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

Fox Valley Marathon Race Recap

Have you ever slept through an alarm for a race before?! EEEEEK!

Forever setting my alarm like this for all races!

Forever setting my alarm like this for all races!

The NON-Alarm PR

To start the day off right, I set a serious PR (personal record) for getting ready as my alarm never went off. Reality? Um, noooo, I never actually set it after I checked it, double checked and triple checked it before I went to bed. EPIC FAIL!

That is the first time I’ve ever done that and I’m pretty sure I will no longer sleep the night before a race ever again.

Thankfully, I set everything out the night before and somehow was ready in about 15 adrenaline-filled minutes. I’m so grateful Karen and Penny gave me a few extra minutes to run down the pitch black street with my coffee in one hand and oatmeal in the other. (so sorry I freaked you out with my “Holy Moley” text, Karen!)

The Fox Valley Marathon

The Fox Valley Marathon is one of my favorite races to run because it’s incredibly beautiful and in my own back yard. It’s my third year running in the race series. I honestly do it for the medals. They give out endurace medals for every year you run in the race!!!  At year 5, you get a really cool pullover!

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I also appreciated the race goodie bags this year! I didn’t expect anything because they sent us an online goodie bag, which is popular these days. The last few races I’ve run this past year have had some really sparse goodies… how about none (with the exception of Christmas in July). FVM and their sponsors gave us awesome shirts, a super yum Cliff Bar (never made it home), a yummy lip balm and a SPF 30 spray pen!

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Karen, Me, and Penny – ready to go!!!

When we arrived at the race, we met up with our running club for a group picture and then a training team picture, took care of porta potty business, and then lined up to race.

The temperature was brisk as my teeth chattered for the first mile, but I warmed up quickly enough. Suddenly, my bladder started yelling at me!!!  WHAT?! I had to go BAD! At 1.5 miles, I quickly spotted a few blue comfort houses and made a run for it. I think I lost about 2 minutes. Let me tell you, sweaty compression shorts are not easy to work around!

Fox Valley Marathon 2015 Start

(photo courtesy of Jenny Thorsen)

Here’s where I made an error in judgement. If there’s such a thing as a minor panic button, I hit it. Even in a four hour race, 2 minutes is a lot when you think you can go a specific time. (I would have loved to run sub 4 hours) and started running a little lot faster than I should have. Hindsight is 20/20.

At my favorite donut stop, I saw my friend Laura and her family who was screaming from the top of this bridge where she took my picture – it was awesome to see her! At mile 13, I knew I really should have run slower, so I eased up a little. This stretch of the course is an out and back for the marathoners and so you start seeing the leaders of the race and everyone in front of you heading home. At mile 15, I was clocked at 9:01 min/miles, well under pace even with the 2 minute loss and felt awesome! Much better than I did at Chicago and I started thinking, WOW, could this really happen?

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Eleven miles… feeling great! (photo courtesy of Laura Parks)

Then, I saw Penny, who was looking fantastic about a mile and a half in front of me and it made my heart so happy for her! She was definitely on track for her goal time.

The course is pretty flat or downhill, but at the turn around, I realized I’d hit a few more hills than I thought. At mile 17, my wheels started wobbling off. I forgot to take a gel at some point. I know when I am really pushing myself, I get foggy brained and all the oxygen goes to the legs and lungs. (Don’t try having a decent conversation with me at this point because I don’t even make sense to myself!). Glob dis not leader steinen goof?!

65319161c3172a90c7c5c5bcddcd61cfAt that point, I thought about plan B to keep my pace at 9:30 and no more than 10:00 min miles so I could attempt a PR.

The ‘I love tackle walk hills’ part starts at mile 19 & 20. This far into the race, I can walk the last half of the hill faster than I run it.

It was after the 20-mile checkpoint where I caught up with Penny (big sad frowny face). Her tummy was giving her some troubles and she was off track. She was so strong though and kept going despite losing a couple cookies along the way. Penny urged me to go on ahead and while I didn’t want to, I know how it feels to be in her shoes. Friends don’t want to hold their friends back from attempting their own best race. And so, I left a little piece of my heart with her and kept plodding forward.

Almost There!

One new change the Fox Valley Marathon made this year was to add an aid station every mile for the last 6 miles. I appreciated every single one as I started walking through each one pounding Gatorade to replace the electrolytes. I felt my calves and inner thighs tightening up.

ImageProxy-1.mvcAt mile 23, I saw a bunch of happy faces! Our friend, Michelle, and her family were screaming my name and offering to run with me. It made me so happy to see her. Then, all the sudden, I saw the hubs and bubs and I was even more happy. I told them how much I loved them and it made my day to have them cheering for me. There’s nothing like knowing your family has your back!

Mile 25 was my happy little helper, Carrie. I was struggling to stay at 10 minute miles by then. Carrie and her hubs were right on the trail in their jeep ready to help me run it in and keep my mind off the pain. These two were also the ones to help me train for my very first marathon two years ago and as a couple, they would split their runs so I didn’t have to run alone as I didn’t have many running friends at the time. THANK YOU BOTH!!!

