going into this race was the weather. I had started monitoring the weather forecasts a week and a half in advance. The entire time, the temps were forecasted to be in the teens with wind-chills in the single-digits. I packed tights and the warmest base-layer shirt and running jacket that I owned, plus a vest, hat, balaclava, and gloves.

I was hoping that the forecast would change as race-day drew nearer. No such luck. The temperature was at a balmy 15 degrees on race morning. When I got my race shirt, I even decided to wear it during the race as an additional layer (I know, I know, breaking the runner's race-shirt code).

Here's a picture of me masquerading as a bank robber in my full winter-running attire:

Pretty sharp, eh?

By the way - one of my favorite Blackhawks players, Antti Niemi, wore number 31 on his jersey. Therefore, I was happy to get race bib number 31. =)

Former Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi
Since Niemi and I are both wearing masks, there's some resemblance in the two #31 pictures, yes?

Once we got outside, it was definitely cold - but not as unbearably cold as I had anticipated. Adam and I found parking within a few minutes. On our way to the starting line, we saw many, many runners and spectators camped inside some of the parking lobbies trying to keep warm.

I stopped at the portapotty (no lines!) The portapotties actually shielded you pretty well from the elements. Normally I get in and out of portapotties as quickly as possible. But, on this day I actually lingered for a few extra moments because it was so much warmer inside the portapotty!

Adam and I met up with friends Molly, Julie, Brian, Cristin, and Laurel near the starting line. We chatted for a few minutes before lining up. For good measure, I choked down a pre-race GU and some water.

I never heard any kind of starting airhorn, but the crowd gradually started moving. As more and more people began running, I looked around for the usual balloon arch or overhead sign denoting the starting line, but never saw one. Then I heard a soft buzzing noise and looked down to see that I had crossed a timing mat. I hurriedly started my Garmin a few seconds late.

Even though the cold was not as bad as anticipated, it was still very cold. I hadn't done any warm-up prior to starting, and for the first mile or so I couldn't feel my toes or my fingers. I thought, "Wow, this is going to be a long five miles." There weren't very many spectators so I tried to distract myself by really taking in all the scenery and following those course tangents.

Mile 1: 10:02

Around the 1.5-mile mark, we crossed over the Roberto Clemente bridge. It was my favorite part of the course last year and it was still my favorite this year.

Around this point, I was starting to feel warmer and the feeling was coming back to my fingers and toes. I had started with the front of my balaclava pulled up to my eyes, but it kept fogging up my glasses. As I got warmer I pushed it below my nose, then my chin.

We started seeing some of the elite runners coming from the opposite direction. Runners all around me began incredulously saying things like, "Oh my gosh, we've barely started and they are already on their way back?" The elites were all wearing shorts and tank tops, too. Brrrrr. (I have a theory that the more elite the runner, the less clothing that is worn - even in Arctic temperatures.)

After crossing the bridge, we entered downtown Pittsburgh.

Mile 2: 10:03

Other than the runners and volunteers, the streets were quiet. I was imagining what the streets would be like on a normal workday. I was still focusing on those tangents and I exchanged some high-fives with a number of oncoming runners.

Mile 3: 9:57

Somewhere after the 3-mile marker, Brian and Laurel caught up to me on the course. I had never met Laurel before this day, so she and I chatted a bit while trying to keep pace with Brian. As we were crossing back over the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the way back, I could feel its incline. I told Laurel that I was very Midwestern and that I wasn't used to these hills, er, inclines.

Laurel: "But the the hills keep things interesting!"

Me (gasping): "Boring is good! I like boring!"

This is more of what I am used to.

I walked through a water station around 3.75, which I believe was the third one available (I skipped the first two). Brian and Laurel kept charging ahead. Once I resumed running, I tried to gradually increase my pace to catch up with them.

Mile 4: 10:07

Given that I had only walked for about 30 seconds through the water stop, it took me longer than I had anticipated to catch up with Brian and Laurel - probably almost half a mile. By that point, we were in the home stretch. I started pushing the pace more and more. I saw Adam at the final turn, waved to him, then gunned it as best as I could to the finish line.

Mile 5: 9:03

My official time was 49:12. About 20 seconds slower than last year. Not bad considering the frigid temps and no warm-up.

Post race group picture
From L to R: Laurel, Julie, Brian, Cristin, Molly, and me
Adam and me
Last year this race had some logistical challenges with parking and crowdedness. E.g., last year we had waited in line for nearly half an hour to park (and to pay for parking), and runners had been packed in elbow-to-elbow for the first few miles. However, this year the race organizers made many modifications based on everyone's feedback. This included staggered starting times based on race distance and providing free parking at designated lots. Sure enough, both went MUCH more smoothly this year. It was great.

This race is becoming a classic for me. Once again it felt great to have the race under my belt before heading back for Thanksgiving celebration. Also, I really do love the variety this race provides from all the Chicago races that I am so used to. I look forward to running it again next year.

...and that, my friends, is my final race of 2013!!! What a fun year of racing it has been!


  1. Final race of 2013!? Seems so... Final! LOL!

    1. It does sound kind of sinister, doesn't it? But what do they say - when one door closes another door opens. And you better believe that I'll be opening the door in 2014. =D

  2. You know it's cold when you want to stay in the porta-potty longer! Haha! I get cold just looking at your pictures. Brr! I like the idea of doing 5 miles (instead of a 5k) on Thanksgiving. Two more miles since you'll be eating a lot later. Of course, I ran zero miles on Thanksgiving, haha!

    1. LOL - YES! Thankfully the portapotties were pretty clean (probably because most people did all they could to use indoor restrooms as opposed to doing their business in the cold). =) I think 5 miles is a perfect distance, too, because 5Ks usually encourage all-out sprinting which I don't enjoy. Nothing worse than speed-induced nausea on Thanksgiving Day, eh? And no worries on running zero on Thanksgiving. This is only the second year that I've ever run anything on Thanksgiving, myself!!!

  3. I think my feet didn't thaw out until mile 2 in the 10K Turkey Trot I did! Sooo cold!! Mine was also significantly slower than years' past. I had no idea that such cold temps would make that kind of difference.

    Anyway, you ran some awesomely consistent splits!

    1. Thanks, Erin! And oh my goodness, I was thinking about you during your Turkey Trot 10K and how cold that must have been! How awesome, though, that your gear kept you so warm that you had to drop the jacket. (That certainly wasn't an option for me!) Yee-haw for quality gear!

      I had no idea that cold temps would make that much of a difference, too! Heat yes, cold, no. My perfect temp range for races is the high 30s to the 60s (and as time passes, that perfect temp range is getting narrower and narrower, LOL).