Monday, March 26, 2012

2012 Shamrock Shuffle 8k Race Recap

Don't worry, we'll get to Part III of my Walt Disney Marathon in a day or two. But in the meantime, I wanted to talk about my most recent race.

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to try the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago. Touted, the “world’s largest timed 8k,” the race certainly was my firs t experience in what I’m calling a “real race.” Mind you, I’ve run big races at Disney and the Hot Chocolate series, but the Shamrock had a veritable “who’s who” in today’s running. Names like Delilah DiCrescenzo and 2012 Olympian, Abdi Abdirahman would lead the pack and look for a victory after traversing the Chicago city streets in glorious running weather. The other races I had run were big, but not really big name. Plus the Elite Corral was jam packed with sub 25:00 runners, so you know this race was serious.

This was to be my third race of the season, but first major one.

First, let’s start back at the Expo. My wife and I went on Saturday to pick up our packets. I was glad to have submitted a qualifying time to move me up since there would be 40,000 runners in this monster. However,  I could only muster up a Corral B, which was kinda sad, since this was the first race in a long time I wasn’t seeded in Corral A, but as of late, an old stress fracture injury started to rear its ugly head, so I planned to take it easy anyway.

Overall, the Expo was well done and easy to navigate. Packet pickup was a breeze, as were the lines to get our shirts (seriously, red shirts for the Shamrock Shuffle? Very much a fail (even if they do look kinda cool)). Afterwards, we decided to check out all the goodies being offered at the Expo (I love running expos!). It was the usual same ole “I run for beer” bumper stickers, GU gels and apparel. But, there were a few highlights. First, the Motorola Motoactv running watch which is really cool. It remembers the songs that are playing when you show a jump in performance, effectively learning what works for you (beats all the Excel spreadsheets I do manually). I wasn’t really looking for myself, since I use a Garmin 610 & Nike + (more on that later), but more for my wife who recently asked about getting an iPod shuffle to use Nike + (she is currently using a Garmin 210).  We played with it for awhile and felt it’s a really neat device, and may pick up once one of our devices craps out.

The other neat booth was the Newton running shoe booth. I had heard about Newtons before, but didn’t know much until after reading about them in the April Runner’s World. I was curious to check them out since my stress fracture was due to my running style and Newtons had strategic rubber placements to help combat these issues. I tried out the Newton Distance which were really comfy and light! Because of the extra layer of rubber on the midsole of the shoe it would definitely take some getting used to, but a very cool feeling shoe. Since I already have about 4 pairs of running shoes in rotation (and a few still sitting in boxes), I couldn’t really justify the cost just yet (but, they are on the horizon).

Race Day
It was a slightly cool, breezy Sunday, perfect for running. My wife and I got to the race about 7:30 for an 8:30 start. I always like it when races are slated to have wave starts, even more when organizers police the corrals guaranteeing the correct runners are in the correct places. Both my wife and I were in Wave 1 which was helpful (since Wave 2 wouldn’t start for 45 minutes until after Wave 1). Bag check was a breeze, so after checking my bag I wished my wife good luck and headed over to the B Corral. According to the official guide, Corral B was to have about 3,000 runners but it felt more like 1,000 meaning space was abundant. Since I got there early I had plenty of room to stretch and prepare. Once warm, I threw in my ear buds and visualized the course in my head knowing there were 8 turns from Start to Finish.

Once the National Anthem was complete (sung by the incomparable Wayne Messmer), the horn blew and we were off. My game plan was to manage a safe 8:00 pace for the first 2 miles and then turn up the last 3. Well, that plan was shot the minute I crossed the Start line. Getting caught up in the excitement (I know better); Mile 1 rang out on my Garmin at 7:23, Mile 2: 6:49. Holy crap! I had to slow down! I was risk of either dying out early, aggravating my injury, or both!

Lemme just take a minute here and note how much I love my Garmin 610. It stayed true even after running under a bridge at Mile 1 to which the Nike + on my iPhone completely scrambled itself (It said I ran a 1:43 mile and did a 5k in 19:00 – I blame AT&T for its crappy service in the city). Suddenly, that MotoActv started to look pretty good.

Okay, we’re back
Anyways, filing past Mile 2, I was way under pace and I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage that time consistently for the length of the race. Problem was, I couldn’t slow down. Every time I tried to cut back to a 7:55/8:00 I felt like my body was working harder. So, I did the only damage control I could think of, I stopped. At Mile 2.whatever, I moved to the right, put my hand up, and stopped running.  I walked for about 30 seconds and managed to get control of myself and started back up. I felt much better at my planned 8:00 pace, but the damage was already done, I was pretty winded so any chance of speeding up in the last mile was all but lost.

The final stretch was pretty wide and flat (after just running over a somewhat sizeable hill). I gave it all my might and finished at a respectable 39:06, about 20 seconds short of a PR. My wife rocked her race and set a new PR for the 8k, so there was cause for celebration on her accomplishment.

The Course
I really enjoyed the set up. It was somewhat similar to last year’s Hot Chocolate race, taking us north to Grand, than pretty far west, south on Michigan Ave, and then finishing on Columbus (same as the Chicago Marathon Finish line). Since the roads were closed, everyone had the chance to make a notch for themselves and get into a rhythm without having to bunch up. I really enjoyed running over the bridges and looking down at the water. The other thing I enjoyed was just the sheer amount of people all along the route (especially, the perplexed tourists trying to get out of their hotels). There were also some great signs along the course such as “Do epic shit!” & “Worst. Parade. Ever!” I love this city.

Overall, this was a great race. It was well organized and a terrific route through the heart of the city. I’m really looking forward to next year, where I WILL get in Corral A.

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