Firecracker 5K Race Recap

Happy Birthday America!  To kickoff our country’s 237th birthday yesterday, Preston and I ran the Firecracker 5K with Team Red White and Blue.  Preston recently joined this organization, which is dedicated to supporting veterans and establishing communities for veterans, their families, and other interested citizens for physical and social activities.  Preston has started running with them weekly, and we’ve also had the chance to attend two Nats games with the DC area chapter.

Preston and I ready for the start of our third 5K of 2013

Preston and I ready for the start of our third 5K of 2013

The Firecracker 5K was held at and around Reston Town Center.  Neither of us have run in this area, let alone raced there, so we were going into this race blind about the course and the road conditions.  The course was advertised as “relatively flat and fast” and as a great “course for a summer time personal best.”  After completing this race, both Preston and I heavily disagree with this statement.

Neither Preston nor I went into this race expecting to get a PR.  Its been so hot and humid in the DC area lately, that the only expectation we had for the race was to go out, run, and have fun.  Prior to the race, we met up with other Team Red White and Blue members for a group photo and a quick pep talk from the chapter captain.

Team Red White and Blue DMV

Team Red White and Blue DMV

Preston opted to run with several other members of Team RWB while I planned to run with our friend, Jen.

Jen and I at the start line, ready to go!

Jen and I at the start line, ready to go!

At 8:00am, the race started and we were off.  Of the three races that I’ve completed thus far, this one was by far the largest.  With nearly 2,400 people running and/or walking the race, the course was much more crowded than either the Jaguar 5K or the Semper Fi 5K.  Since we didn’t start near the front of the crowd, and didn’t cross the start line until almost two minutes after the start of the race, we spent much of the first mile weaving in and out of fellow racers.  Lesson learned for next time – start closer to the front!

During the race, Preston took his turn carrying one of the many Team Red White and Blue American flags.  I’m so proud of him for not only finding the physical strength to carry the flag, but also to display his Patriotism on one of the most Patriotic days of the year.

Preston carrying the flag along Reston Parkway during the first half of the race

Preston carrying the flag along Reston Parkway during the first half of the race

I went into this race with three goals:

1.  Properly fuel my body with a filling breakfast, allowing my body enough digestion time.  This goal was met!  Yesterday morning I opted for one of my current favorites, plain Greek yogurt with fresh strawberries and granola on top.  Yum!

2.  Run the entire course, with the exception of the water station.  Sadly, this goal was not met.  At the Semper Fi 5K, I made it to the water station before I had to start the Run-Walk-Run method.  Although I walked through the water station for the race, I continued running until just past the two mile mark.  The heat and humidity got the best of me, as well as a side cramp, and my mental strength couldn’t counteract the physical toll of the race.  Up to this point, Jen and I had run the entire course together, but just after the second mile marker, I encouraged Jen to run ahead of me.  I didn’t want to pull her back.

During the last mile of the race after Jen ran ahead of me

During the last mile of the race after Jen ran ahead of me

Just before the finish line

Just before the finish line

3.  No matter what my finish time is, own it, and don’t be disappointed.  I finished this race at 35:08 (11:20 pace).  Although not ideal, I’m not at all disappointed in myself.  Preston and I also believe that this course was actually longer than a 5K (I tracked 3.28 miles on RunKeeper).  Although part of this additional distance could be the result of the weaving that was done during the first mile, several other people commented that they too thought this course was longer than 3.1 miles.

At the finish line wearing our finishers' Dog Tags.

At the finish line wearing our finishers’ Dog Tags.  Preston’s finish time was 25:53.

The purpose of the Firecracker 5K was to raise funds for the USO, an organization that raisees funds and provides support to active duty members and family members of the military.  One of the highlights of yesterday’s race was being able to write notes of gratitude to our current service men and women.

Preston writing on the wall

Preston writing on the wall

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The USO isn’t an available charity with Charity Miles, so yesterday I also ran for the Wounded Warrior Project, which works to provide assistance to wounded members of the military.

Yesterday’s race highlighted two important lessons.  First, start as close to the start line as possible.  Since we were more focused on starting the race with other Team RWB members, we didn’t make much effort to move towards the start line.  This made cause for a lot of weaving during the first mile and cost valuable race time and energy.  Second, summer races are not the place to try and improve race pace or finish times.  Although its important to still train and race in hot and humid conditions, they are not the ideal place to strive for a PR.  This is especially important to know in 2014 when I have much more experience with running.

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10 Responses to Firecracker 5K Race Recap

  1. Jen says:

    It was so great running this race with you! I can’t wait to do another one in September and then 100 more after that. 🙂 Thanks for pumping me up about running!

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