Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle Race Recap

After weeks of grinding out miles on the treadmill, in the dark, and on the perpetually windy Lakefront Trail, I had the chance to see what all this hard work has done for me at my seventh consecutive Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday. Given my upcoming move to the suburbs, I expect that this will be my last Shamrock Shuffle for quite some time–not because there’s a rule against suburbanites running the Shuffle, but because I have some serious doubts about my interest in hauling myself into the city for any race shorter than 10 miles that doesn’t offer day-of packet pickup once I move–so I hoped that the day would shape up well for me.

(Interesting side note: I noticed that the race dropped “8K” from its official name, per all the official swag aside from the shirt. I assume this is because the race has expanded to include a two-mile walk and a mile run the day before. I’m curious to see if they’ll continue doing the mile run, though, given that there were only 169 finishers.)

I went to packet pick-up on Friday. It was about the same size as last year, which is a significantly scaled-down event from the expos of years past–though the 8K itself is significantly scaled down from races of years past (20,899 finishers this year compared to 33,273 when I first ran in 2013), so that makes sense. I ended up leaving packet pick-up in a great mood because I found (and purchased) a SPIbelt while I was there. It occurred to me on my 12 miler the weekend before the Shuffle that a SPIbelt could solve a lot of my carrying-gear-while-running issues (why it took me nearly eight full years of running to realize this is beyond me) and I hoped I’d be able to find one at the Shuffle expo to avoid needing to buy it online and waiting for it to ship. Lo and behold, Lively Athletics had a booth selling almost exclusively SPIbelts and related accessories, so I got everything I needed, didn’t have to pay anyone to mail it to me, AND supported a local company in the process. Win.


I love the shirt and the hat this year! Normally I get rid of the extra swag that comes along with the Shamrock Shuffle, but I plan to keep the hat this time around.

The forecast had threatened rain during the race all week, but come Sunday morning, it was just overcast. It was also in the low 40s, which is the warmest Shuffle I remember having since my first race in 2013. I generally wear tights for the Shuffle, but it was warm enough Sunday morning that I thought I could get away with crops and a light jacket (I could. In fact, the jacket was probably too much, but it’s the only green thing I own for running, so I wore it anyway). It was nice to not freeze in the corrals for a change!

I didn’t have much in the way of hopes and dreams for the race this year. I thought it’d be nice to PR, but I also didn’t know if that was realistic. I’ve been training for a fast 21K, not a fast 8K, and my rotten 12 miler from the week before still stung. I was in corral C, so I expected to run somewhere near my usual Shuffle pace, given that I’d be surrounded by runners holding that usual pace.

I came through the first mile in 8:25 (manually lapped, because I know better than to trust my Garmin on downtown races). My previous PR pace was 8:21, which seemed like a good sign. I tend to underestimate just how long an 8K can feel, so I didn’t want to push it too much harder for fear of blowing up at the end like I did last year. I was quite surprised, then, when I hit mile two at what felt like the same level of effort in 7:57.

I absolutely cruised down LaSalle and felt better than I think I’ve ever felt in any race. I felt fast and comfortable, which are two words I don’t usually associate with each other, especially in a race setting. Writing recaps of these races helps me remember more details about them, and one of the things I remembered from last year’s recap was that I hit the 5K mark in 26:xx (in reviewing my past results, it looks like I’ve always hit the 5K mark of the Shuffle in 26:xx). I debated with myself whether or not I should check my watch at the 5K mark this year, but ultimately decided to and got a pretty big confidence boost when I saw 25:25 on my watch. That meant, minimally, that I was 35 seconds ahead of my previous PR with 3K to go. That’s a pretty generous cushion! (What I didn’t know at the time was that my 5K split from my previous PR was 26:26, so I was actually 1:01 ahead of PR pace.)

I started feeling like I was working during the last 1.97 miles, but it was nothing compared to how miserable I felt during that same stretch last year. I was breathing heavier, but I wasn’t panting. My legs hurt, but they weren’t threatening to spontaneously combust. I powered up Mt. Roosevelt and rode down Columbus to cross the finish line in 40:24, for a monster 1:08 PR.

I was floored. I thought I stood a decent chance of PRing when I came through the first mile in 8:25, but I really was just shooting for anything under 41:30. It never occurred to me that I could possibly finish a minute faster than that. I averaged an 8:08 pace. I ran my most recent 5K at an 8:03 pace!

