I'm a bit late on this report, much like I was a bit late to the finish line, but I got there eventually and so in the same delayed fashion, here comes the race report.
This would be my fifth running of the Fort Collins Turkey Day race, and my fifth straight attempt at a course and distance PR. When I first ran the race in 2008, shortly after moving to 5,000 feet from New York City, I registered something in the 23:30 range. That was subsequently chopped over the years to 21:36, a mark I surprised myself with last year. My fitness this year was not looking good for a sub 5:24 pace, but I was still prepared to give it a go. With the fast course, good weather and always stiff competition, there was a chance I could pull off another surprise performance.
I ran the course with Slush to warm up an hour before the race and then did some strider-type things to get myself in the mood, before toeing the line waiting for the dreaded gun. These events are tough for guys who like to jog all day, but at least the pain would be over quickly.
As always, I ran the first half mile way too hard, before dropping into a pace that actually allowed me to breath. As I dropped into a more sustainable pace, the ladies started pouring by me. Brianne Nelson and Nuta Olaru were looking strong in first and second as we went by the one-mile marker in 5:28. Two or three more ladies went by me in the second mile, and I couldn't figure if I was slowing horrendously or if they were just ratcheting the pace, but my gut told me that the former was probably more likely the case. By the two-mile marker I was running with Steve Folkerts and Ragan Driver, both accomplished runners when fit, so I figured things were alright. But then the second mile popped at 5:43 and I pretty much gave up on any time goals, refocusing instead on staying with or ahead of Folkerts and Ragan.
By the time we turned onto Mountain Ave for the mile and a half to the finish, I started pulling ahead of Ragan and Steve while trying to bridge to the ladies in fourth, fifth and sixth. Discouragingly, however, the third mile came in at 5:50. I contemplated just jogging it in, but I was still in a race with a few people around me, so I managed to convince myself to keep the pace honest if for no othe reason that to get things over with quickly. Position-wise, I was somewhere in the 40s and 50s, but there was still some guy who wanted to race with a half mile to go. He'd surge, fade, surge as I caught up and then fade again. For some reason I found this pattern annoying, so I let him get on with it by slowing my pace on one of his surges so I wouldn't get committed to a sprint for 40-something place on the final straightaway to the finish.
The final mile came in at 5:31, but as it turned out the third mile was long and the fourth short, so the last two splits were probably more in the 5:40, 41 range. Despite my lackluster personal performance (22:32), it was still a great celebration of running in the local community, with a good percentage of the region's best road runners competing alongside some 3,000 others who were out enjoying the morning.