Sunday, March 30, 2008
RACE REPORT: Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K
First off, let me say this...the local flavor of this race is dead. Used to be that this "little" race was a nod to the city's rich Irish heritage and an extended celebration of St Patty's day. A race that embraced two Chicago loves - exercise on the lake front and imbibing. And being a local race it was sponsored by a local institution - LaSalle Bank. But LaSalle has now been laid to rest next to the likes of Montgomery Ward and Marshall Fields and we are left with Bank of America...and Nike and Michelob Ultra which got their meaty paws into the mix (why no Goose Island????). Now we are left with this overly bloated "little" race with 30K of your closest friends. We did this race in 2003 with 15K race entrants and back then vowed to never run it again. What's the saying "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice..." But some friends lured us back to give it a go and Jen and I decided it might be ok. Just for fun we said. We'd be with friends and we love any chance to get downtown for something other than work.
That's right...there were just under 15,000 participants in 2003 and all I can remember from that race is running up on sidewalks, across grass and anything else I could to try and move myself forward in the race. It was just too dang crowded. My finish time in 2003 was 49:59. Fast forward to 2008...because of the throngs of people expected for this race, even trying to work through the logistics of meeting up with our friends was difficult. We ended up briefly meeting to the right of gear check with just a few minutes before it was time to head to the corrals. Ahhh, the corral system. Because this race has gotten so big, the organizers have gone to a corral system. Seems to make sense, right? Many of the bigger mary's now do this. Except this corral system went like this - (A) Elites - the really, really fast runners (B) the really fast runners, based on Chicago marathon or Shamrock Shuffle times in the past three years (C) sort of fast runners based on pre-qualifying times from previous marathons or Shuffles and (D) ANYONE who has run the Chicago Marathon or Shamrock Shuffle in the past two years and finally, the OPEN WAVE. Well, since I have not run a Chicago Marathon or Shamrock Shuffle recently, I was slotted into the open wave and wasn't happy about it. This meant I was now going to have to battle all of those race-walkers who do seven hours marathons...nothing wrong with that, but I really don't want to be stuck behind you in a 5 mile race! We even got a race time 15 minutes after the main corrals. But, because we were doing this race for "fun," my super caring and loving husband agreed to run with me in the open wave. So...after talking with our friends for about 10 minutes, we all took off for our respective corrals. Jon and I did a quick warmup, then tried to shove ourselves into the open wave, which was already full with 20,000 of our closest running buddies. I think this may have been the first time I said, "why did we agree to do this race again?"
I should know better when I go to races on mornings like this but I tried to keep it simple and ended up wicked cold. Pre-race I was only half joking with our friends that I would head to Wishbone's right then and there and save us a table so I could cozy up to a warm cup 'o joe and my Sunday Tribune. This race wasn't about me though it was about Jen. I've jock-strapped (for non-triathletes that's slang for support crew) from the side lines before but never as a participant. During this race I was there to jock-strap ("go Jen!"), be a sherpa ("watch out for that slow dude listing left," "right hand turn coming up," pick up the pace a little"), and play pack mule ("too hot? I'll take your hat...gloves...and coat"). But I didn't mind at all. I really wanted to run this race with Jen. Come to think of it I think the last race we even semi ran together was the '03 Shamrock. And there is no way for me to say this without her getting a little upset - even my wanting to run with her and all my best intentions - its still a little difficult because I'm totally relaxed and she's pressing trying to PR (sorry honey). But I really enjoy when she does well and it was cool to be there in the middle of it. After finally crossing the starting line with little fanfare we were off and Jen had a great first 3 miles. Pretty much uneventful. Just lots of darting and navigating through a sea of iPod listening novices (sorry - I'm such a snob. And I should have a ton more sympathy and tolerance given my own recent race woes). I wish I saw more craziness out there but it was a pretty vanilla crowd. Maybe the beer should have been given out pre-race to make it a little more interesting.
It was absolutely awesome to have a sherpa and pack mule with me...how can I get one of those for every race I do? So, yes, the first three miles were just awesome. I was feeling pretty good and really pressing my pace. I was trying to run sub-9's, but it was a little difficult to get into a kind of a rhythm with all the starting, stopping, darting and dashing. I felt great at the 3-mile marker, but then something happened...I just hit the wall. I was done. And to be completely honest, it was a little embarrassing. Here my husband had sacrificed his race for me and I was completely falling apart on him. I composed myself to get to the 4-mile marker (and had a pretty nice split too...around 8:37), but after that 4 mile marker it was all survival. If Jonathan hadn't been "cheering" me on (i.e., "Get your ASS up here!" "Do NOT quit now!"), I would have walked. I know it. Right before the end there is a nice little incline over a bridge and I swear it was all I could do to push it up that bridge. Lots of people were walking and it looked like such a good option. But I could see the finish was right around the corner and knew that walking couldn't be an option. My heart rate was well over 180 at this point...basically a full-on sprint for me and it felt like the finish line would never come. But left turn and there it was...Jonathan challenged me to beat him to the finish line and I gave it all I had. Hmmm...interesting that I still had something left, when 30-seconds early I was sure I was about to die. I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 44:04. Beat my goal of 45:00 and crushed my PR at this race by almost 6 minutes. Although I have a lot to be proud of, I'm still not proud of the way I mentally fell apart at the end of this race. I have a lot of work to do on my mental tenacity when I'm running out of my comfort zone.
Well that was fun. At the beginning of the race Jen wanted me to run along side or run from behind so I wouldn't push the pace too much. But the last mile I knew I needed to be just ahead of her. If she saw me running there's no way she would quit. She beat me to the finish and I hope the pictures turn out (I was throwing down a little victory dance right behind her). After the race I got really, really cold again and my line for gear check just happened to be the longest. Unfortunately I really wasn't in the mood for brunch with friends. I needed a hot shower and some joe. Jen did well and I proud of her. I wonder when we'll race again, together.