I wanted to PR at Shamrock mostly as insurance against my half marathon in two weeks: if I don’t break 2:00 or don’t PR there, at least all of this training wouldn’t have been for nothing. Instead, I walked away from Shamrock with a renewed sense of confidence that not only has all of this training not been for nothing, it’s working. The last time I had a gigantic PR at the Shuffle was also at the end of training my tail off for the Chi Town Half Marathon, so…who knows. I’m the first person to give all of the credit or place all of the blame for my race outcomes on the weather, and the weather was as perfect as you could hope for on Sunday: overcast, low 40s, no wind. I could get something completely different in two weeks at Chi Town, and it could make a big difference in how things shake out. But regardless of what happens there, I now have clear proof that the work I put in this winter has made me faster, and that’s a really rewarding feeling.


2018 Running Recap

It was a good one! As always, thanks to Kim for the inspiration.

Races participated in: 12
Races “raced” (of x amount above): 1, the Jingle Bell Run Chicago 5K
DNFs: 0
DNSs: 0, technically. You could argue that I DNSed the Chicago Half Marathon, since it’s true–I did not start that race. I did start (and finish) the Life Time 5K in its place, though, so I don’t think it’s really a DNS.

5K: 3
15K: 1
Half Marathon: 5 (sigh. So close to a personal high! If only I had run the Chicago Half. Alas.)
States Run In: 5: Illinois, Michigan, California, Washington, and Nevada. No new-to-me states this year, but that’s okay. Can’t do that every year!
Months Run In: 12


Hottest race: Hmm. You know, I honestly don’t know! I didn’t have any oppressively (i.e.: memorably) hot races this year. What a nice treat! Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego was definitely warm, since the course didn’t have much shade. I guess that’d have to be my pick, but I’ve certainly run through worse. According to Garmin, Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago was the hottest race I ran (a whopping 72 degrees – child’s play for Rock ‘n’ Roll!), but that race was rainy and overcast, so I think it felt cooler (though a lot more humid, unsurprisingly) than San Diego. The hottest “race” I ran, by far, was this year’s 20 miler, but that’s not a race. The hottest run, for the record, was the nine miler during marathon training. Holy cow. That was no joke.
Coldest race: Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K, if memory serves.


Look at all those cold people!

Windiest race: DEFINITELY the Hot Chocolate 15K. Nothing like running five miles of a 15K into a headwind. Oof.
Wettest race: DEFINITELY Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago. It was, incidentally, the first time I’ve ever been rained on during race day, and boy, were we ever rained on. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the deluge that was mile nine of that race. The Bank of America Chicago Marathon comes in second in this category, having been the second race I’ve ever run in the rain (and my only marathon with anything but crystal clear skies from start to finish. More cloudy marathons, please.)

Participation medals received: 12. I also received four “above and beyond” medals if you will: one for doing the Half I-Challenge, one for doing two Rock ‘n’ Rolls, one for doing three Rock ‘n’ Rolls, and one for doing four Rock ‘n’ Rolls. Is sixteen medals too many for one year? YES.
AG medals received: 1!


1:34:33 (first 15K)
Marathon: 4:42:49 (10:03 PR).

Favorite medal: Life Time 5K. Getting this medal instead of the one for the Chicago Half (and, particularly, the serendipity of getting a medal with my marathon motto on it two weeks before race day) made dropping down to the 5K totally worth it. This isn’t just my favorite medal of 2018; it’s my favorite medal, period.


Favorite picture:


I’m not really a selfie person, but I felt compelled to take one after the marathon this year. I think this pretty accurately sums up how I felt after the race.

Miles run in 2017: 824.02 as of now, though I plan to do three miles on New Year’s Eve, which would bring me to 827.02 for the year (+21.6 (or +24.6) from 2017)
Of those, miles done on the treadmill: 0. Crushed it. First treadmill-free year…ever? I’m nearly certain I’ll be on the treadmill a lot this winter, so I don’t expect to do that again for at least a year. But it was nice to log all my miles outside this year!


Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 8K Race Recap

I decided once again that getting up early on Thanksgiving sounded better than sleeping in and that running an organized race would be more fun than running on my own, so I kicked off my Thursday at the Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago 8K!


