Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K 2014 (Chuckling Thugs)

Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K (4.97 miles)
1:02:53 PR!
(your first one of any distance is always a PR, right?!)
Average Pace 12:39/mile

Being that we had such an awesome costume for Get Lucky this year, my sister and I figured why waste it on just one race... and so, in planning our Get Lucky costume a few months back, the Shamrock Shuffle excursion was born.

And so this story begins...

Now, let me tell you... 

Going to a place like Chicago on a Friday night, with race day being Sunday morning, is pretty much a guaranteed set up for race day disaster. 

Oh, let me count the ways.

(1)  Reserve a hotel room that is about 1 block away from the orange line, have trains go by all night long that wake you up at about 30 minute intervals.

(2) Hear sirens, car alarms, drunks yelling at each other and car horns in between the train intervals.  (BTW, it's never just one horn honk - people in Chicago like to have honk-conversations.  It's always a long hoooonkkkk, followed up by a short honk from another car.)

(3) Spend the entire day before the race being a tourist and walking all of downtown Chicago.  Seriously, we were on our feet from 8 am until 9 pm, with our only time sitting being for lunch, a short taxi ride, and a 30 minute break at the hotel when we dropped off our shopping bags.

(4) Eat the LEAST healthy foods possible all weekend, topped off by a terrible dinner the night before the race - after realizing you didn't stumble across any interesting restaurants on your walk back to your hotel at 9 at night, have a dinner at Wing Stop of deep fried boneless wings, french fries, various full fat dressing dips, sugary soda... and a side of veggie sticks (the only thing somewhat healthy).  You know it was a REALLY good for you dinner when the 5 year old that gets in the hotel elevator with his parents says "Mom, it smells like french fries in here" (while mom slaps her hand over kids mouth in embarrassment).

(5) Stay in a hotel with really thin walls, so that when your Russian and Mexican neighbors start having in depth "discussions" with their roommates at midnight on race eve, you hear EVERY.  SINGLE.  WORD.

(6) And finally, a few hours before you need to wake up before your race, have a bum start sorting through the recycling for cans.  Shoot for about 3 in the morning.  Right outside your hotel window.

You can guess how I was feeling when the alarm went off for us to get ready to run.

Hey, speaking of crabby pants, can I add right here how ugly this year's race shirt is?! 

It doesn't even have the race year on it!!

In fact, every time I saw someone wearing the 2013 shirt, I got insanely jealous. 

I would practically shake my fist at them and say "stupid shirt".  *sigh*  I tried to make myself happier by buying an additional shirt at the expo, but that didn't really soothe my pain.

Oh well, we came all the way to Chicago for this, may as well make the best of it!  It's race day.  Let's get in costume and do this!

Q: How do you know you've got a good costume
for a Chicago race day? 
A: When a crowd of thugs cross the street, one of them sees you
and shows all his friends, and they all chuckle to themselves.

 Although our hotel may not have been in the ideal location for a peaceful night's sleep, it was in a GREAT location for race day.  As you can see in the above photo, we were already in the race party area, and our hotel is practically in the background of this photo.  The one block walk from Travel Lodge to Grant Park was awesome!!

Being that the race was going to be around 40,000 people, the party area was a zoo when we got there - as to be expected.  Navigating the crowds, my sister and I wandered looking for our starting gate.  Eventually, we found the general area, but were stuck waiting to enter the gate... and waiting... and waiting...

Unfortunately, soooo many spectators were clogging access to the race gates, and many of the racers for the last wave were in the way, too.  Given a race of this size, I don't know that there is much you can do about this, so it's not really a complaint.  But fair warning to anyone doing this race in the future - get there in plenty of time, you will need it!!  We left our hotel at 8:30 and just barely got into our gate in time for the 9:15 start.

Once we were in the gate, the field of runners was really something to see.


You'd think that a crowd this size would guarantee a delayed start and a very slow walk at the start instead of a run... but amazingly, that wasn't the case.  Right at 9:15, we started.  Each gate of runners was rolled out in a very timely manner, and people just started running right out the gate.  The transition was very smooth, and coming up on the first major land mark on course, we were already starting to spread out a bit and hit our individual paces.

