Learning to Lower My Expectations

Perfect gif for this post, right? (source)

Hi-diddly-ho, readers! When I last saw you, I was gushing with excitement at my Grand Return to Running. Since then, I’ve been for one more run. It didn’t go as well.

It was that kind of morning.

I think I wrote a few posts ago about how having a baby has made me realize I need to go with the flow, since the Bairn has a way of foiling any plan I make. Want to meet friends for lunch at a specified time? Oops, morning nap turned epic and now I’m late. Want to stop at Target to grab some things since the Bairn is sleeping peacefully in his car seat? Oh wait, he’s awake and no longer peaceful. Want to watch an episode of Kimmy Schmidt after the lad is down for the night? Just kidding, did I really think he was down for the night? And so on, ad nauseam.

Unsurprisingly, this includes any attempts I make to run, go to the gym, or otherwise not feel like a lump. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I quite like being a lump sometimes. But sometimes I need to move!) And that’s been hard.

I was by no means expecting to be running races again immediately after giving birth, but I was hoping to at least take the Bairn out for walks and work my way back smartly. I wanted my Grand Return to Racing to be the Worcester Firefighters 6K; being in June, I figured 5 months postpartum would be plenty of time to be ready for that. I didn’t need to PR, I just wanted to complete the course. Alas, poor DGobs.

I think I took the Bairn for 3 walks during my maternity leave. He was born in January and, this being New England, of course the weather didn’t cooperate fully. We did have a few warm days that were perfect for walks, but they tended to fall after snowstorms and – as I’m pretty sure I’ve complained in this space before – people in my city rarely clear their sidewalks. Not conducive to pushing a stroller. I had a wrap, but the Bairn was so tiny (he was just shy of 5 1/2 pounds when he was born) that I didn’t feel comfortable carrying him in a wrap built for babies 8 pounds and up. I couldn’t easily take him to the mall for walks either, as I’d had a C-section and my midwife advised against driving for 6-8 weeks.

All that to say, the Bairn and I got used to being lazy cozy in our warm, snug house, and exercise wasn’t so much happening for me. I was dying to get to the gym – Expresso Bikes kept emailing me about fun new challenges! – but logistics were complicated and honestly, whenever Drew offered to take Baby Duty so I could go, I’d usually opt to sleep instead. (I’ve opted for sleep the last several times he’s tried to shoo me out to run, as well. I’m tired, yo.)

Anyway. I managed a few stroller walks eventually, and after going back to work, where it’s a 10-minute walk to and from the T plus a continuous stair workout as my desk is on a mezzanine – I was feeling stronger and once again setting my sights on the 6k. The Shammies promote a race at the beginning of May, and I figured it would be a good test run.

By the end of April, there was no way I felt ready to run a 5k. I still wanted to support the race (which supports the local Boys & Girls Club) so decided to sign Drew and myself up as walkers, figuring we could push the stroller and still take part. I was a little wary of signing up ahead of time – remember what I said about the Bairn and my plans, and mice and men and all that – but knew it would be much harder to get us all down to the race if we weren’t signed up and committed. So I bit the bullet.

Race day arrives. The Bairn is recovering from bronchiolitis, and none of us have been getting much sleep for over a week. The 10:15 start time, which seemed so luxuriously late, came and went while Drew was still in bed and the Bairn was napping on me. Ah well, at least part of the race fees went to a good cause. And we did swing by the post-race festivities to show off the Bairn, where he was awarded his first race bling:

The president of the Shammies gave the Bairn his age group medal, just for being cute

After that race is when I finally got to run, and after 2 walk-run extravaganzas, I felt like I could at least finish the WFD6K. However, learning my lesson and lowering my expectations, I didn’t preregister. Even as race day crept ever closer and I wanted SO badly to sign up, I just had a feeling.

The WFD6K was last Sunday [edit: now two three Sundays ago; I’m lowering my blogging expectations too, you see], and I did not participate. The day ended up being a scorcher, in the 90s, and that race is midday and traditionally hot. My own lack of enthusiasm for hot races aside, I kept thinking of poor Drew having to keep the Bairn cool in his black stroller. Plus logistics about nursing, plus the fact that the Bairn was (is?) going through a phase of screaming bloody murder in the car, and I was relieved to not be running. I’m still bummed at missing out, but there’s always next year!

