Sunday, March 15, 2015

Portland Shamrock 8k Run - Race Recap

So, this post is going to serve two purposes.  It's going to be a race recap, and it's also going to be a manifesto about why I'm never running the Shamrock again.  This has been my second time doing it and honestly, it's just not for me.  I'm not going to lie, I really only signed up for the race because I was so excited that Katie from Runs for Cookies was going to be here and was going to be running it (pre-injury obvs), and also because I like to have a few races scattered throughout the year because it keeps me motivated to run solo.  Anyway, I am going to split the post into two sections, my race experience and my bitching, so if you only want to read how I did and not my curmudgeonly snark, then you can just read the first part.  ;)

Race Recap

So after 2 weeks of stunningly beautiful weather here, last night it started to rain.  And rain, and rain, and rain some more.  In other words, it's like it usually is in March.  Our goofy ass weather people indicated that it was somewhat going to taper off today, but oh no, it actually got worse.   Instead of the soft mist we normally get, it was pounding crazy rain.

Rainy drive down the freeway
 I usually don't get too bummed out about rain, but today definitely bummed me out.  After a soggy walk to where everyone was gathered for the race,the process of getting my bib and all of that jazz, I was soaked.  I typically don't care if I'm wet, but I hate having wet feet, and my feet were soaked long before the race even started.  I am trying to think of something to illustrate how rainy and miserable it was and can think of only one thing.  I stood in a portapotty for several minutes voluntarily just to get some relief and be somewhere dry.  Yes.  And I was glad to be in there.  I adjusted my bib, checked was great.

But then it was back to reality, and lucky for me reality included a booth with adorable Irish Setters in hats.  I screeched with joy like a 5 year old on Christmas morn' and immediately stomped through the mud to go pet them and take pictures with them.  I'm sure my poor husband is glad he married such a mature 35 year old woman.

Once I got all of my stuff, got settled and smooched on some cute dogs, Eric left so that he could go somewhere dry and have breakfast and so that I could get ready to head to the starting line.

So this isn't the greatest picture, but do you see that traffic light up there?  If you look beyond that there is an arch of orange/green/white balloons, and that's where the start line is.  Yes, this race is insanely crowded.  There were thousands upon thousands of people behind me.

I looked like a drowned rat before the race even started and was really bringing the real hot glamour.  Even the guy behind me knows what's up.

So I have mixed feelings about my actual race performance.  I tend to run much faster at races than I do when I'm going my dick around training runs.  (With those I'm usually running at 12:00 or 12:30).  I've been comfortably running two miles before taking a walk break, however about a half mile into this race I felt like I was going to have a heart attack.  When I looked at my Garmin I saw why, I was running at a 9:45 pace.  I know that's like "ho hum" to normal runners, but for me that's like being the Jesse Owens of fat girls.  I kept consciously trying to slow down but could never get myself below a 10:30.  There's just something about being around other runners, I just automatically try to catch up, usually to my detriment.  I was frustrated and nervous because I knew that was going to bite me in the butt later on in the race.  Sure enough, I couldn't finish out my second mile without a walk break because honestly my heart felt like it was going to explode if I didn't.  Once I took that walk break that was pretty much it, I was never able to run for more than a few minutes without having to walk again.  Every time I ran I was instantly too fast again, which I guess made up for the walk breaks!  But I never got over the burning feeling in my lungs, or the thought that my heart was going to burst.

My knee started feeling really wonky at mile two and I was very concerned something was wrong.  When I took my walk break it really felt bad, but when I started running it wasn't quite as painful.  By the next walk break it felt better, and then didn't hurt at all by the end of the race.  Go figure.  Unfortunately my shoulder and neck were in agony the entire race because I slept weird last night.

I was feeling quite bitchy today (you: like normal you mean?) and was really starting to get annoyed with 100% of the people around me.  So, it stormed the whole race and everyone is soaking wet right, but everyone for some reason was too dainty to run through puddles.  Look, I hate having wet feet too, it blows, and admittedly in some parts the water was more of a lake than a puddle.  But there comes a point where you're already soaked and it doesn't matter.  People were making seriously dangerous maneuvers or stopping short in order to avoid puddles, and I almost fell or collided with several people because of it.  It's like people for God's sake, it's water, it's not a lake of acid with sharks in it.   So in a combination of infinite wisdom and punk rock spirit, I decided to run through the ankle deep puddles.  It officially put my feet over the line from wet to sodden, but I was able to freaking sail past tons of people who refused to take advantage of the clear space just due to some silly water.  I think I also splashed several people, and if the woman who was scream talking behind me and hurting my ears was involved in that, well then...good.

I know, I'm so nice.

The last little bit of the race was all downhill, which was pretty exciting and I was able to finish strong.  I didn't post a picture of my Garmin because it was ahead the whole race so I will be honest, I am not quite sure what my time was.  My Garmin said my time was 1:01, however it also said I went 5.04 miles.  Since an 8k is 4.97 miles, I'm more inclined to wait before my chip time to be released before I start crowing about PRs.  If I got under an hour, then I PR'd, but I'm not quite sure that I did.

My wonderful husband was waiting for me at our designated meeting spot and applauded me as I walked up.  I took a break from F bombing in front of children about how soaked I was and how annoying everyone was in order for him to take a picture!

I didn't eat breakfast before the race because my stomach felt so touchy, so I was pretty hungry after the race!  We stopped by this place called Case Study, which is one of our favorite coffee joints, so that I could get a hot chocolate and a scone.  It's the first time I've ever gotten a pastry at Case Study because all they carry are vegan ones for some reason.  I normally give a hard side eye to vegan baked goods because they're typically dry, crumbly and taste "off", but I was so hungry that I went for it anyway.  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  I got a lemon currant scone and it was rather tasty!