I will be honest and let you know I don’t remember about half of what Carrie told me to keep me going, so we’ll need to catch up again in about a week over a short run and coffee!

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Almost there! (photo courtesy of Laura Parks)

I finally reached mile 26 and saw Karen in the middle of the road jumping up and down at me and encouraging me to finish hard (she had a great half-marathon race, too)!

The finish line is AWESOME! You turn the corner and run across this big wide open bridge with the finish banner at the end of the bridge. People are lined on both sides just screaming and cheering! My right calf all the sudden cramped up and I knew… this is it. I really gave it my all this day.

Unofficial Finish Time: 4:14.08 (3.5 minute best!)
Age-Group Place: 18th

ImageProxy.mvcWhen I finally stop after any long race, the hurt is amplified! It’s as if the intensity knob is suddently turned up and endorphins no longer exist. I can’t do much of anything by myself. I need help. I can’t put the medal on myself, I still can’t talk, I don’t think I can stand anymore and the thought of sitting down knowing I might not get back up is a deterrent to sitting. I shuffle through the end of the food line to find friends.

I had an incredible post-race bloody mary and half a patty melt with a few of my ultra-chica’s and I was really, really happy! My long-run season is over and I came away with a lot of great races this year. Now, my mind and body are ready for a break.

THANK YOU!

Thank you all for all the encouragement and support before, during, and after this race! I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have the best friends who believe in my ‘crazy’ and who believe in me, especially on the days I don’t.

What’s your next B-HAG (Big-Hairy Audacious Goal)? What challenge scares you but excites you at the same time?! Let us know so we can cheer you on!

I have a few ideas about what I want to do next… stay tuned!

Post race update: Turns out my pickle-loving Penny came down with the flu during the race!!! 26.Yikes! She’s recovering well and is undeterred from getting back out there and trying again! If you’ve ever wanted to meet a tough, gutsy woman… meet Penny! #sherocks

Half Madness 13.1 Race Recap

The Peapod Half Madness 13.1 race is the very first half-marathon I ever ran 4 years ago and even though the back half has some I hate you hills, it’s still my favorite half-marathon!

Do you 13.1? My favorite new bracelet!!!

Do you 13.1? My favorite new bracelet!!!

Technically, today was a long-run training day as my plan said to run 20 miles.

Hmmm. If you’re a marathoner in training, you know the feeling. How can I get in those extra 7 miles with my race thrown in there because the Garmin has to say I did that long run in the plan, right?! (nod your head and raise your hand in praise like you know exactly what I mean – Amen, Sister!).

My biggest concern going into the race today was figuring out how I was going to feel. For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been battling allergies like a (ahem – insert bad word here) trooper. Two nights ago, I literally wanted to curl up in a ball with my inhaler in hand and scratch my eyes out. Trust me, a second dose of Benadryl crossed my mind. #walkingzombie

So, I made sure I carried my inhaler, Benadryl and phone with me in case I needed to just stop and call my husband.  I took a deep breath of albuterol about 20 minutes before my run today and prayed for the best.

My sweet friend, Karen, was so nice and met me bright and early to ride down to the starting line while I jogged a nice easy warm-up. We met up with our running club for a group picture and then of course had to get ours taken, too!

Me & Karen looking haute!

Me & Karen looking haute in our favorite running/cycling gear.

As I stood at the starting line with my friend, Zeke, the National Anthem started playing.

SOAP-BOX WARNING: Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to hear my rant!  People… when the National Anthem starts playing. STOP TALKING and shut your traps, take your hat off and put your hand on your heart. Women technically do not have to remove your cover (hat, cap, visor). Please show some respect. As a military veteran, nothing irks me more than people who don’t respect our flag and our National Anthem. Many, many, many people gave their lives for this country. Don’t just respect those who gave their lives for your freedom, respect their families whose grief runs deep, too. Remember September 11th?! Every house and street corner had an American Flag waving and every American sang along with the National Anthem. I still get tears when I hear this anthem that proclaims we are the land of the free and the home of the brave… no other country in the world has what we have! RANT OVER. God Bless America!

At 7am, the race begun and it heads straight up a long hill. Nice. I had to remember I was going to listen to my body and lungs. If I felt good, I’d go as long as I could, but if I started hurting, I’d slow down or even take a break and walk.

As we were winding through some of my favorite neighborhoods, it was like breathing water (95% humidity, YAY!) and sweat pours off my face in buckets. Thankfully, it was cloudy and fairly cool for entire race.

Public Service Announcement: And then I got stuck behind a loud-mouth for about 5 miles. As a friend and runner, please do yourself a favor and talk about ideas… NOT PEOPLE and their personal problems. These ladies went on and on and on about other’s people’s business that no-one had any business knowing about. It was really ugly, and very uncomfortable for me… especially since I recognized the main blabber. Not nice.

Be kind. Be nice. Be a good friend. Lift others up!!! Be the change and create happiness! #everythingIlearnedinkindergarten

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My first few miles I thought were pretty quick and it scared me a little because I wasn’t sure how much I’d have left for the end (plus 5 more miles). I was running about 8:30 mi/miles and then passed by the 1:59 pacers. YIKES. It helped to run down a hill toward the river where I knew it was flatter, so I was able to catch my breath. As I turned the corner to the path, I saw my friend, Amy, who took one of my favorite race pics!

