Tag Archives: Westfield Turkey Trot

Race Recap: Westfield 5 Mile Turkey Trot

On Saturday, I ran the Westfield Turkey Trot 5-miler for the third time, managed to not freeze, and scored a PR!

Since I wasn’t a runner growing up, even though my hometown puts on quite a few road races, I didn’t start participating in them until I was 23. I remember being envious of the people that did run, but I was busy doing lap after lap in a pool with a coach who could somehow build you up, knock you down, make you laugh, and make you cry all in one fell swoop. But I digress…

Even though this is a “turkey trot” it doesn’t take place until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Thankfully the weather was slightly warmer than it was on Thursday, and with a start time of 11:15am I was in much better shape than anyone who ran a turkey trot on Thanksgiving. But don’t be fooled – I was still freezing before the race. I left my parent’s house about an hour before the start, and stayed in the car until 15 minutes before gun time. My mom was kind enough to walk with me to the starting line, so I was able to shed my extra layers (a pair of pants, a track jacket, and my dad’s fleece) right before starting.

First lap in the park!

First lap in the park!

While there aren’t any corrals or pace groups, they did have signs for approximate paces by the start line, so people could (in theory) line up accordingly. I happened to be standing right where they marked 7 minute miles, and decided not to move. An older gentleman jokingly said, “I don’t think all of these people in front of us are going to run 6 minute miles…” to which I replied, “they won’t.” I used to get annoyed at the people who just wanted to be up front, but I’ve learned to just not care. Most people that don’t belong up front are out of the way quickly enough, and 5 miles is plenty of time to not have to worry about weaving much. The race starts with a loop in the park to get you just over a mile before heading out onto residential roads (that I know like the back of my hand) for 3-ish miles before coming back into the park for the last half mile. It’s a pretty flat course (except for a slight incline in the park), and the roads are wide enough that it never really feels crowded. Basically, it’s a very PR friendly course.

I'm always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?

I’m always the one calling out to people cheering for me. Am I that hard to spot?

I didn’t really have a plan going into the race, and my only goal was to beat last years’ time (37:34). I figured if I was able to throw down a 7:20 for my first mile and hang on, that would be good enough. My first mile was a 7:20 (by miracle more than by perfect execution), but it felt too easy. I didn’t want to push the pace too much, but knew I was capable of a lot more. So the next mile, I clocked a 7:16. During the third mile I saw my good friend’s boyfriend who was running, and we chatted and ran together for about a quarter mile before I decided it was time to try and pick up the pace a little more. I ran the third mile in 7:13, and in the process, beat my current 5k PR. I couldn’t help but laugh, since the exact same thing happened to me when I ran the race last year. I know I’m capable of a lot more as a runner, but seem to never be able to get my shit together long enough to actually make it happen. By this point I knew unless I had an accident, a PR was likely; I just had to fight through the last 2 miles. Mile 4 came quickly in 7:07, and I passed a few high school girls who looked like they were moments from tripping one another in an effort to make it to the finish first. The last quarter mile of the race is downhill, so I knew to push it enough the first three quarters and the hill would carry me home. I don’t know how, but I managed to clock a 6:56 for the last mile, and get passed by those two high school girls throwing elbows in the process. My official finish time was 35:58, a 7:11 average. Miraculously my watch had me only one second slower and one tenth of a mile further – talk about exceptional tangent work!

With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.

With all this Vitamin C I better not get sick.

As it turns out, my time was good enough for second place in my age group (22nd female overall). This was by far the highest I’ve ever finished at this particular race (Westfield seems to have a lot of graduates that come back to race that are speedy), and I got a cute little scarecrow and a box of Emergen-C (?!) for my efforts. My cat has already tried to eat the scarecrow multiple times.

Buds since '98 (at least)

Buds since ’97 (with my dad creeping in the background)

After I finished I met up with my good friend Kir, who is so speedy she could run laps around me. She doesn’t like to brag, but let’s just say that her marathon pace is significantly faster than the pace I ran the 5 miler. We’ve known each other since middle school when we were both avid swimmers. It never ceases to amaze me that I somehow went from being a swimmer (a sprinter, no less) to a distance runner. The thought of racing for more than a minute in the pool used to elicit whines and eye rolls from me; yet here I am running for hours at a time. Go figure.

