Thankful Redemption at the Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot

Turkey TrotName of the race: Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot

Where: Tamaques Park, Westfield, NJ

Date: Nov 30, 2013

Time: 11:15 am

Distance: 5 miles

Terrain:Mostly flat road race, one loop inside Tamaques Park and then on the residential streets

Entry fee: $23 – 5 Mile by 11/28
$20 – 5 Mile by 11/28 (USATF-NJ members and military w/ ID)
$30 on the race day
No registration fees

(Ben and I received free entries)

Swag: Short sleeve technical t-shirt

Post-race Food: Bagles, bananas, protein bars, Emergen-C, hot chicken noodle soup

Time: 39:11 (PR)

Performance:Overall 219/295; Gender 49/477; Age (F 30-39) 10/74

Weather: 32 degrees, slight wind, 58% humidity

After the horrible half marathon performance last week, I redeemed myself with an incredible race at the Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot. It was incredible and I’m still on a high. I had one of those rare days where everything came together and I had the race of my life thus far.

Ben and I received free entries for this race as a small thank you from Sports A/R for my enthusiastic review about the Bayonne Bridge Run. Sports A/R did not ask that I review this race, so I’m doing this out of my own volition. We were both a bit demoralized from the Channukah Chalf, so we didn’t go into this race with much expectations, particularly me. My training runs hadn’t gone well at all. Ben was feeling a bit off as well because his calves were quite sore. Saturday morning was a bit chilly, but nothing like the brutal cold weather from last Sunday. The late morning start also helped.

Normally before a race, Ben and I fastidiously study the previous year’s results and check out potential rivals. Oh, Athlinks, I love you for letting me fulfill all my stalking needs. But we went to this race with no expectations, so I had no idea how big the Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot was. I was stunned by the thick crowd of runners. It was a much larger race than I had expected. Because of the big crowd, runners “seed” themselves by the pace they expect to run. Ben went to near the front of the line and I stayed back at the 8:00 pace. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I figured that if I came in between 40:30 and 41:30 that I would happy. It would still be a very good PR from the one I set earlier this summer at Bloomfield.

It took me about 10 seconds to cross the starting line. There’s no timing mat the starting line, so finishing place is decided by gun time. Normally at the start of a race, I’m swept up my the crowds and I unintentionally run much too fast in the beginning. I didn’t find this to be the case this time because I spent a good half mile dodging and running around the slower runners. People don’t seem to seed themselves correctly. I think this actually helped me because I couldn’t take off like a rocket. I kept the pace slow, until the path thinned out enough for me to pick up the pace. The first mile of the course was one loop around the park. I belatedly realized that I never bothered to look at the course map so I had no idea what the course was. As we ran around the park, I wondered if all five miles were *IN* the park. I was a bit horrified at the thought of running five loops around the park (so boring!) and much to my relief, runners in front of me ran out of the park.

When we ran out of the park, we were out on residential streets, which were quite pleasant. The day was quite cool. I decided to run with my running jacket, gloves, and sunglasses (because I forgot my Headsweats). After a mile and half, I unzipped my jacket and took off my gloves and placed them in one of the pockets. Although in the last couple of miles, I could have ran without my jacket, the day was cool enough (along with the nice light breeze) so that I was still able to run while wearing the jacket and not feel bothered.

The first mile in the park went really well. Even with all the weaving, I still managed a sub-8:00 pace. I didn’t think much of it because I’m used to me running really well and fast in the beginning and then having a tough time hanging on at the end. I figured five miles was plenty enough distance for me to implode later.

Although I had my Garmin on, I let myself run by feel. I ran whatever pace left good and comfortable. For a good portion of the first half of the race, I used a runner in a bright turquoise running jacket as a pacer. In the middle of the course, there was a large gentle incline, but it was really easy to run up it. Slowly over a two-mile span, I caught up to the turquoise-clad runner. We ran next to each other for some yards, and then I slowly peeled away.

At each mile marker there was a clock and I was startled by the pace that I was slamming down. Five miles is my tempo distance and I struggle to finish my tempo run at an 8:00 pace. This time I was running faster, but it felt so much easier. I was running hard, but I wasn’t fighting with myself to keep up the pace. It just came out of me naturally. It actually felt more difficult to run more slowly. I ran with the expectation that at any moment, the wheels would become undone and I would fall apart in the race.