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I have a fun announcement to share tomorrow!!!

The hard part came around mile 6.5 when we started going uphill and I could feel my feet and face getting really hot. I saw a guy with ziplock bags of ice and immediately grabbed one because I remembered an article about how to cool down the most efficiently and all I could think of was ice on my hands, wrists, face and in your bra!!! Wow, it helped!

The back half of this race has some hills. Not terrible, but ones you notice because you’re getting really tired. So in true ultra-runner fashion, I would run half-way up the hill and walk to the top. Then I started walking through all the aid stations to pour water on myself. Those next 4 miles exceeded 9:00 min/miles, but I wasn’t worried because I still felt good.

The best part of the race was seeing friends and neighbors cheering along the way! So many friendly faces is part of what makes this race so fun for me.

Hitting mile 11 is a racer’s dream because it’s all downhill to the finish line! My pace shot right back to 8:35 mi/miles. WHAT? I turned that corner and started looking at my watch and doing the math. I could PR.

My wonderful family was waiting for me with a mile left and it made me so happy to see them. I gave them a quick sweaty hug and high-five and let them know I was going for it.

When I came over the bridge, I saw the timer at the finish line. 1:54:something… and I crossed the finish line a minute or two after the start. BOOK IT, GIRL and dig deep (but it prolly didn’t look like it! LOL!).

Here’s the official time.

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My son asked me why I got an ‘F’ in running! Bwah ha ha! #toocute

1:01 faster than my personal best two years ago!  WHAAAAT?! So much for a training run. I couldn’t help it, I did squirt 1 or 2 tears I was so happy!

I’d jump for joy if I could. But, instead I decided to stuff my pie-hole with the best pizza ever because I was hungry! Pal Joey’s is the BEST!

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Mile 15 theme lately: FOOD!

To be honest, I think the course was a tad short – a couple of people on the course were measuring short along the way, too – my Garmin says .15 mile short. But, I’ll take the PR and satisfaction of knowing I ran my fastest half-marathon in 2 years during the toughest part of any runner’s marathon training.

Somehow I managed to eek out the last 5 miles around uh.ya.sure mi/minute (insert walking jogging and eating my favorite Jelly Belly sport beans here because I deserved them). I think cloud nine helped transport me home… that and Karen who biked my butt home. (love her).

And then I collapsed on the couch into a useless blob for most of the day.

There are two other things (plus albuterol) that I think helped me feel so great today.

1.) Fueling has been a focus for me this past few weeks and while I haven’t been perfect, I have been paying attention mostly to the quality of my food and my what my appetite is telling me. On long run days, I’ve been especially attentive to making sure I get those carbs in earlier in the day and even right after my run. I really think I’m bingeing less in the evening when my body was screaming for food before. I’m officially 4 pounds lighter than I was at the beginning of July… and feeling strong.

2.) I also have a new possible secret weapon I drank about 30 minutes before the race. It was just released by my fuel of choice company last month and while the jury is still out for me, today was a great day! I’ll share more later after the season when I can really make sure I’ve figured out how well it works for me… and other runners who’ve been trying it, too.

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What a crazy, fun day!

Have you ever had a surprise PR race before? Do you have a favorite race to run year after year?

Christmas In July 6-Hour Race Recap

CiJ-Logo-BlueBG-WithDate-ForWeb800px-July2015Event(My quick side note, I wrote this a while back and have just felt so very LAZY and working on catching up with so many things. All I needed to do was add the pictures and here we are 3 weeks later! Thanks for being so patient… here’s my original thoughts).

What’s better than running an ultra-marathon?

Running it when you should be sleeping, of course!!! And, because the night is so long, be prepared to read a long post! HA HA. Feel free to just fast forward to the end. In fact, I’ll spoil it for you… I finished 🙂

A week and a half ago, I saddled up to the starting line of the Christmas in July 6-Hour Race in Lisle, Illinois with 6 of my closest ultra (crazy awesome) girlfriends!  My goal at the time was to at least get to 27 miles or 27 laps. Anything more than 26.2 is considered an ultra-marathon and in this race, the number of laps is what counts on the official results.

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Last year, I found out about this race when I went to cheer on my dear friend, Karen at Trading in My Heels, as she completed this race as her very first Ultra-Marathon! There was noooo way, I’d spend the night cheering her on (this Mama needs her shut-eye) and so I went bright and early to cheer and watch her finish this epic endeavor. I saw her as she just stepped into ultra territory and at mile 27, Karen was in serious pain, sleep-deprived, and exhausted, but even despite that, she planted the seed for me to do this really cool event a year later with her… Just because she was smiling at the end of her 50K!

Karen is amazing! Even after staying up all night conquering 50K,, she looked more awake than me!

Karen is amazing! Even after staying up all night conquering 50K,, she looked more awake than me!

Here’s what went down for my run.

