Sunday, December 10, 2017

Santas and Ugly Sweaters Galore

The "off season" can be such a miserable time of year. So much hurt going on. Phrases like "pain cave" and "sweat towels" come out of your mouth more often than you'd like. But before the "off season" serves this true, ya gotta have a little fun, right?

I'm a sucker for a holiday fun run. 100%. Last year, Ryan found a local 5K that just so happened to be IN TOWN that required you wear a Santa suit while you race through the downtown area. Ya'll know this kinda shit screams my name, right? Of course we repeated the fun this year.
Kiwani Santa 5k
Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

I did my best to rally the troops and get a big group together to run the Kiwani Santa 5k this year, but it’s a busy time of year and most of them couldn’t swing it. Hell, we even lost Speedy this year to a Cyclocross race. Mark, Jacqui, and I were all in though. We arrived in our Santa suits, pinned all over to ensure we stayed looking like Santa while we raced.

No one even knew who we were 
After a quick warm up, it was time to line up and get this show on the road. As we toed the line I whispered to Jacqui, “Why do we do this? 5k’s hurt so bad. The next 20 minutes is going to seriously SUCK.” She 100% agreed while Mark was busy Go-Proing the speech given by Buddy the Elf himself. When I decided to run this race (about 4 days prior) I told Ryan not to change anything up in my training. I would treat the 5k as a warm-up before my long bike later that afternoon. That meant I had already done my long run for the week on Saturday, so my legs weren’t exactly fresh. That being said, I 100% was racing this one off of feel. If the legs were ready to fire, let’s go! If they were in for more of a joy ride, so be it. I was dressed as Santa and there wasn’t much you could do to wipe that smile off my face.

Missing our 4th Amigo - Speedy!
The gun went off and I eased into my stride pretty well. I let the little rugrats (there are plenty of them at this race) take off and zoom past me. I knew it wouldn’t last long and I’d see them again as I made the pass. The first mile is a very steady downhill that can cost you some time on mile 3 if you empty the tank. I truly had no idea what my legs would allow me run a week after I raced the Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon AND running my long run the day before. But, it seemed like all systems were good to go. I never looked at my watch that first mile, running completely off of feel. After the first half mile or so I started to pick off the rugrats that took off like bullets. Left turn on McHenry Ave and my watched click 6:56. Geeeeeez even when you run blind to the time you still run to fast. I assumed that would be the end of me and that my tired legs would be clocking 7:30's or 7:40's the last 2 miles, all things considered. (Did I mention that Rob and I visited the Brookfield Zoo Lights and walked the whole zoo about 3 times the night before the race? Followed by a sushi dinner that put in a food coma on the drive home? Perfect pre-race prep.) Surely your legs will blow up momentarily. 

Next thing I knew we were about to hit the 2 mile mark and the crowd around me was pretty thin, but I could tell we had reached a bit of a climb. There aren't many hills in Crystal Lake, but the few inclines we do have reside on this 5k course. Oak Street and Woodstock Street are a curse and a blessing all at once, offering a casual climb followed by some nice wind. Mile 2 clocked in at 7:15. Oh hey, would ya look at that? So let's try to stay consistent this last mile. So that's what I did. I watched my watch like a hawk and did my best to hug that 7:15 mile without killing my already tired hammy's. Afterall, this is just a Fun Run and I was supposed to be treating it as a "warm up" to the afternoon bike workout. Woops. There was a lady in front of me I desperately wanted to pass, because obvi. But my legs had another agenda. I held strong at 7:20 and even dipped into 7:05-7:00 range for a short decline/tailwind. Soon I saw Georgio's pizza on the right tried to find another gear. My legs gave me a 7:16 mile 3 and I was damn impressed with my ability to stay consistent! I crossed the finish line in 22:21, exactly 3 seconds off of my PR. I was in no way recovered or ready to run fast for this race so I was completely thrilled.

Don't I look thrilled?
Jacqui and I watched Mark finish, Go-Pro in tow, while he was being mauled down by a herd of kids. See below: 
See the top right corner? Yep, that's BFG Santa about to be destroyed by 2 kids
We ended the morning awards and brunch, followed by a photo shoot at Santa's House (which was about to open and had a huuuuuuuge line of families waiting to visit Santa. Yea, we were those people.)
The kids in line were so confused..