When I saw the clock at Mile 4, I did a quick calculation and realized that even if at that moment I fell apart, I would still cross in under 40 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. Then I got excited and started running faster. There was one last turn and we were back in the park. As we round the bend toward the finish line, I did what I rarely do. I started my kick. I had been eyeing a woman in front of me for a while and I thought I had just enough energy to outrun her in the stretch. I tentatively ran faster expecting my body to rebel. Nothing. It responded as if I hadn’t been running hard for the last four plus miles. I ran past her. I held my breath wondering if she would respond to my challenge by sprinting. The finish line was yards away. Nothing. All I heard was the thuds of my feet as I pounded the ground. A bit farther now. Anxiously I pricked my ears to detect the rival runner’s hard breathing. Thump! Thump! Thump! Only my feet. The roar of the crowd filled my ears. The clock was the sole rival now.

I crossed the finish time staring at the clock – 39:11. I beat my PR in Bloomfield by exactly 3 minutes. More if you went by my time on Garmin because I started it when I crossed the starting line. I was absolutely incredulous. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could pull off something like that. I would have been thrilled with a time that was just under 40 minutes. The 39:11 was solidly under and no doubt, my true time for 5 miles was under 39 minutes. The woman with the turquoise jacket ran up to me by the food tent and congratulated me. She added that she found me really helpful because she used me to pace herself in the second half of the race.

I yelped, “I used you to pace myself in the first half!” We both laughed.

Normally Ben waits for me at the finish line, or just before it. This time he accidentally missed me all together because he looked for me about a half mile before the finish line after I had past that location. We both anticipated that I would run a much slower race, so Ben took his time in looking for me. After hanging around and wondering if I had totally fallen apart, he realized that I must have done much better. He scurried over to the finish line to find me, where I was happily waiting.

When I look at my splits and think back on how I felt when I crossed the finish line, I marvel at my performance. I ran so well and when I finished, I didn’t feel as if I had been dying. I really do think that the 5-mile race might be my distance. Both at Westfield and at Bloomfield, I outperformed what the McMillan Running Calculator said I was capable of doing. I’m still stunned.

Ben had a great race too. His time was 31:05, which was good enough for 2nd place in his age group. While we were waiting for the awards ceremony, we ran into a bunch of runners that we knew. It’s so much fun being part of  the local racing scene and running into familiar faces. We tried our luck at the raffles and Ben won a $10 off voucher for next year’s race. Finally we became much too cold to wait; the winds had picked up. We got his award (a cute little scarecrow planter) and left.

As usual, Sports A/R organized another wonderful race. It’s one of the rare races where everything happens according to the posted schedule. There was plenty of post-race food available, including hot soup, which is mightily appreciated on a cold late fall (but feels more like winter) day. The age group awards (little scarecrows) fit in nicely with the theme of the race – a turkey trot. I think the Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot is the biggest race in our little region of New Jersey because we ran into so many familiar faces. Even though it’s about a half hour away from Hoboken, it felt very much like a local race in Jersey City because of everyone we saw. We both had a wonderful time and eagerly agreed that we would love to come back next year.

Mile splits

  1. 7:55
  2. 7:45
  3. 7:54
  4. 7:49
  5. 7:31

Total time: 38:54  (Garmin)
Gun time: 39:11

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6 thoughts on “Thankful Redemption at the Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot

  1. Wow, congrats on your PR! That’s a huge PR, especially considering you were aiming for 40:30 or so. Nice job!

    I love the feeling you get when you are racing and you realize that the only way you’ll fail to hit your goal is if you completely fall to pieces. It’s like that last mile or so just becomes a victory lap.

    • Thank you! It was a big surprise to me. Having really cool weather so I never felt hot or warm and minimal winds gave me a big help. It was such a nice feeling cruising in to the finish line and not worry about trying to beat the clock because I was well under.

  2. Congratulations!! Your 5-mile is like my 5K. I love that we both had such great, redemptive Turkey Trots. It feels good, doesn’t it?!

    • It feels terrific! After Wineglass, I was in a bit of a running lull (bad training runs left and right), but mysteriously everything began coming together again. I have one last race this weekend and then I’m done with racing season for the year. It’s really nice to end on a high note.

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