About 6 months ago, I met these women. They were incredible and we all came together toward a common goal. We wanted to do an ultra-marathon and the Christmas In July 6-hour event was the one to do because HEY, girls just wanna have fun!!!

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We had some amazing, hilarious, mosquito-infested, memory-making training runs together as we shared our journey and progress with one another online sometimes on an hourly basis! I’ll be honest and say that they were all a lot more dedicated than I was and I know that without them, I wouldn’t have slugged it out the last 10 weeks of training to make it to this event. (Many hugs, much gratitude, and love to you tough chicks!)

In hindsight, it’s hard to believe there is any way I should have done what I did. I literally ran an average of 24 miles a week in the last 10 weeks… not exactly a perfect training plan.

It was the hottest, most humid day of the year and I had just flown in from spending 3 weeks in Portland, Oregon where it was 70 degrees with no humidity. I arrived 24 hours before the race spending the whole next day sealed up inside my house only opening the door to let the dogs in and out of the house! Each time I met that blast of hot, humid air, I started to worry a bit more. I even cranked down the A/C because I was sweating my boobs off just doing some light housework! Holy Hotness!

I spent the day of the event packing my gear, literally moving stuff out of my suitcase and transferring it straight into my ultra duffel bag. The one thing I changed was my running outfit.

IMG_20150717_125416I normally wear compression shorts & socks for anything over 13 miles, but there was no way I could wear that many clothes with it so hot. So I did a million Madonna wardrobe changes… I almost wanted to run in a swim bikini…(oh, but the thigh chaffing. Nope. I don’t have Madonna’s body).

I also couldn’t figure out what to eat and had a minor panic attack at 1am the previous morning asking my ultra chicks what to do! Normally, most of us eat a light dinner the night before, then sleep and wake up to have a light carbo fueled breakfast before going to the race. But since this race started at 12 am, do I eat a light ‘dinner’ at breakfast and then try to sleep and have a light carbo ‘breakfast’ for dinner?

OK, so this is where I started getting delusional. Yes! It starts 24 hours before the race (Oh stop, I know you’re thinking that signing up for an ultra already makes me delusional.)

I ended up have a light spaghetti dinner early and then attempted a 2-hour nap at 6 pm. I got in a 1-hour nap and then reality hit waking me up!

Karen picked me up at 10 pm and as we drove to the event, there were these beautiful huge clouds filled with lightning. Hmmmm. We arrived in the dark at almost the same time as Penny, Kim, Barb, Michelle and Maggie. We basically gave each other play-by-play texts… “Leaving now”, “Be there in 5 minutes”, “See you soon!”, “We are crazy!”!

Once we walked to the main race course area, I picked up my race packet and was happily surprised to see a warm winter cap, long-sleeved tech shirt AND short-sleeved tech shirt! WOW! I had no idea we’d get so much great gear… I guess I didn’t read the fine print. I thought I was just paying for food and lighting! HA HA! (or HO HO).

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This was also the first time I wore an ankle timing chip. I thought it might bug me, but it was actually very soft and I forgot I was wearing it until they had to help me take it off at the end!

This year, the event also allowed participants and those cheering to set up open tents along the course route for drop bags and other spectator comforts. Of course the UBAGE girls (Ultra Bad Ass Girl Extravaganza – coined by Kim) had a blanket and a chair and we just threw our stuff in the grass about 50 paces from the aid station and starting line along the route.

The aid station was AMAZING! In all honestly, I got hungry just looking at the aid station before the race even started!

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Isn’t this ULTRA AWESOME aid?

The race stocked up on water, Gatorade, soda, various forms of food, candy, fruit, gels, pizza and other special request items on 4 tables. They rotated food items throughout the night, too which was perfect because when you’re running that long, something that sounds appetizing at 2 am, doesn’t always sound appetizing at 3 am! In fact, it’s quite possible it sounds good when you grab it and as soon as you put it in your mouth you decide it’s no longer tasty. (I did a few double takes and back tracks myself).

We started promptly at 12 am with about 50+ other 6-hour runners. Believe it or not, there is also a 12-hour race and a 24-hour race, both of which had started an hour or two earlier with all of us running our respective raced concurrently. We started off to one side as we watched these amazing people on their journeys!

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It took me a couple of laps to take in all the wonderful sights and sounds all along the course.

The starting line was all decked out in Christmas lights and red & white stripped tents. Along the way, the volunteers set up luminary candles around the entire course with signs pointing the way. I specifically remember a huge blow up snowman and a huge Santa on The Hill (more on this soon) along with several other Christmas displays. The back part of the course was really dark, but it was one of my favorite spots because the lightning bugs became God’s disco ball creating a party of their own and it became my quite place to reflect when things got tough.

I also really appreciated a few glow sticks thrown into puddles and around that sharp bend. And the fan?! Thank you to the spectators who had that glorious fan set up around the bend when the air became stifling! I did happen to notice your nice blender and margarita mix station, too… I wanted to stop, turn on the Jimmy Buffett and join you. I think that will be in my drop bag next time!

