On the Fourth of July, I had an opportunity to run in the Firecracker 4 Mile in my hometown. I was pretty nervous going in because I did not run for the month of June. For me, June in Phoenix is the only month I cannot run outside. It is just too hot at 115 degrees for several days. The heat just zaps my already limited energy. I tried to do some other cardio workouts and strength training indoors, but I felt extremely undertrained for this race.

I arrived in LaCrosse, WI on Thursday. It is about a three-hour flight followed by a two and a half hour car ride, which makes for a long day. The weather was amazing, in the upper 70s with fairly low humidity for Wisconsin in the summer. I didn’t go for a run Thursday night but planned to get up and go Friday morning.

I stepped outside Friday to 55-degree weather and partly cloudy skies. I didn’t plan a distance or speed; I just wanted to go. Even after all of the traveling Thursday, I was feeling good. I ended up putting in three miles in 30:56, which averaged out to a 10:17 pace. Not bad for not having run in a month!

I was definitely feeling good headed into the race on Saturday. The race started at Riverfest, which is right along the Mississippi river. The morning wasn’t as cool as Friday, but it sure beats a lot of 90-degrees.

My dad was running too, but I told him to go ahead and not wait for me. He runs about two minutes faster per mile than me. I didn’t want to slow him down. We lined up together and started off weaving through the walkers together but when it the crowd opened up he pulled away. I soon lost sight of him.

It is fascinating to run a race in a city you haven’t lived in for several years. I enjoyed taking in the scenery. I was noticing all the changes to downtown, all the new restaurants. I reminisced as I ran by areas where friend’s lived during college. I ran past the college as well. It was like running through my past.

Where I live in Phoenix is flat. I rarely have any elevation change on my Fitbit surge. I have no hills and never do hill workouts. Well… let me tell you, Wisconsin is not flat. I rediscovered this on Friday and again on Saturday when we rounded a corner and had to race up a hill. Driving and walking these hills never seemed like much but once you run them? Worse thing ever! At least the uphill battle was at the beginning instead of the end. Race directors who put uphills at the end of a race are the devil.

While running uphill I focused on maintaining my intensity rather than my pace. For the first mile, I was around 11:30 per mile. I knew I could do better and started to pick up speed as the course flattened out.

The course looped around and ended at the start line. I was pleasantly surprised at the end because they were handing out red & white or blue & white sunglasses to finishers! The sunglasses actually fit nicely, not nearly as cheap as the aviators handed out at Run the Runway.

I received the blue & white sunglasses (my dad happened to get the red & white). I made sure to wear my blue running shirt and star capris (my attempt at 4th of July fashion).

Overall I enjoyed the race and the weather. I appreciate the hill training, and I wish I could do it more often. I thought four miles was a great distance, not your typical 5K but still a distance most people can do fairly easily. I think holidays are great days to get a race in because I know there will be lots of yummy food in my near future (and probably some vodka too).

I would definitely do this race again or recommend it to others. I didn’t stay for the after party but it is Wisconsin and we know how to party.


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.