Training: Turkey Trot Traffic

Before firing up my Runkeeper, I took a hasty shot of the crowd at the start of the race. They look more relaxed than I was. They must have arrived before dawn.

As you’ve probably noticed in recent weeks, I’ve spent very little time running. While I’ve been going to the gym and to Zumba, I have to admit that my overall workout plan has been subject to a bad case of what I’ve seen referred to by its clinical term, fuckarounditis.

Let’s face it: I need a goal.

So with a week or so to spare before Thanksgiving day, I opted to sign up for the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot. I knew about half a dozen people running the race, so it seemed perfect: a little running, a little schmoozing with my friends, a little bit of a goal to work towards… what more could I want?

I was pretty excited about the race, and even more thrilled when I got to race bib pickup and discovered that the shirts were from Greenlight Apparel. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was. Greenlight makes recycled fair-trade technical tees and donates 25% of the profits to charity. That’s great, but on a more selfish level their shirts are awesome. It’s not one of those situations where the “right” shirt means sacrificing something else in the process. My Greenlight shirt from the Oakland Marathon has the best fit of any I’ve gotten, and is still in great shape even after weekly (or twice weekly) washing. It’s my go-to shirt, the one I dig out of the dryer to wear even when I have a drawer full of other shirts waiting for me, and it’s vastly superior to the race shirt from Nike.

All of that enthusiasm went out the window on race morning. My 5k was scheduled for 8:15 on a drizzly, gray morning. It takes about 30 minutes to get from my house to the race site near the HP Pavilion in downtown San Jose. I woke at 6:15 and was on the highway by 6:35.

It took 1 hour and 9 minutes to get from the start of the traffic to the parking lot. If I'd abandoned my car on the freeway, I could have walked it in less than 10.

At 7:05 AM, I bypassed the massive backup at the 280/87 interchange and decided to take the back roads to the hybrid vehicle parking that was touted as being right by the start of the race. Hey, I used to live downtown. I know my way around. This was going to be a piece of cake. (Famous last words.)

By the time I realized that the Bird Avenue exit was almost as bad as the 280/87 interchange, I was already stuck. I debated going the other way on Bird and taking the long way around, but thought that since traffic moves pretty well on Sharks game nights, this couldn’t be any worse, right?

By the time I was finally approaching Bird Avenue, people were walking and running past my car. Drivers were letting their passengers out on a freeway offramp in the hopes that they’d be able to make it to the starting line for their race.

I was within five minutes of race time, still deep in the line of traffic, and finally decided that there was no way that I was going to find parking in time. I turned right on San Fernando and had every intention of getting back on the freeway and heading home. I passed under the elevated roadway of 87 and saw a security guard waving. Was he waving at me? Was the road closed ahead? I slowed down and opened my window.

“Park here,” he yelled. “Hurry or you’ll miss your race.”

He was my hero. I shot into the parking lot and sprinted to the start as the announcer declared that there was one minute to go until the race began. I started the race completely winded, packed into a crowd of 20,000 and wondering if it was actually possible to run 3.1 miles with a completely full bladder. (Yes, it’s possible.)

My favorite feature of the Greenlight Apparel shirt: the little running figures inside the circuit board design.

How crowded was it? Well, the difference between my chip time and the clock time was nearly 10 minutes, at least two of which were spent in a slow-moving queue just to get to the finish line arch. Yes, there was even traffic to finish the race. It was mind-blowing.

I didn’t push myself. I wasn’t mentally prepared; minutes before I had decided I wasn’t even going to run. It was much too crowded to attempt bobbing and weaving through the runners, walkers and strollers. It was more fun to run when I could, but also slow down to chat with the first timers, the little kids and the person in the full sized chicken costume.

My time was a sort of abysmal 33:33, which would have disappointed me if I’d been really trying. But much to my surprise, I finished in the top 13% of my age bracket. Seriously? I don’t know how that’s possible, but I’m not complaining.

Would I do another turkey trot? Absolutely, but probably not in San Jose… although it is tempting to get another Greenlight Apparel shirt. Maybe next year I can stay overnight with friends so I can run my half-hour race. No, that’s not weird at all….

Looking ahead to this week, on Monday I’m going to embark on a running-related adventure that I’ll be able to share with you in next week’s training diary. Until then, send positive thoughts my way on Monday morning and keep your fingers crossed that I don’t fall flat on my face. Literally.

How was your week? Did you run a turkey trot or other holiday weekend race?

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4 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    Good luck tomorrow — and fuckarounditis isn’t be my favorite thing of the moment. 🙂

  2. Greg O. says:

    Great post. Sorry to say but stress seems to bring out the best stories. Love the diagram with callouts. As I said on Facebook, I recommend choosing less community and opting for smaller, cozier races where it takes only a minute or less to cross the start line after the gun sounds. I’ll never do another Bay to Breakers!

  3. Alisa says:

    Thanks, Jason. I’ll keep you posted.

    Greg, even though I had seen the registration numbers, they didn’t really click. Suddenly I was stopped dead on an offramp, watching runners dash past me, and thinking, “Oh, they said 21,000 runners! Wow, that’s a lot.” Sometimes I’m slow to notice the obvious. I mean, that’s practically Nike Women’s Marathon territory, and you know how happy I was about those crowds.

  4. Nancy says:

    you can sleep at my place next year.

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