Surprisingly, even with all the darkness, at some point I just turned off my knuckle lights (thank you to the best Mom in the whole world for the very handy gift) for all but the darkest sections because my eyes adjusted to the low light and the harsh lights just annoyed me. Might be that lack of sleep thing?! LOL!

Now que up Queen! Thunderbolts and Lightening… very, very frightening!

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From the moment we arrived at the race, there were huge clouds giving us a great lightning show just to the south of us. But as we started running, the clouds started building up and the lightening was all around us. It finally opened up on us about a half hour into the run for about 1.5-2 hours. Honestly, the rain felt WONDERFUL, but I’m a huge scaredy cat when it comes to being outdoors in dangerous weather. Kim and I were running together at this point and she probably wanted to push me off the path because I wouldn’t shut up about how freaked out I was every time I saw the lightening.

At some point we were separated and then it was like a Merry-Go-Round as I somehow caught up to Penny, Maggie and Karen who asked where Barb, Kim and Michelle were. Then as I found Michelle, she’d ask where everyone else was. I lost Kim and Barb for a good part of the evening and at one point Michelle I think ran backward to try to find Karen!

funny-pictures-this-kitten-is-confusedEven my coach, Tom apparently said hi to me several times through the night, but I was oblivious and didn’t see him until it started to get light and my iPod stopped working. I also was blaring it, so I didn’t hear much else except Straight No Chaser for a couple of hours – sorry, Tom 🙂

There was also this little-ish hill. I don’t hate hills, I actually love hills and am a pretty strong hill runner. But after 23 miles and 23 times of seeing this hill, I named it, ‘The Stupid Hill’. I still didn’t hate it. It was just that now I had to walk The Stupid Hill. When you’re running an ultra marathon, you need to walk. Most people will never make it if they don’t. Ask everyone who ran that race because they walked up The Stupid Hill, too. And at some point going DOWN The Stupid Hill becomes as tiring as going up it.

As far as fueling, I hadn’t even thought of my plan, other than drink often and make sure I had something to eat every half hour. It didn’t occur to me I would lose complete track of the time and thankfully, Karen shared her plan to drink every 2 miles and eat every 5 miles.

To be honest, I followed that rule for the first 10 miles. After that it became a blur. I know I drank my Isagenix e+ shots at miles 13 and again at mile 25 which helped tremendously, but I also ate a lot more frequently and drank more, too. I pre-made quite a bit of concentrated Caffeinated Raspberry Buzz Tailwind and Lemon Tailwind for my drop bag which has worked great for me on 4-hr runs. I also had umeboshi and brown rice balls that I nibbled on for extra salt and carbs, too.

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I predicted the humidity might take a toll on me and it still did despite my best fueling efforts. I also alternated with extra water and Gatorade every loop, a few pieces of candy, a half a banana, and at dawn the aid station provided boiled potatoes I actually LOVED!!!  Who knew?! I tried Mountain Dew around 20 miles, but it was too sweet. #gag

At the 2 hour point, I couldn’t believe we still had 4 hours to go. At the 4 hour point, I couldn’t believe we still had 2 more hours. At 23 miles the leg cramps started. Just like in my Chicago Marathon! GRRRRR! This time I didn’t panic. I just stretched a bit, walked for about 2 miles and started pounding down the Gatorade at every single lap to see if I could curb the cramps. At this point, I knew I would make my goal of 27 miles, but now I had it in my mind to reach 30. It meant I had to speed up and go faster than the 18 minute miles I had just finished. If I could go under 15 minute miles, I could do it.

At 25 miles I adopted a very funny hip shuffle run that got the job done. I finally saw Barb who I thought had flown by me at the very beginning. She looked so strong and decided to stay with me for the last few miles as we crossed the finish together! She probably could have run another whole lap around me, but I was grateful for her company. Thank you, Barb!

This was Barb’s and Kim’s first Ultra and they both ROCKED it! I’m so proud of them and know the ultra bug has hit its mark with them, too.

I still can’t believe I ran 30 miles in 6 hours. We walked past the finish line until my Garmin said 30. It was 30 official laps. Each loop was a 0.9732971994 mile. I finished in 6 hours.

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I was shocked when I discovered I placed 4th overall for women and was 1st in the Women’s Master’s Division. REALLY? ME? AAND… Barb took 2nd!  WOOHOO! We both received the coolest nutcracker awards and Mr. Pirate is happily sitting on my mantle next to my finisher’s medal.

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Do you think he’ll get lonely and want a friend to join him next year?

Maybe there’s a rumor of us getting together for another ultra event in the future? Time will tell and you’ll just have to wait and see 🙂

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This race experience has been one of my best ones ever. In the past, I felt proud of my running accomplishment, but this time, I really believe this was an amazing group effort. It took all of us working together, sharing ideas, plans, motivation, encouragement, (pickles and bug spray) and so much more for all of us to make it to the end of this race!

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I’m so proud of these women and the nutcracker award is really a win for all the UBAGE chicks. I’m incredible honored to know each of them and have their friendship. They inspire me daily. They make me a better runner, friend and woman. I’m forever grateful to each one of them!!!

Have you ever thought about running a race that seemed out of your reach? Is an Ultra on your bucket-list? Do you have friends who are crazy enough to challenge you to check off your goals and dreams… and join you at the same time?!