Last year, when the Bairn (who was about the size of a blueberry) was much easier to run with

So… where was I going with this post again? Oh right, lowering my expectations (as well as yours, for any sort of pithy posts). Back in January, I was determined to run the WFD6K. I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I weren’t back to a running routine(ish) by that point.

Now that the race has come and gone? Meh. Sure, I’m a little bummed that I missed the race, but only a little bit. At this point, if I actually make it out the door for a 20-minute run around the neighborhood, I’m happy. Someday I’ll get my running groove back, but for now, not lowering my expectations will only lead to feeling bad about myself and ain’t no one got time for that.

Now if only I could get better at lowering my expectations for pace when I run… I know it’ll take a while to get back down to mid-9-minute miles again, and yet I’m disappointed in my 12-and-change pace these days. Unfortunately I think there’ll always be a part of my brain that thinks I’m FloJo.

Til next time!

Advertisements

Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 12 June 2016

What: 6K (~3.73 miles) road race

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew and my dad

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, American Society for Suicide Prevention, and NEADS

Time: 38:14 Personal record!

2016 was my third year in a row running this race, and I PR’d by 5:30 (last year’s result, also a course PR, was 43:44)! To read my recaps from years past, see 2015 and 2014.

IMG_6854

Pre-race

Drew and I arrived at the park about an hour before the start, and there was already a great crowd. Music was blasting, kids were playing with the little firehose demonstration thingie, and the atmosphere was great as always.

Registration was pretty straightforward, but a little hard to find. Each year I’ve run this race the registration table has been in a different spot, and each year I go to where it was the year before, only to be a little confused. This year’s location took a bit more hunting than last year’s, but once I found it I had my bib and shirt within 3 minutes.

The porta-potties had also changed location this year, and the lines were much longer than last year’s (the field this year felt significantly bigger than the last 2 years’, but it was only about 200-250 people bigger). Thankfully the lines moved relatively fast, and I was able to get in and out and still have 10-15 minutes left to warm up before the start.

IMG_6852

Warmed up and ready to run!

The race

Unlike the previous 2 years, when I lined up near the very back of the pack, this time I tried to find a spot a bit further up; last year I remember being frustrated at how many walkers I had to dodge in the first quarter-mile, and hoped that moving up a bit would help avoid that.

All the runners moved aside to let the WFD Pipe and Drum band through, which has been one of my favorite parts of this race. I love bagpipes, and love all the ceremony in honor of the Worcester 6 and other fallen firefighters.

Last year I complained a bit about how all the runners were made to stand in the sun on the hot asphalt while the race director and others spoke for upwards of 15 minutes. There was quite a bit of talking this year too, but it didn’t seem quite as long… maybe because last year it was in the 90s and this year was only in the 70s? I also feel like I wouldn’t mind all the talking so much if I could hear it at all! Even closer to the start line I heard nothing that was said, which is a shame because this was the race director’s last year in charge and I’m sure lovely things were said. Oh well.

After the national anthem – which I could hear! – the horns on the fire trucks parked at the start blasted the beginning of the race and we were off!

IMG_6861

Motorcycles leading the way

IMG_6865

Here I come, doing an awkward wave thing

I didn’t have to do quite as much dodging as last year, but the road definitely felt more congested, which made any dodging I had to do a little trickier than in the past. One unsettling thing that happened in the first half-mile – where the road is only blocked one-way and the other half is open to traffic – was when an ambulance was trying to go the other way, but was stymied because of all the backed-up race traffic. It felt wrong to have a firefighters race interfere with first responders, but what can you do at that point? I squished as far over to the right as I could and the ambulance eventually got through, and I hope it got to where it needed to go in time!

The first mile ticked by pretty quickly, though I wouldn’t have known because I’d forgotten to take Simon off the manual lap setting and so he didn’t beep at the mile marks. D’oh! I happened to glance down around 1.2 and saw my time was roughly 9:26. What?? No wonder the first mile went by quickly… I was flying! I guess that’s what can happen when I start further up the pack than usual.

IMG_6867

I don’t have any mid-race pictures, but check out my form in this one! Who am I and where are my flingy shins??

I took a brief walk break at that point – though not as hot as years past, the sun was hot and radiating up off the asphalt and I was feeling quite warm. I started running when I spotted the firehouse where the firefighters always have a hose out to spray down the runners, and ran through the glorious spray and yelled a thank you.

