The Plucked Turkey 10K

As I waited in the restroom line in the Golden Springs rec center, the only hint that I was about to run a race in Alabama came from this overheard snippet of conversation:

“Hey, you fixin’ to run fast?”

“Naw, I ain’t been running at all.”

“How come?”

“It’s hunting season!”

Other than that clue, this could have been any small race in AnySmallTown, USA.

An hour earlier, Laura and I sped along curvy, country, mountainous roads through the Cheaha State Park.  Nothing makes a couple of runners more nervous than driving on mountainous terrain near a race they’ve never run.  The closer we got to Anniston, the hillier the area, and the more and more trepidatious we became.

According to Wikipedia, Anniston’s population is a little over 23,000.  According to their web site, the Anniston Runners have over 630 members.  The little city apparently has a vibrant running community led by the Anniston Runners who annually put on a Thanksgiving morning race, the Plucked Turkey 10K,  the only race within an hour’s drive of my sister and with a very affordable $10 registration.  Sold – I signed us up.

After a few missed turns and a stop at a gas station to ask for directions, we eventually found the rec center.  We made our way to the gym to pick up our packets.  One of the ladies manning the registration table handed us each a pair of Anniston Runners running socks.  I asked, “Where do we get our bibs?” and she answered, “There are no bibs.  You’ll get a card with your place on it when you finish.”  No bibs, no chips, no age group awards – old school.

We both wore Charlotte Running Club singlets which virtually made us celebrities.  “Charlotte?  North Carolina?” I was asked more than once, and when I answered affirmatively, I was treated like royalty.  “Thanks so much for coming out!  Glad y’all could join us!”  Southern hospitality, runner style.

Our Charlotte Running Club singlets garnered us a good bit of attention and helped us meet some Anniston Runners.

When 8:00 a.m. arrived, we lined up at the start.  I chatted with a guy wearing a burgundy pair of Karhus – I was a little surprised to spot a pair of these in a tiny race in Alabama.  The race director announced that there were some six states represented and proceeded to name them.  When she got to North Carolina, several runners turned to us and winked and smiled.

Karhu guy, Dennis, and I continued to talk as the race director yelled “Go!” and we kept talking for the first few hundred meters.  Then I surged ahead a little and Laura came with me.

I hadn’t run a step since last Saturday’s Thunder Road half marathon.  The day before the race I had stumbled on a rock in McAlpine Park and hurt my left foot.  By Sunday, it hurt badly enough to cause me to limp, and on Monday it was worse.  Wednesday, I went to see a doctor to make sure there was nothing serious, and he guessed I had some bruised cartilage and nothing more – he cleared me to race on Thursday.

So I started out a little tentatively, testing out the foot some.  When I didn’t feel any significant pain, I took off, speeding ahead of Laura a few meters.  I felt great through the first 2, mostly flat to downhill, albeit a little rolling, miles.

But mile 3 started climbing.  The hill didn’t look like much, but it was one of those false flat hills – I deduced this when my heart rate accelerated while my pace slowed, to 202 and about 8:00/mile respectively.  Ouch, very ouch.  I started sucking wind hard as I was forced to back off before my heart exploded.

I took my assigned seat on the pain train as we crested the hill.  My pace rose drastically so I waited for runners to start passing me.  I knew it was inevitable because while my heart was on the verge of exploding, I heard runners behind me casually carrying on a conversation.  They’d be passing me momentarily.  And they did.

Now I was struggling mightily so I expected Laura to come by soon.  And she did.  As she passed, she asked me if I was okay.  I tried to answer but I could barely breathe so something unintelligible came out.  “You’re hurt?” she asked.  “No, just hurting.”  Then she proceeded to drop me.  Quickly.  Like a vampire-dropping-a-cross-dipped-in-garlic-juice quickly.  I tried to hang on, but she gapped me.  I watched the “Run like a girl” on her running skirt get smaller and smaller and smaller.

The course was a tough one, hilly with a lot of turns.  I surged on the downhills and flats.  I hung on for dear life up the hills.  By the time we started mile 5, she must have had a hundred meters on me.  I felt like I was downright sprinting on flats and downs, and I would make up some ground, but Laura gained most of it back on the uphills.

As we turned onto the final straightaway, we had a quarter of a mile stretch to go and I knew there was no catching her.  I tried to kick, out of sheer pride.  But she bested me handily, by 12 seconds according to our respective Garmins (we’re patiently awaiting official results).

Laura was the second overall woman and won a cherry pie (which would be nothing but a distant memory by Friday).  Post-race, we met and talked with a lot of the local runners, like my Karhu pal Dennis, all of whom were super nice to us and enthusiastically invited us back.  Well, all of them except the third place woman who joked, “Don’t come back next year!”

Laura with her second place cherry pie.

Laura and me (we’re in the middle, in case you didn’t figure it out) with our new Anniston Runners friends, including Karhu Dennis on Laura’s right.

On Friday, while running in Lineville Park, we spotted this rarest of sights – two turduckens, having miraculously survived Thanksgiving, coming out of hiding to celebrate their good fortune.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first Anniston Runners Plucked Turkey 10K.  Maybe it will be the first of many.

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2 Responses to “The Plucked Turkey 10K”

  1. Megan Williams Says:

    So happy you guys enjoyed it! I expect to see you all next year as well 🙂 I told my runner friend from Charlotte (Michael Suits) about you all, so hopefully he’ll get his butt to a race soon and mingle!

  2. Mark Says:

    Here are the results if you’ve not seen them yet. http://www.annistonrunners.com/uploadedFiles/File/2012_Plucked_Turkey_10K_Results.pdf

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