If not, you should go find some. They are out there 🙂

P.S. Blogging hasn’t exactly been on the forefront of my mind in the past 3 months as I’ve been focused on some pretty important things with my family that needed my love and attention. I hope I’m back on track and wholeheartedly appreciate your patience, love and support as I get re-energized and focused again!

A Back-To-Back Double Digit Weekend!

Have you ever completed two long runs two days in a row before?

I ran 12 miles on Saturday and 13.6 on Sunday as part of my ultra training. Just shy of a marathon in 2 days. OOFTA!

I’m exhausted but feel an incredible sense of satisfaction. My beat up feet and legs are up on the couch watching TV (not for long as my eyelids feel heavy). It’s been quite a weekend.

Both days I was up before the crack of dawn… 4:01 AM! (the one minute matters!)

Saturday was a planned 2 hour run with my friend, Karen at Trading In My Heels, whom I haven’t had a chance to run or hang out with in quite a while. Spending time with her always makes me happy and she continues to inspire me and keeps me laughing! You know you have good running partners when you can talk before, during and after looooong runs… and still not tell each other everything you want to share 🙂  Thank you, Karen!

It was raining and starting to barely get light when we arrived to the park ranger opening the park gates for us. We headed off into the hilliest part of the run first and we initially jumped at any wierd noises in the dark which caused me to start making as much noise as possible… you know, it could be a bear! LOL!

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The closest thing I saw resembling a bear. They do HISS at you!

I tried using a new fuel called Tailwind Nutrition. Now let me tell you, I ordered the big pack of 50 servings, so I have to portion the fine, white powder into sandwich bags which were stored in my bra. An hour into the run, we stopped at the Police Station to use the bathroom and to mix another batch of fuel. Hmmm…. not suspicious AT ALL!

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Don’t mind me, Mr. Police Officer… just using your water fountain for my addicting running habit!

We met up with our running club and I finished up just 20 more minutes to finish out exactly 12 miles!

We had a busy family day after and I didn’t get as much rest in my legs as I should have! Our family decided to look for a new family furr baby, and so now I hope to have a new running partner (and guest blogger) once he gets a little bigger and can run on a leash with me. My hubby is a bit happier knowing I’ll have Leo to protect me on my shorter runs!

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The next day, I was signed up to help RaceGuard the Chicago Spring Half Marathon. I will admit being a bit nervous the night before and even though I wanted to go to bed at 8pm, I finally got to sleep around 10 after studying the race course map and brushing up on my training!

Not wanting to oversleep, my body woke me up at 3:45 am! Yikes!

I left a little earlier than I thought I needed to and STILL ended up a few minutes late because I got lost on Lower Whacker Drive… darn GPS lost its signal when I needed it the most and the hotel parking lot where we were supposed to be was rat maze confusing! It didn’t help that my bladder was full because I knew the humidity affected my long run from the previous day. I didn’t want to be a statistic on the course. How embarrasing would that be?!

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A little freaked out at getting lost!

It would have been so much cooler to say I saw Batman on Lower Whacker and that’s why I was late!

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When I got to the tent, everyone was really nice and I got my jersey, hat and gear doing a quick inspection of everything I had to carry including great stuff from Ace Bandages, our sponsors! (And, Good Lord, everyone had to see this 42 year old body as I stripped off my shirt in the middle of the park to put on my cool jersey… AVERT YOUR EYES PEOPLE! LOL). Nicole and Tracy were there from my training and helped make suggestions on what extras I should pack in my jersey pockets. They were low on gels, so I grabbed a handful at the first gel stop on the course. I brought my own Huma Chia Energy Gels and actually needed 5 of them through the whole race! I’ve discovered my body does better with at least 200 calories an hour of fuel when going 2+ hours.

Anita was my running partner and is an ER nurse who works the night shift! She was amazing and has been running with RaceGuards for quite some time.

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Today, I was especially grateful to have her by my side because just after mile 2, we came up to a man who was unconscious and someone was performing CPR. A ton of runners were crowded around and Anita jumped into action telling them she was CPR certified and an ER nurse and quickly took over with chest compressions. There were other medical personnel there doing a few things I had no qualifications for, so I helped with crowd control. The situation wasn’t good and he wasn’t breathing on his own. The ambulance came within minutes of us getting there and they quickly took over. We don’t know the outcome 🙁

At the time, I was suprised how we just jumped into action and I didn’t really think twice about what was happening other than, “How can I help?”. After we left and kept running, my adrenaline kicked in for a split second, but I went back to scanning faces and couldn’t really think about it much because if he needed our help, someone else might, too (though I hoped not). It wasn’t until I was already home and headed back out the door when I felt the sting in my eyes praying that he was ok… holy cow, did that just happen!?!

The main themes of the day with the warmer, very humid temperatures were cramps and dehydration. 25% of the racers were running their first half-marathon and since we haven’t had this weather for enough time to get used to it, people weren’t hydrating or getting enough sodium. One runner decided to skip all the aid stations because he wanted a good time on his first half-marathon. Another set of RaceGuards made him stop to take a gel and salt even though he didn’t want to.  He passed out and collapsed ending up in an ambulance (he will be ok).