I don’t remember how often I took walk breaks… I know I took a few more, and I know I slowed down pretty significantly after that first speedy mile, but the rest of the race sort of blurs together. Some highlights:

  • The same firefighter who is always road guarding the same spot, who always tells the runners how awesome we are and thanking us and handing out high-fives… and high-fiving him each time I passed him.
  • The glorious, cool tunnel and people whooping and being echoey in it, and cheering for the eventual winner who flew past us under there.
  • The awesome football team and their coach who were manning the water table, and who looked slightly overwhelmed by all of us but who did a fantastic job!
  • The lines of older folks dressed in their Sunday best who were trying to cross the street as we can barreling down the road at them, and the lady behind me who muttered a “are they serious right now?” as some of them stepped out into the road and the rest followed, making a kind of obstacle course for us.
  • Getting to the point last year where I had to stop and eat some chews, only to realize I was so close to the finish line that I could actually see it… and knowing not to stop because I was closer than I felt to the end.
  • Being passed by sprinters as I chugged up the hill to the finish, fighting the head-wind coming at me and trying to blow my hat off, and being disheartened that I didn’t have anything left in the tank to do my usual sprint to the finish and chase them down. It was all I could do to not puke, and the pics Drew got of me show a big grimace:
IMG_6871

Grimacing and… it looks a little like I’m doing comedy tip-toeing

finishline2

I look pretty unhappy in the official pic too, but so does everyone except the lady celebrating up front

Post-race

Crossing the finish line was wonderful, and I was met with a medal and a full-size bottle of water within steps of crossing the mat. Glorious indeed!

IMG_20160612_123046732

Love. This. Thing.

I made a bee-line for the giant misting fan and stepped into the spray before finding Drew and my Dad and sitting/stretching in the shade. Last year we enjoyed the post-race party and free ice cream, but this year we opted out, which I’m a little sad about. My dad was fresh off an overnight shift and Drew was hungry and a little cranky… and were already almost at our cars, whereas the party was quite a ways in the other direction. So we opted to go out for lunch instead. It was nice, but part of the awesomeness of this race is the block-party atmosphere, and I missed that. Ah well, there’s always next year! And the next, and the next, and the next… πŸ™‚

Friday Randoms A-Go-Go

Happy Friday! I know I am looking very forward to the weekend being here, and in my excitement my brain is a bit all over the place, so today I’m going with a brain-leak-type post. With no further ado:

I ran 20.55 miles in May

monthlymileage

I know that’s not a lot, especially compared with people who’ve been training for marathons, but it was my highest mileage month so far this year, so that’s pretty cool. What’s not as cool? The random .55 miles. Why can’t I ever have nice, even numbers??

(Also, you can see how I started the year with grand ambitions of wearing Simon every day to track my steps, and then fell off the wagon pretty hard. Meh.)

Today is the start of the Euros!

euro

I love me a soccer/football tournament. I will be throwing my support behind England once again, even though I know they will break my heart again. #believe

bingo

The Worcester Firefighters race is Sunday

I love this race. I ran it the past two years, and hope to run it for as long as it exists! It’s in my home city, it’s in memory of the Worcester 6, and it’s a fun community event that I look forward to every year, now that I know it exists!

I’ve been stalking the weather for Sunday (a silly and usually pointless thing to do in New England) and have been increasingly dismayed as I’ve watched the forecast go from low 60s and rainy to high 70s and windy. The race was a scorcher the past 2 years – last year I think was in the low 90s – and the midday start is a bit of a drag. Ah well, what do they say? Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and a hot WFD6K.

2014 recap
2015 recap
2015 BibRave review

…and my upcoming half marathon is only one week after the WFD6K

Let’s not think about this right now, okay? I’m too busy blocking it out and trying not to panic.

What does your weekend look like? Anyone else racing?

Will anyone else be following the Euros?

Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 14 June 2015

What: 6K (~3.73 miles) road race

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew and my dad

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, American Society for Suicide Prevention, and NEADS

Time: 43:44 Personal record!

Splits (according to Simon*):
-Mile 1: 12:27
-Mile 2: 11:43
-Mile 3: 12:10
-Mile 3.6: 7:26
*My splits are a bit off because I started Simon late

Race swag:

I love the design of this year's shirt but - again - the small is way too big for me!

