2018 Martinsville Turkey Day 5k
21:41 (6:59 min/mile) 1/5 AG 10/180 Overall
November 22, 2018 – For the past few years, we’ve run the Turkey Day 5k in Martinsville when we’ve gone to my in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving. Its not a super competitive race with a deep field, but there are always some really fast runners out front. In years past, either Leigh Anne or I would run with the kids to help pace them and make sure they didn’t get lost. This year, however, the kids wanted to run on their own, so it was going to be every man, woman and child for themselves. Ultimately, Leigh Anne began having piriformis issues after the Richmond Half Marathon, so she’d decided to run with Jillian (much to Jillian’s dismay).
My triathlon season had ended in September with the Giant Acorn Olympic distance triathlon, and coach Karen had dialed back my running pretty substantially for 4-6 weeks. I’d also bought a pair of Hoka Bondis to replace the Nike shoes (same model, not actual shoes) that I’d been wearing since 2014. The Hokas had really taken some getting used to since they were much larger and heavier than my Nikes.
I needed the extra cushioning to lessen the pounding that my body had been taking, but I began having horrible foot pain soon after making the switch. The pain was consistent with plantar’s faciitis symptoms, and it began getting so bad that I could hardly walk when I first got out of bed in the morning. I was fine when running, but when I finished and took my shoes off, my arches were killing me. The mornings were the worst. I began rolling my feet with lacrosse balls and saw my friend Tressa for some therapeutic work, but nothing really helped. Finally, after about a month of running in the Hokas my feet must have adapted and the pain began to abate.
The other issue that I had coming into the race was that I was over my ideal race weight by 5-7 pounds and felt out of shape due to my running hiatus. Karen had started me back into some speed work a week or two before, but nothing super fast. Ok, maybe I wasn’t out of shape, but certainly didn’t feel like I was in peak form for 5k speed. As always, I bellyached to Karen about being “fat” and out of shape and received her standard response about being a crybaby. She also said that I might surprise myself since my body was more rested than normal.
Karen must have a psychology degree, because she seems to know how to get me motivated. A little bit of encouragement mixed with a hefty dose of snark typically does the trick. I wanted to prove her right because I wanted to PR, but I wasn’t really buying it. At a minimum, I planned to run as hard as I could so that when she looked at my heart rate stats she couldn’t accuse me of sandbagging to prove her wrong. I’ve been called a sandbagger once or twice before (mostly on swim sprints), and I was going to make sure that I didn’t give her that ammunition…
We arrived in Martinsville Wednesday night, but didn’t have time to make it to packet pickup. Thus, we got to the YMCA around 8 a.m. for the 9 a.m. race and got situated. It was cold out, but not terribly so. Still, it was nice to be able to hang out inside the YMCA to warm up. They have an indoor track above the basketball court, which is good for getting loose. After some light jogging, some strides and some dynamic stretching, we all headed outside for the start.
My 5k PR was 21:54 (7:03/mile), which was my time at this race in 2017. My goal was to beat that, but as noted above, I didn’t think I was in shape to do so. I’d taken the time to look at my mile splits from 2017, which were 7:01, 7:23 and 7:03 respectively. My plan in 2017 was to try to negative split the run, but based upon the topography of the course, that was a mistake. The first mile is predominantly downhill and fast, with the second mile the exact opposite. Mile three is rolling, but still has more gain than loss. Thus, I needed to go out fast in the first mile instead of sitting back and trying to negative split since the hills would be against me in the last two miles. My concern though, was that I might overdo it early on and blow apart near the end. Well, that might be fun at least…
Mile 1 (6:47)
I lined up near the front of the field, and I took off hard as soon as the air horn sounded. The course goes around the block in the beginning and is relatively flat. You then take a left onto a paved trail, and there’s a fairly steep downhill section, which includes a slippery bridge. I’d taken off at about a 6:30 pace, and did my best to keep from braking on the downhill portion of the trail. The trail was damp and there were some leaves on it, so I still couldn’t run quite as fast as I wanted without risking a fall.
The trail bottomed out around the .7 mile mark, and there was a gradual incline for the remainder of the trail. I was pleasantly surprised to find my legs responding well to the uphill section, and I did my best to maintain a fast pace. Still, the pace on my Garmin had begun to tick up as I climbed, but I hit the first mile marker at 6:47 – 14 seconds faster than last year. It was an encouraging small victory, but the worst hills were still ahead of me.