This was an awesome way to finish up 2013 in terms of running – I managed to somehow PR every distance I raced except for the 4 mile and marathon distances… But I’ll be coming for them (big time) in 2014!

Did you Turkey Trot this past week/weekend? 
Do you like Holiday-themed races?

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Hometown Trotting

When I was sitting down to write up my race recap of Saturday’s Turkey Trot, looking back on the last few races I’ve run, I realized something interesting. In the last 49-ish days I’ve run four races (Chicago marathon, Beerfest 5k, Giralda Farms 10k, and this 5 miler), and somehow I’ve managed to PR each of them. I think I’m finally at a point in my running career where I’m comfortable racing more frequently, and my training is consistent. I’m really excited for what this could potentially mean for my marathon time… assuming I keep myself healthy!

But back to the race! On Saturday I ran my second 5 miler, the Westfield Turkey Trot. I ran this race back in 2010 in 39:40, right before I was sidelined with shin splits when I was just starting to get serious about running; and then I didn’t run last year since the race fell only a week after the Philly marathon and I was still hobbling. My goals for the race were simple – beat my 2010 time. To be more specific, I was hoping to keep a 7:40 average since I ran a 10k two weeks ago  on a challenging course with a  7:47 pace.

The weather all week was great – sunny and low 50’s is my kind of running weather. Of course when I woke up on Saturday, it was overcast and windy. While the forecast had predicted cooler temperatures and some wind, it left out one very important detail… snow flurries! As we lined up to start the race so did the flurries, but thankfully it never started to snow. After some detailed instructions from the race coordinators, we were off! Since I didn’t forget my watch this time, I was able to keep my pace much slower than what my body wanted to run. My favorite part about this race is that not only is it a pretty flat course, but I know every single street we run down, and we actually pass some of my friend’s parent’s houses on the way.

The entire first mile is run within the park, and once you’re in the neighborhood there are a lot of turns which help keep you distracted. By the time we hit the 3 mile mark, I was still pretty comfortable (unlike my last 10k), and decided it was time to steadily pick up the pace. Since I was keeping track of my pace pretty consistently, I knew that a PR was definite, and if I pushed it, I’d be able to come in with a low 38. As we turned into the park for our final lap (which I welcomed as a downhill, since most races seem to finish uphill), I gave it all I could and finished in 37:34! That works out to a 7:30 average, which I couldn’t be happier with. It was good enough for 7th in my age group (25-29), and as I looked at the results, I realized it would have been good enough for 7th in the 20-24, 30-34, and 35-39 age groups too. Talk about consistency!

After the race I enjoyed some Starbucks, a trip to Trader Joe’s, and a giant Chipotle burrito bowl for dinner. You didn’t think I would skip out on any of those being within blocks of each other in my hometown, did you?! The day ended with Christmas decorating, as it’s now socially acceptable to talk about the Holidays. As we were decorating, I pulled out an ornament I was given at my company’s Holiday party back in 2009 that boasted “most likely to run an Olympic marathon.”

I remember laughing when they gave it to me – I hadn’t even run my first half marathon yet! Little did I know a mere two years later I’d have three marathons under my belt, and be getting ready for my fourth. While the Olympic part is still pretty funny, it is a confidence boost to think about how far I’ve come in such a short period. Now if only I could get my marathon under 4 hours… hopefully 2013 can bring me that! I have my eye on quite a few races in early 2013, but haven’t committed to anything except for 2 half marathons (a week apart, oops) so far. I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ve ended the 2012 racing season on a high note!

Do you have any races left in 2012?
Any big racing plans for 2013? 

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Mexican Stuffed Peppers

This past weekend was filled with homework and Christmas decorating. Since I’ve managed to hurt myself again (hello shin splints), I haven’t run since last Sunday’s Turkey Trot. This sideline is only partially welcomed because it’s the end of the semester so I have a few projects that I’m trying to finish up. Other than that, though, I’ve been eager to get back out and run since I just got a new pair of running tights, compression socks, AND a rolling stick! I’m hoping at some point later this week I can get back out there, since the Disney Half Marathon is only a month away.

