Friday, April 8, 2016

2016 Shamrock Shuffle 8k Recap

Today's Friday Favorites is actually my race recap from this year's Shamrock Shuffle 8k. This was my second time running the Shamrock Shuffle, and though I wasn't too excited as the race started to draw near, it turns out that the race was exactly what I needed to crawls out of my "very bad, not at all happy, I hate everything" slump.

I've been feeling much better since running the race, and I'm happy to report that I've actually been looking forward to my runs again. Win! 

The morning of the Shamrock Shuffle saw me dragging myself out of bed and begrudgingly getting ready for the race. I kept debating the pros and cons of running the race or staying home and going back to bed. Luckily, I was assigned to Wave 2, so I had a little extra time in the morning to talk myself into running the race as planned. 

I got dressed, fed Hannah cat, had a quick breakfast, and then grabbed my gear check bag (packed the night before) and made my way to the train. The entire ride downtown, I kept thinking about how much nicer it would be to just turn around and go back home. 

Soon, I was downtown, and there was no turning back. I was very early for the Wave 2 start, so I ducked into the Congress Hotel to wait inside where it was warm. It was a very cold morning, and though I knew I would be fine once I was running, I was freezing while walking around downtown.

When it was time, I made a quick pit stop at the bathroom in the hotel's lobby and made my way to gear check for Wave 2. Everything was well laid out, well marked, and easy to find. I knew that Gate 3 was the quickest path to gear check from reading through the participant info, and it was incredibly easy to spot.

Even if I hadn't known where to go, I could always have just followed all the other folks in running gear.

It was about 15 minutes before corrals closed, and gear check was pretty crowded. The lines moved incredibly quickly, though. There were a several lines, and you just had to get in the one that corresponded to your bib number. The volunteers were quick and efficient, and I had my bag checked and was on my way to my corral in no time.

I noticed a small tent across from gear check that had an array of often forgotten supplies available for use by all participants. They had tissues, sunscreen, tampons, etc. I saw several people making use of the available items.

I quickly found Corral G and started the long wait to start the race. There was really no turning back at this point. I hopped around as much as I could in the packed corral to try to stay warm. I saw a fair number of other runners dressed much more warmly than I was, but I knew that any additional layers would mean I would be far to warm once I made it over the start line and was actually running.

Everyone seemed excited and happy to freezing together in the corrals while we all waited for the race to begin. Wave 2 started promptly at 9am, with a wait in between each corral to make sure that the course didn't get too crowded.

As we slowly crept to the start line, I actually started to get excited about the race. My plan was to fall into a comfortable pace and then maintain it throughout the race. I wasn't shooting for a PR this time, and I wasn't interested in pushing myself too hard after so many less than enjoyable runs recently. I would walk through the two water stations when I came to them, but otherwise I would do my best to keep up a continuous easy pace.

Soon the start line was in sight. We waited a few minutes, and then we were off!

I was running with my Garmin, and I quickly lost signal among all the tall buildings, so I didn't pay attention to it when it beeped and gave me split times, as it was incredibly off in terms of mileage by the Mile 1 marker. I need to remember for future downtown races to turn that feature off and just run with the time.

Mile 1 seemed to fly by. I checked my watch and was shocked to see that I was at 9:44. If I could keep it up, then I would actually get a new 8k PR! I was both happy and worried. I was feeling good, and with it being a short race, I was confident that I could maintain a fairly consistent pace, but...well, to be honest, I always worry. I also was finally warm and comfortable and very glad that I hadn't worn more layers.

I kept moving forward and was loving the energy given off by the other runners, the spectators, and the volunteers. I was quickly reminded why the Shamrock Shuffle is such a great race. Crowds freak me out, but it is amazing running through the closed down streets of downtown Chicago with thousands of other runners. This year, I even noticed a couple of firefighters running the race in full gear, which was awesome.

At the 5k mark, I felt as though I had slowed down slightly and figured that I was averaging about 10 minutes per mile. I was almost to the end, and I still felt good. In fact, I felt better than good. I was feeling great! This was how I used to feel all the time when I ran, and it was wonderful to feel it again.

Soon, it was the last stretch of the race, and all I had to do was make it up the hill at Roosevelt before turning to head to the finish line. Having run the race last year, I was more prepared for the hill, and it didn't really faze me the way it did in the past. I turned onto Columbus, saw the finish line, and picked up my pace a tad.

I crossed the finish line with a final time of 49:53, which is a new 8k PR for me. Considering that I thought a PR was impossible, I was thrilled. I wonder what my time would have been if I had pushed myself a little harder.

As usual, I grabbed everything that was handed to me. Water, banana, chips, granola bar, and, of course, my finisher's medal. It was so shiny and sparkly!

As soon as I stopped running, I started to get cold again, so I quickly made my way back to gear check. Just as before, the lines moved super quickly,  and there was little to no wait. I quickly threw on my extra layers that I had checked and made my way over to the post race party.

There was music, food, and, of course, beer:

I couldn't seem to find any of my friends who ran the race, so after enjoying my post race beverage and snack, I made my way back to the train to head home. I was feeling exhilarated and ready for my next run! First, however, came a much needed nap and then a late lunch.