All in all, a pretty decent race!

The Shamrock Manifesto

So, here comes the really bitchy part of the post.  I want to like the Shamrock.  I'm part Irish, love St. Patrick's Day and love running, so all of that SHOULD translate to me loving this race.  As I said this is my second time doing it, and I just really hate it.  I've done a lot of races over the years, and this is only one of two races that I really dislike and think are run poorly.  I think there is a fine line sometimes with races.  The smaller ones can be disorganized and a bit of a cluster, a la my other "never again" race the Heartbreaker Half.  Need I remind you about the "whoops we forgot to have portapotties and we're not closing down major country roads" fiasco? Theoretically larger races have more money and can afford more volunteers and more bells/whistles, but then it can go TOO far because it's too big to remotely enjoy.  That's Shamrock.

One of my biggest issues with Shamrock is that they need to cap the number of people doing it at about 10,000 less people.  There were almost 40,000 people doing the race, and for a city as small as Portland it's just way too much.  The Nike Women's Half was 43,000 I think, and even that didn't feel quite as insane as this does for some reason.  I have issues with claustrophobia and was just about to have a nervous breakdown at the start line from being shoulder to shoulder with people and not being able to move.  It's not much better out on the field.  I can't imagine what doing the 5k (the most popular distance) would be like.  The large number of people who do the race has a domino effect of can't get a consistent pace, you can't maneuver around people, and you can't enjoy the after party.  It blows when you can't get the little extras that you pay for in your registration fee, such as beer.  And more importantly, beer.  The first year I did it, we held off of getting beers for a half hour due to the lines and by the time we went they were totally out of beer.  This year the lines were so insane I didn't even bother.  This is one of those "whew, I'm not an alcoholic" gut checks because seriously, I don't need a beer that badly.  Ever.

This is where I'm going to sound like a dick even though I'm truly not trying to, but I get very annoyed at many of the people who run the Shamrock.  I never want to discourage people from having fun at races, because they ARE fun and you should.  But there are just little things that runners should do out of consideration and safety for others that I think sometimes runners just kind of forget to do in all of the excitement of a bigger race like this.  For starters if you need a walk break, then trot over to the far right and take one.  You can't stop when you are on the far left and suddenly start walking, because you are going to make people who are moving faster almost collide behind you.  The race field is like a freeway.  If you are slower or walking, you need to keep right.  Speed demons are on the left.  Happy medium is the middle.  And on a similar note, if I'm on the far right taking a walk break, don't shoulder check me in your desperation to run through the gap between us slower people and the happy medium people.  Shoulder checking or elbowing people makes you an asshole.  Your need for a PR doesn't trump the overall need for courtesy and safety.  I mean these people exist to a certain extent in all races, but I've never seen it as rampant as it was at both Shamrocks I've done.  I think it's so prevalent because of the large number of people and the inability to spread out, but regardless it sucks.  I can usually let stuff go, but I was raging by the time the race was done, I was so fed up with people's douchey behavior and with basically having no room to breathe the whole race.

And this is just my opinion, but I'm not overly impressed with the race amenities.  I am super spoiled because the first race I ever did was the Helvetia 10k, and you get a pretty kick ass packet with that.  Gels, Shot Bloks, bunches of coupons,  all this other stuff.  At the finish line they have ice cold orange slices, bananas, and bagels.  Then after the race you get a cheeseburger and two beers.  I thought all races were like that, but have found out over the years that Helvetia is truly a cut above!  With Shamrock all you get is a cup of stinky salmon chowder and a shirt.  Theoretically you get one beer, but unless you finish your race in 15 to 20 minutes, you'll be standing in line forever for it.  It just seems for a race that's so packed that there would be infinite money for a badass spread afterwards, or at least one option other than salmon chowder, but I digress.

Anyway, I know a lot of people love this race and basically all of Portland seems to do it, but I think I will be sitting out the next one.  And pretty much all of the ones after that.  ;)


  1. If the race has that many people, they can afford to either acquire more volunteers to serve the beer or PAY people to serve. But, this way, think of how much they save (and of course make extra profit from the race) from the majority of people who are too impatient or just can't be bothered to waste their time waiting on line for one lousy beer. I bet that is part of their profit expectation otherwise they would figure out how long it realistically would take to serve 40k+ people beer and make it more efficient.

    I hope that you at least got to see Katie.

    1. I did see her on Saturday at coffee (recap of that was on today's post), but not at the race. They had left by the time I was done. I don't really blame them, the weather was the pits and wasn't ideal for hanging out and enjoying anything.

      Yeah the whole race thing is so lame. Again, the Nike Women's Half in SF was bigger but yet somehow less insane and more organized than this. And the end party was better, although we left and had brunch elsewhere.

  2. Oh my! That race sounds like madness! The last thing I want is to be jostled by strangers. Yay you for hanging in and getting it done. I am still shamrock green with envy that you got to hang out with Katie :)

  3. Oh balls. I'm sorry the rain screwed up your race. And I'm sorry the race wasn't as fun as you had hoped. I think the things you disliked about this race are all very valid things and something race directors should take into consideration. They're never going to cap the race, at least it doesn't sound like it, so they can find ways to make it better.

    I think it is hilarious you hung out in a port-a-pottie to stay dry. That made me laugh.

    1. Yeah they are never going to cap the race. It sells out every year, so I'm sure the dollar signs are a-callin'.

  4. Wow so sorry for the soggy run. They really should do something better to alleviate the madness.

  5. You've defined a whole new level of precipitation. Now there's sprinkles, there's showers, there's steady rain.... and then there's portapotty rain.

    1. Yeah it was a new low, but I didn't give a shit because at least I was dry. ;)