So, fun fact: the 2011 Shamrock Shuffle was my very first road race…as in, the first road race I ever saw. Though I “ran” cross country in middle school, I was not a runner growing up, nor was anyone in my family. The road racing environment was completely new to me, but I remember thinking the Shuffle was pretty cool when I watched it in 2011 and thinking, “You know, some day I should run that race! It seems like a cool way to experience parts of the Chicago Marathon without having to run a whole marathon!”
(Yeah, about that that whole “not running a marathon” thing…haha. At the time, though, I had never run a 5K, so a marathon wasn’t really on my radar in April 2011).
“Some day” came yesterday for me when I took on my first 8K, though I suppose everything started on Friday with the Health & Fitness Expo and packet pickup. Now, I’ve been around the metaphorical expo block several times in my day, and, being the completely shameless miser that I am, I consider myself to be highly skilled in the art of finding free things. From a swag standpoint, I’ve got to say that this year’s Shuffle expo blew every other expo I’ve ever attended out of the water.
Look at all of that! While there was a decent amount of advertising, I really felt like the advertising to actual thing ratio was pretty good. Also, I walked out of that expo with three t-shirts, only one of which was the shirt in my participant bag, none of which I paid for. Do I care that I’ve never run the Warrior Dash or Allstate 13.1 Half Marathon? Nope. You better believe I’ll wear those free shirts anyway.
In a laughably textbook case of too much too soon, I found myself with some nasty shin splints last week (surprise! Going from 4.5 weekly miles to 13 weekly miles in one week is a terrible idea!). After a really painful two miler on Thursday, I was worried about the race and my ability to not completely suck at it. After my post-run shower on Thursday, I put my compression sleeves on and, aside from showering and the Red or White Ball on Friday night, left them on all the way through Sunday.
I never raced in my compression sleeves before Sunday (and in fact had only run in them at all once), but I was more concerned with my ability to run without stabbing pain in my legs than breaking the don’t-do-anything-new-on-race-day rule (because if I’m already breaking the 10%-mileage-increase-per-week rule, what’s another broken rule, right? Seriously, someone take away my Smart Runner Card.).
In one of the weirder twists of fate in my running life, I found out on Thursday night that I’d be running in Corral A. Yes, you read that right — me, Bethany, the girl who just barely squeaked into Corral C after having a picture perfect 5K a month ago, the girl who really belonged in Corral D, was suddenly going to be running with fastest non-elites. So that wasn’t intimidating at all (<– lies.). I’m sure I could’ve still run in Corral C if I wanted to, but since Lord knows I’ll never qualify for Corral A by the power of my own two legs, I figured I’d take advantage of the power of my blue wristband and run in Corral A anyway.
I’ve run enough races to know how to not to be obnoxious, so I put myself in the very, very back of Corral A and tried to act like I’m serious about running until it was our turn to start. My legs felt just fine, which was a really nice surprise. What was more surprising, though, was how open the course felt for the first mile. It seems like anyone I’ve ever heard talk about the Shuffle talks about how crowded the course is for the duration of the race, but I could have easily turned cartwheels without hitting anyone. Nearly every race I’ve run on the Lakefront Trail has felt significantly more crowded than the Shuffle, and I was really thrown off by this…right until about mile two when all of a sudden people started blowing past me. At about that point, I realized the course was so open because the even the slowest people legitimately in Corral A run a 5K about a minute per mile faster than I do, so naturally the course was open — everyone else in my corral was already was ahead of me, and the Corral B people hadn’t caught up yet. Haha.
My Garmin predictably lost its signal when we went under Randolph and then COMPLETELY freaked out throughout the remainder of the race.
Go home, Garmin. You are drunk.
I was trying to keep track of my mile splits manually on my Garmin, but it was having none of my demands, so I really had no idea what I was running. My legs felt tired, but I mostly chalked that up to the fact that there were hills on the course (um, what? I knew there would be a hill at the end, but I was not expecting the course in general to be so hilly. I mean, it probably wasn’t hilly by most standards, but compared to other Chicago races I’ve run, the course felt super hilly).
The Roosevelt hill actually wasn’t bad at all, though that could be because I was mentally prepared for it. That last stretch down Columbus was tricky since I usually like to kick when I can see the finish line, but I didn’t think I’d be able to kick for the duration of Columbus, so I kind of held back until I got really close to the end and then ran as hard as I could and finished in 42:26 with an overall 8:32 pace. (Mile splits, according to my results, were 8:52, 8:26, 8:34, 8:37, and 8:15).
I’ve run a decent number of races longer than a 5K, and if there’s anything I’ve noticed about my speed, it’s that longer races = slower paces. For the past six months or so I’ve been running those medium-short distances (4M, 7K, 9K) in the 9:xx range, so I fully expected to run a 9:xx 8K, yet somehow I pulled out a normal 5K pace 8K with splinted shins and a sore booty (thank you, Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30). I really think a lot of this had to do with starting in Corral A, since even though I wasn’t running competitively, just being surrounded by a lot of fast people naturally helps me be faster. I still don’t know where all of this speed I’ve magically developed since last October came from, though. Not that I’m complaining!
I had access to the hospitality tent at the post-race party, which made me feel way cooler than I actually am, but not too cool to take advantage of the food.
Gotta refuel, right?
Overall, I had a really great experience at the Shuffle. I’m really proud of my run, I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to experience Corral A and the hospitality tent, and I’m really, really excited to run those roads again in October 🙂