The Shamrock Shuffle 8k is a huge race. There are a ton of people. And that can be overwhelming. But it is also extremely well organized, which makes everything more manageable.

I'm really glad that I ran the race, and really glad that I seem to have pulled myself out of my slump. Last night's 1/4 mile repeats felt great. Today's cross training wasn't the horrible struggle it has been during the past month. And I'm actually looking forward to this weekend's long run.

Oh, and I'll gladly take that new 8k PR, too.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Shamrock Shuffle Expo and Race Goals

I luckily didn't have to be at work until noon yesterday, so I had plenty of time to visit the Shamrock Shuffle expo to pick up my packet.

The expo was once again held down at McCormick Place, so it took some time to get there, but I had planned my time perfectly and made it to McCormick Place right at 10am, when the expo began. I had not planned everything perfectly, however, as I made the mistake of not checking which part of McCormick place the expo was in, and I went to the wrong building and wandered aimlessly for a bit before finally asking someone where to go. 

As I made my way there, I started to notice more and more people in running shoes who were all walking with purpose in the same direction, so I joined the herd. Soon, I was there.

I had already worked out my game plan during the train and bus ride to the expo.

First stop was packet pick up. I had my email packet pick up ticket printed and ready to go, so knew my bib number and got in the appropriate line. They had places where you could look it up if you didn't know your number. The lines were moving quickly thanks to friendly and efficient volunteers, and I had my bib number in hand in a matter of minutes.

Next stop was shirt/gear check bag pick up, which was on the other side of the expo hall. I made a bee line there, ignoring the various booths on either side of me, and once again only had to wait a minute or two before I had my items.

One of the things I always like to see at a race expo is a shirt exchange. It is great being able to try on my shirt and exchange it for a different size, if necessary. Some shirts run big while others run small, so it is sometimes hard to judge what size is needed, especially if the brand isn't announced in advance or is a brand that someone is unfamiliar with. That is not a problem with Shamrock Shuffle, because the race shirts are Nike, and I know what size I need. My shirt was the perfect size, so I didn't need the exchange table's help.

Next up, the actual expo! I made my way through the expo hall and checked out all the different booths and vendors. I'm a sucker for free stuff and raffles, so I talked to a lot of people and walked away with a lot of random stuff.

The most random item? This box of rice.

I end up getting a box of Minute Rice every year at the Shamrock Shuffle expo. It is random, but I kind of love it. I think I would be disappointed if I walked away from the Shamrock Shuffle expo without a box of rice.

There were also tons of races offering discounts if you signed up at the expo. Yeah...I signed up for a race...that I wasn't planning on running this year...sigh. I just can't say no to a discount when I know that I'm available. 

There were a bunch of races that I almost signed up for, but I realized that I didn't want to sign up for a race that I was on the fence about. I'd rather pay a little more and know without a doubt that the race was 1.) one that I was excited to run and 2.) one that I'm available to run.

A lot of charity teams also had booths set up and were handing out information for those interested in running the marathon for a charity. I stopped by a few of the team booths to get info. I've started thinking about taking on the challenge of a marathon. I just don't know if I'm ready to pull the trigger.

Soon, I needed to leave to get to work on time. I left with a bunch of random things:

Thanks for the stuff and the info, expo!

 I'm actually starting to get a little excited for the race tomorrow morning. It isn't the full blown "I can't wait to run this race!' excitement that I was hoping for, but I'm no longer considering skipping it and sleeping in....So that is a win.

My goal for the race is extremely simple and is one that keep popping up time and time again: finish the race.

That's it.

I wish I had something different. I feel like that has been my goal for a lot of recent races. But, in the long run, it is the best goal for me, right now. I just haven't been feeling great, lately. That combined with taking a bunch of time off lately means that there just aren't many attainable goals for this race.

Actually, let me amend my goal a bit.

My goal is to finish the race with a smile on my face. I won't have a new PR when I cross the finish line, but that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy my race day experience.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday Favorites - Motivation Edition

I'm still not feeling all that great about life or running or anything, so I decided to seek out some sources of inspiration and motivation, specifically as it applies to running. Running was, until recently, my happy place, so I want to get back to that. 

I'm hoping that taking a moment to acknowledge some good, exciting, or fun things may help me get back to a happier place in my life, I've decided to reinstate Friday Favorites. So here are my favorite things that I'm using as a source of inspiration and motivation.

The Believe Training Journal by Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. I bought the training journal to serve as both a training tool and a source of inspiration. In addition to offering a place to log workouts and training, it also offers tips and advice and is packed with useful information.   

My copy of Runner's World arrived yesterday. I'll be reading it cover to cover over the next couple of days in search of any small nugget of inspiration that can help motivate me to get back on track.

The Shamrock Shuffle is this weekend. I was really excited when I first signed up for the race many many many months ago. Now...yeah...I'm not feeling it. But I do have to admit that I got a little thrill when getting my bib number and shirt. Although I'll most likely be using it as a training run and not really racing it, I think the energy from the crowd of runners may help lift my spirits on Sunday.

Motivational posters for runners. Yes, it is a thing. Runner's World has a whole slide show set up on their website, which I recently turned to in search of some motivation this week. That is where I found this quotation from Kara Goucher. I just need to remind myself that this is just a bump in the road, and that I just need to keep moving forward.