Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 Shamrock Shuffle 8k Recap


The morning of the 2015 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k dawned with little fanfare. 

I had been hearing about the Shamrock Shuffle ever since I started running. It was a big deal in Chicago, and I knew a lot of people run it each year. I get really anxious around crowds, so I was mentally preparing myself for the masses of people. 

Soooooooo many people. And this was just Wave 2.
I was groggy and tired after a night of tossing and turning. I can never get any restful sleep the night before a race. I was in Wave 2, so I had a little more time than usual in the morning to get ready. I ate some breakfast (half a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee), got dressed, grabbed my gear check bagged (packed the night before), fed Hannah, and made my way to the train to head downtown to the race. Pretty much everyone I encountered on the train was also heading down to the Shamrock Shuffle. There was a lot of talk about the race and what to expect.

CARA was offering a "VIP experience" for members at the Congress Hotel. I wasn't too sure what that meant, but I was excited about the prospect of indoor bathrooms, so I made sure I had my member card with me. Once downtown, I went straight to the Congress. It was cold and windy, and although the sun peeked out from behind the clouds from time to time, it didn't really help warm things up.

The hotel was right across the street from Grant Park, which made it easy to get to the start corrals.
Once at the hotel, I found the CARA room, checked my bag, grabbed a coffee, and started the waiting game. I still had an hour before I needed to be in my corral, and I was thankful that I had a warm place to wait. 

The bathroom lines were still really long.
I made my way outside with just enough time to get into my corral before they closed. One of my favorite moments of the morning was the announcer stating, "The corrals are now closed. If you aren't in your corral, then you'll have to start at back. If you are starting at the back, then you're probably not going to win." Way to keep it real! Even once the corrals closed we still had about 15 minutes before we were able to start, and those of us in the last couple of corrals had a little longer to wait, as the corrals in front of us were released one at a time.

By this point, my fear and anxiety had turned to excitement. I was finally awake and ready to run. I chatted with some of the folks around me and did what I could to warm up in the tightly packed corral.

There were so many people who were just excited to be outside running! It was great!

I decided to go all out for my first Shamrock Shuffle and wore a sparkly green visor and skirt.
As the corrals in front of us were released one by one, we  moved closer and closer to front. Soon, the start line was visible and everything was finally real. I was running the Shamrock Shuffle! It was cold. It was windy. But I was pumped!

My corral was ready to START!
The race itself was great. Even with all of those runners, it didn't feel crowded and I was able to easily maneuver around slower runners and not feel bad about impeding the progress of faster runners who could easily maneuver around me.

Running through the streets of downtown Chicago was pretty much amazing. It isn't very often that you can run down the middle of what is usually a busy city street. I felt great throughout the race. I hadn't properly charged my watch, so it died on my around mile three, but I felt as though I was making good time (for me, anyway).

It was cold, but I did warm up once I was running. The wind, however, just seemed to get worse as each mile passed by. I have to hand it to the volunteers for sticking it out in the cold and wind. They were amazing! They must have been freezing, but they stayed out there and helped make this a great race.

At the finish line, there was post race food (bananas, cereal bars, chips, apple sauce), bottles of water, and cups of Gatorade. There were also finisher medals, which are awesome because they double as bottle openers. I don't usually care about medals, but it was really cool getting one, so I guess I care a little more than I though I did.

Yay! My medal/bottle opener!
There was a post race party in Grant park featuring live music, food, and beer. I grabbed my free beer and checked out what there was to see and do. I didn't stay very long, though, because I was soon freezing and shivering. The wind was picking up, the dark clouds were blowing in, and I could tell that it was going to start raining soon.

I made my way back to the hotel to get my bag from gear check and add a few layers of warm clothes to my body. There was more beer back at the hotel for CARA members, and it looked as though there were also massages, but I was tired and just wanted to get warm and find some real food.

I decided to do a post race selfie instead of my usual pre race selfie.
The rain started right as I got to the train to head home. It is always fun seeing the other runners make their way home via public transit. There were so many people in running gear carrying bananas and bottles of water.

The real reason people run is for the post race banana.
After the race, I stopped at First Slice Pie Cafe on Manor to pick up some lunch before heading home to check my results. I didn't feel like cooking, and a warm sandwich and slice of pie sounded like the best post race meal a girl can ask for.

Yay! Food!
While I munched on a duck and mozzarella sandwich, I went online and saw that I had indeed made good time. In fact, I had a PR today! Finishing in 55 minutes and 19 seconds, with an average pace of 11:08, I blew my previous 8k time (1 hour 1 minute and 36 seconds) out of the water. I guess all that training this spring is paying off!

Would I run the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k again? Yes, absolutely! I had a lot of fun and the race was incredibly well organized. I now understand why it is a tradition for a lot of people.

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