I have to admit that I was pretty nervous all fall when my coach Josh Scully penciled in this event on my training schedule. The Iron Turkey is part of the Ann Arbor, Mich. Turkey Trot and it involves running a 10K race at 10:00am followed by a 5K race at 11:30 — two long races with less than an hour for recovery. The weather was cold but pretty ideal. Maybe just slightly too windy, but us runners always complain about something! I opted to wear shorts though a lot of people went with compression tights. I also wore a long sleeve compression top underneath my BMLC singlet, as well as a hat and gloves. Felt like I was back in high school running cross country! Josh advised me to go out really slow for the first mile and pick up the pace gradually and finish strong but leave something in the tank for the second race. I made sure not to line up in the front and when the gun went off I went out at what felt like 6:30 pace. Tons of people shot out like crazy but within a few minutes I was passing lots of them who were already breathing heavily as I was only just starting to warm up! I hit the mile in 6:19 and was shocked at how easy that felt. I accelerated just slightly and was again shocked to hit 2 miles in 12:23. This was going to be one of those days! As the course was a loop in the Hudson Mills Metro Park, I got a lot of support from my wife and BMLC teammates John Voorhees and Mike Dubin who cheered for me at different spots. I remember waving to Bella and Mike as I cruised through the 3 mile mark in 18:22 (5:59 for mile 3!). They thought that was pretty funny. At this point the field was pretty strung out so I would just focus on people who were fading and run as fast but relaxed as possible to real them in. Between miles 3 and 4 I was in no man’s land with two guys very far ahead of me but coming back to me fast. I hit mile 4 in 21:19 (5:57) and I could really see those guys were hurting so I pushed maybe a little harder than I should have (considering I had another race to do) between 4 and 5 to reel them in. Mile 5 was a blazing (for me!) 5:50 as I hit the 5 mile mark in 30:09, besting my Masters 5 mile PR by 6 seconds with one more mile and one more race still to do! My best 8K at Allen Park earlier this year was 30:07 and that also converts to 30:15 so that means I was more or less around 30:00 at 8K in this race. Just after the 5 mile mark I caught the first of the two guys who looked like he was in my age group. He was hurting bad and I knew he was toast. Turned out he was in my age group and finished second in 40-44 to me. The younger guy ahead of me still had something in the tank as I caught up to him with about 800 to go. I passed him but he went with me and we hit the 6 mile mark in 36:01 (5:52 for mile 6). He threw in a hard surge there and if I were just doing the 10K I would have gone with him and tried to outkick him but now I had to employ some strategy like a Tour de France cyclist and save myself for the final stage. I eased back and cruised in at 37:27 for an overall pace of 6:01 per mile. Most impressively I was 29:45 for the 5 miles from mile 2-6.
But now came the interesting part. I was definitely tired though not totally trashed as I didn’t go full throttle in the last half-mile like I would have if this had been my only race. I immediately drank a lot of water, ate a banana got on my sweats and even had half a cup of coffee. I went inside the metro park clubhouse and just tried to stay warm and stretch. About 15 minutes before the race I did some easy strides to try to get the blood flowing again. For the 5K I opted to wear compression tights under my shorts (like Kobe!) as my left calf muscle was kind of tender. It had been bugging me slightly in the second half of the 10K. Again I lined up a little off the front row as the 5K had lots of fast college and high school kids who hadn’t run in the 10K. The gun went off and everyone shot out like a bat out of hell. I tried to run at the same pace I was at in the middle of the 10K and felt pretty good. My body was sore and tired and I was feeling mentally lazy but felt strong in the lungs. I knew this race would be a case of mind over matter! I hit the first mile in 6:04 and that gave me the confidence that I would finish OK. Lots of people who started fast were dying so I had a lot to focus on as I tried to maintain pace. I hit the 2 mile mark in 11:58 (5:54) and still felt good. I didn’t feel like I could blast a 5:40 or anything but felt like I could maintain, which I did. I didn’t catch my split at 3 miles as I was focusing on the finish line and didn’t look at my watch but I kicked it home in 18:28, which means I was probably about 17:50 for 3, which means about 5:52.
After that race I was trash but mentally I felt like a million bucks for running up to my full potential in both races. There was nothing I would have changed about either race. I was especially pleased with how smooth the 10K felt. The 37:27 is a masters PR for 10K as is the 30:09 enroute. This week will be all distance running as I recover from the Iron Turkey and refuel for San Francisco!