Day Twelve: A Freeport Fourth of July

04 Jul

Today started early. Really, really early. Like when my phone alarm went off at 4:45am early. And I was disoriented for a second, partly because I got such little sleep last night, but mostly because it was really bright outside and the birds were signing vociferously. My body was telling me based on stimulus that it must be much later, but no, all clocks confirmed that it was only 4:45am. A very confusing start. But I threw on my running clothes and crept out of the house, jumped in my van, and started the drive to Freeport. And why, you might ask, was I up at such a ridiculous hour? I did kind of give you a clue by mentioning my running clothes, but here’s the deal: Every year in Freeport, LL Bean sponsors a 10k Fourth of July road race. And this year, I was inspired to do it. Why? No idea. Mostly just to say I did. Partly because of the t-shirt. But it’s been over a year since I ran more than 4 miles consecutively. And I am prone to knee problems of the IT Band variety – which mostly explains why I haven’t run more than 4 miles consecutively any time in recent history. But logic be damned, I wanted to enter this race. Here’s the rub; online registration was closed three days ago and they were only offering 100 day of race registrations. And registration opened at 6am on the 4th. And Freeport is an hour drive from Kennebunkport. So, in my car by 5am, I made the jaunt up the interstate and pulled into a parking place right in front of the registration area right at 6am. At that point there were already people filling out the day-of paperwork. But I did it! I was one of the first 100, so I got my number (1545 – was I the 45th fool that was up that early hoping to torture myself?) and went back out to my car. I was excited, because it would have been a bummer to have gotten up so early, driven so far, and not gotten in. But I was also wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into. I parked the van in the garage (easiest it’s ever been to park in Freeport) and wandered over to the LL Bean Flagship store. Handy that they’re open 24 hours a day! I poked around for a bit, took a selfie in front of the Bean Boot, and soon enough it was creeping closer to race time (7:30). I shed my sweatshirt as it was already getting really warm, grabbed my race number and my ipod, and set off for the start. It seems like the only people I’ve been randomly meeting in Maine this trip are from Florida. It’s kind of a weird coincidence. But there I was chatting at the start with a couple from the Tampa area. The woman told me that the run course was really, really hilly. So hilly that last year it made her cry. Oh no. So I quickly readjusted my mental goals. No longer was I even considering that my legs might feel good enough for an aspirational hour. I decided that time-wise 1:15 would be aspirational. And as for my other goals, I was still dedicated to running every step, or, at least not walking a step. Ironically, of course my walking stride can be much faster than a shuffling job, but it’s the mechanics of turning the legs over that was my point of pride. I would not walk. And I was going to try very hard not to cry!

My first clue that things might not go well should have been the downhill start. What goes down must come up! But honestly, despite the hills that started within the first mile, I was feeling really good. I had a decent pace, and for the first three miles or so, that one hour finish seemed possible. The scenery was beautiful as we ran through the countryside surrounding Freeport, and the crowd support was awesome. Every intersection had a knot of people cheering us on, all the houses we passed had people in the yard or on their porches cheering. It was a lot like the crowd support in the neighborhoods during the Gate River Run. So I was physically and mentally feeling strong. Was listening to some great music. I was in a good frame of mind. And then around the four and a half mile mark my right knee started to ache and register some complaints. Listen here, lady, we were happy to do that 5k earlier in the week, but four miles is our limit. Why are you still running? Hey! Listen to me. Oh, you’re going to ignore me, are you? Well, now I’m going to get your attention. And it was almost directly in front of the 5 mile marker that it felt like someone slipped an ice pick into the side of my right knee. Now, I am not a stranger to this particular pain. Felt it before (remember our Pumpkin Run 10k, Katie? It was exactly like that!) I knew what was happening, and that I needed to slow down if I wanted to leg it out (hee hee) the final mile point two. But I was still super dedicated to my goal of not walking, especially as I felt the pie in the sky goal of a one hour finish slipping away. So I ignored it, just tried to keep turning my legs over, even as the pain and the numbness below my knee escalated. As my good friend Katie once told me, a mantra for those hardest parts of a run, there are kids fighting cancer, I can do *anything* for a mile. I was not going to quit until I was finished. Could I have walked up that final hill to the finish line faster than I “ran” it? You bet. But I did it. I finished the race when I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to. And, I did it in 1:03.22. Not bad for the girl who hasn’t done much running lately, and is woefully out of shape. Not bad for the girl with the ice pick in her knee. I was super proud of having finished without walking (or crying!) It was a great way to start the day. Feeling proud of myself.

Now it was time to get myself cleaned up and ready for the parade. John was bringing the kids up from KPT and I needed to get ready to meet them. The bright idea was that I would go to the Freeport YMCA and take a quick shower. Um, yeah, that would have been great if they weren’t closed. Oops. So, now here I am with a change of clothes, but grossly sweaty (it really was hot out on the course. By Maine standards, anyway.) So, back to the flagship store for a French bath (there’s another name for that, but this is a family-friendly blog), and into my appropriately patriotic change of clothes. We managed to score a great spot in the shade, right across the street from the parade emcees, so the groups that performed (cheerleaders, etc) did so right in front of us. The parade was exactly what I was hoping for. A real slice of small town Americana. Fire trucks, antique cars, bands, small groups walking. I loved it. The kids did to. The parade wasn’t even half over before Avery asked if we could come to Freeport for every 4th of July. It did not disappoint.

