Thursday, November 24, 2011

102nd Thanksgiving Day Race

Time: 58:25
Distance: 14.74k

W/u: 19:43 for 3.73k
Race: 32:06 for 9th place in the results, but 8th place in reality.
C/d: 6:36 for 1.01k

Meagan and I were picked up by my uncle Dave at 7 AM this morning and we drove to downtown Cincinnati to register for the 102 Annual Thanksgiving Day Race. I'm pretty sure that it's the oldest turkey trot in America, but perhaps I'm mistaken. One hundred and two years, think about that. Wicked old.

We got registered without a hitch by forking out $40 a piece that didn't get us a t-shirt, hat, or gloves. Steep! We then headed back to the car to get ready for our warm up. Dave headed off to a friend's work building to stay warm and take advantage of the cozy gym bathrooms instead of the foul shit receptacles in the Paul Brown Stadium's parking lot. We headed out on the streets and shuffled around for just under 20 minutes. I tried giving her the best sense of the course as possible, but, frankly, didn't remember much from previous years other than it sucks running through Kentucky.

With about 10 minutes to go, we headed up to the start line for some last minute strides and preparation. The field look pretty strong this year and I mentioned I would be happy with a top 10 finish. There were a ton of fast looking dudes mingling about with their racing costumes and flats. Meanwhile, like a dummy, I forgot a singlet and was left with three options: shirtless, a Craft t-shirt or the race t-shirt. Option 3 was out since they didn't hand out race shirts and option 1 just isn't my style. Where are you going to put the race bib? I can't remember the last time I actually raced in a t-shirt and don't want to make a habit of it. Oh well for this time.

I felt pretty comfortable on the starting line and made the mental note to just run within myself as the training hasn't been geared to anything specifically in recent months. The countdown had us off the line with a swarm of guys sprinting to the lead while I held back hoping to run the tangents as much as possible. With a field of about 15,000 the streets had to be wide for a race like this.

3:13.3, 3:05.7, 3:02.5, 3:10.8, 3:10.7, 3:15.4, 3:19.6, 3:31.7, 2:56.8, 3:05.4, 17.18 for 32.09 and 10.11k according to the Garmin.

The first mile was hit in around 5:05 and I was probably in 20-25th place feeling really strong. I was continually picking people off who had gone out to fast and was making up ground on guys up front. I knew at a certain point this would end and I would find myself in the right group which occurred just before the first bridge. I had moved up to about 12 place and started the bridge with a small group of guys that soon fell off as I looked to catch a group of 3-4 up ahead. Just as we were cresting the hill/bridge I was able to latch on and relax for the downhill portion into Kentucky. There was another group of 3 running about 60 up ahead that kept the pace honest.

I would push the pace for about 2-3 minutes trying to close the gap, back off and let someone else in the group lead for a couple of minutes while I recovered before hitting the front of the group again. This pattern repeated from 4k to 7k where I urged us to catch the guys in that next group. We were working together really well and seemed to be catching them, but could never bring the gap to within less than 30-40 meters.

As we approached the second bridge to head back to Ohio I started to realize that this was going to be a battle for places 8-10. My top 10 goal was within reach, but I could end up 8th which sounds so much nicer. We hit the bridge and I immediately fell off by a few strides. I had little power going up the hill and couldn't match the pace being set. I relaxed and maintained a solid effort hoping they wouldn't increase the tempo too much so I could catch back up on the downhill into Ohio. That's exactly what happened running near the 8k mark as I was able to close the gap and then draft to regain my strength.

Coming off the bridge is a long straight with the wind at our backs and I maintained my position just behind a tall kid from Spalding University (later found out to be Abram Deng who is the USCAA National Cross Country Champ) and another guy racing for some local team. When we the turn I glanced over my shoulder and say a guy dressed in all black about 60 meters back and figured he would be a non factor the final mile. The three of us ran together as the crowd started to get thicker. I was feeling more and more recovered from the bridge and recognized this was going to be a sprint finish.

There are two 90 degree turns the final 600 meters, one right after another and this is when we all realized the group grew to four. Somehow the dude in black had closed the gap despite our efforts at keeping the pace honest. I now could end up 11th if it all went wrong. The pace started to accelerate farther from the finish line than I would have liked, but I was latched on to the back of the back just getting hoovered along. We came to the final cross road about 150m from the finish, I pulled wide and shot to the front. I went for the tape and raced it in to take 8th place even though the results have me listed as 9th. Here are the pictures to prove it. The guy in yellow is Tim Kaiser and the guy with blue half tights if Abram Deng.

After the race I had a brief chat with Tim about our little pack and the race for top 10. I realized that Meagan would be finishing soon and got near the tape around the 34:30 mark. I only had to wait about a minute and got to witness a great finish as she placed 2nd just behind the winner. You can read her recap here.

I'm pleased with the effort as I "won" the race within the race for top 10. It was fun and told me that I'm a 32 minute 10k guy at the moment. I've run this course twice before and was in much better shape at the time finishing with slightly faster times. In 2007 I finished second in 31:38 and 2006 I finished fifth in 31:38 under the name "Ruben Tucker."

I gotta give props to the winner, Eric Finan, of the University of Cincinnati who ran just over 30 minutes after placing 25th at NCAA XC Champs on Monday. Great run! I also have to thank my moms and family for braving the cold weather to come watch the race. It has been many years since they've seen me toe the line and I definitely didn't want to run like crap with some eyes watching the finishing clock.

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