Swedish Days Lopp 5K Race Recap

What’s Swedish Days?! It’s a really cute little week-long festival in our neighboring town, Geneva, held every summer with street vendors, lots of food, a little carnival, musical entertainment… and now a new 5K event put on by a great local running store, Geneva Running Outfitters called the Swedish Days Lopp 5K Race.

I found out about this inaugural race through our local running club and had a nice little coupon making the race just $30. I loved that the race was so close to my house and along a route I know very well along the Fox River. It also came with a T-shirt and post-race pancake breakfast.

This was my first race of the year and in 9 months. I typically don’t run 5K events because they are so short, but have missed testing myself. My heel still has its moments, but isn’t so bad that running on it hurts. It’s usually first thing in the morning or when I have been sitting for a long time and am not walking with good supportive shoes or flip-flops.

Race packet pickup was the afternoon before at the running store, or early race morning at the event. If you go the day before, I recommend parking around the streets north of the store because most of Swedish Days events and traffic are south of the main drag where the store front is. The goodie bag was filled with tons of great coupons and offers from the local stores and some have no expiration date which is a nice bonus.

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The next morning, I planned on leaving my house at 7:15 and ended up leaving closer to 7:30 which ended up being perfect since I was only 10 minutes away. There was a commuter lot with a path and quarter mile walk downhill to the race start at 8:00am. I was suprised that not many people used that lot because it was so easy to get in and out of (my secret spot for next year!). Before the race I snapped this quick picture and kind of wished I had a few friends running with me.

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There were only about 300 people participating in this inaugural race which was good because the start was a bit tight as we started running onto the course and over one of my favorite bridges. We had to still share the space with cyclists and pedestrians who were not part of the race, so there were a few dicey moments as bikes carefully made their way past a few narrow places on the path until the running crowd started to space out about a half mile in.

I felt great the first mile and had a hard time judging if I should have been running faster, or holding back a little bit since we were running mostly downhill to run along the river. I’m used to really holding back for those much longer races and I like that laid back running strategy… maybe one reason I’m not a fan of the faster 5Ks. Here were my splits (you can guess what happened):

Mile 1:   9:17.53 (much better than my 10 min/miles)

Mile 2:   9:07.43 (not bad!)

Mile 3:   9:34.99 (oofta! uphill?)

Unofficial Time:   28:17.10 (Happy! My goal was to go under 30 minutes)

In the second mile, I really felt great. There was a lot of shade as the temps and humidity were starting to creep up there. There was also a water station just after the first mile and I thought I would definitely not need water. (famous last words).

The turnaround was at a pretty little spot over by some Japanese gardens and then back across the river. By the time I hit the water spot, I thought… WATER! YES! So, I walked through the station quick and started picking up the pace to finish strong.

But, suddenly I wasn’t feeling so great. I actually started feeling light-headed, so I stopped to walk and slow my heart rate. I also remembered that I could just slow down my running pace!!! DUH!  Has it really been that long since I ran a race? And so the goal was to keep running until the finish even if it was a much slower pace. I stopped one more time on a really hot part of the course and then decided it was hotter walking there than just plowing through slowly and getting back into the shade again.

By the time I finished, I was having a harder time breathing and was glad I slowed way down. Looking at my splits, though, I didn’t really slow down as much as I thought I did. I thought I was closer to a 10 or 11 min/mile!

Race volunteers were handing out bottled water at the finish and I walked in the shade to try and cool off. Even the slight breeze wasn’t helping much. I bumped into a running acquaintance, Tom R. and his friend, Sarah and we spied a snowcone machine in the distance!!! The snowcones were the BEST! I’m not one for usually eating junkfood after a race, but the ice cooled me off quickly. (p.s. check out and read Tom’s book in this link!)

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The pancake breakfast after the race was wonderful! I took my car and drove it a few blocks over to the church that provided the meal. Instead of just having a buffet type of breakfast, there were 2 people taking orders for Swedish pancakes. You could have your choice of Sugar/Cinnamon, Blueberry or Lingonberry with two sausages and coffee or juice. I intially ordered one sugar and 2 blueberry, but was glad they made a mistake giving me one of each. Next year it’s Lingonberry all the way!

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I have to admit to being a cheapskate with race fees and wanting to find the biggest bang for my buck since races have been getting more and more expensive. This one definitely gave us a great race for our money and I’ll be back next year… and I’ll be encouraging some of my friends to try this challenging, but beautiful course, too!

Anyone want to join me?!

