The Shamrock Shuffle was held on Sunday, April 2nd in the heart of Chicago. I last ran this race in 2012, less than one year after first starting running, and finished it in 47:28 minutes (9:33 min/mile pace). I had high hopes of making this my speediest 8K to date, but my body and I weren’t really on the same page. Oh well, it was still fun though!

I stopped by the expo a few days prior to race day but didn’t stay long. It was decently sized though and looked to have some interesting booths to explore.

I gotta say, it’s so nice to live within walking distance of Grant Park. I woke up around 6AM, ate some toast + PB + banana with coffee, got dressed in all black (totally on theme with the green right? oops) and ran over to Grant Park. I had 6 miles scheduled for my half marathon training, so I covered 1 mile to Grant Park and barely made it in time for the Wave 1 start.

I kind of wish I waited for Wave 2 instead because I ended up entering the Wave 1 corral with only 2 minutes to spare (no joke) and didn’t have a chance to go to the bathroom beforehand. Running with a full bladder sucks! I was greeted with a sea of green as we waited to start. It took me almost 20 minutes to cross the start line. Luckily, the weather was perfect – 50’s with overcast skies.

Miles 1-3
I really should start training myself to become a morning runner again because it took forever for me to feel awake. I was just not feeling it at all the first few miles and decided early on that I wasn’t going to actually “race” this race. My Garmin lost reception and remained wonky the entire race, so I never actually knew my pace. Anything under a 9 minute mile (based on my Garmin) felt challenging, so I eased up and ran by feel.

Miles 4-5
I finally started feeling better around the 3.5 / 4 mile mark, which is generally how long it takes my body to actually warm up these days. At this point I started speeding up and pushing myself into the challenge zone. I felt pretty strong throughout the race but really hit my stride near the end (sadly). The last 0.5 miles featured a slight uphill climb which made me cringe but didn’t cause much torment. I sprinted at the end and crossed the finish line in 42:34 minutes, and only then did I remember that my 5 mile PR was 42:35. Now, an 8K is a tiny bit short of 5 miles, so I’m hesitant to call this a new PR, but whatever. That 1 second though…ugh!

Final Time42:34 (8:34 min/mile pace)
Place: 4,060 / 20,003
Age Division (F, 25-29): 321 / 2,337

Pros:
• Race course – Nothing beats running down the wide streets of downtown Chicago! Although it sucked to lose Garmin satellite reception almost immediately…
• Water stops –  It was nice to have multiple water stops despite the short distance
• Swag bag – I love the material and the emerald green color of the tech tee, and the green hat is adorable (although I don’t think I’ll ever wear it)
• Medals – I’m not sure when they started giving out medals for this race (they didn’t when I ran it in 2012) but I’m always thrilled to receive more race bling!

Cons:
• Cost – I paid $50 for the race, which is pretty steep considering the distance
• Race photos – Perhaps others did not have this problem, but there were no photos identified of me. Annoying, although I’m sure I would’ve looked horrific in them as usual.

Overall, I think this is a great race to start one’s spring running season. I may just run it again if I’m still in Chicago this time next year!

♥ Irina

The inaugural France Run 8K was held in Central Park on August 29th, 2015.

France Run 8K

This was race #5 in the 9+1 Program for me, I’m making progress at last! I’ve been incorporating these races into my weekend long runs by nestling them between warm-up and cool-down miles. This time I chose to run 3 miles prior to the start of the race, using it as a warm-up with the intention of running 2 additional miles after the race as well.

NYC East River

(running along the East River)

I arrived to Central Park about 20 minutes before 8AM and stretched my slightly tired legs. The temps hovered in the low 70s without too much humidity, but I felt that this would soon change.

