Race Recap: Firecracker 4 Miler

When I started running 5 years ago in the late Spring of 2009, I decided that my first attempt at a race would be the Cranford Jaycees Firecracker 4 miler. I was nervous, ran in a pair of three-year-old Nike Shox sneakers and a cotton t-shirt, but made it to the finish line in 36:26. By that point I was hooked on running, and wanted to make this race a yearly tradition… and on Friday I ran my 6th Firecracker 4 miler!

Who doesn't love a dark, cotton t-shirt for a 4th of July race?!
My first race! Who doesn’t love a dark, cotton t-shirt for a 4th of July race?!

It works out that this is the only four mile race that I do each year, so it’s a great way for me to see the progress I’ve made from year to year. When I signed up for the race this year, I was excited to see what I was capable of, especially after a big half marathon PR and my recent attempt at the mile. After talking with my coach about time goals, we settled on a time, which I of course thought was a little on the faster side. Jason has been really good at knowing my ability better than I do, so I trusted his suggestion and decided I’d go for it.

I woke up on Friday morning not sure what to expect outside. It had stormed pretty heavily the two nights before, and there was a pretty good chance that it would be raining for the race. I was happy to see that it wasn’t raining, but was instead overcast and in the upper 60s. Of course I scrolled right to the humidity section of the weather app on my phone, and wasn’t surprised to see 90%. I had my normal pre-race breakfast (picky bar, half a peanut butter sandwich, and a lot of water), and was out the door by 7am for the 9am race start. I packed a few different options for the run (hat? headband? sunglasses? shirt?), but after my 2 mile warm-up I knew exactly what I’d have to wear: a hat to keep the sweat from my eyes, and no shirt to keep me as cool as possible. Sure, it was “only” in the upper 60’s, but the 90% humidity made it a typical July sweat-fest.

When it was time to line up for the race, I put myself right up front. I knew that if I didn’t, I’d spend the next mile or so wasting energy weaving in and out of the crowds of people who are somehow overly confident with their expected finish times. Despite being right up front, I didn’t hear a countdown. The next thing I knew the starting cannon sounded, and everyone surged forward. I was swept up in the crowd for a moment and glanced down at my watch and saw my pace flash as 6:20. I knew at that moment I had a decision to make: fool myself into thinking I could hold onto it and fight through later, or slow down slightly and save a little for later. I pulled back ever so slightly, and settled in to a 6:50/6:55 pace as we rounded the first corner. I was able to count the women in front of me, and found myself running as the 6th woman. We passed the first mile marker and I clocked a 6:42, according to my Garmin. The next mile or so is straight down a main road, and I spent most of it jockeying back and forth with another woman and man. I could tell the woman was doing everything in her power not to let me pass her, and I think the guy was too – I even got an elbow a few times, despite the road being plenty wide enough for three, even four runners to run next to each other.

I'd say "Where's Waldo?" But there was actually a kid dressed up as Waldo at this race...
I’d say “Where’s Waldo?” But there was actually a kid dressed up as Waldo at this race…

The third mile starts right after a turn onto a post-winter potholed road with a water stop, which is where I was able to shake the girl and guy I had been running with. I ran the second mile in 6:54, and started to worry that I wasn’t going to hit the time I was hoping for. I was getting tired, and bargained with myself that I could ease off just a bit to save some energy for the fourth mile. Slowing down a little helped (7:03), and by the time I hit the third mile clock I realized that I was about to hit a small 5k PR (clocked 21:23 according to the Garmin), and I knew it was time to try my best and hammer home. The last mile includes a path in a bit of a wooded area, and as I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace listed as 10:00, I realized I’d just have to push it without really knowing my current pace. We looped into the park, and as I passed a spectator he yelled, “Just a quarter to go!” and what I thought was, “alright, 11th female!” I gave myself an imaginary pat on the back, and focused on the 12 year old boy in front of me that I just couldn’t seem to reel in (6:34).

