Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Shamrock Shuffle 2018 Race Recap

I rarely run sub-7 miles in training any more. Since I haven't had a marathon or a PR attempt for over a year and a half, I'm content running whenever I want at whatever pace I want. Often I'll run 20 miles per week and use the extra time to sleep in and get the magical REM hour of sleep when I start to dream. Some weeks, I'll get a stronger dose of the running bug, and forgo an hour of sleep so I can run a few more miles. On those kind of weeks, I could run as many as 50 miles. However, 98% of those miles are completely stress-free - as in they aren't forced "I've gotta run hard and hit my goal paces" kind of runs. Since I now run by feel, my pace could be anywhere between 7:45 and 9:00 minutes per mile. Once or twice a week I might throw in a fast finish and run a 6:59 just for fun.

However, when a race comes around, it really helps to know your fitness level (usually using a recent race time), and then translate that fitness into a realistic goal pace. So, without the benefit of a recent race - the last one I did was the F^3 Half Marathon in January, I would need to take a SWAG at what my fitness level was in the days just before the Shamrock Shuffle 8k. My F^3 time of 1:28:17 translates to a 31:25 8k. So, after some reflection, I figured I was in the same shape as I was for the F^3, but 31:25 just isn't too fun of a number, so I set my goal for a slightly speedier time:


It was a dauntingly low number since it would mean I would need to run five consecutive miles at 6:14 per mile. At first blush it seemed to be an impossible task especially since I hadn't run one single mile near that pace in the last six months. I had to remind myself that those pace tables are pretty spot on - especially when converting from longer to shorter distances. All I would need to do would be to trust my legs, lungs and Greg McMillan!

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and went for a two mile shakeout run around my neighborhood. Temps were hovering around 28 degrees and there was a gusty kind of wind. I made coffee, scarfed down a sausage patty and a banana. After letting the dogs out and getting them back inside, I drove down to the race and got in a 15 minute line of cars to enter my no-longer-a-secret-thanks-to-SpotHero $11 parking garage. Luckily, I was at the race early enough that I wasn't too stressed out sitting in that super slow moving line, but unfortunately I missed the MRC pre-race photo op. Womp! Finally, I got in the garage parked the car and jogged over to Grant Park.

I did not possess a Shamrock VIP pass like last year where the private gear check and porta-potties were within spitting distance of each other. So instead I had to walk a half mile from gear check to use the no-line port-a-potties with the common folk! As I was walking back, I felt a tap on my shoulder and who do you think it was? The guy I used to see before every single race until he moved to Boston two years ago - Lynton! He had flown back to Chicago to run the Shuffle and hang with friends for the weekend.

We were both in a hurry as they were announcing that they were closing the "A" corral in five minutes. So I told him we'd chat in the corral and I made my way over to that area.

Once in the corral, I spotted Annabelle and Violeta in the front of the B corral, we chatted a bit, then I made my way over to the MRC group and saw Xaarlin and company. I then made my way up closer to the start line. The national anthem was sung and I flung my disposable jacket over the fence and we were off!

The Race:
Mile 1: Last year, I ran this mile in 6:14, but my aim this year was to run it in 6:30. I soon spotted Lynton ahead of me so I gradually made my way up so I could run with him. We started chatting about our race goals (his was about 45 seconds slower than mine). We also chatted about marathons. He had PR'd at NYC in November. I also asked him if he was running Boston (he's not). 6:20/Mile

Mile 2:  I continued chatting with Lynton and he reminded me that the final mile down Michigan Avenue would be fully into the wind. I said that we should save a bit of reserves for that moment, but wasn't really practicing what I was preaching since at the State Street bridge I needlessly surged ahead, and lost some precious reserve energy while also losing contact with Lynton! 6:17/Mile

Mile 3: I knew I was going too fast even without looking at my watch, because I could feel my lungs starting to red-line as they hadn't had to handle this fast of a pace for such a long stretch in quite a while. Also it was barely 30 degrees outside, so a cold day for a fast run.  6:10/Mile

Mile 4: I crossed the 5k timing mat at 19:24 which was only 26 seconds slower than my time at the same point last year and 54 seconds slower than during my 8k PR. I typically love to step on the gas at this point in the race and start flying, but, based on how my lungs were feeling, I knew it would be a struggle just to hold pace for the final 1.97. 6:13/Mile.

Mile 4.97: Once I turned the corner to head into the wind on Michigan Avenue, I realized that I would be cutting it very close to get to a sub-31. I tried to play leap frog with the runners ahead of me, but I could not conjure much more speed than would allow me to pass a couple of runners who were fading. Last year it felt effortless to run down Michigan Ave at a 5:42 pace, but this year it was a struggle to hold a 6:20, but being so close to achieving my 30:59 goal kept me focused on running as hard as I could. After cresting Mt. Roosevelt, I dashed down the hill on Columbus Drive hill and was finished!  6:20/Mile.
There are no finish line photos of me from this year,so here I am
running the last 10 meters, last year!

Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Official Time: 31:08
Official Pace: 6:16/mile
Age Group: 12th out of 898
Overall: 448 out of 20,899

Analysis: So close, but no cigar! I was only two seconds per mile too slow to break 31 minutes. This was my fourth fastest 8k ever (out of eight). This race is proof yet again, that I really can run fast by training almost entirely slowly. I also got to contribute to this year's BRC mixed team's 2nd place showing!

Post Race: 
I walked down the finishers' chute and turned around to wait for Lynton to finish.  We chatted as we walked then stopped for this pic:

Then it was over to bag check, where I changed into some warmer clothes:

Near bag check
Next I took off to the Buckingham Fountain Beer Garden to meet up with the MRC gang:

MRC and Beer!
Finally it was off to Kaiser Tiger with the MRC to discuss all things running and where Anne made a surprise appearance! I also had a delicious bacon board:

About to devour my
 bacon board
The Future:
I like where I am fitness-wise and generally feel better rested and less burned out than I did at this time last year. As for goals, I'd like to make a strong age group showing on my first official day in the next age group at the Run For the Animals 10k in June. However, before that happens I'll get a tune up at another CARA race - the Ravenswood Run 5k at the end of April!