Running the Firecracker 8K in Southampton, New York on Sunday, July 6 was an impromptu decision. Sometimes those last-minute races I throw in the calendar are the best. Without time to worry and hand-wring, I just shrug my shoulders with a, “Here goes something.”
What was that something? A pair of personal bests for both me and my husband, Phil. After a tough Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half in June, it felt great.
Phil and I were vacationing at a friend’s house in Southampton on Long Island’s southern oceanfront beach territory for the holiday weekend. We logged a run on the beach in deep sand two days before and did calisthenics by the pool the day before.
But like we do just about everywhere we go, we checked RunningInTheUSA.com to see if there were any races nearby. Wouldn’t you know it? The start was less than a mile from the house.
So we plunked down $25 each and biked over on race morning with little expectations.
The Firecracker 8K Course
The race was a benefit for the Southampton Rotary Scholarship Fund with a start and finish in a town park beside Agawam Lake. A 3-mile run accompanied the 8K race. We got tech shirts instead of cotton—impressive given it was a charity race with just 190 runners.
The race promised a flat and fast 4.97-mile course, and it delivered with only the slightest of bumps in the road. The race’s lowest elevation is 1 foot above sea level near the beach and it tops out at a whopping 27 feet above sea level with a net elevation loss of 6 feet.
The race started inland near the lake, headed to a beachfront road, and then circled back inland, finishing beside the lake.
It was a beautiful, bucolic course along manicured residential streets. The side roads had nice patches of shade, though the stretch along the beach was in full sun. Overall, it was a beautiful way to spend 5 miles.
But what a sunny day it was. The temperature for the day topped out at 80, and it was well over 70 for the 8 a.m. start. I sipped water at the four stops along the course and dumped the rest on my head.
The Firecracker 8K was electronically timed, but without a starting mat. So all 190 runners registered gun times, not net times. I was sure to start my watch with the gun and check it when I crossed the start—a 3 second lag.
The course was open to traffic, but at 8 a.m. on Sunday in a residential town, there were hardly any cars out there.
A large finish banner welcomed us back to the race area, where runners got water, a chocolate recovery drink, fruit and bagels.
To top it all off, the race announcer performed Frank Sinatra karaoke. I have the video to prove it.
What I Wore
I save my favorite gear for race day.
Here’s what I wore at the Firecracker 8K, from the bottom up:
Oakley Polarized Half Jacket Sungalsses with Red Iridium Polarized Lenses
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my 5-mile PR on the brain going into the race. I always want to PR. Who doesn’t? But I really didn’t expect it. I told myself to just go out there, run hard and see what happens. And that’s exactly what I did.
My first mile was my fastest and I slowly melted under the sun through the first four miles, going from an 8:30 to 9:00 pace per my GPS. I walked through water stations relishing the break as I sipped then splashed.
But my last mile was the second fastest of the race at an 8:45 pace. I gave it everything I had. Just Keep Pushing was my mantra.
To my amazement, I beat my road 5-mile PR by 1:25, coming in at 44:19 with an overall pace of 8:56. Granted, the 8K is .03 shy of 5-miles, but at my speed that’s a difference of about 15 seconds. So I still walloped my previous best by over a minute.
However, my track 5-mile PR, set during a 2013 workout, still stands at 43:01. I set it on a cool, dry fall evening when I was having a dynamite workout with my teammates. But I figure if the USATF logs track and road records separately, so can I.
If I’m being honest with myself, I wanted to run this race at an 8:30 pace. That would put me on par with a 2:00 half-marathon, my goal. But since I just sort of winged it on a hot day, I’m really happy with what I did. It always feels good to PR and it always feels good to lay it all out there on a beautiful course. My time lets me know I’ve got some work to do. Good thing I have all summer to train for a nice, cool race in the fall.
Phil also ran 1:30-second PR (after adjusting for that extra .03 miles) finishing in 32:30, a huge leap at his speed. He was 18th overall!
But somewhere along the course, our bike lock key bounced out of his pocket. Thankfully, there was a small army of first-responders on hand. One of them had a bolt cutter. Now I know just how easy it is to break a U-lock: pretty easy.
We biked home laughing. Now we need a new bike lock. Maybe we’ll get a stronger one this time. Let’s just say I won’t be leaving my bike on the streets of NYC any time soon.
The Firecracker 8K was a perfect way to finish off 4th of July weekend. I didn’t see any fireworks over the weekend, since tropical storm Arthur postponed them. But with the crack of the starting gun, I burned some pavement with a new PR. I’ll take it.