For all the minor cramps, we administered an awesome biofreeze product called Perform. If you’re on a course and have cramps, ask for this at a medical tent or one of us! We can spray it right through your running tights, too! I wish I had known about this in the Chicago Marathon!!!

Think about it. No matter what, you will PR your first race! 🙂 BE SAFE. You won’t PR if you don’t finish the race.

I feel an incredible sense of fulfillment being able to give back to the sport I love and helping people accomplish their dreams and goals while keeping them safe… such a Mom instinct that I’ve always had (just ask my brother).

So many people thanked us for helping out and I felt strange crossing the finish line with people cheering for us because my instinct is to be a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of helper. Even after I finished, people were asking us for help and assistance. I helped a lady with her mini boo-boo, gave directions and then we helped a lost child in the park on the way to pancakes, eggs, sausage and potatoes. YUM!  So hungry!

The race directors gave each of us a race shirt for our volunteer work… another cute shirt, right?! Thank you Chicago Spring Half for the gifty!

20150517_160116All in all, it was a very successful two days!

Monday is going to be my weekend and I’ll be a big useless blob next to Leo. I’m already looking forward to another RaceGuards event in a couple weeks at Leon’s World Fastest Triathlon where they will be hosting the US Military Triathalon National Championship (even more near and dear to my heart).

Wanted to give a quick shoutout to my friend through friends and fellow blogger, Michelle at This Momma Runs for finishing her first triathalon today and placing 5th!!! I’m so excited for her and her husband – go visit her facebook page and tell her she is WONDER WOMAN and WONDERFUL!

Did you join us and try something new this weekend?

Let me know because I BELIEVE IN YOU!  

You can reinvent yourself anytime you wish!

How Great Can The Great Western Half Be?! Race Recap

Are you excited about every race you run?

I’ve never run this particular race, and truth be told, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Little bitty race limited to 1200 people and I thought it would be so stuffy and crowded on the trail. I dislike crowds… remember Chicago? And I run this path almost every weekend in the summer.

This was my 5th and first half-marathon of 2015. My goals were to have fun and enjoy one of my favorite limestone trails. I wanted to finish in under 2 hours, too.

My first pleasant surprise were the T-shirts. I have too many tech shirts and love that this race handed out a pretty red cotton blend V-neck for the women and crew for the men. I also volunteered, so got a blue version which I love, too! Plus, the back wasn’t littered with sponsors and tastefully done (sorry sponsors, we really do appreciate you, but too much advertising is… well, tacky in my opinion… and no one really reads the back of those shirts when they’re like that. Do you?).

Race morning was beautiful. And, based on previous races, I knew this could potentially be hard toward the end as temps climbed 15 degrees in 2 hours. For most of us here in the Midwest, it was a REALLY warm morning at 70+ degrees at the finish. So, I prepared by drinking extra fluids the day before and wearing my summer gear and hat for the race.

Because of limited parking at the race, runners are all bussed in from a local high school and dropped off at the starting area. Everything was really well-organized and though the gear drop off-line seemed long, it went really quickly. There were also plenty of porta-potties and garbage cans, as well as pre-race water for runners… thoughtful.

The race starts right next to this beautiful barn!

The race starts right next to this beautiful barn!

I came to the race with my good friend, Sarah, and we tried in vain to find a few other friends before the race started. We ended up finding Sarah’s training group and I knew a few of them because I’d gone on a few of their training runs.  A couple of them were doing their first half.

I’m always so excited to watch someone experience their first big race. Whether it’s a 5K or a 50K, it reminds me of my firsts and how self-confidence and sense of satisfaction just swells at the finish line… and of course, smiles are a mile wide! LOVE! LOVE!

The start of the race was nicely coordinated and runners were sectioned off into little groups with some time in between to help with crowd control on the course. I never once felt like I couldn’t really get around someone at any time (or that they couldn’t pass me!!!), even at the turn around when you could potentially have bunching going on. It may have happened in a few instances for others, but overall, I didn’t feel claustrophobic.

The volunteers were the highlight!

Lots of Boy Scouts, the local high school track team was there and the Fox River Trail Runners Club had plenty of members and friends on hand to make sure everyone was well taken care of. Did I mention the Race Guards were there, too? This was their first Great Western Half-Marathon and it was a good thing they were on the course because the heat did a number on several people. Sarah said she just felt better knowing they were on the course in case something happened.

I started out running this race WAY too fast! I felt great, but after I finally saw my friend, Laura, on the course, I knew she was being smarter than me about the day, but I kept on running anyway. (Derp! What part of ‘you’re breathing too hard’ do I not get?!!!)  I hit the half-way point with a possible 2 minute PR. Ummm, ya.

Reality came crashing down on me at mile 7 when my bowels started making me cramp up and I had to walk for a few seconds saying a little prayer for a porta-potty at mile 8. Since it’s an out and back course, I knew it was coming up soon, but MAN.

Let’s just say I lost some weight at mile 8! And about 3 minutes.

