Monday, March 22, 2010

Shamrock Shuffle race report

The Shamrock Shuffle's an interesting race, which I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with. It's the first real running race of the season in Chicago, so it always has a huge turnout. On the other hand, it's always in the middle of March, so the weather is wildly unpredictable. For instance, last year it was 32 degrees and we had 6 inches of slushy accumulation on the roads through the entire course. It was easily the worst race I've ever done. I've also injured myself at this race repeatedly by not preparing well enough for it, so I'm always a little nervous.

On top of all that, the last 4 weeks have been up and down with a strain in my right Soleus muscle (yes, Mike, it was confirmed to be my Soleus this morning by a physical therapist). I've been training for my first marathon for the last 12 weeks and got a bit of an overuse injury from the jump in mileage. I was finally able to do some runs over the past week, though, and have been feeling more confident. On the other hand I haven't been doing ANY speed work this year, only long runs for the marathon. I've always read that increasing your mileage will translate to faster short races, but I really didn't know what to expect.

All this anxiety for an 8k!

2009 time: 36:00
2009 place overall: 804/13,399
This year's goal: 34:30

I decided to go for my 10 mile run the day before, knowing that it may hurt my race time a bit. I got 3.5 miles into that run when I hit an open area of the lakefront path that was going to extend for a while. I met 18 mph winds blowing sleet into my eyes, and I immediately turned around and went home. So...it turned out to be only a 7 mile run, but now I was afraid that if the weather stayed bad I wouldn't be able to hit my goals.

I woke up on Sunday morning to find a nicer day, no accumulation, and best of all no more sleet! Did some stretching and rolling, ate some toast for breakfast, and then met Joe on the train. Ate some Cliff Shot Bloks on the way down there (much less messy :) and drank some water.
We got to the race in plenty of time and waited around for the race to start, stretching out some more and trying to stay warm.

Once we crossed the start line, I decided to pace the first mile to Joe and see how I felt. I hadn't been able to find my Garmin that morning, so I was completely guessing on my pace and going by feel. At the 1 mile marker I called out to Joe for time and could tell he was a bit surprised to find me right on his elbow. 6:30 for the first mile (turned out this was a little slow, which threw off my times for the rest of the race).
I was feeling pretty good at this point and knew I could keep up with Joe for a while. I paced with him for mile two, which we did in around 6:45. During the third mile I was starting to lose track of my times, but still held onto him. I'm always amazed at how well other people keep track of their splits and compare to other races/racers, because my brain starts to get fuzzy and I just focus on holding on.
Mile 4 is always my toughest mile, and knew that if Joe was going to beat me it was going to be here. Sure enough, I lost about 20 seconds off my time and did the fourth mile in 7:05. I slowly lost sight of him, but ended up right behind a guy running in shorts, a tank top, and Vibram FiveFinger shoes. I couldn't let this guy drop me, so I picked the pace back up the last mile and did it in around 6:30.

Finish time: 33:21
Overall Place: 665/25,559

I couldn't have been happier with my results here. I beat my goal by over a minute and last year's time by 2:39. It also reaffirmed that I was on track for my marathon goals and showed me I can improve my short races by doing long runs.

Now...I just have to make sure I don't get injured over the next 6 weeks. Illinois Marathon, here I come!

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