I’ve been having a rough time lately – not doing well either physically or mentally. Dumb cold! But I decided that no matter how slowly I went, I wanted to get out on Thanksgiving morning for the Louisville Turkey Trot 5K, an annual race that takes place in the next town over. As a bonus, although registration is required, it’s FREE to enter; you just need to bring a donation of food or clothing to be distributed at a local food bank. I love that idea for a Thanksgiving race!
I woke up around 4am (insomnia is frustrating), and filled the time before the race thoroughly cleaning my bathroom, including tossing out lots of old products I don’t use. There are a lot of rooms in my house that have just accumulated stuff, so I’m hoping that one room at a time I can start to change that. It felt good to knock one room out so early in the morning! Afterward, I watched some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and assembled a coconut-apple crock pot dessert for the potluck I’m attending. Although I had gone to bed and woken up in not-the-greatest mood, I was starting to feel a little better when I headed over to the race.
I had left a little bit later than I planned, arriving in downtown Louisville at 8:45am for a 9:00am start. Fortunately, it was easy to find parking on Main Street about 1/4 mile from the start, and I headed over with my big bag of groceries. I found the start/finish just fine, since local sponsor Avista Hospital had some big blow up arches assembled for us to run through, but I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to drop off my donation. I started asking around, and eventually figured it out – about a half block away. While dropping off my groceries, the announcer called two minutes to race time. Yikes; I was cutting it close!
I headed back to the start, stashed my fleece jacket under the stage, and wedged my way into the crowd. The pre-race emails had strongly encouraged people to seed themselves appropriately and not go too close to the front, noting that we were even going to have several Olympians joining us in the race. Welcome to Boulder! I managed to get into the crowd about 20 feet back from the start, which I thought was pretty good. However, I was sandwiched in between two jogging strollers. I didn’t see this playing well when we started…
Sure enough, the first half mile was a bit of a mess. There were a lot of walkers and people running in groups (especially kids), so I was weaving a lot trying to just settle into a comfortable pace. That said, I can’t really throw stones since I wasn’t going too fast myself! After a minute or so of running, my nose started to run and I also got that cold-weather-burning-throat feeling, so I tried to slow down to make it better. By the time my Cardiotrainer app told me I had done a mile, I was already about ready to be done with the whole thing. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to run this race sick? I wasn’t trying for a PR or anything, but I was hoping to run around 24:00, accounting for my cold.
One mile in, though, the crowd started to thin out. Faster runners were ahead, and slower runners dropped back, so everyone around me was running roughly the same pace (I clocked 7:30 for the first mile). Just before the 1.5 mile mark, we turned from the streets onto the gravel path of an open space, and there was a water station on the left. I decided to pull off to the side to take a walk break and get a drink. Normally I would just throw the cup of water down while running, but I was hoping that the combo of water and a break would relieve my throat a bit. At first it didn’t seem like it was helping, but I kept walking for a full minute, and then it did, a little bit! So that cheered me up somewhat.
Running through the open space was gorgeous. I am so thankful that Colorado has so many wonderful open spaces that are not only preserved from construction, but also have nice trails running through them so that they can be enjoyed. As we wove up and around the trails, I looked ahead and realized that the 8:15-ish pace I was now running put me in the back of the pack, which I thought was hilarious since that’s a pretty decent time :) There are just so many fit, fast people here, and I love that it inspires me to try harder!
The final mile of the race felt easy – just two more songs on my playlist and I’d be done. But right about when I was expecting to be around mile 2.5, I saw the first (that I noticed) mile marker of the race – and it said we were at mile 2. What? I knew I had done a lot of weaving at the beginning, but surely I hadn’t tacked on a whole half mile extra. No matter, though – even if it was a full mile left, that still wasn’t too long till I’d be done.
I enjoyed the last mile a lot – partially because I had finally adjusted to the cold enough to make my throat comfortable, and partially because the crowd was now really thinned out and I didn’t have to worry about tripping anyone. We got back to the beginning of the lollipop course much faster than I expected, and it turned out that the 2 mile sign I had seen was indeed in the wrong spot – I finished the race with 3.1 exactly on my GPS, and a final time of 25:04. Not as fast as I would have liked, but a solid effort given how sick I was feeling. Splits were 7:43, 8:59 (yeah, long walk break), and 7:44 – so at least my running pace was fairly consistent?
After crossing the finish line, though, I got really excited. As it turned out, when the announcer said we had Olympians and pro athletes in the crowd, he wasn’t kidding – a few feet away was Neely Spence Gracey, who was the 1st American female at Boston this year, and then finished 8th overall at the New York City Marathon earlier this month! I had heard after Boston that she was from my town, Superior, so while watching NYCM on TV, I was watching her closely and even tracking her splits on the app. Go, neighbor! And here she was at my local turkey trot, looking cool as a cucumber as she no doubt easily finished about ten minutes faster than me :)
(Just looked it up, and indeed, Neely’s 5K PR is 15:25. So crazy impressive!)
Despite the fact that my throat was still burning and I looked/sounded like a hot mess, I decided to say hello and congratulate her on NYCM. We ended up chatting for a few minutes (while I tried not to snot all over the place), and Neely turned out to be one of the nicest runners I’ve ever met! She had people constantly saying hello as they passed by, but took the take to ask about what races I had coming up, and didn’t seem to mind the fact that I was a sweaty, weird stranger coming up to introduce myself :) And so I decided to push my luck and ask for a picture – which she was more than happy to do, and had her husband take for us.
I think this is what I’m the most thankful for this year: that I am so lucky as to live in an amazing, beautiful place full of inspirational people. On this gorgeous, blue sky, sunny Thanksgiving Day, I’m so grateful for all the amenities and comforts I have… but still be so close to the mountains and to nature. (As a former city girl who hated the outdoors, I’m also grateful that I now appreciate nature!) I love that our local turkey trot runs on trails with the mountains in the (not-so-far) distance, and I love that so many people in my town are into running and being active. Colorado is the place I love, and I’m so thankful that I get to spend the rest of my life enjoying it.