Turkey Trot Race Report: A Good Day at the Ashenfelter 8k

On Thanksgiving, I ran in our local turkey trot – the Ashenfelter 8k in Glen Ridge.

The weather was nice, my training is paying off, and things generally went well.

I had about two weeks between the last 5k I ran – the Boardwalk Run at the NJEA Convention – and this turkey trot. So let me share a quick recap of my training and then I’ll get into how the race went.

Training Recap

The two weeks between these two races is the longest I’ve had this fall to actually train in between races, so it was nice to actually get in some real workouts instead of cramming stuff in between recovery and racing.

The week after the Boardwalk Run, I put in a solid 65 miles. I had originally planned for 70, but I ended up skipping a double. This included:

  • Sunday: 16 mile long run in 2:17, last couple miles at 8:00/mi
  • Monday: 7 miles easy with strides
  • Tuesday: 10.5 mile workout, 8×3 minutes at 5k pace
  • Wednesday: 7 miles easy
  • Thursday: 7 miles easy:
  • Friday: 10 mile workout, 12x400m in 84-85s
  • Saturday: 7.5 miles on the trails

Tuesday’s workout started out great, but I ended up bailing after 6 reps. I was running 3 minutes (approx. 800m) at around 5k pace followed by a 2 minute jog for recovery. I started out a little hot (6:10/mi for the first rep) and averaged 6:15-6:20 until the sixth rep. I only hit 6:32/mi in that rep, and I was feeling wiped, so I called it there.

Disappointed I didn’t hit the full volume, but still happy with the first part.

Friday’s workout went better. I wasn’t sure what pace to target for the 400’s. The last time I did this workout, I was averaging 88s or so with a 400m jog recovery. I ran the first one by feel and clocked 80s – woah!

I slowed it down a little from there, and the rest hovered around 85s +/- 2s. By the end, I was feeling a bit tired and I let off the gas a little in rep #1 – 90s. But I kicked it for the final rep and I came through in 81s. Considering this was the first full track workout I’ve done in a while, I was quite happy with the results.

The next week was race week, and I planned 60 miles, including:

  • Sunday: 16 mile long run in 2:14, last few around 7:45/mi
  • Monday: 7 easy
  • Tuesday: 7 mile mini-workout, 5×2 minutes at 6:15/mi, 2 minutes jogged
  • Wednesday: 7 miles easy plus strides
  • Thursday: 8k Race! Plus 3 miles of warm up
  • Friday: 8 miles on the trails
  • Saturday: 7 miles easy plus strides

The Tuesday workout was intended to just be a way to dial in the target race pace a little. I originally planned to hit 6:20-6:25, but I ended up running 6:15/mi pretty easily. I was feeling pretty confident at this point about the race.

Turkey Trot Race Report

So that brings us to the actual race.

Based on my workouts and my previous races, I was hoping to be able to finish in around 32 minutes. This would be about 6:25/mi on average. I planned to take it a little easy in the first mile – 6:25-6:30 – and then try to dial it in and speed up a bit towards the end if possible.

I got to the high school a little before 8am for the 9am race. Plenty of time to check in, grab my stuff, and jog 2 miles past the car for a warm-up. I hit the bathroom, sat around for a bit, and waited until closer to the start to finish up my warm-up with a final mile of some faster stuff.

Just before 9, we all lined up for the start. The Ashenfelter 8k is a pretty large race – typically over 2,000 runners. This year, there were about 2,600. Although there weren’t corrals, there were volunteers with signs indicating where to start based on your target pace. I lined up behind the 6:00/mi sign, hoping I wouldn’t get boxed in too much.

At the gun, we took off – and as I feared there were definitely people around me who weren’t running anywhere near 6:00/mi. The first 100m or so was pretty tight, and I was boxed in, but things opened up quickly enough. By the time we got to the first mile marker, I was right on pace – 6:25.

The course had a lot of gentle rolling hills, but the first mile had the biggest net incline. Mile 2 things flattened out, and it ended on a hill. I tried to keep my effort even throughout, and I found myself speeding up a bit. There was a guy with us up to this point running with his dog – looked like a Viszla. The dog got plenty of cheers, but they had to stop for a second before the second mile so that his owner could tie his shoes. I kept going, and we came through the second mile marker, and I lapped 6:22 for that mile.

At this point, I took stock of how I was feeling. I felt great. I was 2 miles in, we were heading back south towards the start, and I didn’t feel that tired. Time to kick it up a notch. I continued to speed up – ever so slightly – and I also enjoyed a slight net downhill in this mile. I passed a few people and slowly moved up in the field. Mile 3: 6:19. Everything going according to plan.

In mile 4, we were going to pass back by the start, take a downhill jog over to a side street, and go a little further on before turning back towards the finish. Mentally, I had marked this point in the race. I knew I was in the home stretch. I was starting to feel the effort now, though. I thought I was maintaining the pace, but I had let it slip a little. In the last part of the mile, I glanced down at my watch and saw my pace was in the 6:30’s – and I pushed it to speed back up. I ended up with a 6:28 split.

In mile 5, there were two final turns – up a short hill then down a straight a half mile to the finish. After in mile 4, I just wanted to maintain my effort up the hill and then push as hard as I could. The hill wasn’t as bad as I expected, and as I crested it and turned the final corner I started to speed up. Glanced at my watch – 6:15/mi pace. I got closer – less than a half mile – and kicked it up another gear. 6:05/mi pace.

The last 100m I pushed it a little harder – but I didn’t have a sprint left in me. I knew from the mental math, though, that I was comfortably under my goal of 32 minutes. Somebody passed me in the final meters, but I didn’t care. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and saw my time – 31:52.

Final Thoughts and Reflections

I think I mentally let up a bit in mile 4, and that’s why my pace slipped a little. I was probably capable of grinding out another good mile there and finishing a little faster – 31:45 or 31:40.

But I’m not mad about it. At the end of the day, this was a really good race. Pretty well paced, with a slightly negative split throughout – with the exception of that one mile.

I handled the rolling hills well, and even the two steeper ascents didn’t slow me down at all. I had enough left in me at the end to not only kick in the last bit but to sustain a quicker pace for the last half mile.

And if I can run 5 miles at 6:22/mi pace – then I can definitely run a 5k faster than that.

How much faster? That’s a good question.

I’ve got just over two weeks between this turkey trot and my final race of the season – the Big Chill 5k at Rutgers. My training will probably look similar – a solid week with two good workouts, and then an easier week with a mini-workout to dial in the pacing.

I’ll see how those workouts go before I fully decide on a goal – but I think 19:30 is well within reach, 19:15 is do-able, and 19:00 is possible if I have a great day.

Regardless, I’m feeling really good about where I’m at now – and I hope this transitions into a solid marathon in the spring.

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