Sunday, July 5, 2015

Firecracker 4 Race Recap

Aaahhhh, the 4th of July.  A time for barbecues, fireworks, and, in my case a last minute decision to race.  All last week my email inbox was being flooded with reminders that there were two racing options in the area on the 4th.  Wisconsin Trail Assail was offering a 5k trail race and the Badgerland Striders were offering a 4 mile race on suburban streets, but I wasn't really sure I wanted to roll out of bed on a long weekend, so I didn't sign up for either.  

Fortunately, both races offered a race day registration option, so when Mr. R&R and I made a last minute decision to do the Firecracker 4 it wasn't a big deal.  We laid out our race clothes, set an alarm, and figured that if we woke up feeling like racing, we'd go.  If not, we'd get some extra sleep and figure out something else to do that day.

6:00 A.M. came fast, but it was still much better than the 5:00 A.M. wake up for Rock 'n Sole.  It was the usual shower, get dressed, and the coffee/Clif Bar/water combo on the way.  It took us about 15 to get to the race site and another 10 minutes to find a place to park.  The parking at race site was extremely limited and everyone resorted to parking on adjacent residential streets.  I can tell you that if that was my neighborhood, I'd have had a fit about all the traffic and noise that early on a holiday!

We made our way to the registration tables, forked over $25 each, got our shirts and numbers, and hightailed it back to the car to drop off the aforementioned shirts (which were actually pretty nice).

We hoofed it back to the park, did a quick warm up jog, stretched a bit, said hi to my in-laws (Mr. R&R's mom was running too) and headed for the starting area.  Mr. R&R and I seeded ourselves toward the front of the pack after seeing a huge number of jogging strollers and people planning on doing the 1.7 mile walk option further back.  I don't love being too far up because getting passed like crazy sucks, but it's better to get a clean start than having to dodge and weave around strollers and people plodding along three abreast.

The Strider's PA system was malfunctioning, so no one could hear any of the pre-race instructions nor could we hear the singing of the national anthem - kind of ironic for an Independence Day race.  The sound of an airhorn going off, however, was unmistakeable.  It took maybe thirty seconds for the herd to surge forward and for me to hit the line.  I hit 'start' on my Garmin and it was go time!

I had absolutely no clue what to expect from this race since I've never done it before and the course map was just that - a map with no elevation chart, so I had no idea if there were any big hills involved.  This was also a distance I've never raced before, so figuring out how to pace myself properly was definitely going to be a challenge.  My only solid goal was to run sub-40 minutes, but I was sort of hoping that I could push it a little and come in sub-38 minutes.

Mile 1 was mostly flat and downhill and I knew I was probably running too fast, but I couldn't seem to slow down. When I glanced down at my watch, I had a serious 'Oh $#!%, that wasn't smart' moment. I had run an 8:49 mile.  Oops. 

I pulled back on the pace a bit and slowed to a walk through the water station at Mile 1.5 to snag a few sips of water and dump the rest down my back - it was getting hot out there.  Mile 2 was a slightly slower 9:23 - still a little fast, but better.  

Somewhere just past Mile 2, I started feeling worn out and the heat was starting to get to me.  I slowed to a slow jog/fast walk up a hill and suddenly my fellow TriNewbie Herd alumna P tagged me on the shoulder.  I sped up a little and we chatted for a minute before she resumed her blazing pace and I continued cursing the hill.  I kept up a run/power walk combo for the rest of the mile and then got really pissed at myself when Mile 3 clocked in at 10:04.  If I wanted that sub-38 finish something was going to have to change - and fast.

I pulled myself together just past the Mile 3 marker with a little help from a kind spectator who was offering to spray runners with his garden hose!  After a nice, cold blast of water, I picked up the pace a bit more.  The next thing I knew, the course finally started to go downhill instead of up!  The male and female winners of the race were jogging back along the course as their cool down and shouting things like 'only 800 yards left!' and 'Keep it up!" That was actually really good to hear since.  At the bottom of the hill, I glanced at my watch and heard a nice volunteer shouting '400 to go! Finish Strong!' Sub-38 was starting to look possible again.  I picked up my pace a little more as we wound along a park path (loose sticks hurt when they jump up and hit you in the ankle).  Finally I saw the final turn.  

The final part of the race was a 100 yard cross-country sprint to the line and that's exactly what I did.  I redlined it to the finish, knowing that this was my last chance to get that sub-38 time.  I heard my father in-law yelling my name.  I saw Mr. R&R cheering from the sidelines (he, of course, kicked some serious ass). I passed a bunch of people who were slowing down on their way to the finish.  I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and immediately felt like I was going to puke.  Not cool.  I was looking for either a bottle of water (to get the feeling to go away) or a spot devoid of spectators so I could just get it over with.  Fortunately, I found water.  I made my way through the chute, met up with Mr. R&R and said hello to P (who also had a good race).  

Once my mother in-law finished, we met up with Mr. R&R's parents and chatted for a few minutes before heading for the food.  Another bottle of water, half of a banana, and a bunch of grapes later, I felt pretty good.  In fact, I finally felt good enough to do something I never get to do after a race: DRINK THE FREE BEER!  Many of the races around here offer all runners over the age of 21 a free post-run beer, but I always feel to crappy to drink it.  The beer was made even better when I discovered it was New Glarus Spotted Cow and not gross Miller Lite - and it was handed to me by none other than the Iron Cheerleader!  I hung out and chatted with him for a few minutes, discovering that he did indeed lie about never doing another Ironman - he's registered for this year's race and then we were joined by another TriNewbie Herd alumna, A. This little race was quickly turning into a reunion!

I made my way back over to Mr. R&R and his parents, said goodbye, and headed home.  By the time we got there, official results were posted online.  So, how did I do?

Time: 38:09 (9:32/mile)
Overall Place: 524/956
Gender Place: 183/445
Age Group: 29/58 (F35-39)

I missed that sub-38 by 10 lousy seconds!  I was mad, but not too mad since it was a secondary goal and I obliterated my primary goal of going sub-40.  Overall, it was a fun race and it was really nice to see so many familiar faces.  I would definitely do this race again.

We spent the rest of the day being lazy, cooking out, and playing with sparklers.  All in all...a perfect way to spend the 4th of July.

Spicy italian sausage, mediterranean orzo salad, chips

How did you spend your holiday?

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