Shamrock Shuffle race recap...a mixed bag

I’m still a little confused by what I’m feeling about this race, hence why I didn’t post my recap right away. And there have already been a few race recaps out on Chicago Now today, offering varying views of the race.

This post reflects my train of thought the past 24 hours. It’s a mix of emotions, or as I said, a mixed bag. I had fun. No, really. I did. I may vent a little bit here, but over all I had fun. I was frustrated, happy, disappointed all at once. I needed to sort it out, and vent to Coach Jen a bit…to sort things out.

On one hand I’m a little ornery because I didn’t run a smart race. And maybe a little disappointed I didn’t PR. I’ll admit it. It was a tough race, and I needed to step away from it and think. On the other hand, this was Pam’s first 8k, and I was excited for her! We took the girls with us to the expo on Saturday afternoon, meeting our friends Charlie and Myriah, who came up to run it too. This was also their first 8K, though Myriah has run a 10K this winter, in a blizzard. We met, wandered the expo and then got dinner. It was nice getting to hang out with them!

I was excited to be starting the race with them. This was my chance to
mentor folks in a race, not through my blog, email or IM…this was the
real thing, it was go time! I’m hopeful I didn’t overload them with too
much info. At dinner we agreed we’d start together and then each run our
own pace.

Pam, the girls and I got home, got the girls ready for
bed, laid out our running gear and did a lot of nothing. I cut my hair,
drank more gatorade and then hit the sack!

I got up at 5:30 to
star getting ready. I had a case of the nerves and took some time to try
and calm down. We ate with the girls and then took them to my
father-in-law’s to hang with him. Pam and I decided we’d park by my
office, away from the madness of Grant Park…it was a smart move
parking by the office, we avoided a lot of congestion and frustration.

We
made our way to the race, and I have to say, I ran into a lot of people
I knew- from childhood as well as running folks from online. It was
pretty cool. We met Christine and Tim, a couple of friends of friends
who have been reading my story and were running too. Charlie and Myriah
found us around about 10 to 8…we had plenty of time to warm up, though
it was plenty warm already. I admit it now, I was anxious with the
heat. The last run in the heat had me behind a dumpster and Dave
laughing so hard he nearly peed himself…yep, it was the marathon.

We
got into our corral at quarter to and waited…9:00am…and we waited. I
knew we’d be waiting. Last year it took Dave and I a half hour to hit
the start line. We joked, made the typical Chicago traffic jokes, inched
forward and tried to stay calm. Inside I was anxious.

We finally
crossed the start line at 9:49am…yep, a 49:00 wait standing there
baking. Wowza. The time killed me. I got hung up in my head…it’s hot, oh crap. It’s hot. Oh crap. This is going to be tough. I had WAY too much time to think. As soon as I knew it was going to be
hot, I panicked…when I got out there I psyched myself out a bit. Why? I’m scared of the heat
a little after the marathon. Talk about handicapping yourself.

I
grabbed water at the impromptu water station that was set up before the
start. We hit the line and I was ecstatic to finally be moving. The
group of us started together, and I wanted to go easy. Coach Jen
and I had talked about an 11:00-12:00 pace the first mile. I was going
to opt for the latter with the temp. When we neared the bridge to go
under the streets for a while I waved to Pam and kicked it up a little.
My Garmin showed me at a 12:15 pace as I approached the first mile
marker. I hit the lap button because I had lost a signal…10:12! Shit!

I
thought I was pulling back for the second mile…I even slowed for a
moment at the first aid station before the 2nd mile marker. Checked the
pace…9:55. SHIT!

I knew I didn’t have it then. I had started
too fast again. Was swore under my breath, pulled up my big boy pants
and ran. I forced a smile. I needed to. I remembered the bow in my
pocket…the race is a gift, enjoy it. Though at that point it was more
like, enjoy it or else! Somewhere on Jackson the smile was real. Sure I
was still frustrated, but I was enjoying the run. It was hot, but I was
moving…and moving faster than last year and faster than I was in
October.

We hit Des Plaines and started back towards Grant Park.
I teared up a little when I hit the point where Dave snapped a pic of
me last year…where I was scowling at the dude in the Mr. Peanut
costume. I remember feeling like crap and projecting my pain at Mr.
Peanut. This year, I felt 100x better. THAT is a win. I reflected on how
in a little over a year I had come so far. I started cheering people on
and trying to work the crowd.

