Turkey Trots, Training runs, and Turning Points

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Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope that all who celebrated the holidays enjoyed time with family and friends, sharing a meal together and taking time to be thankful for the blessings (and challenges) we all have experienced thus far in 2012.

For me, this weekend was significant in an additional way.  Last year, I ran a 5K race on Thanksgiving Day and a second 5K on that following Saturday.  It was the first time I ran two races in the same week, and it was in the midst of my training for my first Half Marathon (at Disney).

This year, I am training for a much bigger goal, the "Dopey" -- the 5K, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon in three consecutive days -- which is 7 weeks from now.  And I also have two races planned, a 5K on Thursday and a Half Marathon on the following Saturday.  And to make this weekend similar to a "Dopey effort", I added a 10-mile training run on Friday..

So this year's Thanksgiving Weekend is the big brother to my 2011 experience: 5K + 10M + Half will be a 'mini Dopey' that will surely test my preparedness for the Disney World Marathon Weekend.  In fact, this week will total 32 miles of training.

The Crystal Lake Turkey Trot: This was a charity race to support our local Food Pantry.  There was no entry fee, only to bring non-perishable goods and/or money for the Pantry.  My son Ryan and I brought two cases of canned goods and registered for our bibs that morning.

The race started with over 1,200 runners.  The park's limestone course is not meant for that many so the first .44 miles was relegated to walking due to the crowded conditions.  The cool part was that we ran into a friend, Jason, and his parents at the start so we got to walk with them.  We eventually got to a split where runners could go left and the walkers went right.  Ryan and I went left and ran the remainder of the race.

I was supposed to run this race 'easy' but ended up running at a 9:44/mm pace, with the last 2 minutes run at a 8:00/mm pace.  If I had run the entire race, it would have been a PR for me.  Ryan finished way before me and was there to greet me at the finish.  I walked/ran the race in 33 minutes.  All in all, a fun race for a good cause.  Phase 1 of the mini Dopey completed.

The Friday 10-Miler: The next morning, I woke up to 30F, 20mph winds, and a windchill of 18F.  I briefly considered running on the Dreadmill but decided to 'zip up the man-suit' and go for my 10 miles in the great outdoors.  I got my layers on, and wore my Chicago Marathon softshell running jacket for its first 'run'.  After two miles, I was nice and comfortable and enjoying the time on my feet.

I had lots of head wind, but I just kept moving forward.  Several friends said they saw me on the road but I guess I was in the 'Zone' because I didn't even notice.  I was having fun.  And then, it started snowing (nothing bad but it was a nice diversion).  I finished 10.27 miles in 1:59 and felt great.  I was pleased that the legs and feet felt good afterwards.  I decided to spend some time in the Jacuzzi as a reward.  Phase 2 completed!  But the big challenge was to come the next day: the Schaumburg Half!

 Awesome Finisher's medal

Awesome Finisher's medal

The Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon: This was the biggie for me.  My third run in as many days.  The final phase of my 'mini Dopey'.  With 13.3 miles already on my legs, I was to run another 13.1 miles.  This is the first of three back-to-back Long Runs I have planned in my training schedule (so that I can experience running on tired legs and feet).  I need to know so that I can prepare myself mentally for handling the 'real' Dopey in January.

My legs felt pretty good when I woke up.  Tired but stable, with some slight twinges in the left knee.  But I found that the real challenge was going to be the weather -- 26F and a little windy (not as bad as Friday tho).  I had hand warmers for my gloves but it was so cold that even they were insufficient.  But I was determined to run and finish this race (my 19th of the year).

 Me and Laura before race start

Me and Laura before race start

The first cool thing was meeting up with Laura, who recently ran the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon and was running this race in order to qualify for membership in the Half Fanatics.  She is an amazing and fun person and we chatted until race start.  More on her later.

The second was running into Courtney, another member of the WISH racing team, who was running her first race since getting injured this summer.  It was cool to see another WISHer out there!   We decided to run the race together.  She wanted to do run/walk intervals at a slower pace to avoid stressing her knee so that is what we did (that meant a slower pace than I was planning but I felt that sharing the race experience would be more fun).

The first 6 miles went pretty effortlessly.  We ran the intervals well, got to see some Elk along the course, and were making decent time.  Then Courtney started having some pain in her right ankle and calf.  So we had to shorten our run intervals to allow more recovery time.  But we kept going.  She was determined!  We ran into her father (another WISHer) and Laura twice during the race.

 Courtney and her father and I at the Finish!  Looking good!

Courtney and her father and I at the Finish!  Looking good!

When we reached Mile 13, I told her we had to run the remaining distance to the Finish.  We crossed the Finish Line strong, and with her father there waiting for us!  Throughout the whole race, I felt very good.  My legs and feet were fine, and I had energy to run more.  Our Finish Time was 3:01 hours.

But my friend Laura was still out there, shooting for her second Half Marathon Finish.  So I stayed at the Finish, to be there to cheer her as she crossed the Finish Line.  I asked the timekeeper to keep the timing mats active until she crossed the line.  There were several other runners on the course, and even though the course time limit was 3:30 hours, he kept the mats online until all the runners came through.  How awesome was that!  It was exciting to see her cross that Finish and accomplish her goals!

As for me, my 'mini Dopey' was a success!  I see this weekend as a turning point for me from a training perspective.  It has made me even more excited about Marathon Weekend.  I am much more confident, and I will use what I have learned this weekend to help me strategize about the Dopey at Disney World.  I have two more back-to-back runs scheduled (the one next weekend is a 15-miler followed by a 10-miler) and I am looking forward to them.

This week also brought me closer to my 1000-mile milestone.  I only have 20 more miles to go!  I am not sure how I will celebrate that event yet.  Probably by signing up for another race in 2013.  2013 is going to be an awesome racing year!

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