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.

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