I love the design of this year’s shirt but – again – the small is way too big for me!

Recap: This was the second year I ran the WFD6K (you can read my recap of last year’s race here). As I explained in last year’s post, this race means a lot to me as it’s a memorial for the Worcester 6, the six firefighters who gave their lives protecting their city (my hometown) during the Cold Storage Fire in 1999. This race has been run in their memory every year since 2000, and has grown every year; this year there were 1500 participants, according to the race director.

Thankfully it wasn’t as hot for the race this year as it was last year… last year (if I remember correctly) it was in the upper 80s and very humid. This year, the temperature at gun time was 78 and it wasn’t too bad humidity-wise. It was definitely still a hot race to run – especially with a midday start, a high in the 80s, and not much shade on the course – but it certainly wasn’t as bad as last year. This year I made sure to hydrate properly, downing 96oz of water and Nuun the day before, as well as 32oz before the race. I remembered my red, throbbing head from the year before, and I wasn’t messing around this time!

photo(15)

Before the race

Packet pickup was a breeze. Each preregistered runner got an email a few days prior with their bib number, saying to hang on to the email to make pickup quicker. The bibs were organized by number, so knowing yours beforehand definitely sped things up (they also had everyone’s numbers posted in case people weren’t sure). The registration tent this year was actually down in the park adjacent to the start/finish line, whereas last year it was on the sidewalk and very crammed. Much better this way!

With our bib we got a tech t-shirt (see swag above), which unfortunately ran very large. I went back to the shirt people to ask if they had anything smaller than a small, but the guy just shrugged and told me to eat a few ice creams before wearing mine. So Drew will inherit yet another of my sweet race shirts. Oh well! With our shirts we also got bags full of papers – ads, coupons, race apps, brochures… basically a small tree.

Worcester Firefighter Pipes and Drums marching before the start of the race

Worcester Fire Brigade Pipes and Drums marching before the start of the race

I sought out some shade to pin my bib and don sunscreen, then waited in the long but fast-moving porta-potty line (there were maybe 9 or 10 porta-potties total), and, again remembering how rough last year’s race was, started warming up. Last year I didn’t warm up at all and my right calf gave me grief for the entire first mile. This year I made sure I had plenty of time to do some high knees, butt-kicks, skipping, quad-stretch-toe-touching-thingies, toy soldiers (or “Hitler walks” as Colin used to call them), hackey-sacks, and the leg-swinging stretches. I’m still working on fine-tuning my ideal warmup routine, but felt pretty good about this one. My dad found us about 10 minutes before gun time for a good-luck hug, and then he and Drew set off one way while I made my way to the back of the pack at the starting line.

My view of the starting line from the back of the pack

My view of the starting line from the back of the pack

The one complaint I have about this race is what happened next. Around 11:15/11:20, the lady on the PA was telling everyone to get to the starting line, as gun time was set for 11:30. The vast majority of people obeyed and we all milled around, finding good spots in the crowd, and waited for the start. Then, at 11:30, announcements started. The race director talked for a while, then handed the mic over to a few others. Balloons were released in memory of the Worcester 6, some more people talked, and then the national anthem was played. And then they requested a moment of silence. And then, after some more talking, the fire engine horns signaled the start of the race… 15 minutes after the race was supposed to start.

I understand that this is a very special event for the city of Worcester and for the firefighters and their families. That’s the whole reason why I run this race! Moments of silence and ceremonial gestures are special parts of the event. But if you’re going to make announcements and thank sponsors while all the runners are standing in the beating midday sun, for the love of god, please don’t ramble on for 15 minutes! Had I known that there was going to be that amount of talking, I would have moved off the course and stood in the shade. People around me were beading with sweat just standing there. Plus, being in the back, we couldn’t hear about two-thirds of what was being said anyway… most people around me didn’t even join in the moment of silence because they all started talking excitedly after the national anthem and didn’t hear the announcement (either that or they were just rude, but I like to think not). By the time the race finally got going, any warming up people had done before toeing the line was probably moot. It was a little ridiculous.

And we're (finally) off! I'm 4th from the left, looking super serious.

And we’re (finally) off! I’m 4th from the left, looking super serious.