Love and xo,

Teri

Happiness is The Underground Polar Express Run

Quote_Plato_on_being_kind_GR_2This doesn’t start out happy.

I’m talking about suicide for a moment.

Has it touched you? Your family? A friend? A friend of a friend?

I can still remember standing at my small kitchen window in base housing looking out into the cold Montana snow when the phone rang.

The voice on the other end was different… I listened to my friend choking back her sobs as she told me her husband committed suicide that morning. I sobbed with her.

I couldn’t understand. She told me he had battled depression his entire life. She knew this could happen but prayed to God that it didn’t.

Sadly, she’s not my only good friend who has been effected by suicide. And just writing this makes me tear up and hurt for them.

Being in the military for 20 years both my husband and I have been exposed to suicide more than we care to admit. Neither of us are afraid to talk about it and we both feel very strongly that more needs to be done to help those struggling with depression.

Suicide is not about being selfish. It’s a painful illness and we don’t have enough people out there who can help.

This is where the Underground Polar Express Run comes in.

A little over two years ago, my dear friend, Karen, told a few of us that all she wanted for Christmas was to do something nice for our community… and did we want to help?

Of course!

We threw together this ‘underground’ run that quickly spread by word of mouth only. It was never meant to be an organized run. Just a fun 5k-ish run with friends and friends of friends who wanted to help give back during the holidays and then get together for a drink and a few ‘bragging-rights’ awards afterward.

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It was a freezing morning when we showed up not knowing how many people would even be there. It would probably be just the 4 or 5 of us!

When I showed up, there were over a dozen people who had cans of food and cash to donate to the local food pantry. We literally operated the race out of the back of Karen’s car and more people kept coming in some great costumes. Even Santa ran the first year in the snow!

It was awesome! It was heart warming. It was perfect.

Last year, things got a little more serious as Karen wanted to make it bigger… but not too big.

It will never be big. It will never be a timed race. But, it will always be special.

The committee decided to help the Suicide Prevention Services last year and the tradition continued again yesterday!

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I was really happy to see the run benefit an organzation that our communities need with a topic more people need to talk about.

With some amazing friends and little elves who chipped in at every level, things went off with a merry jingle!

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I sadly missed the main event last year when I threw my back out, but sent my hubs and bubs to help out how they could. So, this year I was chomping at the bit to help out and make up for lost volunteering and seeing friends so I could wish them a Merry Christmas.

My hubs and I snapped this picture in the 5 minutes we saw each other before going off to our elf positions 🙂

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Pal Joey’s is the restaurant where the post-run or post-walk festivities and fun occurs! Go eat here. Not only are they incredibly generous to our event, but we love the pizza and family-friendly atmosphere!

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The moment where my heart was going to burst with happiness was just a few moments after everyone started coming back from the run to have more fun and food with family and friends. I sat there in the bar and watched as EVERYONE came in with HUGE smiles on their faces.

Success!

I started to get really emotional and tear up thinking how honored I felt to be part of this great thing. And to really see Karen’s vision a reality.

The end of the run is almost like walking into Cheers where everyone (or at least someone) knows your name! How incredible is it that everyone is there with the common goal of giving back in whatever capacity they could.

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I mean look at this jolly crew!!! We are actually missing several others who were pivotal in making the day possible. Everyone mattered.

I also felt like those of us affected by suicide were in some little way leaving a legacy for the loved ones who should have been there with us.

What’s even more mind-blowing is the generosity that overflows from the restaurant when everyone comes back and fills every nook and cranny. Yes, it’s kinda sweaty smelly, especially after a 60-degree run in December, but I had a cold, so didn’t even notice! LOL!

The event gathers some awesome raffle prizes where every registered participant has a chance to win.

wpid-wp-1450155477265.jpgAnd, everyone ends up going home with a few of these goodies along with pizza and a drink, too!

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If you came and donated a toy for Toys for Tots, there was a special snowflake ornament from Santa’s workshop.

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Even though I saw most of my friends for about 5 seconds during the entire event, I also got a chance to meet a few new blogger friends who joined in the fun. I want to say thank you all so much for coming to say ‘Hi’ to me and giving me so many great hugs and holiday wishes. I hope you all had a wonderful time.

This morning I learned about another business giving back to Suicide Prevention Services this month as well as the significance of the semicolon tattoo. You can read about it here.

I challenge you to find a cause you care deeply about and volunteer your time to help out in some way. Be the change and make a difference.

What is your favorite charity to support?