Firecracker 5k Race Review

Part of my tour de Midwest included a pitstop in Tulsa OK.  Turns out (brace yourself, it’s a  shocker), there’s a 5k in town on 4th of July.  So I opted to hit the streets and run in the Firecracker 5k.

Upon my arrival to Oklahoma the night before the race, I walked into a restaurant and found this game laying out.  No offense to anyone in Oklahoma (I was raised out in the sticks in Illinois) but it just kinda felt like someone was sending a message….

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The next morning I hit the Tulsa Firecracker 5k,  I grabbed by bib about 45 minutes before the race and headed out to do a quick 1.5 mile warmup…which didn’t take long since it was fairly warm already.

IMG_4035As we lined up in the starting line, I heard a really interesting announcement – strollers would take off first.  To be honest, I was kind of surprised – why send them onto the course 5 minutes before the running crowd?  It seemed a little dangerous, but I went with it, and prepared to do my best “Frogger” moves in order to avoid the strollers about 10 minutes later.

While a group of 4 of us were running the race, I got up to the front, fully prepared to finish in time to snap pics at the finish line for 2 of the runners who were doing their first 5k.

Let’s talk for a minute about expectations – I’m out of running shape.  I’m going to address this later this week, but I wanted to put that out there.  I know I’m out of “race shape” and was also dealing with some monster GI issues since half my family had gotten sick two nights before after eating some tainted veggies at dinner.

After going out of the gate with a knowingly unrealistic, but still present hope of a PR and what was way too freaking fast, I slowed down my initial 6:20ish pace and then slowly faded into the 7-minute mile oblivion.  Mostly because my stomach hated me and was threatening to stage a very public and embarrassing revolt mid-race.  Plus the fatigue of travel, and the “it’s cool to you Tulsa, but hot and humid to my SoCal arse” all culminated in a spectacular blowout, and not like the good kind like the firecrackers I’d see later that night.

When all was said and done I ran a 21:06, placed 2nd in my age group and won a Mason jar. #thanksoklahoma

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I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the darn thing so I just did this….

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You mean it’s a Mason jar and not a personal Nuun drinking glass?

My overall thoughts on the race

Pros:   It was uber organized and easy to get around.  Registration was a breeze and everything started right on time.  Post-race there was a breakfast served, live band and beer (which I couldn’t even look at without my stomach churning).  The awards ceremony was uber cute as well as most of the people there seemed to know each other and they were excited to announce a few winners from exotic locales like California and Los Angeles (apparently they are different).

Cons:  There was virtually no crowd support.  I stood at the finish line for about 15 minutes and was the only person yelling and cheering much of that time.  #muchobummer  Come on Tulsa, it’s your time to scream.  There were also no mile markers, which annoyed me since I was running with a regular old stopwatch and couldn’t get my bearings.

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Cruising to the finish line…I was SCREAMING like a banchee at this point….

On Kickin’ Ass and Taking Names

In other news my friend Heather ran this 5k as her first run.  A few months back she was visiting Cali and we went for a run together and she was killing it on our run.   Despite her protests and anxiety over the race, this little filly killed it.

Running on little sleep and half a banana or something crazy like that, this chica nailed a 24:44 or something crazy fast like that.  I was uber proud of her.

She also placed second in the Athena division which is majorly awesome, so we now have matching Mason jars, which is basically what every friend should aspire to have.

Heather showing she's got what it takes...

Heather showing she’s got what it takes…

At the end of the day we celebrated like rockstars and I traded my Nuun for some of this.  Sorry Nuun, I love ya’ll to death, but you aint’ got nothin’ on the Dom.

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So when all was said and done the race wasn’t a total loss, but more of a reminder that I really, truly and madly hate 5k’s and that I’m woefully out of race shape.

What’s your favorite race distance?

Do you remember your 1st 5k? 

The Best and Worst of Times

The other morning I was heading out to school donning a pair of running shorts, t-shirt and flip flops.  Strawberry being the little sassy pants he gave me this sage advice:

If you’re going to wear running clothes to take us to school, could you at least wear running shoes instead of flip flops so everyone things you’re going to run.”

Busted.

