Today Adam and I ran the Shamrock Shuffle 8K, which is the largest 8K (4.97 mile) race in the country. I'm not sure how many races there are at that distance since it's kind of odd ball, but it is known as the official kick off race to the Chicago race season and there were 40,000 people that ran this year before they capped registration sometime in Feb.
I really like the 8K distance. Even though this is a completely crowded race from start to finish (don't even get me started about people who start walking almost immediately and that they should start in the back of the pack), it's run over several parts of the marathon course. I'm pretty sure they share the same start and finish line. If my memory serves me correctly, it's basically the start, a section of the middle and the infamous Mt. Roosevelt just before the finish that are exactly the same as the marathon, give or take a few blocks. It's something special to run on the streets downtown and in the Loop with so many other people and it brings back fun memories for me. Mt. Roosevelt is probably the only 'hill' in the Chicagoland area and although it's pathetic, it's just before the finish. Both this year and last, I had thoughts going through my mind such as "HOW ON EARTH DID I DO THIS HILL AFTER 25+ MILES? SERIOUSLY!". Even after 4 miles, it's a challenge.
Todays race: it has been awesome outside today. We have the windows open and I broke a little sweat when I was heating up dinner on the stove. Compared to the 30's and 40's we've been having as highs lately, it's downright hot (but I'll take it)! I got to wear a sleeveless shirt, which is saying a ton since last year I wore a beanie hat and several layers and I can remember being FREEZING the whole time. Back to the run, I started in the same corral as Adam and we figured we'd run together for awhile before he'd inevitably leave me in his dust (like last year, which is the only time I've ever considered not finishing a race but a course official yelled at me to get back on the course so I figured I might as well keep going). We ran a really fast mile 1, about 9:30 pace. For me, this is extremely fast. I struggle quite a bit with my breathing as soon as I get under 10 minute miles. I felt really good, I never completely lost control of my breathing and at some point during the race, I figured I'd just push myself as hard as I could instead of letting up to a slow jog.
I felt like I fought a lot of obstacles during the miles. There were points when I felt crampy or struggled to get a full breath of air but I was determined to try to stay with Adam as long as I could. At one point, we hit a long straightaway and we were going downhill just ever so slightly that I could see the hoards of people in front of us. I remarked to Adam that I felt like I was watching flowers wilt. The sun was beating down on everyone and you could see people slowing down and/or stopping to walk. The two of us kept pushing and weaving in and out of slower groups of people. I'm not usually one to ever pass people, especially late in the race so it felt really good for a change.
When we hit Mt. Roosevelt, I could feel the adrenaline rush and I just took off. A wise friend once told me never to let up during hills because the faster I run them, the faster they're over. I felt like I was going to die for a couple of seconds after we climbed the hill but at that point, the finish line is in sight so we kept on going and finished in 50:41 (according to Adam's watch, I haven't checked chip times yet). For me, it was one of the best races I've ever run because I listened to my heart and overcame the mental battle that every runner faces.
Legs wise, I haven't felt that strong in a really long time. Which was completely unexpected because I have done next to no running lately and I've only been practicing yoga regularly. It's a good feeling to know that all of the hard work I've been putting in lately on the mat is paying off in my physical condition. I'm sure the regular breathing exercises that I do in yoga class are helping with my asthma and race breathing too. I definitely felt the runner's high today and I'm so glad this is only the beginning of the 2011 season. I'm not feeling very sore and I'm hoping that continues through tomorrow and Tuesday, although, I'm looking forward to hitting my yoga mat tomorrow for some serious stretching.
I forgot my camera but we did take a couple of pictures with my iPhone of our happy post-race faces (did I mention you get free beer with your race bib? this is pretty much why we run).