This is the second year I’ve run the Firecracker4. Last year was very warm & humid. I’d just done a half a few weeks before, so I was just out to have fun. This year was different. Maybe because my finish time of my last half was disappointing. Maybe because it was perfect summer racing weather: cloudy & cool. This time I was going to push myself.
Getting There & Hanging Out
Saratoga is about half an hour away from me & the race starts at 9 am. Yet I got there at 7:10 because the parking is really tough & because I don’t get up to Saratoga very often, I don’t know the streets well. There’s a public parking lot nearby, but I don’t know how early you have to get there to park – obviously earlier than 7:10. I lucked out & snagged a great spot on the street.
I went up to the tent for USAFit Albany, my summer/fall running group. A woman I didn’t recognize asked me if I was the girl always running in the neighborhood. Turns out she is, indeed, my neighbor. We see each other occasionally & her son renovated our kitchen. I guess everyone looks different in running clothes.
We chatted, & I chatted with others of the group as they arrived, & finally got to meet my friend’s dog; so sweet!
There were portapotties opposite our booth, and even though there are real bathrooms not that far away, I made use of the portapotties. Twice. Because my period decided to start the night before, but thankfully was light & not too bothersome.
And They’re Off
It’s a large race. It both does & does not feel like it. You really don’t feel like you’re running with thousands of other runners. At the same time it’s frustratingly congested at times. Not really the race for a PR but I did come close.
There are runners in costumes & people dressed in patriotic running clothes, of course. I had my USA visor on. And my sparkle skirt & new Newtons. I started with my neighbor and one of the women in my running group that does run/walk.
We lost my neighbor fairly soon, but my running buddy & I stuck together for about 2 miles & then I lost her, too. I ran most of the race last year with one of the women from my running group, too, & while we played chicken for a while, she finished a bit ahead of me – again.
I can never do a mile by mile recap. I will tell you that the crowd support for this race is great. Lots of spectators, water stops besides the official water stops, misters (which we didn’t really need this year but sure did last year), and quite a few bands along the route – much like the Rock n Roll Series.
There are 2 significant hills in the race – one a steep downhill. My running friends will tell you I love going fast downhill, but this one is too steep. And there’s a nice little hill shortly before the finish.
I ran 4 minutes run, 30 seconds walk – when I could hear my little buzzers, although unfortunately I often couldn’t. I had a goal of finishing in 44 minutes. I’m still trying to figure out pacing using the run/walk method. I was pretty surprised to be under 11 minute miles often when I looked at my Garmin, but in the end I finished in 44:11, which is an 11:03 mm pace and I was really pleased. I know if it had been warmer I wouldn’t have hit that time. I saw my friend Lisa D (she’s the best cheerleader!) & her dog shortly before the finish line. She told me how strong I looked, but she always says that; I’d like to believe it was true in this case.
I waited to see my running buddy from my group finish and we walked back to the USAFit booth together.
There are all sorts of vendors & booths to wander around post race & a parade a bit later. Unfortunately it really began to rain in earnest not long after I finished.
I stopped to get a short post race massage. Never turn down a free massage! I have an annoying kink in my shoulder that has nothing to do with running that she worked on. I used the facilities one last time, stowed my stuff in the car, and sat eating a Picky Bar as the rain got harder and harder, so I didn’t check out what was there. Maybe next year.
My time this year was almost 4 minutes faster than last year. Not a PR, but my 4 mile PR belongs to a flat & fast race. I always enjoy starting a holiday with a race. It was time to head home to do my post race exercises, foam roll & enjoy some chocolate pancakes.
Do you like racing on holidays? Do you dress up?