I get criticized for my clothing and he gets to dress like Barney.

I get criticized for my clothing and he gets to dress like Barney.

So true confession – sometimes, even on my rest days I just put my running clothes on because THEY ARE COMFORTABLE (okay let’s be honest, I sleep in a lot of race shirts).  But sporting the spandex leads to some interesting conversations.  Lately the conversation looks something like this:

I can’t believe there’s just a few weeks of school left.  Summer’s going to be great.  No routines, no school, no homework…..[insert parental sigh]….Oh my gosh, summer’s coming in a few weeks.  There’s going to be no routines, no school, no homework!”  [insert parental panic]

I’ve been talking to a lot of parental units about how to keep the babes busy this summer…beyond sacking out in front of a screen of some sort.

Yes I have boys, who by nature, are very active, but sometimes they need a little coaxing or nudging.  How do I “nudge”?

  • Kick ‘Em Out.  I literally tell them to get out of the house for 45 minutes or so.  Usually after 45 they are having so much fun that they don’t want to come back in the house.  Funny things like bikes and bugs usurp boredom very quickly.

    Yes we even play outside in the rain...though that happens about twice a year in California.

    An oldie but goodie pic:  Yes we even play outside in the rain…though that happens about twice a year in California.

  • Give ‘Em A Challenge:  My bambinos LOVE races.  We’ve done 5k’s, 1k’s, 1 milers, 1/2 mile races and mud runs.  If they pin a number on their shirt before, get doted on by a plethora of fans during, and get to get free food after…they’re usually good to go!   Get out and train together – lightly jog or and or speed walk together a few nights a week to prepare.
  • After a mud run...

    After a mud run…

  • Sports Sign On:  Most schools or community centers have local sports teams where kids of all skill levels can join.  We’re big AYSO soccer fans in our house.  With practice at least once a week and games, it’s a sure fire way to get the kids moving.  I watched one little fella on our soccer team this year struggle through his first practices, and slim down and got his little fitness groove on and his endurance had done a 180 by the end of the season.

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  • Summer Stroll:  It’s the simplest of all the solutions – go for a family stroll after dinner.  Sometimes we just walk up to the nearest Starbucks for a quick cup of iced tea, sometimes we just cruise the ‘hood.  Whatever it is, get the legs moving.  Bike, scooter, walk, jog, do whatever you can to shake your tail feathers together.
  • Dude, Where’s My Car?  I scour the mail, interwebz, etc. for coupons to places that are walking/biking distance from my house.  Last summer we made a habit of biking a few miles each way to a local smoothie shop next door to a bagel place that I had a ton of coupons for and we’d have a late breakfast.  Sometimes I slap on a backpack and the little bambinos and I schlep over on our bikes to get ingredients to make homemade pizzas with ingredients we buy from Trader Joe’s.  I always say, where there’s a will there’s a way.

I could write a list a mile long – but mostly, it’s about moving – especially together.  Start a neighborhood soccer game, go play catch, go for a jog and have your kids ride their bike next to you….just do something.

What are you doing to keep your bambinos active?
We’re doing a 5k together this weekend.  More accurately, they are running a 5k and I will meet them at the finish line after the 10k.  

How To Ace A Race With Kids – Part II

The other day I discussed the first step in racing with kids – Pick a Race.

Today, we’ll look at the next two steps:  Pick a Place & Pick a Pace

After a mud run...

After a mud run…I thought 3 boys would like this, but they were mostly just cold and didn’t like waiting in line to shower & change before I let them in the car.

Picking a Place
When I talk about “Place” I really mean teaching your kids about race etiquette.  In order for them to really enjoy the experience, I think it’s important for them to have spent some time around races so they know the culture, the crowds, the noise, the expectations.  It helps alleviate the shell shock so when they show up with race day adrenaline pumping through their teeny tiny veins.  They can handle the whole experience better this way.

Potty Talk
One thing I was surprised by (especially as a parent of boys, was the shock of having to stand in line for bathrooms and then…gasp…they smell and are dirty.  Given their propensity to and love for peeing in any bush without question, this was a little surprising.  Also, most racers are willing to let a hippity, hopping, crotch clutching kid cut in line if they really need to go.  Maybe I should bring them to all of my races?

