Dec 20, 2010

2010 Rockland Lake Turkey Trot: 49:59

I've done the Rockland Lake Turkey Trot 3 times. All three times, it has been an overcrowded mess.

The main problem, from my perspective, is that people don't line up where they're supposed to. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to hear that the front half of the pack at the start is majority sub-10 minute per mile runners. So, as a 10-minute-per-mile runner, when I start in the back 20% of the pack where I'm supposed to be, well.. it's a problem.

The first mile, which is uphill, is so crowded with walkers that it's downright dangerous. Trying to pass groups of people casually strolling along 5 abreast while I'm trying to stay under 10 minutes per mile is impossible. I did so much zig-zagging in the first mile that I probably actually ran 2 miles.

There are a bunch of problems with this race, but this is what infuriates me the most. This has been a problem all three years I've run the race.

If I had it to do over again, I would have much preferred to do that Thanksgiving half or full marathon at Van Cortlandt. Maybe next year.


The Rockland Lake Turkey Trot is a 5-mile race with rolling hills in the first two miles and a completely flat final three miles. It is by far the largest race in Rockland County, probably with five times more participants than its nearest peer. In each year I have run it, my goal has been to finish in under 50 minutes - maintain a sub-ten minute per mile pace.

Because this is such a popular race, it is necessary to get to the start very early. The massive parking lot at the north end of the lake nearly fills up, and they set up the course so that the starting line blocks the entrance to the parking lot. (???) So for the last 15 minutes before the start, people can't park. They highly encourage packet pick-up ahead of time, so there was nothing to do after arriving but hang out and wait for the start. The company I work for paid the entry fees for fifteen of us to run it, so having friends to hang out with was not a problem. In fact, if not for the freezing temperatures, it would have been quite pleasant.

Team dressbarn waiting for the start. Photo by Carl Cox.

The first mile of this race was, as always, stupid. I won't belabor the point here; I already mentioned what the first mile is like. I'll just say it sucked. Time for this mile was 10:27.

1/4 mile in, smiling for the camera, but otherwise unhappy weaving through the crowd. Photo by Carl Cox
The second mile is still very crowded and frustrating, but only stupid-crowded on the uphills. I was otherwise finally able to get into a bit of a rhythm. Time: 9:53.

By the third mile, the crowd has thinned out enough that I don't have to weave everywhere trying to pass people. We start this mile coming off a long gradual down hill into flat, so I was cruising. This was my fastest mile: 9:43.

Mile four was where I started questioning my pace, wondering if I'll be able to maintain it through mile 5. I was staring to feel very uncomfortable. But since the first mile was so damned stupid, and I knew that I definitely wouldn't break 50 minutes if I slowed down, I decided to keep pushing, risking a crash-and-burn in mile 5. However, looking at the split (9:59), I must have eased off a little bit. I had to pick it up again in the fifth mile.

As a result, mile five was the crux of this race for me. Doing the math in my head, I had to really push the pace to have a hope of clearing 50 minutes. Gone was the normal sense of euphoria that the finish line was soon approaching, this was all about survival. I thus ran 9:46 in this mile, my second-fastest.

And my final time: 49:59.

I am pleased that I managed to break 50 minutes this year, because I honestly didn't think I'd be able to. However, in the grand scheme of things, I am disappointed that this is the worst time I've had in this race. My fastest time was in 2008, 5 days after the JFK 50 miler, was 48:34. In 2009 I ran 49:47. And in 2010: 49:59. This is trending the wrong way!

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