We were dedicated to spending the entire day in Freeport, to see the free Matt Nathanson concert and fireworks that followed, but that meant it was now 11am and we had 8 hours to kill. Time to shop at LL Bean! Picked out new lunch boxes for everyone and got them embroidered. (Side note: LOVE my LL BEAN Visa card! Free embroidery!!) The girls each got a new dress – their play dresses are so cute and hold up really, really well. I was less enthused by the clothes offerings this year, but I did pick out a green polo and a new white t-shirt to replace the one I spill Harper’s orange juice on during the parade. (Handy!) Then we met the boys for lunch. My burrito was good, but my Shipyard Summer Ale was even better. A doctor friend of mine prescribed ibuprofen and beer as a post-race treatment. I wasn’t able to handle his prescribed dose, but that first beer did taste mighty fine. We killed a significant amount of time in an excellent toy store above the restaurant. But then it was off to the movies. So excited that a new theater has opened in Freeport Village just across the street from Bean. We caught a 2:20pm showing of Despicable Me 2. Very cute movie! I love Gru. But I’m not going to lie, I found myself drifting off from time to time. That early morning wake up call, coupled with a huge lunch and beer, a comfortable seat in a darkened room… zzzzzz. But I saw most of the movie and I really liked it. Definitely give it another look when it comes out on video. Also fun was spending time in the small game room at the theater. Pinball – which I love, but haven’t played in years – and even better, Police Trainer! Used to play that game all the time in my 20s – before kids, and back when arcades kind of made a social comeback. Beau was especially enthused by how well I did. I looked at him and said, your momma’s pretty good with a gun. He nodded, but I imagine that comment will come back to bite me at some point. Can’t wait to hear where he choses to trot that out again, oh yeah, well my mom’s really good with a gun. Sigh. They also had Big Buck Hunter, which I had played for the very first time in May when I was out with my girlfriends in NYC. Thanks Lauren & Kris, NYC natives, for turning me on to the redneck game of arcade hunting. You really broadened my horizons. Good stuff.

We killed more time wandering about the stores, had a little gun safety discussion with the kids in the Bean Hunting & Fishing store, grabbed some sustenance from the 1912 cafe – all it takes is bagels to make my kids happy, got our picture taken in front of the Bean Boot, got free Nalgene water bottles for being an LL Bean visa cardholder (The lady even gave us 4! One for me and each of the kids. It was super nice of her, especially since she was only supposed to give me one.) Then I grabbed towels from my car and claimed a piece of grass in the quad. People had been setting up chairs for the concert since the night before, so we had to make peace with a patch of grass off to the side between the Bean Home store and Ben & Jerry’s – not a terrible location, but we couldn’t see the stage from a seated position. And honestly, it turned out fine because the kids could run around in the grass behind us with a pack of other kids – apparently they aren’t Matt Nathanson fans, go figure. And John & I took turns wandering closer to the stage to really enjoy the music. I found an excellent spot behind the stage where I actually got a 3/4 view of him singing, and it still had really good sound. Matt Nathanson, besides being an excellent singer, is really, really funny with his crowd banter. The parts of the show that I could really focus on, I enjoyed immensely, the parts where I was stuck in the crowd with tons of kids being crazy and people having conversations, was still enjoyable, because the weather was perfect and the music, even when it was just relegated to background status, was good. The fireworks immediately followed the show and they were pretty good. It’s nice to be able to hear the show, have it exploding directly overhead. Usually we’re at the beach just watching them from a distance. Definitely loses something if you can’t hear the hiss of the rockets, the boom of the explosion.

The worst part of the day, the traffic trying to get out of Freeport. I’d venture to guess I spent 30 minutes just sitting still in traffic trying to get between the parking garage and 295 south. Very frustrating. But not enough to derail a really lovely day. It was exactly the kind of 4th of July I hoped for. Though I did notice a lack of patriotic music, I would have like to have heard more of that. Managed to get the kids home and into their beds, and then despite being physically and emotionally spent, needing to fall directly into bed, I sat out on the upstairs balcony. There were billions of stars out last night. I’ve never seen so many in the sky at one time. And as I sat in an Adirondack chair, face tilted to the sky, I could hear the lapping water, the momma duck who lives in the marsh next to the house, other random birds and animals, the wind in the trees. It was exactly what I needed to recover my bliss after traffic, and my painfully cramped knee (we’ll have to see how this affects the driving on the southbound leg). As I felt myself getting drowsy, I finally relinquished my nighttime view and fell into bed.

Tomorrow: The final day in Maine. Laundry, beach, laundry, beach, packing, beach, eating everything perishable out of the refrigerator….



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© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim