It’s race week! Well, not Houston Marathon Week, but we are racing on Thursday morning at one of the larger local events of the year here in Austin – the Thundercloud Subs Turkey Trot 5-miler (8K). The race has been run in Austin every year since 1991, 22 years and counting. It is a race where just about everyone who is a member of the running community in Austin is out to battle some monster hills before settling in for a day of overindulging and Football.
For a variety of circumstances, travel, training, recovering from NYC Marathon I have never had the opportunity to compete in the Turkey Trot – but this year everything seems to have worked out perfectly including race day falling during a cut-back week in my Houston Training. After consecutive hard weeks pushing my weekly mileage to 67 and then 70 miles it was time for me to cut back the volume, recover a bit and then push even further over the next two weeks.
After 21 tough miles on Sunday I am taking a rare luxury during marathon training – two consecutive days off, then a short shake-out run tomorrow morning in my marathon race shoes that we will be making their maiden voyage at the Turkey Trot and we will be ready to race hard on Thursday.
The 8K distance is a unique one where it is of course just about 2 miles longer than a 5K where the approach is to simply hammer away from the gun to the tape essentially at lactate threshold for the entire race, hanging on by a thread to the finish. You can’t go all out in the 5-miler, it is very similar to the approach for the 10K or 6.2 mile race where a solid start, strong middle and finishing kick are the recipe for success.
The Thundercloud course complicates things even further as it packs in some of the steepest climbs on our downtown race courses into just 5 miles. The course starts on the 1st Street Bridge and after only 400 meters or so heads straight up Lavaca to 15th street. 15 blocks of steady climbing.
A left turn on Enfield (15th) – takes runners up and down the steep hills featured on the Austin Half-Marathon Course. Some of the steepest hills in the city both up and down.
Then a downhill stretch along the frontage road of loop one before runners make the left turn onto Cesar Chavez and finish the race much like the Run for the Water 10-miler with a bit of a twist. Instead of finishing on the bridge the runners must run the length of the 1st street bridge, then make a hard right turn onto Auditorium Shores and finish in front of the Long Center. The same finish line for the SI Labs Marathon relay or the Austin Triathlon.
The course covers roads that I have traveled numerous times, cobbling together parts of the Austin Marathon, Austin half-Marathon, Run for the Water and SI Labs Marathon Relay – but never all in one race. I have a loose game-plan for Thursday rolling around in my head right now – but like any first time race I am going to have to run this one by feel for the most part and lock in with a group of runners that I feel are of similar talent.
We typically fare well on hilly courses and with the temperature climbing over the next two days – estimated at 65 degrees at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday for the later race start, it is not going to be an “easy” day out there. I like where we are right now however from a training perspective. I am not sure that we will lay down a “low time” on Thursday, sub 30 minutes or anything like that. But compared to other runners in our age group – I expect to perform well.
Thursday is one of my favorite days of the year. I already have the stuffing ready to go, the meatballs and escarole cooked for the Italian Wedding Soup and all that is left is the turkey, mashed potatoes, mushrooms and cranberry sauce. We are going to start the day with a great event, and with a couple of days off this week to prepare, we should be able to put together a solid effort.
This is going to serve as our first test of the training cycle to evaluate things and see if we have our speed and endurance where we want them to be on the road to Houston and our attempt at punching through that 3 hour marathon barrier. Test #2 will come on December 7th on a Friday night running in the Lights of Love 5K for the Ronald McDonald house. 18:15-18:20 will be the magic number there.
The final test will be a week later at the Shiner Beer Run Half-Marathon where if the course measures correctly in the first running of the event, we will be gunning for something around 1:24:15-1:24:30.
If we are able to hit those marks we will be ready to rumble down in Houston.
Three races to serve as strong indicators as to our readiness for battle on January 13th. It all starts on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.