Race Report: PNC Pittsburgh Turkey Trot

On Sunday, I hosted Thanksgiving in New York. I was so excited for my mom and many of my closest friends to come join me for a feast. My New York apartment may be tiny, but I fit in eight wonderful people and a ton of delicious food:

-Butternut squash soup
-Wild rice
Green bean casserole
-Mashed potatoes
Honey orange carrots
Vegan creamed corn
Garlic collard greens
Sage and onion stuffing
-Raw cranberry sauce
Herb-roasted turkey breast
Quinoa apple cake
Peach rosemary crisp
Caramel pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake

After enjoying that delicious feast on Sunday night and then working from home on Monday, I headed to Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning to do Thanksgiving with his family later tonight. But first! The PNC Pittsburgh Turkey Trot 5K.

On Monday, I caught some sort of cold – the kind where your throat starts to hurt and close up and you know pretty soon you will be sick. My mother would tell you that I am burning the candle at both ends, but I don’t see why you ought to sleep more than 6 hours a night before or after a 60K! (Yes, race report to come.) I spent Tuesday feeling kind of out of it, and indeed, I went to bed at 8:30pm and slept for 11 hours. I still felt pretty exhausted/weak on Wednessday, to the point where I considered bailing on the race. If I got tired walking up the stairs, how was I going to run a 5K?

But I tried to pull through, especially since we had big plans last night. A year and a half ago, one of my favorite coworkers left consulting to open an upscale Mexican restaurant, Verde. I’ve been wanting to go ever since it opened a little over a year ago, and last night I finally got the chance to do so! I have to say, it did not disappoint – the servers/bartenders were amazingly friendly, the cocktails were incredible, and the flautas I picked as an appetizer were the best I had ever had. My only bummer? I filled up on the yummy pineapple carnitas soft tacos and didn’t save room for bread pudding. Next time!

After the restaurant, I was ready to drop – but we were headed out to a local bar to catch up with some of BF’s high school friends. I tried valiantly to be fun and make conversation, but it was pretty obvious to everyone that I was all but falling asleep at the table! When we finally headed home, I wondered how on earth I would summon the energy to run this morning’s turkey trot.

But when BF’s mom woke us up for the race (way too early in the morning!), I was surprisingly awake. My cold was definitely easing up, and while I still didn’t think I’d have a great showing, I felt pretty confident that I’d at least finish. While the turkey trot had two options (a 5K and a 5 miler), we were doing the shorter option – in large part because BF was determined to beat me and thought he’d have a better shot at the shorter distance :)

The start of the race was much colder than I had anticipated – 39 degrees instead of 55. Oops! We tried to hang out in the back of the garage where registration/packet pickup were being held, but that only helped block the wind and wasn’t really all that much warmer. As a result, my toes were so numb by the time I got to the starting line that it hurt to run. So much for a fast time!

Regardless, I went out insanely fast in an attempt to warm up. Insanely fast as in, my throat started hurting and I couldn’t breathe after the first quarter mile. Way to go, Laura! I slowed down to a more reasonable pace – though one that was still pushing it a bit for me – and just focused on the fact that this was a very short race and would be over before I knew it. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done a race shorter than a half marathon, and in fact, even half marathons are few and far between for me! It was strange to think that I’d be done in less than half an hour.

We turned a few corners, scaled a bridge… and then I saw that my shoelaces had come untied. Since my chip was tied onto that shoe, I couldn’t take any chances with it falling off, and therefore had to stop and fix it. I only lost about 5 seconds pulling over to retie, but I decided that when BF beat me (which was pretty much a given since he had disappeared ahead of me about 1/4 mile in), I would blame my shoelaces as the reason. Obviously I lost a lot of momentum with that 5 second stop.

We descended the bridge onto the other side of the river, and as the street curved around, I started seeing the lead runners on their way back. I called out some encouragement for the lead women when I saw them, since they always seem to get overlooked in the aftermath of the men ahead of them – and then I found myself on the final straightaway heading to the turnaround. That was fast! I hadn’t looked at my watch at all, but this race was definitely going by quickly.

The way back was tough, since I had definitely been pushing it and was running out of staem. But with only 10 minutes left how could I not push it? Going up and over the bridge wasn’t bad, since I knew how short it was, and then the other side I got to fly down. (Why were people going slowly on the bridge descent when we had less than 5 minutes to go? I didn’t understand that.) Coming off the bridge, I wasn’t quite sure how much was left, but a father was coaching his young daughter near me with things like “only 5 minutes left!” “Just up and over the bridge!” etc. I decided to use some of his motivation myself :)

However, when we turned the corner and he said “30 seconds left!”, I was confused. I didn’t have a GPS to tell me where exactly I was, but ahead of me was a straightaway that didn’t appear to have a finish line ahead of it. I sped up for a bit, but with no end in sight, I slowed down again. Where was I going?

About halfway through the straightaway though, I finally saw the 3 mile mark. Only a tenth of a mile to go? Geez, time to pick it up Laur! I started pushing the pace, and when we turned the final corner to the finish line (ah, that’s where it was hiding!), I gunned it – for a finish time of somewhere in the 25 minute range. Not bad!

After crossing the finish line, though, I felt awful – and while BF was right there to say hello and give me a hug, I pushed him away with a “1 second” hand gesture. I was really afraid I was going to throw up on him! Gradually, though, I started feeling better, and then I was able to give him the hug and congratulations he deserved. Not only had he beaten me by over a minute in this race, he had finished in the exact time of my 5K PR – 24:17! I was so proud of him.

And as for my time? Well, I was pretty darn proud of my 25:37 – which netted out to an 8:16 pace per mile (or 7:57 if you go by my GPS which accounted for all the weaving I did on the crowded course). I had pushed it pretty darn hard despite my sickness. And, as per usual, pushing it seemed to cure me – I’m now feeling a thousand times better, and ready for the turkey feast!

Today, I am most thankful for wonderful friends and family (near and far), as well as my good health. It wasn’t that long ago that I thought a 5K was “impossible for a non-jock like me,” and I am very proud that today I was able to bang out 3 miles at a pace that used to be unfathomable for me for one mile. We are all capable of achieving much more than we think, and I am so grateful that running has helped me to learn that.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Race stats:
Distance: 3.1 miles
Time: 25:37
Pace: 8:16/mile
Overall place: 427/3353
Age group place: 31/369


  1. What a least!

  2. Damn you autocorrect! That should have been “feast”. Jeesh!

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