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

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?