France Run 8K

Miles 1 – 2.5
I started the race with a bit of lead-leg syndrome which thankfully eased off within the first mile. I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring everyone around me and running my own race (← my running motto!), but constantly being passed by people left and right at the start of any race is always annoying. I resisted the temptation to speed up and maintained my slow run pace. The cat hill (lovingly called so because it has a hideous cat statue showcased along it) wasn’t too bad, but I was still running cautiously because of some knee pain I experienced earlier in the week.

splits

(note that the final average pace is off because of the total distance my Garmin calculated)

Miles 2.5 – 5
I was seriously dreading Harlem Hill from the moment I crossed the start line. Because of this mental build-up, I was pretty stressed as we approached the hill. But much to my surprise, I felt strong and even started passing people on the way up! The west side of Central Park is pretty hilly in general, and my legs definitely felt the ascends and descends. I’ve gotten shockingly good at negative splitting (is that even a saying?) races, and managed to do the same this time as well. So all those people who were passing me at the start? I was now zooming past them! Ok so maybe not all of the people, but surely some of them…I hope. I did an epic sprint to the end and happily crossed the finish line.

France Run 8K

Final Time: 48:35 (9:47 min/mile pace)
Place: 3168 / 5288
Age Division (F, 25-29): 339 / 613

I considered finishing up the weekend run with 2 slow miles for a grand total of 10 miles, but I didn’t want to push my luck given my knee pain earlier in the week…8 total miles was enough for me. And speaking of knee pain, I had none the entire day!

France Run 8K

Pros:
• Race course – Central Park, need I say more? Even though we ran the dreaded Harlem Hill, it was a fun added challenge (yes, I just said that).
• Water stations – There were plenty of water stations as usual, the race organizers have been on-point with this! But to whom it matters, I didn’t see any Gatorade, which is a must to some in the summer heat.
• Race tech tee – I have an undying appreciation for races that give out moisture-wicking tech tees, and this race wasn’t an exception! The white tees are cute and versatile (and not cotton…yay)!
• Post-race festivities & goodies – The standard apples and bagels were handed out at the finish line and there was also music, plenty of booths, free food samples (chocolate, crepes, macarons, fresh tea!), and even a raffle for things like champagne and a free trip to Paris.
• Cost – Many of the NYRR races are incredibly cheap…I paid only $23 as a NYRR member, but non-members pay $33 for the early-bird price (which increases with time).

Cons:
• No race photos – I’m probably just being picky (totally am), but I would’ve loved to see some race photos!

I thought that, for an inaugural race, this event was fun and well-organized! I can totally see myself running this race next year, especially because I’m in need of a new 8K PR…

♥ Irina

On Sunday, September 16th, I ran the I Run Chicago 8k Race. I signed up the moment I saw a race that represented the University of Illinois. For those that don’t know, I spent my undergrad years at Urbana/Champaign studying Civil Engineering, and those were some of the best years of my life! Orange and blue fo eva yo. I ended up registering for the 8K (instead of 5K) run in hopes of pushing myself with a slightly longer distance to encourage running after my half marathon.

Maybe it was the excessive amount of sugar I consumed the day before (chocolate candies, ice cream w/ chocolate chips, lots of delicious white carbs). Maybe it was all those hours spent walking around Six Flags and riding roller coasters that drained my body the previous day. Maybe it was the emotionally heavy night and the resulting lack of sleep. It was probably a mixture of all the above. Either way, the morning of the race was brutal.

Things started out well enough. I woke up at 7AM and began my pre-race routine.

Breakfast of champions: coffee + ½ sprouted cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and banana slices

I dedicated some time to foam rolling as well.

Clothes were laid out the night before, so I quickly got dressed…

(I wore: Avia running skirt, Adidas orange top, Armour sports bra, CEP Compression socks, BrooksPureCadence shoes, my U of I baseball hat, and the iFitness belt which isn’t shown)

…and headed out to Lincoln Park.

I arrived to the race start and was greeted with a familiar sea of Illini pride. A small marching band filled the air with spirited music and a cheer squad screamed out encouragements.

The weather was great and the overall atmosphere was buzzing with excitement.

The race was split into two waves: 8K runners and 5K runners/walkers.

I lined up with the 5-milers with a slightly anxious smile on my face. The race’s 5 miles were going to be the farthest I had run since my half marathon in July. I also didn’t officially train for the race, so I was a bit worried.