Proof my kids do like each other and get along.  Also at the start of the PCRF 5k Source

Proof my kids do like each other and get along. Also at the start of the PCRF 5k Source

Corral Crowds

By far the most unnerving part is starting in the corral.  In typical fashion, kids just want to go to the front of the line.  This is not the time nor place for you kid to be the line leader (unless it’s a kid’s race or they are running a 14-18 minute 5k).

Yes I know it’s exciting, yes I like being there too, but I usually have a conversation that goes something like this:

“Honey, see that man who looks like a praying mantis he’s so tall and lean and is wearing a pair of shorts that is smaller than most of the diapers you wore? Yes, honey, he’s going to be eyeing the finish line before you even hit mile marker 1, so let’s let him go in front. kthanksbye.”

Vanilla running a kids run

Vanilla running a kids run

It’s also a matter of safety:  the first 1/4 to 1/2 mile of a race is everyone trying to get into their pace, break free from the crowds, etc.  It’s really easy for focused runners to not see the pint-sized competitors and trip over them causing a major safety hazard in a crowded start.

Cool Rules
Also make sure kids know the rules in advance:  stay on the course, don’t dart from side to side tripping up other runners, etc.  By now, I am making this sound like an awful lot of fun, eh?  My writing is probably coming across like Charlie Brown’s teacher, but there are also some other rules I teach my kids as well…

Laguna Hills Marathon Chocolate

Chocolate running a 1k when he was 3

Laugh, Laugh, Laugh – this is fun…make jokes, raise your hands and yell how far you’ve gone at the mile markers (my favorite is to do the Count from Sesame Street at each mile marker….”One! One mile…hah hah hah hah!”)

-Water Days – I’ll never forget the first time my kids each hit a water station and I explained they could take a sip and THROW the cup to the side on the ground.  Then I explained you could even pour the water on your own head (not anyone else’s unless you ask first).  The giggles, smiles and memories that come from the water tables are probably the best of the race (other than the finish line of course).

And now for the last and probably simplest rule:  Pick your Pace.

By nature, kids push boundaries- that’s what they were designed to do.  They will want to go out sprinting and will die about 1/4 of a mile in, and they have a long way to go…ensure that they aren’t going gangbusters too early- especially their first few races.  As Strawberry has gotten more experienced, I’ve noticed he can usually hold his own pace…but sometimes I need to just get him slowed down out of the gate (uh, he clearly gets this from his mother).

Photo courtesy of Heather

Photo courtesy of Heather.  What? You didn’t know there were Team Gab mini-dresses? #mommyneedslongershorts

If you can get another adult to help split kids into groups that run a similar pace – I could not recommend this more.

Push vs. Pull
Now comes the part, I struggle the most with – where do you go from challenging and encouraging your kids to pushing them.  At the PCRF 5k, I was running with two kids who have entirely different abilities.  It was so frustrating.  I was having to hold one back and try not to push the other one too far.  Apparently my “You’re amazing, you can do this, just a little bit further honey’s!” were too much because at mile 2.25 he yells,

STOP MOM YOU’RE BEING ANNOYING!”

At the finish line Source

At the finish line – not annoyed now are we? Source

Each kid is different – some need a little external motivation, others do juuuust fine on their own.  Just remember, at the finish line, you don’t want them to hate you.

Stop vs. Go
Also remember that your kid might want to stop or walk for a few minutes.  Be sure to pull them to the side to do this.  Also, while the event us super memorable, don’t run ahead and stop to take pictures if the course is crowded.  Not only can it annoy some racers, but can actually be very dangerous and create a tripping hazard resulting in a domino effect tripping & falling fiasco.

Do you cheer for kids on the course?

What’s the most amazing kid racing situation you’ve witnessed?

I always like watching kids push it at the end – they truly understand how to give it their all and do it moreso than most adults, so I could watch the last 100 yards of a 5k with kids all.day.long.  I wish I could bottle that tenacity up and pour it in my coffee every morning!

