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To Shuffle or Not to Shuffle…that is the question

by Jimmy

“Jimmy put your coat on…it’s cold outside!” Yah, yah, don’t worry, I will wear my coat!

Remember when your parents would give you advice or instructions as a teen and the words would go in one ear and out the other? Although we would nod our heads in agreement we would often either ignore the advice or do the exact opposite of what they said. Although I may have left the house wearing my coat I would often ditch it behind a shrub next to George Kilbourns house until it was time to go home. As an adult, we look back and laugh at the crap we got away with while better understanding our parents intentions. But do those teenage tendencies ever really leave our system?

Amanda and I, along with several friends signed up to run the 2016 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k which was held on April 3rd. Over 30,000 participants line up in Grant Park each year for this event which kicks off the Chicago running season. It’s a very well-organized event with a terrific after party. This year featured a very cool finisher’s medal for the first time.

2016 Finisher Medal
2016 Finisher Medal

When I signed up to run this 8k, I failed to realize the race date fell just one day after a scheduled 4 hour marathon training run. What should I do? I had already paid my entry fee. Plus, Amanda and her coach Eric Wallor from FPR had targeted Shamrock as race to test her speed work. The Derby Festival Marathon on April 30th is my “A” race which I’ve been training for since January. I’m certainly not going to miss my 4 hour training run in order to race Shamrock.

I knew running both would definitely risk injury. Amanda voiced her concern too suggesting I withdraw from the 8k. I would still have to do a short recovery run the day after my 4 hour workout so I negotiated with her. I will go down to the city with her and still do Shamrock but only as a slow recovery run. If the legs aren’t feeling right, I won’t run, but just be a spectator. I could tell she wasn’t thrilled but agreed. Perhaps you see where I’m headed here.

My April 2nd training run was scheduled to be a 3 hour run in the morning followed by a late afternoon run for another hour. My running pal Missy, also coached by Eric, had a 3 ½ hour run scheduled in preparation for the same marathon. So I decided to tweak the plan a bit and do 3 ½ in the AM with Missy then complete another 30 minutes later. Mother Nature challenged us on that day with high winds, cold rain, sleet, and then snow. As one friend said, it’s raining Dip n Dots, referencing the strange little beads that were pelting us from the sky which resembled the famous frozen dessert.

Needless to say Missy and I conquered that character building run of 22 plus miles. It was undoubtedly the toughest training run I’ve done. Amanda and the rest of our group who all had shorter runs in preparation for Shamrock, waited at our meeting spot to congratulate us upon arrival. They are so awesome! Before leaving, Missy warned me to take it easy the next day at Shamrock after beating my body up. She said she doesn’t want to have to yell at me for overdoing it when she sees me next. I assured everyone that I’ll be fine and take it easy on the 8K. First I had to get through another 30 minute run that afternoon which wasn’t a problem.

Missy n Jimmy post 22 miles.
Missy n Jimmy post 22 miles.

I woke up the next morning not feeling as if I ran 25+ miles the day before. It was Shamrock Shuffle Day! My excitement was more so for Amanda who had worked her butt off with Eric to improve her speed. Her goal was to race it in sub 40:00 to beat her previous PR of 40:26. The day before some of our Running Mates and I were discussing how strong she looked and began predicting her pace behind her back. I predicted she would blow away her PR and run at a 7:42/mile pace. Our friend Emily boldly predicted a 7:37 pace.

Thankfully we were assigned to Corral B due to previous performances. Because of the large number of participants, it can get congested, especially in the later corrals. The weather was perfect in the low 30’s to start. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Amanda so confident prior to a race. She was very calm as we gathered into our corral. We ended up meeting Christine and Ray, our teammates from Dick Pond Fast Track, toward the front of the group. I mentioned that I would likely take it easy as I’m not sure how my legs would react after running 25+ miles yesterday. Christine commented that she PR’d in a race the day after her 20 Miler. After hearing that, of course the wheels started spinning.

Jimmy N Amanda Pre-Race Selfie
Jimmy N Amanda Pre-Race Selfie

Who was I kidding? No matter which way you look at it, this was a race. The adrenaline was pumping, the legs felt surprisingly good, and I clearly had FOMO(fear of missing out).  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look up my previous PR of 41:18 that morning. So when the horn went off and I hit the start line, I had purposely forgotten all the warnings to take it easy from those concerned and run hard. As expected, Amanda took off and after about 2 minutes she was out of sight. I settled in among the sea of runners and let the legs loosen up over the first mile. At the 1 mile mark I looked at my watch which read 7:54. Holy crap, that is a fast first mile for me and I felt strong. The adrenaline of being in a race took over.

Just past the 5k mark I looked over and saw another running buddy Kristin on the other side of the street. I cut over and joined her knowing she was at a similar pace. We got each other through a lot of runs last year during marathon training. As much as I wanted to catch up with her on life, my ability to talk at that pace was very limited. I just knew if I could keep up with her I’d be in good shape. We made the turn from Michigan Ave up the incline we all refer to as Mt. Roosevelt. Once we reach the top of that mountain it’s a left turn then sprint to the finish line. I hadn’t looked at my watch since the 5k mark. We made the turn and kicked it up a notch.

Rather than posing for the finish line picture my eyes went right to the watch as I hit the mat. I was astonished when I saw 39:05, a PR by over 2 minutes. I know I was cruising but had no idea it was that fast. I’m not sure I would have kept up the pace if it weren’t for Kristin who cruised to a sub 39:00 race herself. Although she assured me I didn’t I still feel I may have slowed her race down a bit. Needless to say, I was riding high and more importantly, feeling good.

We caught up with Amanda who was waiting for us with a huge smile on her face. She blurted out 37:30 a PR by 2:54. Wow! She killed it!!!!! Let’s put that into perspective. This is an 8k race which is approximately 4.9 miles. The 2:54 PR means she improved her pace by 35 seconds per mile. I am so proud of her. She’s on a mission and her speed work with Coach Wallor is paying off big time. In fact, neither of us would be hitting these numbers if it weren’t for his guidance and training.

Like my thirteen year old self, it was a hell of a lot of fun not listening to those who care about my well-being. However, the 48-year-old me knows it was not a wise choice and I was very lucky to not get injured.

Amanda’s pace was 7:33/mile. Emily wins!

Post Race Brewski
Post Race Brewski

For more information on the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle Click Here


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