Sunday, June 10, 2012

Race Report: Worcester Firefighters 6K

Well, I'm never running this one again.

I don't recall smoking crack last night, but I did post the following on this blog's Facebook page:

Good News: Crafted a kick-ass playlist for the race tomorrow. Bad News: It's 50-something minutes' worth of music. Aiming to need only about 35 mins for 6K, which would be my fastest race ever (9:30 avg mile). Time for ruthless editing.

So, even though I don't remember a crack pipe, hallucinogens must have been involved somehow if I thought I could PR this race in this heat.

I read this a while ago from Gibson's Daily Running Post, and I should have heeded it the moment I thought about PRing this race:

"Nobody can tell you how to set a personal best. But here’s how NOT to: run with the idea of setting one. You cannot order up a personal best as if it were a turkey on rye. It's not a conscious act. A personal best is a kind of gift bestowed upon you. You’re not sure where it came from or how. It's very hard to achieve a personal best after you've run for a while and brought your times down. It takes training and hard work. But remarkably, those who achieve personal bests all say the same thing: how easy it felt. They weren't straining, they weren't pushing; it just seemed to come to them. If you run with the idea that you're just going to enjoy yourself, that you're going to relax and have a good time, that whatever happens, happens - well, those are the days when personal bests occur." -Kevin Nelson

After my experience today, I would say this is very true.

So, what the hell happened?

Well, I was all keyed up to run fast today because it was my shortest race since the Celtic 5K in March. At that race, I was coming off a significant back injury, so it was a case of Run To Finish. My next race was the half-marathon in May. Also, now coming off a foot injury, Run To Finish. Although, since it was my first half-marathon, it was technically a PR for that distance.

My last race was a 5-miler in Boston, the week after the half. Since I was just coming off the half, I deliberately took it easy. Run To Finish.

I was really looking forward to the Worcester Firefighters Memorial because it was short (6K). I was in good running shape and uninjured. I felt I was set up for success.

My one concern about this race was the fact it had a 1 pm start time. In June. No idea why so late, I wish I knew, but it always starts at 1 pm. I should have heeded that concern. Most races start early, 8 or 9 am, because it's cooler and you don't impact traffic as much early in the morning.

Anyway, got to the race about an hour beforehand and met up with Sandy, my domestic running life partner. We ran into other friends who were also running, took some pics and then headed off to Sandy's favorite part of any race staging area, the Port A Potties.

The Port A Potty line was long, so by the time our business was concluded, we had to hustle to the start. I grabbed a water on the way and downed about 12 oz before I chucked it and headed mid-pack to get ready.

After releasing memorial balloons into the clear, blue, blazing sky, the National Anthem and Amazing Grace courtesy of a bagpiper, we were off.

About a half-mile in I realized two things: It was crazy hot and I should have worn my compression shorts under my running skirt.

We soon passed a bank clock/thermometer and it read 80 degrees. I believed it. There was barely a cloud in the sky and the sun was blinding, hammering off the asphalt. There was zero shade and no breeze. Hot Child In The City, indeed.

I started the race hoping to pace around a 10-minute mile for the first 1-2 miles, then pick it up for the last 1.6. Pfft. By the 1-mile mark, I abandoned that plan and decided to switch to Run To Finish. It was just too hot with no relief.

To make matters worse, my allergies were kicking up something fierce. My head and throat were congested, making deep breathing more difficult. I was having breathing problems, something I've never experienced before when racing.

I took this rather seriously, and actually stopped to walk for 30-60 seconds a few times. By the time I passed the 3-mile mark, I saw ambulances taking off. Apparently, some runners actually needed medical transport. Yikes.

I was psyched when I hit 3 miles because it meant this cursed race was almost over. I was pissed at this race. It was short, I should have been faster and it should have been easier. In the half-marathon, I didn't feel half as crappy at Mile 13 as I did right now. I was pissed at this weather. Too damn hot. I was pissed at the organizers for a 1 pm start.

But, hey, at least it's almost over. There are the chutes. There's the finish line, not 300 yards straight ahead. Thank God.

Wait, why are all the runners taking a right? Why is everyone turning right? The finish line is straight ahead! And then I saw the pylon. And the race official pointing right. Crap, we needed to do a short out and back before heading toward the finish. Guh. I hate this race.

On the out-and-back I spied my friend, Rebecca (she's #357 in the pink, group photo). It was her first 5K and I was psyched to see her. I caught up, tapped her on the shoulder and said, Let's finish this thing.

While I felt like dump, she was spry and was actually fiddling with her iPhone to choose a good song to finish to. Atta girl.

We finished the out and back and took a right to head - finally - toward the finish. Over the timing pads and, thank the Lord, it was over.

I grabbed two waters and headed toward my predetermined meeting spot with Sandy. I spotted her on the way, grabbed two more waters, and we parked it in the merciful shade to talk shop.

So, as frustrating as this race was (45:22 finish/12:24 pace), there were a few bright spots:

  • Always fun to run with friends - before, during or after.
  • Given this was a race to remember six Worcester firefighters who died in a 1999 fire, it was sobering to watch several firefighters run or walk the race in full firefighter gear. I was hot. They were hotter.
  • About 2.5 miles in, the shark mascot for the local AHL hockey team roller-bladed by me in full furry getup. Gotta say, I wanted to trip him.
  • I was about 2 minutes into the race when another runner tapped me on the shoulder: "I have that skirt! I bought it for a July 4 race! It looks great!" Note: This is the second time a runner stopped me during a race to talk about the skirt. I will get on a whole post about this magnetic running apparel soon.
  • Just after the 1 mile mark, we ran by one Worcester firehouse. The firefighters were roadside with hoses, arching water into the air and down onto very grateful runners.
So, this one's in the rear view mirror. Thank you, Lord. Next up: The Harvard Pilgrim Finish At The 50, which ends on the field at Gillette Stadium. Yeehaw.

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