Firecracker 4 Miler | FoodosaurusRex.com

I pushed it to puke pace like I do every time I enter that park, and I crossed the finish in 27:18. I made my way right over to the water truck and tried to walk as best as I could to prevent actually puking. I noticed they had a results table, so I made a beeline over to see if I was in fact the 11th female like I thought I heard the spectator yell. While they didn’t have overall placing listed quite yet, I caught my name on the scrolling computer screen to see that I had placed first in the 25-29 age group! Since I knew it would be awhile before they presented the awards, I took the opportunity to jog back to my car to grab my water bottle and a shirt. I made sure to run away from the course, because there’s nothing worse than seeing someone that’s already done jogging back towards you as you’re killing yourself to get to the finish line.

This race always provides free snow cones, popcorn, yogurt, and ice cream at the end of the race, so I was excited to grab a free Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bar to help cool me off as I waited for the awards and chatted with some hometown friends. Before I knew it they were starting the awards, and I scored a sweet little medal and a t-shirt! I should note, though, that the t-shirt says “2014 RACE WINNER” on the back which is just a little deceptive… since I won my age group, but not the race! It turns out, though, that I misheard that spectator as I was coming down the home stretch and I was actually the 7th woman overall, which was a nice surprise! (But again, does not warrant a “race winner” t-shirt).

Firecracker 4 Miler

Overall, I’m really happy with this race. Originally I went into it thinking I would run around a 28, but after Jason’s suggestion to go for a 27, of course, I hoped I would run slightly faster… internal competition is fierce. My 6:50 per mile average is the fastest I’ve averaged in a race, ever (aside from my road mile), so it was a big boost of confidence. I’m looking forward to a few 5k’s this month before really starting to marathon train.

Tell me…
Did you race over the weekend? How did it go?!

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Because a title like “Baby, you’re a firework” just wasn’t going to happen.

Wednesday morning marked my fourth year running Cranford’s Fire Cracker Four Miler. When I ran the race for the first time in 2009, it was my very first road race. I look back and laugh at how much of a novice runner I was; I rocked a pair of Nike Shox that were almost a year old, and somehow thought it was a good idea to wear a cotton swimming t-shirt to run 4 miles in July. The race went well because I had no expectations, and I finished in just over 36 minutes. The second year I knocked off another 2 minutes, and was again pleased with my time considering I was still on the early road to considering myself a “runner.” Then last year, the race marked the first day of official marathon training, and my husband ran with me. Somehow, I shaved off another 2 minutes, leaving me with a Firecracker PR of 32 minutes.

Throughout half marathon training this Spring, the majority of my 4 mile training runs were about 32-33 minutes. Sometimes, I even hit closer to low 31. So, I figured that as long as I didn’t fall, break a leg, or pass-out, I’d be able to PR again. Considering the apparent tradition of running 2 minutes faster each year, I was aiming for around 30 minutes. This race actually has categories you can sign up for, one of them being a spouse category (technically it’s labeled husband/wife, but I prefer to simply call it the spouse group). So, I thought it would be fun to sign up as a couple, and see how we would place. We looked up the results from last year, and we figured if I could keep around a 7:30 pace, we’d have a chance at placing in the top 3 for that category. Somehow, that’s just what I did.

Even though I started taking new medicine on Monday night, it hasn’t quite kicked in yet, and I was worried I’d need to make a pit stop on the course. Thankfully everything worked out and I was able to keep a 7:33 pace, crossing the line in 30:11. While my ultimate goal was to go under 30, I’m more than happy with the 30. I was able to keep my tradition of PRing by 2 minutes each year and scored 4th place in my age group, and the 28th woman overall! And, my husband ran it in 26 minutes, so combined we finished in 56 minutes – enough for a W in the husband/wife category! We scored ourselves a sweet medal, and two t-shirts (not quite sure what I’m supposed to do with the XL size shirt, though).

After waiting around for about an hour to get our medal, we went back to my parent’s house to down some bagels and coffee. It was the perfect way to start the 4th of July!

You’re a Firecracker

For the third year in a row, my fiance and I participated in Cranford Jaycee’s Firecracker 4-miler on the fourth of July. Each year, I somehow manage to bring the previous year’s time down by about 2 minutes. This was especially shocking due to my lack of training for most of 2011 thanks to injury, but I certainly can’t complain!