Because you can't have to many pictures dressed as Santa
Much before that evening, Jacqui sent a text out to Mark and I, "Guys, our race packet had an advertisement for an Ugly Sweater 5k next weekend, who wants to run?!" Would you believe me if I told you that MARK had to convince me to sign up for this one? And of course Speedy says, "Oh I don't care if you run another one!" Yer killin' me smallz. So here we are, less than 10 hours after the finish of one holiday fun run and we were signed up for the next.

Ugly Sweater 5k
Saturday, December 9th, 2017

The race happened to be at our biggest high school cross town rival. So when I arrived at Prairie Ridge High School on Saturday morning, part of me thought it would have been funny to wear a Prairie Ridge High School sweatshirt to this race and call it my "Ugly Sweater." But I'm not that mean, and I opted for a lovely gray sweater that had an Elf body on it (my head being the head of the elf), complete with elf legs protruding out of the sweater and bells all over it. Not something I'd wear to work Monday-Friday. Or any day of the week.

One thing was for sure. It. Was. COLD. The wind was blowing, the temps were well below freezing, and there was a fresh coat of snow on the ground. Jacqui you've definitely had better ideas in your time. But alas here we were, ready to get this show on the road so we could go home and get warm. 

This picture makes me cold
After the National Anthem was played through the press box (shocker, it was to cold for the trumpet to play!), we stood on the line and waited for gun to go off (which was so weak we didn't even know it was start of the race, and we had to be told to start running!). 

The beginning of the race takes you around the track once and then you have to weave your way around the school campus before making your way out into the neighborhoods. And lemme tell ya, that first mile was slippery and scary. It's hard to plow a track that is at the base of hill and enclosed with large fence and all the sidewalks around it on a high school campus. So... we treaded that first mile pretty lightly. Jacqui took off, but not to much. Mark and I hung out together, I watched him skid down a hill that resembled Tom Cruise making his grand entrance into the living room while "Old Time Rock 'N Roll" played in the background.  Luckily, Mark was wearing more than a button down dress shirt. Shortly after that lovely sibling bonding moment we hit plowed pavement in the neighborhoods and I said goodbye to him.

The wind was relentless and the temps made me second guess why I do these "fun runs." I started to pick up the pace a bit now that I was on solid ground for the whole purpose of trying to warm up. Today, my race brain wasn't kicking in at all.. I was in "survival running mode." I started to make some passes and pick off a few younger high school kids, all decked out in the ugliest of sweaters. Some were so covered I didn't know if I was passing a male or a female. I didn't care though, all I wanted to do was go back inside the school cafeteria because they told me there would be hot chocolate after the race.

In case you're curious, mile 1 ticked off at 7:29 while mile 2 clocked in at 7:38. Just after mile 2, we were welcomed back to the school grounds, navigating the unplowed sidewalks and track. Once you hit the track, you had to run 1.75 laps before officially crossing the finish line. I entered the track and Jacqui was just starting her 2nd lap. We posed for a picture as she finished the race, and I took off for another lap. This time, Mark was starting his trek around the track, but just far enough ahead of me that I decided I didn't have the lungs to catch him on such a cold day. Mile 3: 7:51. Finish: 23:55 {Aka - I survived}

Mark crossed the finish line and promptly started making snow angels
We made our way inside to thaw and sip on some beloved hot chocolate while we waited for awards. Jacqui took the overall female prize, while I came in a close 2nd. {Clearly everyone decided to stay warm at home if I took 2nd overall female at a 5K!} I'd be lying if I said I didn't think it was fun to have two CLS grads on the "podium" for this race. #gogators

Top 3 Female and Top 3 Male finishers! 
Because I doubt there will ever be another race where Jacqui and I take 1st and 2nd overall female together..
I've grown to love and thrive on the competition side of racing. But these fun runs.. I seriously can't get enough of 'em. The holiday season has a way of bringing out the best in people. And when you can combine that with your running shoes and a festive outfit on a Saturday morning, well I believe you have found what I call, Heaven on Earth.

Merry Christmas
Happy Hanukkah
Happy Kwanza
Happy New Year

From me to you, Happy Holidays.

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