I figured if I wasn’t going to
PR, I’d try to help my fellow runners on, and maybe someone would PR
because a beefy, bald dude passed them with a smile and a high five. I
turned onto Roosevelt to take on the hill. Last year my eyes got big,
and I panicked. Anyone who has run the Shuffle or the Chicago Marathon
knows the hill…while it ain’t horrible, it ain’t pretty. You finish
both races after climbing it.

I remember looking at Dave last year…cheering, high fiving and still working the crowd. I remember him yelling…

“You’re not the fat kid in class anymore!”

“Right now, you are the fastest you there is!”

“You’re a god damned gazelle!”

The
group of girls in front of us and asked him to keep it up because it
was helping. It was…Dave described me as a full back getting a hand
off for the first time. I remember seeing my dad, sister and aunt at the
top of the hill last year…I hit the corner and just went.

This
year, I smiled. It was time to eat the hill for breakfast! And I did
what felt natural and what I do best…I got loud, and talkative. I
hooted, hollered, and high fived my way up the hill. I encouraged folks
and ran.

I hit the top and saw the finish! Hot damn it looked good! I wanted to make out with the finish line it, it looked so good.

I crossed the line in 53:59. That wave of frustration hit. What helped? Two things…I ran into David (@DP_Turtle) a fellow runner on twitter, and a passionate volunteer for DetermiNATION.
We chatted at the aid station he was volunteering at, and it helped.
The second? Pam caught up to me…she finished 2:31 behind me! Holy
crap, she’s fast!

OK, I will admit…part of my crankiness was
her being so fast. It was part, holy cow she’s awesome and part
holy cow why am I so slow. Pam pointed out her first 8K time was faster than my first 8K time…yes, I know. Thanks dear! I had a hard time wrapping my head around
how fast she is. Did I mope a little? Yeah, maybe…but we talked and
honestly, I am happy for her. She’s damn fast and I’m sure she could
easily handle a half marathon with some coaching…yeah, she’s still
“thinking about it”.

Everyone I started with finished! To me,
that’s a win. I’m ecstatic Pam ran so fast. I’m stoked everyone finished
unhurt and happy. I’m also happy I’m faster than last year. I’ve come a
long damn way.

As for my frustration, damn it. Coach Jen
and I have talked about this year. I’m working on being
faster…working on being an athlete. I’m not just hoping to finish
races this year. I’m looking to improve. I was looking forward to this
race, one…for another shot at a PR for an 8K. Two, once i knew it was
going to be hot I just wanted to run well in the heat. I feel like it
kicked my
ass in October, and I wanted to run this bad boy and get a PR. I
started too effing fast again!

After some time to think about it and talking with Coach Jen, I’m taking somethings from this race. As Coach Jen said,

this race was actually a good thing….it reminds you how we cannot
control some things like the heat, bad Garmins, weather, others, waiting
for 50 min before the start, etc and how to mentally prepare for
this…

And we’re going to work on it.  I also think I’m
still trying to comprehend being faster now. I was
equating how I felt the first two miles to how I felt last year,
when I was actually running that pace…it hurt, this year I hurt but it
was because I felt like I was working just as hard as last year, and I
might have been. It didn’t dawn on me that, yes Dan, you’re faster this
year. On long runs this
spring I’ve been able to equate my breathing and how a
run feels to a pace…within 5-10 seconds.

And the other thing I take away from the Shuffle…again, I need to learn to slow the heck down in races, I start
too fast! I need to work on that and not getting caught up in the
moment. There it is again, I need to get out of my head.

Coach Jen and I talked about
it and I think we’re going to shift focus off of emphasizing HR numbers
for a bit, so I can learn to read my cues. My breathing, perceived
effort, etc…so when a race like yesterday happens, where my equipment
doesn’t work right, or there’s a delay in starting, I can still have a
strong effort.

So a mixed bag. I’m letting the frustration go, learning what I can
from yesterday and moving on. I’ll hang onto the awesome stuff, Pam,
Charlie, Myriah, everyone who finished…to seeing old friends and
meeting folks in person.

More later!

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