How to Ace a Race With Kids – Part I

5 Miles
Sloggy, Soggy Strides

I told you that I’d be back to give you more details on the PCRF 5k...but mostly, this is your somewhat informed guide to surviving a 5k with multiple children.  I’ve raced with Strawberry a handful of times, but Sunday was the first attempt to get 3 kids between 6-8 and to run a 5k.

I *mostly* survived.

Photo courtesy of the fabulous running photog Heather

Photo courtesy of the fabulous running photog Heather

In order to do this effectively, I really think you need to hit all 3 -ace’s:
-Pick your Race
-Pick your Place
-Pick your Pace

Honestly, I think it’s worth a few posts to cover this appropriately, so today I’ll just cover the first one – Picking your Race.

Pick Your Race
First of all, be smart about your race.  Embrace your inner Goldilocks and remember, not too big, not too small…but get that race size juuuuust riiiiight.

The Big Kahuna Perks & Pouts:
Don’t pick a 5k with 8,000 relatively competitive runners all trying to PR.  Last spring I did a Hot Chocolate 5k with Strawberry for his 7th birthday (his race entry was what he actually asked for as a gift…he’s corrupted already).  It was a little chaotic since it was a fairly sizable race, and I spent a lot of time body checking people (don’t mess with mama bear) the first 3/4 of a mile or so as we went around a lot of corners to ensure my little man didn’t get taken out by a rogue, PR-setting adult.

Unbridled, gut wrenching tenacity...

That said, we pretty much forgot about all our woes as the race thinned out, he got a new PR (28:45) and then we dove head first into chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…which I truly think is how every race should end if kids are involved.

The pros of a bigger race – the crowd support and post-race goodies.  At the end of the Hot Chocolate 5k, we hit the last half mile which had a ton of cheers, cowbells and general chaos that kids love. The little man realized he could get a new PR if he broke loose…I’ve never seen a kid kick it into high gear for so long at the end of the race and I attribute this less to eating his Wheaties that morning and more to the hundreds of people screaming for him.

Let’s face it, as a kid, running 3.1 miles is a lot of work, so some sugar, smiles and shout outs from the crowd are always monstrously fun during and after a race.


Teeny Tiny Perks and Pouts:

Strawberry’s first 5k was a really small local race up in the San Fernando Valley and it was just about 120 people or so and was fairly disorganized.  The great news was I didn’t have to drag a crabby, overtired 6 year-old to a chaotic starting line uber early in the morning.

Strawberry's First 5k

Strawberry’s First 5k

And while family was waiting at the finish line, it was pretty anti-climatic along the course and he didn’t get quite the same buzz as he has with medium-to-larger sized races.  In addition, he had total and utter disappointment that he did not get a medal.  Let’s face, it at 6.5 bling is your thing.

That said, it was nice not to worry about craziness, crowds, and parking and to just focus on running….

Other Tips

  • If you can find races with a “Walk” option or that are targeted towards kids or families (like PCRF, a color run, a chocolate run…or basically any gimmick run out there) you’re sure to find a great race that’s large enough to feel like a big freaking deal to a little person, but small enough to not worry about constantly losing your children or them dying of a New Balance & Newton stampede.
  • Also remember that no matter how tired your kids are during the race and how much they complain, you’re literally going to find nothing more fun than free stuff, rides and attention at a killer post-race celebration.
  • I also like to write my kid’s names on their bibs or give them a cutesy t-shirt with something (for Strawberry’s birthday run he wore a shirt that said, “Wish me a Happy 7th birthday” and I wore one that said, “Wish the cute redhead next to me a happy birthday”) so people can cheer for them specifically.
  • For little kids, bling is just as important as it is to Dolly Parton in her stage getups – it matters!  After Strawberry’s first 5k, he didn’t get so much as a piece of paper acknowledging his race.  Though he as pretty high on himself, he was a little bummed to not have a “souvenir” to remember the event.

(In other news he asked me what a souvenir was the other day and I explained, “It’s something you take and/or keep to remember a time and/or place.  Kind of like you’re a souvenir from my 20’s”…sadly my lame joke actually got him to understand the concept)

Any other tips?

I actually am curious at what age you would actually let your kid run a 5k alone…this has been a heated topic in our house lately.