The day started as most race days do – waking up and devouring a half of peanut butter and jelly sandwich and copious amounts of water. I knew ahead of time that if the weather was anything like it was last year (super hot and humid), I was going to need A LOT of water. Thankfully, the temperature was a solid 10 degrees cooler, but it was still humid and sunny.

Because both my fiance and I have been battling injuries, we decided to run the race together. This is the first race that my fiance has run with me in the 2.5 years we’ve been running races. As you can imagine I was really excited, even though I knew it would likely be holding him back a little. We weren’t sure where to line ourselves up, and I’ve decided that when in doubt, seat yourself higher because everyone else does it too. The amount of weaving and elbowing that goes on at the beginning of hometown races is really annoying. I won’t even begin to talk about the rudeness I experienced out there!

At any rate, by the time we hit the first mile marker (just under 8:15 pace), my eyes started to burn like no other, thanks to sweat. This continued for the rest of the race, which was only made marginally better thanks to some people with hoses and sprinklers out on the course. Aside from some cramping at mile 3 where I had to slow down, I think we kept a pretty solid pace.

The race always finishes down a stretch in the park where everyone lines up to cheer – we even had our own cheering section!

Since we ran the whole race together, the fiance and I crossed the finish hand-in-hand (totally lame, I know) and he even paused to let me cross first. My official time was 32:49, which is an 8:12 average pace. I couldn’t be happier considering the current state of my shin (ouch!) and the fact that I haven’t trained much. I know I have the potential to run faster, and I can’t wait to be healthy enough to get the training in to do it!

July Fourth means 4 miles of agony and rum and coke brownies!

Ahh yes, the fourth of July. The day of America’s birth, and an awesome excuse to relax, drink, barbecue, and enjoy fireworks.

Sunday was Cranford’s annual Firecracker Four Miler race, which just so happens to be the first running race I ever competed in, last year. The race starts at 9:30am in Nomaheagan Park, and by the time we got there at about 8:45a it was already a good 80 degrees. Most of the race is in the sun, and since it’s 4 miles instead of the usual 5k (3.1), they didn’t have a water station until 2 miles in. Needless to say the race was a struggle from the beginning, but I somehow managed to beat least year’s time, and PR my 5k time in the process at just under 26 minutes.

For signing up early, we got a t-shirt and a sweet pint glass, just as we did last year. We’re starting a nice collection! In the end, I finished in just under 34 minutes, with the “official” (the timing system was a little shotty) time of 34:50, about an 8:40/mile pace, and my fiancé finished in just under 32 with 31:45 (also a PR). I think we wound up spending the rest of the day trying to rehydrate, which was probably unsuccessful.

After the race, we rushed home so I could get started on the treats I was going to bring to our next barbecue adventure. This time, I went with a recipe I had found on Serious Eats, from a book called Boozy Baking. Seriously, I need that book. I love bringing alcohol infused desserts to parties where drinking is involved, because it’s just so fun. These particular brownies were called Cuba Libre Brownies, but I prefer to simplify the name, and just call them Rum & Coke Brownies. Yes, there is rum, coke, lime zest, and bittersweet chocolate in these bad boys – and they were awesome! The lime zest was really refreshing, and they’re definitely the booziest treats I’ve made so far, so keep that in mind if you decide to take a stab at them!

Rum & Coke Brownies (aka Cuba Libre Brownies)
– serves about 24 brownies –


For the brownies:
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup carbonated cola
1/4 cup white rum

For the frosting:
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/3 cup white rum
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Freshly grated zest of 2 limes

1. To make the brownies, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick spray. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
3. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir constantly until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and beat until well incorporated, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
5. With a wooden spoon or a spatula, gently stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture just until combined. Gently stir in the cola and the rum; then pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to the edges.
6. Bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan completely.
7. To make the frosting, in a large bowl beat the butter, cocoa powder, and rum with an electric mixer until smooth. Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition.
8. Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies. Sprinkle with the grated lime zest, cut into squares, and serve.