It was COLD Thursday morning (well, not compared to what they had on the East Coast), so I got to the race about 15 minutes before it began to minimize the amount of time I had to stand outside. Even though the race is fairly large (it sold out with 8,000 registrants), there isn’t a whole lot of corralling that goes on here. The race is divided into two waves: those who plan to run a 9:59/mile or faster, and those who don’t (including those who plan to walk the distance), but it’s up to you to self-seed within those waves and their corresponding minute/mile corrals. As you can imagine at a family-focused holiday event, that has mixed results at best.


I lined up in the back of the 8:00/mile corral, since that’s roughly what I “wanted” to run on Thursday. I say “wanted” because I didn’t really have anything in mind in terms of goals. I knew from last year that the first mile or so would be bonkers with crowding, and I didn’t even bother to look up my time from 2017 to avoid putting undue pressure on myself.

As expected, the first mile of the race was ridiculous. I did my best to remain patient, since I’m sure plenty of people who show up to this race don’t run any other races all year, and those who came to actually race lined up in the 7:00/mile corral anyway. It’s meant to be a fun event, and that’s fine! I think it’s great that people want to start their holiday that way!

HOWEVER. I only had so much patience (and by “so much” I mean “very little”) for the fully grown, almost certainly literate adults who seemed to view the gigantic signs that announced corral paces as suggestions rather than directions. I understand that if you only run a handful of times per year, you might not have a good concept of what 8:00/mile means. Surely–surely–though, if you are a fully grown, almost certainly literate adult, you MUST know that 8:00/mile does not mean casual walking, right?! I have no problem with people who signed up for the race with the intention of run/walking (as long as they had the intention of doing so at an overall 8:00-8:59 pace if they lined up in the 8:00/mile corral). I also have no problem with adults who ended up walking because they ran with their children, who shot out of the start line only to find themselves exhausted 400 meters later. I also have no problem with anyone, adult or child, who signed up for the race with the intention of walking the entire distance. All of those situations are 100 percent okay. What’s not okay is when adults who clearly never planned to run a step of the race–like, wearing a full blown parka clearly never planned to run a step of the race–line up in the 8:00/mile corral and then stroll the course! Come on, people! We got emails nearly every day leading up to the race that specifically said that Wave 2 was meant for walkers! If you’re going to walk the whole thing, follow the instructions and line up where you’re supposed to!


The big advantage of running the 8K at this event is that you get to (briefly) ditch the 5K participants around mile two, and that the 8K has a substantially smaller field than the 5K. The course opened up as soon as the 5Kers turned off, and I literally breathed a sigh of relief at all the newfound space I had. I was even more relieved when I finally hit the first aid station, which for the 8K wasn’t until just before mile three (!?!). That was a lot longer than I wanted to go without water, especially since I overdressed (of course).

The big disadvantage of running the 8K is that you have to join up with the 5K participants again with about a mile or so to go in the race. The course was the same as last year, so at least I knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any more pleasant. I ended up tailing a guy from the 8K who passed me right after we reunited with the 5K, letting him make all the strategic decisions of how to best bob and weave through the crowds while following in the wake he left. Fortunately, this is only really bad for a half mile or so, until you go through the Barry Underpass and get into more open territory.

By that point, though, the damage had been done in the pace department (the damage had really been done after my lackluster 9:20 first mile), and I crossed the finish line in 45:30 for a resounding personal worst in the 8K. I’m not too upset about it since I didn’t have any expectations going into the race in the first place (I’m more upset that my watch said 45:26 while my official results said 45:30. I’m used to a second or two of discrepancy between my watch time and official time, but not four seconds!). I got my 10,000 steps for the day in before feasting, which was my only real goal 😛

The post-race party was just as awesome as last year, though moderately less enjoyable (for me) because it was so cold. That’s not Lifetime’s fault, though. I did get in my turkey bowling, and a photographer I know Lifetime uses for some of its advertising collateral took a picture of me bowling, so perhaps I will, at long last, realize my dream of ending up in a race ad (my real dream is ending up in a Chicago Marathon ad, but I don’t wear enough Nike to make that happen). Based on the fact that the website currently only uses photos of the actual race, it might be a stretch, but one can hope. Regardless, I got my mini pumpkin pies, which is as good of a reason as any to run this race as far as I’m concerned.


All in all, a good way to start Thanksgiving. I don’t know if I’ll be in town to do this race next year, but I think it’s a great city option if you’re looking for a local turkey trot.