And then the legs stopped moving.

It was getting really toasty for me and so I just slowed way down and let it be what it was. A fun race and make it to the finish with my body intact.

At the finish I actually felt woozy and not so good. I’ve never blared on a run before, but you know that feeling when you get the cold sweats and your face just FEELS a little green? It took me several minutes to actually comprehend what was going on (so sorry Cindy if I was rude and totally out of it when you saw me. I was trying to figure out what you were saying to me and then you were gone and I thought, what just happened?!).

I found my friend, Wendy, from Taking The Long Way Home! I saw her flying on the course and she placed first in her age group!!! And I finally met, Michelle, from Movin It With Michelle who had a great PR!!! Sarah PR’d her race by 9 minutes, Stevie placed 1st in her age group, and Linda had a great race, too! There were several people like me who were just happy to have a respectable finish 🙂 Karen from Trading In My Heels was the volunteer race coordinator making sure everyone was well taken care of! Thank you!

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Celebrating with these gorgeous ladies, Sarah and Linda!

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A little blogger fun! These ladies next to me are AMAZING! Love them!

The finisher’s medals are about the coolest thing I’ve seen in my short time racing.The train lights up! And, the post-race goodie box was filled with great little treats. Very handy for the bus-ride home and easy to carry since hands tend to get full at the end of a race when you’re not thinking clearly.

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Lastly, this race had AMAZING photographers on the course and they are giving free race day pictures away. Who DOES that? The Great Western Half-Marathon. That’s who. I think we lucked out this year with this goodie because once people figure out who does the photography, they’re going to start hearing CHA-CHING.

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A fun candid of the Race Director (aka Coach Tom) and I. To be honest, I was still out of it and have no recollection of this photo being taken! I do remember seeing Tom, though. 🙂

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Isn’t this a cute one? Honorary Race Mascot!

 Have you ever ran a race that wasn’t your best and still wanted to run the course again?

How Can A Race Guard Help You?!

First of all, so sorry for being absent for the past month and thank you for still loving me. Love you all!  I think I’ll just try and focus on really short bursts of writing and more pictures than anything right now because I love photography and have lots of fun ideas in my head. Just no time to spit them out.

Last week, I finally got a chance to attend the Race Guards training downtown. It took me almost 2 hours of fighting traffic, er, the parking lot. (I love my phone for providing shortcut alternative routes on the fly! Ya Baby!)20150415_175121

When I arrived, everyone else was stuck in traffic, too, so that made me feel better since I was already 15 minutes late.

Once we got started, Nicole and Tracy were amazing and you could tell they loved being a RaceGuard. They answered a lot of my questions and eased some of my nerves. Even when I had questions after the training, Tracy was very helpful!

Essentially, all newbies are paired up with someone who has been a Race Guard before and has a medical background. While they try to put you with someone who runs your pace, it really doesn’t matter as we often walk with someone, are stopping and starting again… or  we are slowing down to scan a new group of people.

We each carry a hefty medical pack LOADED with helpful items any Boy Scout Mom wishes they could take or already has loaded in the minivan because we always like to be prepared!

Spots, the Dalmation, was kind enough to model for me. Would you believe there’s more stuff on the back side?

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Bandages, wraps, salt, water, cell phone, blister packs, sun screen and more! Heck, I may even carry a spare feminine personal product (just ask the women Race Guards!) if the dreadful happens on your half-marathon (definitely an emergency).

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The 2Toms products receive rave reviews and are a RaceGuards sponsor.

My first race as a guard will be in about a month at the Chicago Spring Half-Marathon. I’m so glad I’ve been running a lot lately and feel like I could run longer than the race itself because essentially, we end up running extra as we run the course backward from time to time to scan faces and look for someone who might be in distress.

While I’m really excited, I’m also nervous, too. I’ll be brushing up on my CPR and AED skills the few nights before as they told us of a few instances when they administered CPR. It tends to be the people who haven’t necessarily trained like they should have or are not listening to their body.

Runners are not stubborn at all, are we?! Some of you feel it’s more important to crawl across a little line to get an official time and chunk of metal even though your knees are bloody, you have cramps worse than labor pains and you won’t be able to walk for a week.

PLEASE listen to your body. I don’t want to give you CPR or send serious voltage through your body. I will be traumatized for life and we want you to be able to continue with your love of running (so do your loved ones)!!!

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That being said, I feel good knowing this organization and group of volunteers are there when help is needed! We’re also there to provide motivation and cheer you along, too. We want you to have your best race!

Here are a few of my fellow newbies you may see out there. If you do, please say, “Hi!” and don’t be afraid to ask us for help.  Race Guards have been asked to participate in 12 races around the Chicagoland area this year… I’ll even be helping in a triathalon or two!

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Have you heard of or seen Race Guards on any of your past races?

If you’d like to be a RaceGuard in your area and have any questions, please leave me a comment and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you. The organization is expanding rapidly and race directors are looking for help all across the nation. You can also learn more and apply on their website at www.raceguards.org.

P.S. I have not been paid for any endorsements or recommendations on this blog post. All views are my own.