The Burbank Community YMCA Turkey Trot has become a Marks’ family tradition. Every Thanksgiving, my parents and I roll ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn and make the 30 minute drive to Burbank to get our sweat on while “normal” (and probably smarter) people watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. This is our fourth year participating in this race and even though we always curse our decision to run when our alarms are blaring at 5:30 a.m., there is no better feeling than starting your Turkey Day by supporting the YMCA with a nice dose of endorphins before most people have even made their morning coffee!
Going into the race, I did not have any expectations or goals. I lost a lot of my speed during Ironman training and since my race in October, I haven’t gained a lot of it back. My 5k PR was set on this course two years ago when I ran a 23:13 and I felt like I was nowhere close to my fitness level when I hit that personal record. So I figured, why push myself and risk injury, when I know that I am out of shape (speed-wise). The field has also gotten more competitive and there was no chance that I was going to place in the top 3 for my age-group so that zapped a bit of my motivation as well. I made up my mind: enjoy a leisurely, fun 5k on Thanksgiving morning with my family.
We arrived at the race around 7:30 a.m. (start time was 8) and I immediately headed out for a 1-mile warmup jog. Because I had decided that I wasn’t going to run hard, my only pre-race meal was coffee. As I began my warmup, though, I realized that my legs felt fresh and my lungs felt strong. No, Dempsey, you are NOT GOING HARD IN THIS RACE. Remember, we already decided this.
Before I knew it, the announcers were calling all of the runners over and it was time to line up at the start. I positioned myself a little ways back from the very front to discourage any last minute attempts at a PR and to avoid being passed by a bazillion people… #CONFIDENCE
After the national anthem and a few announcements (“WILL ALL OF THE CHILDREN STANDING AT THE FRONT OF THE PACK MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!!”), the gun blared and we were off.
Let me explain to you my mentality at the beginning of the race…
Crossing the starting line: This is going to be so nice. I always end up pushing myself and now I can just run at a fun, easy pace and enjoy the camaraderie of racing. I’m so glad I decided not to push the pace at all.
30 seconds into the race: FORGET THAT! SUICIDE PACE, HERE I COME!
Yes, clearly I had NOT made up my mind to take it easy. I may have thought I had, but the second I am in a competition, all logic goes out the window.
Since I have run this course before, I knew that the first mile was mostly downhill (after the first 200 meters or so) and I’m not going to lie, I felt great. Light on my feet. Legs strong. Passing people left and right. T-Swift blasting out of my phone (no shame). Everything felt perfect.
When I PR’ed on this course in 2012, I started out balls to the wall hard. I’m talking positive splits to the max. I actually set a mile PR in the first mile of the race. And then, of course, was dead by the end. I somehow managed to hold on just enough to run a personal record. My splits were: 6:24, 7:20, 8:19 & 54 seconds (for the final .1 mi). As I cruised along downhill on the first mile, I reminded myself to SLOW THE “F” DOWN because the second half of the course was uphill and I wanted to save some energy.
I hit the 1 mile mark and continued to feel amazing. I kept expecting for my body to just say “NOPE” and everything to start breaking down, but I continued to feel good (note: I was still running downhill). I focused on my music and the runners around me. Running with people helps me push the pace so much. I ran behind a guy with a shirt that said “Namaste, Bitches” for a good part of the race and every time I looked at it, I smiled.
Around 1.5 miles, the course starts to go uphill, but strangely I continued to feel good. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, but I had the idea of PR in the back of my head. I was MUCH less tired than I was when I ran 23:13 two years ago and I was thrilled that I had saved so much energy for the end of the race. I felt good that I kept having to slow down for fear of hitting a wall!
I came up to the 2 mile mark feeling tired but confident that I could finish strong. The last mile of the race is basically all uphill and I knew it would be mentally and physically grueling. There are two fairly steep uphill climbs (one that goes over a freeway) that stood between me and the finish.
As I headed up the first hill, I could feel my strength fading. My lungs burned, my legs felt weak, my breathing was strained, and I was overcome with nausea. Push, push, push. I put my head down and focused on putting one leg in front of the other. My mind and my body wanted to quit. How about you just walk for 5 or 10 seconds? That will make you feel so much better. Last year my mind won and I ended up walking up the first of the two hills. This year, that wasn’t going to happen.
I reached the crest of hill 1 and began the short cruise down before beginning up the second hill. I tried to slow my breathing and recover as much as I could. Before I knew it, I was pushing my way up again. I checked my watch a few times on this hill and thought that I was maintaining a pace that would allow me to PR, which gave me the motivation to keep pushing. Sometimes we forget that pain is temporary. Running is SUCH a mental sport and 9 times out of 10, your mind WILL give up before your body does. When I wanted to quit on the second hill, I told myself, “Only four more minutes of pain and you will be done. Four more minutes.”
I reached the top of the hill and turned left to head down the final straightaway (which is about .3 miles or so). By this time, I was in a lot of pain and cursed myself for abandoning my plan of a leisurely 5k. Still thinking that I was going to PR, I glanced down at my watch and realized, to my dismay, that there was no way I would reach the finish line in time. I thought I had run such a smart race, but apparently, I was too conservative on the first mile and a half. Even though my last mile would end up being much faster than it was when I ran my PR, it still wasn’t enough.
I sprinted down the final stretch, exhausted and slightly pissed off. I had pushed myself hard, thinking I was running a smart race, and wasn’t going to PR. Wonderful. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and checked my time. 23:38. 25 seconds off.
Once I finished, I walked around a bit to catch my breath. After I got over the initial disappointment, I was actually pleased with my performance. Not only had I run a much “better” race (more consistent) than I ever have on this course, but I also am evidently in far better shape than I thought I was! Here are my official results…
Official Results: 23:36 (7:37 min/mi)
5 out of 49 in my Age Group // 91 out of 1384 Overall
My Garmin stats were 23:38 / 3.15 mi / 7:29 avg. pace. And here are the splits …
- Mile 1: 7:09
- Mile 2: 7:14
- Mile 3: 8:05
- .15: 1:07
And I am thankful for every mile that I get to run injury-free. I am also thankful for post-race massages.
After a quick little massage, I met up with my parents, my friend Tej and took some pictures.
Then my parents and I went for post-race bagels and coffee and sat outside on a beautiful southern California Thanksgiving morning.
I’m not going to lie, this race got me really pumped to run more 5ks! I have never focused on my speed and I feel like if I do, I could run some really good races! Happy Running Everyone!