Mile 2 (7:15)
The trail finished up around mile 1.3 and the course dumped us out onto Franklin Street. There was then a quad-crushing climb up the steepest hill on the course. I tried to choose an effort that balanced speed and stamina, and I wanted to make sure that I could accelerate over the top of the hill. Leigh Anne’s parents were standing at the crest of the hill and got a video of me slogging up it. My legs and lungs were hurting pretty bad at the top, but I was still able to get myself back up to speed quickly enough. Thankfully, there was a slight downhill after the crest, but that was then followed by another small climb once I rounded the block and headed back in the other direction.
After finishing the loop around the block, I almost had a SNAFU and went off course. I’m getting concerned, because going off course seems to be my signature move all of a sudden. Anyways, I knew that the next turn was to the right, and I was about twenty feet behind the runner ahead of me. He turned right onto Walnut Street, even though we had about another block and a half before the actual turn. I was hurting pretty bad and was myopic at that point, and I began to play follow the leader without really thinking about where I was going. Thankfully, someone behind us yelled “go straight,” and we righted ourselves pretty quickly. I had’t yet made the complete turn onto Walnut Street, so I lucked out and ended up passing the guy ahead of me since he had to turn around.
I hit the two mile mark about a block later, and saw that I’d done my second mile in 7:15. Not bad considering that there was 100 feet of elevation gain, and it was eight seconds faster than in 2017. I was starting to believe in Karen’s prediction by that point, but I knew that the wheels could still come off in the last 1.1 miles.
Mile 3 (7:06)
The last full mile of the course is a roller coaster ride through the downtown area, with about 79 feet of gain and 59 feet of loss. I did my best to let my legs churn on the downhill portions, and on the uphill portions I kept telling myself that it was almost over and to suck it up. There was a nice uphill stretch from mile 2.5 to 2.6, and then I turned right onto Church Street for the last half mile to the finish.
I’m not quite sure whether I love that part of the course or whether I hate it, so I guess there’s a love/hate relationship. You’re almost done and its initially downhill, so that’s nice. But from 2.8 to the finish its all uphill and it seems to go on forever. The finish line is just over the crest of the hill, and you know its up there somewhere, but you can’t see it until you’re right up on it.
As I headed down Church Street on the downhill portion I was still able to make pretty good time. As soon as I began heading uphill, however, things started getting really rough for me. It was at that point that I started feeling like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I also began to feel a bit nauseous. I was almost done, so I just needed to keep it together for a little bit longer. I finished mile three in 7:06, which was three seconds slower than 2017. Maybe that fast start was coming back to haunt me.
3 – 3.1 (6:36/mile pace)
Somewhere around the three mile marker I noticed another runner coming up on my left side. I like to do the passing at the end, not the other way around, so I was determined to stay ahead of him. We began running shoulder to shoulder and began accelerating together. The heart pounding and nausea were getting worse, but I still had it in my head that I had one last burst left in me. I planned to make a move on him about 50 meters from the finish, and hopefully I’d catch him off guard with no time for him to respond.
The joke was on me though, because he accelerated with about 75 meters to go and got the jump on me. I tried to dig deep and go with him, but it just wasn’t there. Nothing was left in the tank and he beat me by three seconds. I suppose that means that I paced myself well and left it all on the course, but it still bugs me that he passed me at the end. Still, I finished in 21:41, which was a PR by 13 seconds. I guess Karen was right again.
After crossing the finish line I immediately collapsed on the grass to the right of the finishing chute. My heart was racing like I’ve never felt it before, and for a moment it was a little scary. As it turned out, my heart rate had gotten up to 193 beats/minute at the end, and I’d set every possible “All-Time” heart rate record possible for the race, per my Training Peaks account. At least I couldn’t be accused of sandbagging! The nausea and chest pain quickly abated, and after about 60 seconds I had myself back under control enough to get up and to think about circling back to find the rest of my family that was still on the course.
As I headed back down Church Street I eventually came across Jillian and Leigh Anne headed in the other direction towards the final hill. They looked like they were doing well, so I continued on to find Jackson. I found him trudging up the hill on Chestnut Street and ended up running with him for the last .75 miles. I know why he likes to run by himself, because there were a few times when he didn’t seem to enjoy my encouragement.
When we were all done, we gathered in the basketball court of the YMCA for the awards. Jillian, Leigh Anne and I all won our age groups, which was cool. I think I’d been second in my age group every year before since a similarly aged guy named Greg Dean always runs circles around me. I’m not sure why Greg didn’t run this year, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Standing atop the podium was nice, but really and truly, I was racing against myself to try to set a PR. I also wanted to be able to say that I’d fought off Father Time for at least one more year since that’s getting harder and harder to do.
So…2018 closed on a high note after my tri season ended with a fizzle (DQ and 4th AG). My 2019 calendar was already starting to take shape, with Ironman 70.3 Virginia looming large in May. The question still remained, however, as to whether a 140.6 was in the cards for later in the year.