Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lululemon's "I Run Because...........5k"

 I Run Because...........................5k

 A race on a Tuesday
 A free race
 A race in a favourite forest preserve

Why not.

Lululemon stores in Naperville and Oak Brook  held a 5k race on the scenic trails of Fullerburg Forest Preserve, a DuPage FP in Oak Brook IL. Lululemon is well known nationwide retail store for quality yoga apparel and merchandise and a small line of running and fitness clothing.  The race was being held on a Tuesday morning the day before the 4th of July holiday.

I was not scheduled to work until 11.30am that day so signed up for the race. Oh it was free with Lululemon and sponsors picking up the fee. I am sure a few folks had worries about a free race but if so they proved not a concern come race day.

A week before the race all runners received a detailed email including course map and parking information plus information of pre-race packet pick up. I attended the in store pick up in Naperville. Being a free race there was no race T shirt but we did get a nice Lululemon shopping bag, more like a reusable tote bag, a race bib number via sponsor RoadID, a few free samples and the normal paper ads which in this case were primarily yoga studio cards some with free class offers.

Tuesday morning I got up bright and early to drive to Oak Brook.  As Fullersburg has only a small parking area all runners were supposed to park at one of three off sites and walk about 0.85 miles to the race start. I parked at Graue Mill. The walk in made a nice warm up (and later cool down) along a scenic river side trail that we would be running very soon. Race day packet pick up was in full swing for the "sold out" event and different sponsor vendors were busy setting up. Found my friend Glenn who works at Lululemon. He was busy doing some of the set up in and around the vendor area but introduced me to his friend Jim. Jim is training for a half marathon later this year so it was good to hear how his training was coming along.

I then headed to near the start line and watched some runners doing a stretching routine before we all lined up. One of the Lululemon staff said some words then the starters horn sounded. Around two years ago I had ran another race on this very course so knew what was ahead of me. I also set up the Oak Brook half marathon course that uses 3 miles of the Fullersburg course. Luckily the 5k didn't use the big hill that the half uses. I don't run many 5ks. I fact in last 14 years I had ran four and 3 of those were dirt trail races mainly on mountain bike trails. My training this year has been lacking so the plan for this 5k was just to run a consistent pace including being steady on the hills. I really had no idea what time to shoot for so on a warm and humid day I just ran by feel and thought I'd adjust as I went along although I was wearing my Garmin GPS.

The start like any race was crowded but it quickly thinned out and I soon had room to run my pace and hold it. The course was on limestore trails for the first 2.2 miles and winded along both banks of the Salt Creek river under a canopy of trees. The first hill was a bridge that took us from the right bank to the left bank then a couple of other hills soon came up. There was an aid station around mile 1.8 but I had decided to carry my UD handheld as I do for most runs and races so passed through  without taking any. Shortly after we passed the dam take a short road bridge back to the right bank and ran passed the Graue Mill near where I was parked. A little brick path, some more limestone which was a little rutted before we hit a section of paved  trail which had the last hill. Finally we took the last turn on to a woodchip trail to the finish. I could hear the crowd and music playing and hopefully looked strong with the finish.

This ended up being my fastest 5k in 14 years. I was pleased with the effort and time. Sure I am still  a long way off my PR from 20 years ago but I'll take it. 31 min and 29 seconds (10'10 pace) on a hilly, warm and humid course. Off the 219 finishers 180 were female so I was top 40 male (32 actually).

The vendor section was handing out energy and smoothie type drink samples. There was a couple health service provides set up. Plus a nice spread of post race food. On the Forest Preserve Visitors Center overlooking the river Lululemon had set up a number of yoga mats and Aurora's Living Yoga lead 3 20 minute yoga sessions. I watched from the upper level. Two years ago I had taken a six week beginners yoga course at Living Yoga so it was great watching my yoga teachers putting on this session. I really need to get back to yoga, it is a great tool for runners especially those like me that never stretch.

I walked over to the awards. Top five male and top five female were presented with goody bags containing gift certificates for yoga, massages and to running stores. Then in an awesome touch they handed out similar to those that placed 25,50,100, 150 etc. Then, yeah there was more, they had around 25 raffle prizes of similar gift certificates from the sponsors.

So happy I signed up for this free event. It was well organized from sign up to race info to packet pickup, The course was well marked with great volunteers at all the intersections and turns. The sponsors were good and fitting for the primarily yoga running crowd and the post race food was just right. I loved being inspired by the yoga session and intend to use the gift certificate I was given by a runner who lived to far from the yoga studio she won it from, thanks number 50. The studio just happens to be Living Yoga .

Thank you Lululemon Naperville and Oak Brook. I'll be back next year    

(Lululemon Logo at top of report owned and borrowed from Lululemon, call it free PR)