Race #153 – Southpark Turkey Trot 8k – Charlotte, NC – 11/24/11

This was our third year in a row to run the Southpark Turkey Trot. It’s part of the Running Journal Grand Prix. If not for that, I’d probably run one of the smaller races on Thanksgiving morning. It’s way too crowded, parking is a little bit of a headache, there are never enough porta potties, and the starting line is a mess. For some reason unknown to me though, it’s probably the second most popular race of the year in Charlotte after Thunder Road. This year there were 4,831 finishers in the 8k alone, and a huge number in the 5k as well although I’m not sure how many. I heard that the site said they had a total of 8,500 registered runners. There are about 20 porta-potties and the lines are so long that if you want to start the race on time you better be able to just hold it in until after the race.

With around 5,000 runners in the 8k you’d think there would be some kind of corral system at the start of the race, but nope, it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves, and I seemed to be in back of several hundred of the slowest ones. Although I was fairly close to the starting line, it took 20 seconds after the gun went off for me to reach the starting line, and then I spent the next couple minutes zigzagging through slow runners just to get into an opening where I could run a straight line.
It was uncharted territory day for me. For the first time since it really mattered, I wasn’t able to use my heart rate monitor. I normally start my Garmin, build up my heart rate to cruising speed, then hold it there throughout the race, usually with good results. As we drove to the race on this morning I reached down to start my Garmin and nothing happened. I hit a variety of buttons to try to reboot it, all to no avail. I finally gave up and took off the watch and the heart monitor strap (I figured I may as well be comfortable) and took it as an opportunity to just guess my way through. I had just read an article on the previous night about how one running coach discouraged the use of all of this technology, and although I didn’t agree with it this was the only option I had for today’s race.

It was a little odd not having to start my watch at the starting line, and I felt a little strange not being able to check my heart status as I ran, but in a way it was liberating to a certain degree. There were mile markers in the race but no clocks along the way and nobody calling out times, so the only way I could gauge my speed was by the speed of the other runners, especially the ones I knew. In the first mile, I caught up with Steve Staley and passed him, then Brenny, then somewhere around the middle of the race I saw William Walker from Winston-Salem, one of the state’s fastest runners in the 60-64 division who is also competing in this year’s Running Journal Grand Prix, and I asked him if he had seen Butch Holt, and he hadn’t. I pulled out ahead of William for a while but he passed me later on and went ahead to catch Butch, who was up ahead, and beat him at the finish line. Around the 3rd mile Louis Anderson caught up with me. I don’t know Louis personally and figured this wasn’t the time to introduce myself but I knew he was in my age group and is a great runner. He was on the state champion cross country team in high school and was runner-up in the mile championship in high school as well and still one of the fastest in our age group. Louis passed me and after a couple minutes I went back past him and didn’t see him for a while, but I had the feeling he was close behind. Sure enough, somewhere around the 4-mile mark Louis passed me and slowly faded off ahead.

In the end, it didn’t matter all that much that one or the other finished ahead of me. I was a little disappointed to finish 7th in the age group but there were 117 in my age group and it was possibly the most competitive local race I’ve been in since I started running. By the way, the winner of my age group (55-59) was Jerry Clark, who blistered the course in 28:57, a new state age group record!

As far as my own results, my chip time of 33:13 (pace 6:41) was an all-time 8k PR for me so I can’t complain about the 7th place finish. Second place in the age group was 31:22 and all of the other top people in the age group were bunched fairly close together after that. I’m not sure how much the difficult start affected me (reaching the starting line and dodging the slow runners in front) or the lack of my heart rate monitor. Maybe if I had started in front and had my HR monitor I could have knocked another minute or so off my time, but we’ll never really know and it’s not a big deal.

The good news is that this fall I’ve managed to get a new Personal Record (PR) in all of the major distances that I normally run: 5k (19:40), 10k (41:44), 8k (33:13), 15k (1:04:47), and half marathon (1:31:57). None of those are going to break any records, but they beat the PR’s I set two years ago and are still fast for the 55-59 age group. In February I’ll be moving to the 60-64 age group and I’m really happy to be running my fastest times at 59. No doubt, at some time I’ll be moving in a different direction with progressively slower times, but after a disappointing year last year I thought that had already happened, so pulling out a better year this year was exciting.

Click Here for Race Results

Click Here for Race Photos from Carolina Snapshot

Race Rating:

9 – 1-10  Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
7 – 1-10  Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10  Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
2 – 1-10  Food for Race Participants (1 to 10) –> Nothing but oranges!
6 – 1-10  T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6   Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5   Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6   Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7   Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
4 – 1-10  Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
3 – 1-10  Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 – 1-10  Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10  Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
0 – 0/5   Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
2 – 1-10  Bathroom Facilities
0-10  Other

TOTAL – 81

My Stats:

Time:  33:13 (chip time)
Pace:  6:41
Age Group:  7 of 117 (6%)
Overall:  161 of 4831 (3.3%)

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