We signed up for the Firefly 5K in Waterville Valley, NH, months ago – long before the heatwave struck the US east coast and turned every run into a torture-fest, making me feel with each step like I was a chicken slowly being roasted (although hopefully slightly less crispy).
This 5K had an 8pm start and there were glow sticks involved (which, between you and me, may have been the real reason I wanted to do it). I had envisioned an idyllic, colorful romp through the mountains (Waterville Valley is a resort community in the White Mountain National Forest). I would be gently swatting away fireflies and generally reveling in the cool mountain air.
You know, I should really stop envisioning idyllic romps. Has anyone ever had a run that matched that description?
The temperature had dropped a little bit by the time we lined up at the start, but my definition of “cool” is, you know, not hot. And it was still pretty hot. Also, it wasn’t dark enough yet for the glow sticks to really do their thing. Sad.
But still, I was looking forward to this one, and I figured it would cool down eventually. I hadn’t had a good run in a while (in fact, I hadn’t run a full 5K in a while), so I thought this might be a chance to remind Mother Nature that, no, I don’t suck completely. My failings are all your fault.
For safety reasons, we were told not to run with headphones, so I put mine away. I also had surrendered my GPS watch to Hubby because his was in the shop. I wasn’t too concerned about the watch, but I had never run without music. It felt so weird not having the buds in my ears. I may as well have been naked.
About a mile in, I couldn’t help but notice the odd, strangled noises coming out of my mouth. (I usually can’t hear my breathing over the music.) Yikes, do I really sound like that? I have to apologize to anyone who has ever had the misfortune of running alongside me. I must be spurring people to PRs all over New England as they run faster to get away from the deranged grunting person with the beet-face.
I thought I was managing a pretty good pace though, despite the grunting – and the having no watch. There was a brilliant downhill stretch as we hit the second mile, and I had the nerve to think this might well turn out to be my best run ever.
Then I saw the folks at the front of the pack coming back up that same hill.
But I kept plugging away and felt energized. I didn’t walk until right at the top. The weather had gotten much cooler, which probably explains why I wasn’t sprawled out on the side of the road. I was reminded how it felt to run in normal-ish temperatures.
The glow necklace wasn’t exactly the ideal running accessory. Every once in a while it would leap up and whack me in the nose. In lieu of fireflies, I found myself swatting away glow bling. Some may have found that annoying. It actually made me kind of happy.
So, the weather was pleasant. I felt OK. I didn’t do too badly on the hill. And I finished strong.
But my time was not good, relatively speaking. Normally I don’t care so much about that if I’m happy with the run, but I was baffled. Did we go farther than 3.1? Did we enter some weird parallel universe in the mountains where every minute is 10 seconds longer? Did I black out for three minutes at the start?
Hubby talked me down by reminding me that this was the first race in a while in which I had managed to run the whole way (OK, almost managed), so I shouldn’t be fixating on the time. He was right, of course. But I was still miffed. It feels as though I am taking one step forward and three steps back.
But I did get a glow stick out of it.
Speaking of Hubby, he came first in his age group and got what is possibly the best race award ever: a bottle of maple syrup engraved with the race and “first place.” Genius.
Hubby’s time: 21.22 (pace: 6.54)
The cause: Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire
The T-shirt: White tech tee with Firefly logo
The aftermath: Bananas, hot dogs, chicken burgers