I enjoy racing, I really do. I don't care if it's a local 5k, a glitzy big city marathon or a gnarly mountain 100 miler. I just enjoy the energy of being with like-minded people, running against competition, and realizing the harder effort that the added adrenaline allows.
For those very reasons, the Fort Collins Turkey Trot is one of my favorite races on the calendar. There are always a ton of familiar faces, the competition is the stoutest of any race in Northern Colorado, and it's a race that I have done each of the four years that we've been in Fort Collins, with each year being faster than the one previous. If nothing else, this race has been an affirmation that I'm getting just a little bit faster every year. The goal this year, among other things, therefore, was to beat my 22 flat from 2009.
On the competition front, Justin and I had been ribbing each other a bit about the race for a few weeks, and while I think he probably felt like he had me covered, I was also sitting confidently in my corner thinking I might have a shot at taking him down for the first time ever in a road race.
I got to Old Town early enough that I could get out and run the full course as a warm-up. I layered up in full combat gear to ensure that I was genuinely warm on what was a frigid morning for November. The bank displays were reading 15/16 degrees (-7), and the air certainly felt that cold, although the bright sun took the edge off a bit.
At the start I lined up with Justin and jumped around trying to stay warm as we waited for the off. The game plan going in was to ease slowly into the race, but of course as soon as the gun went off I did my normal trick of sprinting from the line like a junior school kid. After a couple hundred meters Justin got on my shoulder and we ran together for a bit. I got a read on his breathing and was surprised to hear him working hard.
Just before the turn on to Mulberry I asked him for a pace check from his Garmin, feeling that it was a little hot, and with the 5:10 confirmation I eased off a touch and let Justin get a few yards on me. Shortly before the first mile, Adriana Nelson (Pirtea) eased by me and I saw Justin do the double take as she went by him. At this point I was feeling nicely in control of the run, so didn't worry too much about the potential chicking.
Splitting the first mile at 5:28, I was a little disappointed, so noticeably upped my effort a notch. Before long I was back on the shoulder of a guy who had just passed me, and was thinking I would ride his wave to catch back up to Justin who was still just a few meters up on me. As I moved ahead of Justin, I figured he would latch on, but rather than shoulder check to see if he had I just kept plugging, knowing that it didn't really matter either way as we were still very much at the blue-collar end of the race. Steve Folkerts edged by us somewhere before we hit the two-mile mark which split at 5:23.
Thinking pre-race that I was going to run 5:20s, I was again a little disappointed with the split, but nonetheless happy with how in control of the aerobic effort I was feeling. With the right turn on to Mountain, I upped the effort a bit more and was soon dissecting a small gap between Steve and another guy. I heard Steve push to latch on, but he didn't hold on for long, obviously still deep in his winter hibernation phase.
All the while, as I was picking up stray runners in the men's field, Adrianna had been holding pretty steady with a good five meter gap on me.
Passing the three-mile marker with a 5:23 split, I could sense that I was starting to reel her in a touch, but very gradually. Having been beaten by Adriana by a couple of seconds last year, I was determined to not let that happen again this time around. We hit the final turn on to College shoulder to shoulder and I upped my pace to a point where a kick would still have been available if necessary, but was just strong enough to build some separation, allowing me to save my fragile male ego without having to look silly by engaging in a sprint for the line. To make sure that Justin or Steve weren't lurking with a late kick, I threw a quick shoulder check, and sensing safety eased into the finish with a 5:32 last mile and 21:49 finish, which was good for 19th overall.
I felt a little disappointed to have taken just 11 second off my time from last year, but given that the conditions were close to perfect then and far from perfect today I'll say that on balance I'm happy with the run. Aerobically, I felt great - totally in control - which means I need to focus on getting my legs to turn over a little quicker. I'm thinking 20x400 for Tuesday.
The comparative calculators still have me running in the low-2:40 range based on that effort, but I know that my fitness works toward the endurance end rather than speed end, so I'm going to call that a 2:37/8 effort. Still plenty of work to be done, but I'm getting there.