9AM finally rolled around and we were off! Here is where the problems began. My heart rate shot up to 177 within the first quarter mile! Usually, I try to keep my heart rate in the low 160s for as long as possible. Some runs my HR doesn’t even break 170. This was clearly worrisome. My first suspicion was a speedy start (around 9:15min/mile), so I slowed down, but no luck. The second suspicion was a growingly hot day and minimal shade. The addition of a thick baseball hat probably wasn’t the best idea either (don’t try anything new on race day, Irina! Ugh). At one point I also considered the possibility that something was wrong with my heart rate monitor, but my body told me that was false. Regardless, nothing helped lower my heart rate.

About 2 miles into the run, I had officially mentally checked out of the race. Heart problems run in my family, so I don’t mess around when it comes to my heart! For some reason, every cell in my body hated every step I took, and my HR made sure I knew this.

Even though each mile felt as if it was dragging by, the overall race went by surprisingly fast. I slowed down to a sad 10:45min/mile to reserve some final energy for the finish, but my heart rate still climbed to 184. Let me just say that I have run enough with a heart rate monitor to know if/when my HR is too high. Once I hit 175, I start overheating. 180, I get slightly woozy. 185 = dizzy + nauseous. The final mile was horrific and I worked hard to mentally calm myself and not throw up. My stomach was churning and my head was spinning. I finally saw the finish line but I remembered that there was a curve before the finish line based on the online map, so I held off on sprinting. My Garmin lost reception for a few seconds at the beginning of the race and threw off the entire distance by 0.15 miles (discovered at the end), so I couldn’t approximate the distance I had left.

By the time I realized the finish line really was up ahead, I sprinted with all the dying energy in me. Yes, I was mildly annoyed that the course map was inaccurate, but at least I survived!

(Don’t I look so scrunched over? I was in such pain!)

I honestly couldn’t even believe I finished the race. I felt like death served on a plate. Blah. But crossing that finish line is always filled with pride, even if the journey to get there was painful!

Final Time: 48:23 (9:46 min/mile pace)
Place: 192/281
Age Division: 31/51

Pros:
–  Start time: I loved the 9AM start time! I’m not much of a morning runner and a later wake-up call was great.
–  Race shirts: the race shirts were a lightweight material instead of the typical plain cotton ones. Love!
–  2 water stops: even though the water tables were easy to miss (I almost missed the first one because it was on the other side of the road, probably for the runners who were already returning from the halfway point), I was still grateful for the extra fluid because I didn’t bring my own.
–  Flexible bib pick-up times: You were able to pick up your swag bag on Thursday, Saturday, or on race day (always appreciated).
–  Speaking of swag bag, I was happily surprised with what was given for such a small race. There was a nice tech tee, chapstick, and an exercise band.

Cons:
– Inaccurate race course map: this was the most annoying thing because it messed up my final sprint to the finish line
–  No mile markers for miles 2-4: there was a clock set up at what I believe were the distance markers, but it was confusing and unclear.
–  The bib: nowhere was there any indication of what the race even was! The bib was just plain white and had “Runner’s World” written on the front. I save all my race bibs and had to write the name of this race on the back for memory.
–  No race day photos: ok this is just me being picky and I know it was a new race, but I would have loved to see myself drenched in sweat in a sea of orange and blue. Maybe next year?

I’m not giving myself a hard time about the crappy race. After all, a finished race is a finished race! I’m proud regardless…even though my 8K times are getting worse with each race. I guess my speedy first 8K (and first race ever) time was just beginner’s luck…

Anyway, I have a 5K race this weekend with my sister (!!!) and I have higher hopes for it. Maybe the 8K distance just isn’t my thing…

Have you ever had a horrible race? Come on…we’ve all been there!

♥ Irina

Where do I even begin? The quantity of different emotions that I felt in the past 24 hours is beyond overwhelming…overwhelming being one of the emotions as well. It all started with a speedy 2-mile warm-up run yesterday. Around mile 1.5 a burdensome thought hit me like a lightening bolt: When and where do I pick up my bib?

I couldn’t shake the thought for the remainder of the run, and as soon as my Garmin beeped signaling mile 2, I got down to business. I pulled up the Shamrock Shuffle email buried under a pile of old emails and what I read nearly gave me a panic attack. I had only Friday and Saturday until 6pm to pick up my bib and packet at Navy Pier. Now mind you- it was 5:45pm at this time, and I was in the suburbs. There was no one I could’ve asked to complete this favor in such short notice and within this tiny timeframe.