Running downtown Chicago was a trip!  I'm totally NOT used to running in such a congested area with skyscrapers everywhere.  It was a little disorienting.  And apparently, my GPS agreed, because it had a hard time figuring out our pace.  There were several times on course where it told me we were running either 8 minute miles or 17 minute miles ... neither of which were true.

Another thing that was disorienting during the race was the "beat" of the crowd.  And by beat, I mean the bobbing of everyone's heads and feet as they all ran at different tempos down the road.  It was so disorienting in the first mile for me that I had to stop looking ahead sometimes and just focus on the road at my feet.  It was kind of weirdly hypnotic in a way... like vegging out to a lava lamp or something.

One last disorienting thing about the run was going over the first bridge on the river.  OH GOD.  All I could say to my sister as I took my first step was "don't look down!!"  The bridge was a wire metal mesh, and you could see straight down to the river.  My vertigo totally kicked in.  At least it provided a little motivation to make it across ASAP.  LOL!

Unlike many of the other races I've run recently, the Shamrock Shuffle had plenty of on course photographers, so any time we saw one we were sure to ham it up.  I'm still waiting to see what other photos come through, but I'm sure I'll FINALLY end up actually purchasing a few race photos because... look how good these came out!!

No smart comments about having the same pose in
both photos - yes, we need new ideas.

Since this race didn't provide any on course entertainment, most of our time was spent either checking out the scenery or people watching.  Of the many things we saw, there were (but not limited to): several people wearing afro wigs, endless amounts of tutus, the Chicago Theater sign, the sites on State Street, a guy dressed as a Mario Kart character (I think he was King Coopa because he had a giant spikey turtle shell on his back, and even had a cart hanging from his shoulders with a bike bell on it - and he was passing us in this getup, boo-hoo-hoo), a dead rat in the middle of the road, people cheering that we had 22 miles to go (NOT FUNNY), random kids looking for high fives, the sites on Michigan Avenue... and finally, the home stretch.

Although the course overall was fairly flat, with a few minor inclines over bridges or what not, the final stretch was apparently meant to be a challenge for us runners.  It took us up the biggest "hill" of the course ... which my sister handled with ease, whoop!  But it's totally not because she's been training like a beast.  Just credit it to the fact that I was singing the Rocky Song during most of the climb.  True story.  And I know it worked, because some guy next to me who was walking all the sudden yelled out "I don't know why, but that song makes me feel like I can do it, yeah!!" and he started running and punching his arms as he went up the hill.  HAHA!

Finally, we rounded the corner, and you could see it: the finish line.  We pushed for the final sprint...

And that was it - we made it!  And my sister made it through her longest race yet.  Let's here it for just short of 5 miles!!!!!!

Coming through the finishers chute, I was happy to see full sized water bottles and a plentiful amount snack bags available (*ahem* Team Ortho *ahem*).  But then, I was totally disappointed to NOT see a ginormous table of bananas... don't get me wrong, there were still plenty there, but my sister and I were hoping to get a shot with this in the background:

No dice.  Oh well.

Since our hotel check out time was noon, and we wanted to shower before flying home, we ended up having to cut out and skip the rest of the post race party.  Boo.  But that's ok... as you saw on my post from Monday, we made up for that with a very interesting post-race drink.

Looking at what my GPS watch says, in the end I'm quite pleased with our performance.  My sister kept a very steady pace over a longer distance, and we hardly needed any walk breaks (aside from a quick water stop). 

Not only that, but we managed to keep a steady pace on all the inclines.

And, we even finished with a pretty dang good split on the final mile.

Oh, and don't forget, we are actually having FUN while we burned some calories.

Overall, I have to say this is a VERY well run race, and lots of fun.  Plus, the huge size definitely makes it an experience.  If you ever have the opportunity to run it, I recommend it.  I may even try to run it again in the future!

And that's the story of how race bib # 40 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon!

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