As I mentioned, Saturday was full of homework and Christmas decorations. Since we go grocery shopping on Sundays, food was scarce, and it left me hungry. Thankfully I was able to make up for it on Sunday.

We started the day at our favorite breakfast spot, Le Peep, where I ordered my typical breakfast burrito. This thing is massive, as it’s stuffed with beans, cheese, salsa, onions, peppers, eggs, and your choice of meat (I went no-meat). It’s then topped with more cheese and chili (no chili for me!) and served along side their famous “peasant potatoes” which are unbelievably delicious home fries. We then headed over to the grocery store to stock up for the week, and I got back to my homework. The fiancé took some time to do a little window shopping for where we want to go on our honeymoon, and we have no idea. All we know is that we want to go somewhere warm and tropical-like, and we don’t have the intention of doing much aside from laying around pool/beachside and eating delicious food. So, if anyone has any suggestions I would gladly welcome them! But keep in mind, we’re getting married in September, and that unfortunately is hurricane season for most of the Caribbean.

For dinner, I decided to make Mexican Stuffed Peppers. Growing up we had stuffed peppers with ground beef, rice, tomato sauce, and sauteed onions frequently. Since I’ve tried to commit myself to really not eating meat, I opted for a vegetarian friendly version, with a Mexican twist, of course. I was inspired by Abby’s Don’t Unstuff These Peppers and decided to make my own! And let me tell you – they were delicious. The perfect amount of spice (for me), the semi-crunch of the cooked green peppers, and everything else I love about Mexican and Southwestern styled food (onions, black beans, corn, etc.). They’re also surprisingly filling. I had it with my usual side salad and was pleasantly satisfied. I wound up making four, so the fiancé and I had ourselves a pretty sweet lunch lined up for Monday, too!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers
– Serves 4 –

Ingredients:
4 medium sized green peppers
1 small yellow onion
1 cup white rice
3/4 can of black beans (of a 14 oz can)
1 4.5 oz can of sweet corn
1/2 cup chunky salsa
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp Adobo
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Cook rice according to package instructions.
3. Wash green peppers, leaving them a little damp (the moisture will help them get soft when they bake)
4. Dice onion and sauté in a heated pan with the 2 Tbsp of oil until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add spices and sauté for an additional 3-5 minutes
5. Add black beans and corn to onion mixture, followed by rice once it’s completely cooked, and cook for about 5 minutes
6. While the mixture is cooking, slice the tops of the green peppers, and remove the seeds and core
7. Once the bean, corn, and rice mixture is warm all over, mix in salsa, making sure to coat everything
8. Using a spoon, transfer the mixture into each pepper filling to the top
9. Place the peppers in a sprayed casserole dish, and bake for 25-30 minutes until peppers are soft and filling is heated through

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Our Second Thanksgiving

This was the second year in a row that my fiancé and I decided to host Thanksgiving for both our families. We figured it was the easiest way to make sure we could see everyone, and also avoid the whole traveling thing. Plus, since I like cooking, I certainly don’t mind! Last year I enlisted the help of my mom to prepare the turkey and stuffing the day before. This year, though, I decided to be a big girl and do it all on my own.

Our menu was as follows:
– Bruschetta
– Cheese & crackers
– Shrimp Cocktail
– Turkey
– Stuffing with sausage, onion, and celery
– Broccoli casserole
– Cornbread
– Mashed Potatoes
– Mashed Turnips
– Corn
– Cranberry sauce
– Pumpkin Pie
– Apple Pie

Our original plan was to have everyone over around 2pm, with a 3pm eat time. Well, I underestimated the time Ralph (what we named our Turkey – last year it was Charlie) took to cook, so we didn’t eat until about 4:30/5pm. Since we had plenty to munch on and a plethora of beers and wine to chose from, no one seemed to mind. Everything was absolutely delicious, but without the help of both my mom and my fiancé’s mom, it would have been much more stressful.

