As I am now just over two months out from my fifth anniversary of living in Chicago, this year will mark my fifth iteration of most of my annual events, including the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K.
Though I didn’t particularly consider this going into the race, I think Shamrock gives me the ideal opportunity to test my running fitness for the spring season. Shamrock has never been my goal race for the spring, but regardless tends to be my first race of the spring, and since the weather is fairly similar year to year, and the course hasn’t changed at all since 2014, it gives me a really great chance to see how my winter training has paid off thus far and compare my current fitness level to where I was around this time in previous years.
We really couldn’t have hoped for better weather for the race this year, with temperatures in the 50s, overcast skies, and barely any wind. It did spit on us for a couple minutes during the race, but the rain was so light and lasted for such a short period of time that I wasn’t even entirely sure it rained at all until I checked with others who ran the race afterwards, who confirmed feeling drops as well.
I got the race around 7:50 and, after a much needed portapotty trip, headed into my corral to wait around for the start. I have to say, my least favorite part about large races continues to be the necessity to get to your corral so long before a race actually takes off. I understand why we have to be in our corrals early, because having 20,000 people try to get into their corrals with two minutes until the starting gun would be a nightmare, but all that standing around time waiting for the race to begin always drives me crazy.
Anyway, I started about 10 minutes after the elites took off. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect out of the race this year. A PR seemed unlikely, given my training and grave lack of speed work. I did a four mile pace run on Wednesday at my ideal half marathon pace (emphasis on “ideal,”) where I averaged a 9:02 mile and basically felt like I would fall over dead when I finished. I hoped the pack mentality of running a large race would pull me along on Sunday, since historically I’ve run Shamrock at well under a 9:00 pace.
I hit the first mile in 8:34, which seemed reasonable to me, and tried to hold onto that pace for the next 3.97 miles. I came through mile two a little quicker but was right back to where I hoped to be by mile three. Soon after I crossed mile three, the wheels threatened to fall off. I’ve never bonked anything shorter than 10 miles, but I felt dangerously close to bonking on the stretch down Franklin and, even more so, after coming up the hill and turning onto Roosevelt. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, my legs didn’t seem to want to move, and I had a feeling I was going to log my first ever 9:xx mile during Shamrock.
Well, somehow I managed to avoid that, and came through mile four at just about the same pace I had run all along. Up to that point, I had only looked at my mile splits on my watch (I manually lapped my watch at the mile markers, since I know my watch gets all confused running downtown). I had a bad feeling I would log a personal worse at Shamrock and was almost positive I’d run a 43:xx this year, until I glanced at my overall time near the end of the course’s path down Michigan Ave. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see that my watch read 38:xx, and, given that I only had a small stretch of Michigan left, figured I could certainly finish in less than five minutes, and could possibly break 42:00 as well.
I ended up running at 42:01, which I think is the smallest margin by which I’ve ever missed a time goal I established for myself. While this was 30 seconds off my PR, it was also almost an entire minute faster than my personal worst (established, to be fair, on the day when it was SO WINDY) and ranks as #3 out of my Shamrock times. Not too shabby!
Overall, I’m fairly happy with how everything went at Shamrock, and I stand by my claim that this race is the ideal way to measure my current fitness level. I ran my fastest two Shamrocks in 41:3x, and at both of those races, I had 1) been training hard for six weeks or so and 2) was doing consistent speed work during my training. While I think this means my sub-2:00 goal for my half marathon in a few weeks is all but dead (I set my half marathon PR of 2:02:50 the week after running one of those 41:3x Shamrocks), I think I may be in better shape than I suspected, which is nice to know. Of course, the weather could change dramatically between now and three weeks from now, and that could have a major impact on my speed as well, but I’m hopeful that even though sub-2:00 may be out of my reach, I could possibly run a sub-2:10 half marathon. I’ve only done that twice before, so even if I can’t break 2:00, I’d be quite happy to run a sub-2:10 half as well.
I really enjoy Shamrock, and I hope the race continues on. I was floored to look up my results on Monday morning and see that the race only had 19,995 finishers this year While they did add an untimed walk this year (untimed meaning no results, meaning I don’t know how many people participated in that), that’s such a dramatic decrease in finishers from past years. When I ran in 2013, there were 33,257 finishers – 40% more people. I assume the race must still be profitable, because I sincerely doubt it would still exist if it weren’t, but YIKES. I mean, I don’t care at all if there are fewer people running the race. It makes it less crowded and less of a headache. I just hope the Bank of America agrees with me!