Drew caught me (circled) a few minutes later, giving a thumbs-up and happy to be running once again

Drew caught me (circled) a few moments later, giving a thumbs-up and happy to be running once again

My plan for the race – in addition to the general rule of TAKE IT EASY – was to run-walk a ratio of 4 minutes to 2 minutes. My PT had recently bumped me up to 3:2 (running for 3, walking for 2) and I figured I’d try a 4:2 at the start to see how it felt.

The first half-mile or so was spent dodging so many people. Knowing I’d be walking part of the race, I started at the back, but in front of people who were talking about walking the whole thing (there were no pace signs). I was amazed at how many walkers had started so far up the pack, but as I was clearly not gunning for any time records, I just calmly bobbed and weaved (gently) and did my thing.

During my first walk break I was passed by some firefighters in their gear

During my first walk break I was passed by some firefighters in their gear

Despite my best intentions with my warmups, my right calf was a jerk again for the first mile – just like last year. (Though, to be honest, by the time the race *actually* started, did my warming up even matter?) However, I was chuffed at how I felt otherwise… I felt great! Landmarks that had felt so far into the race last year were appearing way faster than expected, like the hairpin turn and the fire station with a hose out to spray runners. I felt like I could run for more than 4 minutes at a time, but didn’t want to overdo it.

Drew and my dad were waiting just before the course crosses at Mile 2. They were in the same spot last year, when I had to force myself to run when I saw them… I was already struggling in the heat pretty bad by that point. This year, however, I was feeling amazing and greeted them with my arms in the air and a huge grin:

Arms aloft in victory

Arms aloft in victory

Just past this point in the race, the faster runners started passing us on the other side of the street, and we dipped down into a lovely, shaded tunnel for a bit. I high-fived a few runners going the other way, and I was keeping my eyes peeled (with no success, sadly) for Day of the Dead arm sleeves so I could yell “Go LunaSea!!” I ran through the second water stop, high-fived some firefighters who were road guards, and was chugging along quite happily until about Mile 3.

Mile 3 was when I realized my head was throbbing and that I was quite warm, actually. The one thing that was keeping me going was that I knew a water stop was coming up… except by the time I got there the water was hot. Not refreshing at all! So I steeled myself to just keep going until the next spot where firefighters the year before had been spraying runners with a hose… except they weren’t there this year. When I realized that, I slowed to a walk and broke out my packet of Honey Stinger chews that I had brought just in case.

What I forgot was that at that point in the race, I was so unbelievably close to the finish line! Simon had turned off during the epic pre-race announcements (even though I had managed to save him from power-saving twice) and I didn’t get him started until I was already a ways past the starting line, a fact which I had forgotten by this point and I still thought I had quite a distance to go before the end. I struggled with the packet of chews for a bit and was just stuffing the first one into my gob when I realized that I could see the finish line. I crammed another chew or two in and then steeled myself to run the rest.

Flashing Drew a smiley thumbs-up as I approach the finish line

Flashing Drew a smiley thumbs-up as I approach the finish line

Last year I had managed to sprint the uphill finish, but this year I didn’t want to exacerbate my knee problems so I just cruised relatively easy up the hill. A cluster of people were in front of me, crammed over on the right side of the road, but the finish line stretched the whole width so I moved over, passed the little cluster, and felt like a rock star with half the course to myself:

Huzzah!

Huzzah!

I floated across the finish, slowed to a walk, and made a beeline for the water table and, of course, the giant misting fan. A million thank-yous to the Sutton Fire Department for bringing that thing to this race each year! After standing in the cool mist with a huge grin on my face, I met up with Drew and my dad and we walked off to the post-race party to get some snacks.

Post-race party in Institute Park

Post-race party in Institute Park

There was an ice cream truck giving out free ice cream (yay!) so I grabbed one and then found a quiet, shady spot behind the bandstand where I could sit and ice my knee, which had bravely carried me the distance:

Ice packs and ice cream

Ice packs and ice cream

We sat for a while, enjoying the cool shade by the pond, and I couldn’t stop smiling at the fact that I had just run (run-walked, but still) a race after 5 weeks of only the most minimal bouts of running since being diagnosed with patellofemoral syndrome, and that my knee wasn’t hurting! We heard the pipes start up and wandered over to the other side of the bandstand to watch the WFBP&D play:

photo(12)My dad ran over to the posted results to see how I did, and came back with a report of 43:something… I had PR’d even though I was taking it easy! As it turned out, I finished about 3.5 minutes faster than last year. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to run it injury-free!