On Wednesday night we took the time to clean and prepare Ralph, and also make the stuffing. Our turkey was 18.5lbs, so in order to make the stuffing with some left over, I did the following:

Semi-homemade Stuffing
– enough to fill an 18+ lb turkey –

Ingredients:
2 bags Arnold’s herb seasoned cubed dry stuffing

1 onion
3 stalks of celery
1 roll of pork sausage
water (according to Arnold package)
butter (according to Arnold package)

Directions:
1. Chop onions and celery, sautée until almost translucent with about 1 tbsp of butter. Then add sausage, cook until browned.
2. Slowly add stuffing mix, butter, and water, combining along the way until moist and all combined (about 15-20 minutes).
3. If making day-of, once cooled, stuff turkey. If making ahead of time, set in refrigerator until cooled, then stuff accordingly.

I also made the broccoli casserole ahead of time, with the exception of the crust. This recipe actually came from a co-worker who made it during our company Thanksgiving a week earlier. It was so simple and delicious, I thought it would be a nice trade for the typical green bean casserole (though I love that as well). It isn’t the healthiest, but boy is it good.

Broccoli Casserole
– Serves 8-10 –

Ingredients:
1 package Velveta
4 boxes of frozen chopped broccoli (or 2 bags)
40 Salteen crackers (non-salted)
1 stick of butter

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Cook broccoli according to package, saving water when done.
4. Melt 3/4 stick of butter (reserve remaining 1/4 stick for topping)
5. In sauce pot, melt cheese with already melted butter, adding 1/2 cup of leftover broccoli water. Stir constantly until melted.
6. Pour cheese mixture over broccoli, mixing well, add to greased casserole dish.
7. Crumble crackers, melt remaining butter in small sauce pan, adding crumbled crackers. Sauté until butter has coated crackers – be sure not to burn. Sprinkle on top of casserole.
8. Bake 30 minutes, let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday morning involved last minute cleaning, and general preparations. We had to make sure the cheese and crackers (with Hormel pepperoni!) was out, our Magic Hat, Dogfish Head, and Saranac beers were cool, and our Cupcake Vineyards wine was ready to go.

My fiancé’s mom was kind enough to make us her amazing bruschetta (it has huge chunks of tomato and garlic – yum!). She also prepared a huge shrimp cocktail, corn, made delicious corn bread, and gave us the ingredients for making mashed potatoes. My mom took care of her favorites – mashed turnips and delicious cranberry sauce. She also made an apple and pumpkin pie, which at quick glance looked store-bought! We certainly ate well on Thursday, that’s for sure.

Friday evening was Thanksgiving round 2 at my parent’s house. Any year that my family doesn’t have Thanksgiving at home, my mom insists on making her own turkey with all the fixings so she can have leftovers herself. So, we headed over to assist in the devouring of their “measly” 12 pound turkey. After having a Thanksgiving dinner two days in a row, I was unsure how I’d manage to finish the 5 mile Turkey Trot I was signed up for on Saturday.

While it was beautiful outside when looking out the window, gusty winds and a cool temperature made standing around pre-race no fun. Since the race started at 11am, I was thankful the sun was shining. However, I didn’t hand over my jacket until the last possible moment. Unlike your typical Turkey Trots, this particular race was a 5-miler in my hometown that both starts and ends at a nearby park. Once we got started I didn’t mind the cold, but there were points where the wind was blowing directly in my face, making it difficult to breathe. I’ve found that the hardest part about cold weather running, for me, is breathing through all the mucus (gross, I know). I spent a decent part of this race trying to prevent myself from choking. At any rate, I finished in 39:40, a solid 7:56 minute/mile pace (fastest race pace ever!) and was 6th in my age group, 43rd woman, and 206 overall! There were a total of 843 runners. My wonderful fiancé came in 3rd in his age group, 46th man, and 53rd overall. A friend of mine from high school also ran, who is super fast (hello 3:08 marathon!) and was the 2nd female overall, and of course the winner of our age group! Afterwards we rewarded ourselves with bagels, and had Thai for dinner – an overall successful day!

I think it’s safe to say my mini-four day vacation was a complete success. We finished everything off on Sunday with another chilly 8-miler, and some leftover turkey and cheese quesadillas. I’m looking forward to whipping up some interesting recipes with the leftovers throughout the week!

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