Major.Fail.

Despite the website and email repeatedly warning me that there will be no packet pick-up on race day, I decided to hope for the best in the morning. I prepped my green gear and fell into a strained sleep.

The obnoxious noise of my alarm clock woke me bright and early at 5:40am on Sunday, March 25th. I was tired but not I-can’t-crawl-out-of-bed exhausted.

Breakfast of champions: the perfect bowl of oats + coffee

The parentals were awesome (duh) and eagerly volunteered to come cheer me on. Nothing says I love you like waking up at 6am on a weekend to drive 30 minutes in the dark for your daughter’s 8k race ♥ Thanks, mom and dad…I love you!!

Upon arrival to Grant Park, my mom and I headed straight to the info booth while my dad waited in the car.

(sorry for the crappy double-vision photos- something is malfunctioning with the iPhone camera!)

People were already trickling in, and I quickly got pumped. All I wanted to do was run the largest timed 8k race in the world <– truth! Unfortunately, I got my hopes up only to have them dropped to rock bottom- I couldn’t run the race because there was no way I could pick up my bib. Devastation, pure disappointment! Honestly, I couldn’t believe that such a prominent race would screw over some of its runners like that! I admit that it was my fault for not being more attentive to the email, but still…

Luckily, my superwoman mom came to the rescue. As we were walking back to the car, my mom took a chance, came up to a small group of people with a box of packets, and asked if they had an extra bib. SCORE! Apparently a few runners dropped out last minute. Thanks to a speckle of luck (luck of the Irish?) and a mother’s determination mixed with some human kindness, I was able to run the Shamrock Shuffle under the name of Andrea. And guess what- Andrea was also supposed to start in corral D, the same one as me! Needless to say I was borderline tearing up and my mom even hugged the girl. Ha!

Thank you Andrea, whoever you are, for dropping out (I hope you’re ok though!) and granting me the opportunity to run. Sometimes my stupidity amazes even me.

My day was finally improving and I was pumped to begin.

I entered corral D around 8am but only ended up crossing the start line around 8:45am (official start was 8:30am for Wave 1).

Check out the sea of red and green:

Within the first 3 minutes of the race, my Garmin lost reception as we entered a loooong tunnel. After surfacing, I knew immediately that my Garmin was unreliable. I was bummed but decided to trust my body and run without reliance on technology.

The run was scenically incredible. Honestly nothing beats running down the wide streets of Chi city with people decked out in green cheering you on and motivating you to push forward. I was worried that it would be foot-to-heel which is why I did not wear my tulle skirt, but there was plenty of room. No regrets though…there’s always next year!

Halfway through the race I knew that I pushed myself too hard at the beginning. Although the course was fairly flat, there were a couple of minor hills that I couldn’t see but immediately felt in my quads. Mile 3 hit and I just wanted the race to be over…I was drained! As the intricate balance of unlucky and lucky would necessitate it, the last 0.25 miles consisted of the largest hill of the course (to me at least). That evil hill ate some of my speed and definitely added at least 15 seconds to my time.

FINALLY, the finish line was in view! I sprinted immediately and simultaneously kept a look-out for the parents, whom I spotted before they spotted me. After some screaming and arm-waving, we exchanged glorious smiles and I proceeded to cross the finish line. Done, done and done!

Water bottles, goodie bags, and bananas were handed out.

As soon as my parents and I were reunited, my internal pride was reflected on their faces and I felt incredibly grateful to be where I was at that moment. My parents rock!

My post-run snack was an orange-filled Trawffle:

I’m telling you, Trawffles are perfect for anything and everything!

A few hours later, the times were up! Check out that time discrepancy between the men and women. Regardless, I’m proud to be a woman!

Unfortunately, the searchable page was overloaded and crashed. I got to see this wonderful screen for many hours:

Eventually, I got through. My final time was 47:28 (9:33 min/mile), almost a minute slower than last year’s Bastille Day 8k Run. I was disappointed for about 2 minutes and then got over it. I should be nothing but proud of myself! After all, there’s always next time…

Dear Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, thank you for an awesome race filled with excitement, joy, inspiration, and perfect weather. See you next year!

♥ Irina