I love the WFD6K. I don’t like that it starts at 11:30… if it were during the winter I’d be okay with that, but mid-June? Ugh. I also didn’t like the long-winded announcements at the start of this year’s race. Otherwise, it’s awesome. I love the course, I love that the road guards are mostly firefighters and that they applaud and thank the runners (many of whom thank the firefighters too), I love that the fire station we pass puts out a hose to cool us down, I love that runners high-five each other when our paths cross at the tunnel, I love the Pipes and Drums, I love the post-race party, I love the charities that benefit, I love that we run for the Worcester 6… I love it all, and I hope to run this race every year for many years to come!

Worcester Firefighters Memorial 6K, 8 June 2014

What: 6K (~3.73 miles) road race

Where: Worcester, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew and my dad

Benefited: Worcester Firefighters Scholarship Fund, Community Harvest Project, Genesis Club, and NEADS

Time: 47:13

Splits:
-Mile 1: 11:48
-Mile 2: 10:26
-Mile 3: 14:07
-Mile 3.8: 13:11

Photos: (there’s a ton… brace yourselves)

Giant flag between firetruck ladders at the starting line

Giant flag between firetruck ladders at the starting line

There was a kids' 1K race before the 6K, and this girl was awarded "tiniest runner." So adorable.

There was a kids’ 1K race before the 6K, and this girl was awarded “tiniest runner.” So adorable.

The Worcester Fire Brigade Pipe & Drum Band kicked off the event

The Worcester Fire Brigade Pipe & Drum Band kicked off the event

My view of the starting line before the fire truck horns signaled the start

My view of the starting line before the fire truck horns signaled the start

These firefighters ran the entire race in their full gear. Not an easy feat in 80-something degrees!

These firefighters ran the entire race in their full gear. Not an easy feat in 80-something degrees!

Off I go, excited about the race and clutching my precious, giant bottle of Nuun

Off I go, excited about the race and clutching my precious, giant bottle of Nuun

The course took us by 2 fire stations, each with someone manning a hose to cool the runners down. I was so grateful!

The course took us by 2 fire stations, each with someone manning a hose to cool the runners down. I was so grateful!

Drew caught me right after a water stop, but far enough after that I was fighting another walk break already

Drew caught me right after a water stop, but far enough after that I was fighting another walk break already

Right before the 2-mile mark I caught up to the full-geared firefighters. I snapped this pic right as one was high-fiving a shirtless football player carrying an American flag.

Right before the 2-mile mark I caught up to the full-geared firefighters. I snapped this pic right as one was high-fiving a shirtless football player carrying an American flag.

So many people were high-fiving them and yelling thank you. I sped up so I could catch them and gave them side-fives, along with my thanks.

So many people were high-fiving them and yelling thank you. I sped up so I could catch them and gave them side-fives, along with my thanks.

I got so excited each time I saw another fire hose and apparently my reaction was to take a giddy picture. When I passed these firemen, I yelled "You guys are the BEST!" and the one with the hose turned it on me to give me some extra spray. It was amazing.

I got so excited each time I saw another fire hose and apparently my reaction was to take a giddy picture. When I passed these firemen, I yelled “You guys are the BEST!” and the one with the hose turned it on me to give me some extra spray. It was amazing.

Here I come...

Here I come… a cruel uphill finish

This next series of photos, courtesy of RaceWire, shows just how freaking happy I was to be crossing the finish line. No intense beast-stares or awkward poses here – just pure giddiness!

rw1

rw2

rw3

rw4

In this one, I've caught sight of something amazing just past the finish line and decide to keep running toward it...

In this one, I’ve caught sight of something amazing just past the finish line and decide to keep running toward it…

...a giant misting machine! It's a fan usually used to blow smoke out of a burning building, but a hose was hooked up to create this glorious wonderment. Firefighters are AWESOME.

…a giant misting machine! It’s a fan usually used to blow smoke out of burning buildings, but a hose was hooked up to create this glorious wonderment. Firefighters are AWESOME.

