On Thanksgiving Day I ran my first-ever Turkey Trot, the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot 5-miler in Pittsburgh.
I will admit that I had some qualms going into this race. As I'd mentioned before, I've done very little running since the Chicago Marathon, am still trying to heal my plethora of injuries, and have put on a little bit of weight over the past month. In short, I have lost a lot of my running mojo. A few months ago, I would have been excited to test my limits at this or any race. This time, my goals were just to have a good time and to not place last.
The 9:00 AM race start time would normally be a huge breath of fresh air compared to the 7:00 AM or earlier start times that I am used to. But when the alarm went off on Thanksgiving Day morning, I wasn't thrilled. I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and dutifully ate a bowl of cereal, all the while wondering why I put myself through these things "for fun."
Julie, Brian, Shawn, and Scott came by to pick us up and off we went. I started feeling better after seeing everyone in their running gear and having a few minutes to catch up with everyone.
The race started at PNC Park, and traffic was light until we exited the highway approaching the park. It unexpectedly took us a good 25 minutes just to get into the parking lot. Once we were finally able to park, we had probably five minutes to spare before the race was scheduled to start. Definitely not enough time to do any kind of warm-up, but I went ahead and choked down a Citrus Clif Shot Gel (yuck).
I was in desperate need of a portapotty and with the size of the crowds I was nervous that there would be crazy-long lines. Thankfully, I only waited for a few minutes. The starting airhorn blew just as I was emerging from the portapotty, and I saw hordes of runners go flying by.
I ran towards the starting line and wiggled into the crowd from the side. We were using the timing chips that you attach to your shoe, and I just barely got my foot on the timing mat. I heard the announcers telling us, "If you want your timing chip to be activated, you need to run over the timing mat!" so it sounded like a lot of folks got crowded out.
It was very, very, very crowded for the first couple of miles. We were literally running elbow to elbow. Despite what I had outwardly vocalized as my plan to "just have fun" at this race, my competitive side was in the back of my mind still whispering for me to go all out. However, it was so crowded that I couldn't get my pace up very smoothly. It made for an easy decision to keep things loose.
|Yup, that's me.|
The course went by Heinz Field (home of the Pittsburgh Steelers), by PNC Park (home of the Pittsburgh Pirates), over the Roberto Clemente Bridge, past Point State Park, and through downtown Pittsburgh, before looping back over the bridge. I absolutely LOVED running over the bridge. (Never mind that I am a Midwestern flatlander and could feel the incline on the bridge!) It was definitely the biggest highlight of the race for me.
|The Roberto Clemente bridge|
(You can tell that people in Pittsburgh like their sports)
There was a water stop around mile 2.5 that I also ended up completely missing. I was running the tangents and the tables were set up on the opposite end of the street. Oops. I briefly considered either backtracking or cutting rudely across the crowd to get to the water, but decided to just keep going. Thankfully they had another water stop close to mile 4.
The runners and the crowd were all pretty quiet, save for one guy. He was fartlek-weaving through the crowds screaming, "YEEE-AAA-YAHH!!! YEEE-AAA-YAHH!!!" at the top of his lungs, high-fiving and low-fiving everyone he could. He ran up several hundred feet ahead of me but then all of a sudden he was right next to me, "pulled over," dusting himself off, and getting up from the street. Amidst his exuberence, he must have taken an uncharacteristic spill. Oops. But more power to him for trying to keep us all pumped!
I saw Brian close to mile 3 as we were getting close to the return trip on the bridge, and said hello. The crowd was starting to spread out at that point, but several folks were cutting corners on the sidewalk and on the grass. I started following them and was paying attention so that I wouldn't trip over anything and take my own spill.
I had no idea where Adam was going to be on the course spectating. Normally when I run races in Chicago, I look for his Steeler sweatshirt or his Terrible Towel, both of which make him stand out very easily. But I realized very quickly that I would never be able to find him by looking for Steeler gear in Pittsburgh. Tons and I mean TONS of people were wearing their Steeler gear or other Pittsburgh-based sports gear. They really do take their sports very seriously out there. (I know that Adam will skewer me for even thinking this, let alone writing it - but if he wanted to wear something that would have stood out in the crowd, my Blackhawks jersey would have done the job nicely. Just saying. Not that I miss hockey or anything, of course.)
We did another pass by Heinz Field, and around mile 4.25 I saw Molly and Julie and waved to them. By that point, the race felt like it had gone by too quickly and I found myself almost wishing it were longer!
I ended up seeing Adam fairly close to the finish line. It was there that he took this picture of me:
(High fives for everyone!!!)
I crossed the finish line into a huge mob of people. My official finishing time was 48:53, with minimal groin/hip/knee pain to boot. Not too bad.
There were hordes of people crowded around tables at the post-race area, trying to get water and Gatorade. I didn't feel like fighting the crowds, so I forewent the post-race refreshments entirely in favor of hanging out and chatting. Here is a picture of all of us after the race, including Adam's friends Mitro and Jen, and their son Zach, who Adam hadn't seen in years.
|Top (from L to R): Scott and Brian|
Middle (from L to R): Adam, me, Molly, Julie, Mitro, and Jen
Bottom (from L to R): Shawn and Zach
All in all, I had a great time at this race. I really enjoyed the festivity, the scenery, and the company. I also loved the feeling of accomplishment from running a race on Thanksgiving Day prior to gorging myself on food. This race is going to become an annual tradition for me anytime I'm in Pittsburgh over Thanksgiving.
And maybe next year I'll even be the one leading the high- and low-fives along the course and cheering so loudly that I scare all the turkeys away!!!