Fastest race of my life
That statement summarizes my 2016 Shamrock Shuffle, but it's not something I expected to be writing here. That's because I've been training for so long at slow marathon mile paces and also because I was running this race just for fun. It's also strange that I did so well, because I'm at the age when I should just be kicking back and reminiscing about my speedy PRs from bygone years, not running faster than ever before. Anyway, I am still trying to accept the fact that I seem to have been underestimating the upper-limits of my running abilities.
I woke up at 5:45am and went for a two mile shakeout run around my neighborhood. After changing and eating a bagel, I drove down to the race, used the porta potties and made it just in time for the 7:45 Mikkeller group picture with Xaarlin and crew on Columbus Drive. I chatted with a few people including Lauren. Then we all walked over to bag check.
After checking my bag and crossing the security gate for the "A" and "B" corrals, I ran another 1/2 mile to warm up. The temps were hovering around 35 degrees with a slight wind, so it felt good to keep moving. After finishing the warm-up it was off to the "A" corral where I bumped into Efraim and Janessa who I had met in the corral of my previous race. I could also see 2012 and 2016 Olympian Desiree Linden warming up just ahead in the elite area. I knew that Lynton K had flown into Chicago for the Shuffle, but I did not see him among the masses. I also chatted briefly with Xaarlin and Eric. Then the national anthem was sung and I flung my disposable clothes over the fence and we were off!
Mile 1: Last year, I ran this mile in 6:40, but my aim this year was to be a little more aggressive and run it in 6:20. I had started a little too far back and had to weave around quite a few slower runners who had for some reason positioned themselves near the front of the pack. I spotted Lynton up ahead and made it a point to try and get near him so I could say hi. However it was so thick with runners at this point in the race that it was not an easy task. I crossed the mile 1 marker at 6:10 but the race results say 6:05. Either way it was faster than plan, but I felt really good. 6:10/Mile
Mile 2: I was finally able to catch up to Lynton and we chatted about his half marathon PR a couple of weeks ago. One of his friends joined us and we all discussed a goal of trying to break 30:00 for the race. However, our pack dissolved shortly thereafter because as we ran down State Street I saw a huge opening in the crowd and darted ahead of them. Jenny P cheered me on and I waved to her. 5:58/Mile
Mile 3: We wound our way through the loop and I picked off quite a few runners and was making my way up to the packs of club team runners. 5:53/Mile
Mile 4: I stepped on the 5k timing mat at 18:30 which is only 20 seconds from my 5k PR! Stunned by this development, a flood of thoughts went through my head:
- "Could I really be running this fast?"
- "Am I going to blow up in the last mile?"
- "Do I belong up here with all of these young fast club team runners? I certainly shouldn't be passing them, they are faster runners than I am!"
Mile 4.97: I kept waiting for one of the fast club members to throw down and challenge me as I passed them, but not one of them did. I was looking for a footrace to help push me faster, but did not find anyone who would do one with me. So instead, I sped past handfuls of runners down Michigan Avenue and easily crested the hill at Roosevelt Road. I made the turn onto Columbus Drive and spotted the clock in the distance and it was nearing 29:00! I then started my descent towards the finish line and it was a mad dash down the final 200 yards. 5:36/Mile.
Analysis: This was my fastest race ever and I crushed my old 8k PR by almost a minute and a half. The final 5k would have been a 5k PR by itself! I got 6th in my age group, which for a race this size isn't too bad!
I walked down the finishers' chute stunned by my result, and suddenly standing right in front of me was Desiree Linden and her husband. It was surreal to know I'd just finished a race a couple of minutes behind a legendary runner and we were in the same chute. In a couple of months she'll be running the Olympic marathon in Rio! Anyway, I could not work up the nerve to high-five her and besides, isn't it cooler just to let her hang out and chill? After my brush with fame, I turned around and waited for Lynton, but did not see him. Instead I met up with Efraim and then Annabelle.
We walked back over to the gear tent got our bags and proceeded to put on lots of layers. When Lynton spotted me he asked me my time and he started saying: "Dude you were running freaking 5 minute miles"! That made me feel good. Then a group of us went over to the Buckingham Fountain post-race party. We scored some beer (duh). I chatted with lots of friends including Mo, Eric and Zoe. I also met a few of my neighbors and chatted with them. I had invitations to three awesome post-race brunches, but was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to take a hot shower and a nap - which I did once I got home. Later that day, I tweeted about seeing Desiree Linden and she liked my tweets!
|Hanging with Efriam post-race|
After the 2014 Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon, Shalane Flanagan liked one of my tweets, so I now only need a "like" from Amy Cragg, to have one from all three 2016 U.S. female Olympic marathoners!
|About to go home...|
I'm looking forward to the Carmel Marathon in 12 days. That is the day when I'll see if I can finally put to rest my long time quest for a new marathon PR. Although there is a world of difference between running 4.97 miles vs. 26.2 miles - I'm hopeful for a marathon breakthrough!