Recap: This was the race I had been looking forward to for nearly a year, one of the two most important races for me this year (the other is a 10K in August; more on that at a later time), and I was so, so happy that my ankle had healed in time for me to run it. This is the race dedicated to the memory of the Worcester 6 – 6 firefighters who gave their lives protecting their city during the Cold Storage Fire of December 3, 1999 – and it’s a 6K in honor of those 6 men. The WFD6K website gives a brief history of the race here.

After my first hot race experience of the year the day before, I was super prepared for this one. So I thought. I was wearing my fancy new tank top with “Omni Freeze Zero” technology (it has little dots inside that claim to react to your sweat and cool you down… I got it for almost 80% off retail, score!), and I had a giant water bottle full of Nuun and ice that I was prepared to lug around with me so that I hopefully wouldn’t faint. I had been hydrating like crazy the day before (after my other race), and I was decked out with my hat, sunglasses, and all kinds of sunblock. I was ready.

The one thing I neglected to do was warm up before the race started. I was running a tad late (late enough that they had run out of my size shirt, even though I had registered way in advance for a small) and decided to stand around in the shade and chat with my dad rather than warm up and stretch. As such, my right calf seized up for the entire first mile, making it a very unpleasant experience. I was struggling to keep running after less than a half-mile, urging myself to just make it to the mile marker, since I knew from past experience that calf-cramp due to shoddy warm-up usually clears up for me after a mile.

I didn’t make it to the mile marker and had to stop to walk for a while. I wasn’t the only one! I don’t think I’ve ever taken part in a race in which so many people had to walk because of the heat. Even the super hot races I ran last July! Luckily the course took us past two fire stations that featured God-sent firefighters and their hoses, spraying runners as they passed. It made such a difference, not just for me, but for pretty much everyone else on the course around me. Everyone was so grateful.

After my calf started behaving itself, and after I enjoyed my first firehose misting, I was able to pick up the pace a little in the second mile. It helped that there were some downhills, including one nice downhill in a shaded tunnel, and it also helped that I caught sight of two firemen up ahead of me. They were running in their full gear, heavy tanks and all, and I could see the people looping back the other way running by to high-five them and say thank you as they passed. I think it was the same two firemen who ran the Jay Lyons Road Race in their gear, and I hadn’t been able to catch them in that race. I was determined to high-five and thank them myself, so I upped my pace to catch them. After I did, I was so pumped that I kept running a bit faster for a while.

That “speediness” did me in a bit, and my next mile was dead slow. I had to walk most of it as I was starting to feel a bit fainty. I kept thinking of the sign someone had at last year’s London Marathon – “Run if you can, walk if you must, but finish for Boston” – and used a modified version of that not only as reassurance that it was okay to walk, but also as a mantra to keep going and not faint: “Run if you can, walk if you must, but finish for the firefighters.” It kept me going, even when my head started swimming a bit and I thought the race would never end.

I walked almost all of the last mile, because I decided I wanted to finish strong. I knew my dad and Drew would be at the finish watching for me, and it just felt right to cross the finish triumphantly, rather than pulling myself over it with my lips. I walked until the bottom of the hill (the race finished on a hill! Damn you Worcester and your hills!) then sped up and crossed the finish line with arms aloft and a giant grin on my face. I was thrilled that I was able to run the WFD6K this year, giddy to be able to stop dragging my sorry self around the course, excited to stand under the misting machine and get some free ice cream, and just overwhelmed with the great feeling of community around me.

The whole race had a real community feel to it, with a big post-race barbecue in the park next to the course, full of events for kids – including a 1K race before the 6K – and many local businesses and charities were represented. Each year the WFD chooses local charities to donate the proceeds to, which is awesome. One of the city’s high school football team manned each of the water stops, some Worcester Roller Derby girls joined them at one and then skated around to encourage runners, and there was a firefighter at almost every intersection. One of them clapped for each and every runner that struggled past, yelling out “thank you for running” to everyone and giving high-fives to anyone within reach. Even a parking attendant at a lot along the course was giving out high-fives and shouting encouragement to everyone. I loved it.

As a bonus, the race was very well organized (except for a bit of confusion at the starting line and the way they had everyone get there… so many walkers ended up at the start, and if you watch the video of the start you can see so many people dodging around walkers) and there was just a good feeling about it all. I got to see parts of my home city that I had never noticed before, like really cool architecture (walking has its good parts!), and I can’t wait to run this race again next year!