Monday, December 6, 2010

Turkey Trots and Hot Chocolate

I'm taking some time off after Christmas this year for the first time in many years. In between playing with the kids and doing things around the house, I'm looking forward to taking some time to reflect upon the years running. It's been an amazing time, and I've really finished out the year on a real high.

I've had a fantastic string of races over the last few weeks.

Slattery's Turkey Trot
The weekend before Thanksgiving, for the last 30 years, there has been a road race in Fitchburg, starting at Slattery's restaurant. This "old-school" course is a criss-cross out and back, finishing with a nice down-hill stretch before a 70+ ft climb to the finish line. Throughout the years, over $150,000 has been raised for local scholar-athletes, and the event has attracted some big names and elite competitors. For a wonderful review of the event, see Chris Russell's write-up over on Cool Running.

This year was no different. Great family event - bounce house, heated tents, beer & food afterwards. Good times. I set out to pace run Fishadad to his 5 mile PR. I was wearing VFFs and (at the time) was on day 13 of a running streak, so I didn't really envision breaking any PR for myself. My previous time at Slattery's was 43:34. I figured I'd be running with Bill and coming in around 45-48 minutes.

Boy was I wrong. Out of the gate, Bill was off! He actually lost me for a bit in the first mile. I stayed back, keeping him in sight, content to just kind of run along until our paces synced up. We ran somewhat close for another 2-3 miles, at which point I realized that he had some minutes in the bank for his PR, and I decided to pull ahead (splits: 8:50, 8:20, 08:31, 07:53, 07:35). As I climbed the final hill, I realized that if I had not been so conservative in the first few miles, I could have easily shattered my next goal of sub-40:00 in the 5 miler. But, I didn't, and I ended up coming in at 40:56 - still a decent PR!

Bill ended up shattering his PR as well, so it was a good day all around.

Holden Turkey Trot
On Thanksgiving morning, I went up to the center of town alone to run in this 5k (it was a bit too frigid for the kids). This event, run each of the last 7 years, raises money for the Wachusett Food Pantry. It's an out-and-back on main street in Holden. If you are not familiar with the area, the "out" portion is mostly down-hill. I really didn't expect much from this run. My splits were not great, as I felt the effects of the climb on the way back (07:33, 07:53, 08:22). But, I did manage to beat my course record by 20 seconds or so. Had a blast running with a huge turnout for our small town. The only negative was the 20 minute delay of the race, which effectively cooled me down after a brief pre-race warm up jog.

Hot Chocolate Run
On December 5th, we made the trip out to Northampton for the Hot Chocolate 5k. This is a fantastic event that drew 5,000 participants, and raised over $135,000 for the Safe Passage organization. It also drew its fair share of Dailymilers. We met up with Fishadad, MrsKnitpho, WickedPhysics, GetInTheKarma (and wife); and - after I posted the run, there were a bunch of other people that commented that they too had made the run to get the hot chocolate. This race rewards its brave participants with a nice steaming mug of hot chocolate instead of the typical t-shirt. A nice change.

This was day 27 in my current running streak, and I didn't really expect much of anything other than a nice run with some friends. In the back of my mind, I worked out the math and had a decent idea of what I needed to do in order to PR, but having run the course last year, I didn't think it would happen. There is a series of hills in the 3rd mile that just killed me last year.

I took my place in the 7:40 pace area and waited. The race went off on schedule and we began the initial climb (there are hills right at the start). After the first mile or two I was feeling pretty good (07:45, 07:30) so I just kept pushing. The hills came, and for a moment I was right around a 08:15ish pace. But what goes uphill, must come down (at least on this course). The last half-mile is flat/downhill the whole way. I was able to make that up and then some, finishing the third mile in 07:43 and the last 0.13 (according to Garmin) at 06:04!

The picture to the left is me going down the final stretch, checking my watch, realizing that I was going to PR, and giving the thumbs up!

After the race, I got a hot chocolate, which I shared with the kids, as I don't do marshmallows. If someone has found a vegan marshmallow recipe, please share!

While we were trying to stay warm, we spotted fellow NERTS MrsKnitpho and WickedPhysics and got together and talked about the race and hung out for a few minutes.

All things considered, it's been a fantastic few weeks. Can't wait to see what will happen next.

Oh yeah, today was day 28 of the running streak. ;)

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