Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Plateau (And Ann Arbor Turkey Trot Race Report)

Results and Requisite Overanalysis

I ran a 5K Saturday.  It was my fall benchmarking race: the Ann Arbor Turkey Trot at Hudson Mills.  This race, and the Race for Your Memories in the spring, are races that I have done every year 2010, 2011, and 2012, and so I use them to measure year over year progress on the same course.  Of course the weather conditions aren't always the same, nor is my condition (illness, training, marathon recovering, etc.).  Unfortunately, this year at Saturday's race is the first time I failed to improve on a benchmark race time over the previous year.  :(   Here's the "benchmark" data from the past 3 years at those two races:

Race for Your Memories (May)34:5226:2726:13
AA Turkey Trot (Nov)26:3625:0725:28

So I'm kind of ambivalent about the race results.  I was afraid that this race was going to be a disaster (like 8:30-9:00 pace maybe?), so I'm happy that it was in the same ballpark as my 5Ks have been over the past year, without significant slowing.  On the other hand, I was hoping (albeit foolishly) for some kind of breakthrough, perhaps due to the high mileage of marathon training, and those two months of consistent speed workouts I did prior to the marathon, but clearly that didn't happen either.  I updated my 5K results plot with all the 5Ks that I have results for.  (It looks like I PR'ed my first 5K ever, but that's isn't true, I just don't have results for the ones I did before that.  But yes, that stupid 5K PR from 2005 is still standing.  Grrr.) 

Since November of last year, it looks like I've hit a plateau.  My 5K times haven't improved.  Same for my half marathon times.  Same since October 2011.  (Technically worse, but ballpark, like the 5K, so I'm just calling it noise).  I don't really have anything else to say about it.  It was fun to be improving at every race at first, but it had to end sometime.  From now on I'll just have to work hard for small gains.  I will be 7:xx pace 5K-er eventually :)

I do believe I could have done better at this race.  I made the mistake of wearing my Garmin and checking it pretty frequently.  I held back during mile 1 and 2 and then during mile 3 when it became more of a struggle and I slowed down I got discouraged at the 8:09 pace I was seeing.  Still, I thought I had a chance at a PR based on the lap average paces I was seeing (I need 7:59).  At the end of the race though my Garmin reported 8:03 per mile average, (25:29 over a total distance of 3.17 miles.)  That extra 0.07 made a big difference though, and my chip time average pace ended up at 8:12 per mile. 

I made a stupid mistake.  I learned long ago not to waste my time looking at instantaneous pace data, so I had access to my overall average pace, as well as my average pace for the current mile.  My mistake was to think that that was accurate.  I forgot about the distance discrepancy.  (From some combination of GPS error and not "running the tangents" perfectly).  Next time, I'll leave the GPS off and just use the watch like a regular stopwatch, using the mile markers on the course to mark the splits.  If I wear it all.  I always do better without it.  Always.  I never learn.  
Race Review 

As for the race itself, I'm kind of ambivalent about that too.  My benchmark races weren't "selected", they just happened to be the ones I made it to two years in a row, so I decided to keep it going for a third year, and going forward after this year hopefully.

  • The course is pretty, and relatively flat.  (It is on a bike path through the wooded metropark).   
  • They have pace signs at the start and people around me have lined up really well every year that I've gone, so I've not had to dodge and weave and pass slower runners (or be passed by faster runners).  Take a hint from them Running Fit, at your Super 5K coming up in a couple months.  (The Super 5K start last year didn't have pace signs and was a huge clusterf**k).  Such a simple thing to do, and it makes a phenomenal difference.  Without the signs, this race would have a huge mark in the con column, because the race is on a narrow bike path, so lining up appropriately is absolutely critical.  I was surprised at how fast I could run right from the start, even though there was a much larger turnout than last year.
  • Guaranteed T-shirt to all participants, even late registrants.  I've heard a lot of people complaining about them not having enough T-shirts and medals, but I'm with the race people on this one.  They are ordering more shirts and allowing people to pick them up when they're ready, or they will mail them.  I much prefer this to the races where they say "guaranteed T-shirts to the first 500 registrants" and "guaranteed medals to the first 500 finishers", and the rest of us are SOL.  I was a late registrant at this race, and they were out of Medium T-shirts at the end of the race, so I don't have mine yet, but I'm sure I will get it.  I picked mine up last year at Tortoise & Hare a couple weeks after the race.  I don't blame them for not wanting to overorder Tshirts and medals in advance and have a bunch leftover.  How could they predict it if 500 more people register race weekend?
  • I love the Iron Turkey shirts (long-sleeved cotton tees are my favorite for everyday wear), and the fact that they get a medal.  Unfortunately, I was once again unable to do the Iron Turkey, but I look forward to getting one of those shirts and medals one of these years!  (I've only done the 5K each of the three years I was there.).   
  • Food.  The post race spread was good.  Lots of cookies, muffins, bagels, rice krispy treats, bananas, apples, packs of nuts, etc.
  • Cost.  I was a late registrant, so it's largely my fault, but the 5K was $32.  Which is the same price as the 10K.  It would have been $26 if I had registered early.  I guess maybe it's not that bad, but I've been doing smaller 5Ks I guess and it seems like it's been awhile since I've paid over $30 for a 5K.  Or maybe I just don't remember.  Plus, I had to pay an extra $5 on top of that to park at the Metropark, bringing it to $37.  It would have been $59+$5 for the Iron Turkey race weekend, and that was part of the reason I decided against doing it. The largest part was because I had to work night shift that night though.  And 9 miles is more than I had planned for this week. 
  • The 5K Tshirts are white cotton.  My least favorite.  (At least I think they're white, I haven't gotten mine yet).  Last year they were dark yellow and I liked that a lot better.   
  • Packet pickup.  Packet pickup and late registration this year were at Conor O'Neill's, 2-6pm on a Friday.  Worst idea ever.  That's a bar/restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor on Main Street on a Friday during happy hour.  There is no parking and the space they had a Conor's was awkward to move around in.  Last year it was at Tortoise & Hare, which was great.  For one thing it was very close to my house. There was also plenty of parking, and they let you buy your metropark pass there, which we couldn't do this year. 
  • Crowding.  I got to the race about an hour before the start, and the parking lot was already filling up.  The start line is very crowded.  As I said, they handled it pretty well, but if the race continues to grow, it will definitely become more of a problem.  


  1. I'm thinking about switching over the AA for my Turkey Trot fix next year, or maybe the year after if I do the low-key Flint one next year. Despite how wonderful it is, Detroit's become way too bloated for my sanity, and it's just too much of a pain if you're only going to the race.

    1. Yeah I've never done Detroit and probably never will. There's this one, which is a week or 2 before Thanksgiving, and also one on Thanksgiving Day in Ann Arbor too (www.theturkeytrot.com). Both are pretty well done. For a PR, the Hudson Mills one is probably a better bet (flatter, and they line up by paces at the start). The North Campus Thanksgiving day one has a big hill at the end and is a pretty slow start unless you line up at the front.


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