Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon 2017

On Saturday I ran the Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon. The course made for a unique experience. It was crowded but still enjoyable.

I signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle a few months ago. Sometimes I sign up for a race and then regret it. However, I found myself anxiously anticipating this half marathon. I’ve been training hard since December in some nasty (i.e. cold, snowy, icy, and dark) conditions. I haven’t had a chance to test myself since the 10k Turkey Trot I ran in November.

The Shamrock Shuffle took place on March 11, 2017. It was a great time to test my training and just over 5 weeks before my next marathon (the Boston Marathon!), so it would provide some pacing guidance and a good training stimulus. Additionally, it was an opportunity for me to PR.

The race was going to start from Reid Merril Park in Eagle, ID. I would be an out-and-back on the Greenbelt along the Boise River. This is a nice stretch of mostly paved path with some decent scenery. Unfortunately, we got an email from the race director a few days before the race. The email indicated that parts of the Greenbelt were flooded due to the heavy snowfall this winter. The race wouldn’t be canceled, but the course was changed to this:

That’s right, a sideways “H” course with four out-and-backs three times each. Plus there were some sharp turns onto and off of a walking bridge. It actually added up to 14 out-and-backs since we went back to the start area two times before finishing the third time.

I was at least happy we were still going to be able to run.

I felt great on race day. I did a mini-taper on race week:

  • 14 miles on Monday
  • 6 recovery miles plus cross training on Tuesday
  • 8 miles on Wednesday with 2×800 and 1×2.5mi@HM pace
  • 6 miles recovery on Thursday with 15 minutes on the spin bike
  • 2.5 miles recovery on Friday and 16 minutes on the spin bike

Like I said, it was a mini-taper. I’ve been doing lots of miles, so by Saturday morning I felt quite recovered.

The weather was also great on race day. It was mid-high 40’s at the 10am start time with a breeze. It was warm enough that I was able to wear my tank top without gloves or a hat! I haven’t done that in months (especially since I usually run in the early morning).

Miles 1-4: 5:52, 5:55, 5:56, 5:55

Once we started I immediately took the lead. I went a little too fast as usual, but I tried to pare it back within the first half mile. My target time was to break 1:20:00, which would take a 6:06 pace. I hit the first mile at 5:52, which really wasn’t too much faster than my target.

I was feeling good, so I kept the pace just under 6 minutes/mile. It’s amazing to me how different a race feels than regular training. It’s hard for me to run a mile sub-6:00 when I train in the early mornings, but put me in a race and all the sudden it really doesn’t feel too bad.

The first time I crossed the bridge in the center of the course I almost ran off the trail and down an embankment. The bridge has some grade to it, and I didn’t quite anticipate the sharpness of the turn. Luckily I caught myself.

The nice thing about the out-and-back course was that I could see exactly where each of the other runners were. By the second turn-around I had a comfortable lead and it was growing. I hit the second mile at 5:55. Then the third at 5:56. The third turn-around was actually a little loop, which was nicer than a 180 degree turn like the other three points.

I still felt good for the 4th mile and I was happy to be holding the sub-6:00 pace. I finished the mile at 5:55. However, at the turn-around at about Mile 3.5, I saw a couple fast guys coming up behind me. It freaked me out. Where did these guys come from? Then I realized they were probably 5k or 10k runners who were released a few minutes after the Half Marathoners but were only doing 3 out-and-backs instead of all 4. They passed me, but I was ok with that.

Miles 5-8: 5:54, 6:04, 6:00, 6:02

After each “lap” we ran past the finish line and looped around to start over. I was pumped when I finished the first lap and crossed about 4.3 miles into the race. I completed the 5th mile at 5:54.

Then the race started to get more interesting. The 5k and 10k runners and walkers were now on the course. The course was comprised of a walking path which was wider than a sidewalk but more narrow that a typical car lane. Some of the walkers didn’t mind walking 3 or 4 side-by-side. This meant that the runners were forced to do a lot of weaving and yelling warnings.

I tried to be as kind as possible. I usually yelled out “coming left” before passing on the left. Then I would wheeze out a “thanks” when I passed them. I hope I didn’t come across as a jerk.

In any case, the course was really crowded and it was all I could do to keep from bumping into people.

On the other hand, it was a good distraction. When a race is lonely and spread out it can be easy to beat yourself up. In this case I was too concerned about which direction to dodge that I didn’t have to think about my tiring legs as much.

Still, my legs were beginning to tire. Between the weaving and the fatigue I slowed my pace to just over 6:00/mile. Miles 6, 7, and 8 were 6:04, 6:00, and 6:02. During mile 8 I actually came to a dead stop at one point when someone stepped in front of me in a congested area.

Miles 9-13: 6:02, 6:11, 6:09, 6:12, 5:56

I finished my second lap at Mile 8.6 or so. After that I had a break in the congestion for about a mile, which was nice. I was still over the 6 minute pace but I knew I was on track to hit my goal time. I finished mile 9 in 6:02.

During mile 10 I saw my former boss, Rhett, and his daughter. It was nice to see a friendly face on the course. They were running the 10k I think.

With two turn-arounds to go, at about mile 10.5, the congestion mostly cleared. I was fighting to hold onto the 6 minute pace, but miles 10, 11, and 12 were my slowest at 6:11, 6:09, and 6:12.

Finally during the second half of mile 13 I found my kick. I visualized myself finishing and was able to speed up back to a sub-6:00 pace.

I saw my family when I came around the last turn and I was able to give them a big smile.

Giving my family a smile as I finished up the Shamrock Shuffle

Unfortunately the course was short, or at least my watch said it was. I crossed the line at about 12.8 miles, but I wasn’t about to not get an official PR. So I just kept running through the park after crossing the finish. Hopefully I didn’t come across as a spaz, but I didn’t want to stop until my watch had passed 13.1. I kept running until about 13.12 and then went back to get my medal.

I finished first overall — which was amazingly my fourth consecutive 1st place finish (Layton Marathon, Zeitgeist Half Marathon, Turkey Trot, and then this). Up until 2016, I don’t think I’d ever finished first place since maybe a race or two in high school. Due to the number of times everyone crossed the mat, there were errors with some of the times. That meant they couldn’t give out awards (they said they’d mail them out). This was fine with me because I didn’t want to stick around waiting.

Wearing my medal in front of the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle Half Marathon

I did grab some snacks though. Delicious brownies with mint (green) chocolate chips, cookies, pretzels, apple slices, and orange slices. Plus they had hot chocolate. They gave out glasses — presumably for drinking beer, although they didn’t have any beer. That was fine with me since I don’t drink.

It was a fun race and a good day with near perfect weather. I’m sure they’ll fix the course next year and it will be an even better experience.

Walking back to the van after the Shamrock Shuffle with my support crew of 5 future runners

Skiing into Stolle Meadows Cabin

Me with my ski gear

Despite the extra snowy and extra cold winter in Boise, I have still been running. However, this past weekend I took the opportunity to cross train a bit by cross country skiing with a Varsity Scout team into the Stolle Meadows Forest Service cabin.

This is the cabin, although it was much more snowy when we were there

We left on Friday at about 4:30pm after the boys were out of school. There were six boys and three adults total. One of the boys was 11 (he was the son of one of the adults), but the rest were 14-15 years-old.

Unfortunately, our late departure resulted in a late arrival at what we thought was the trail head. The place we stopped had a nice plowed area for parking and a gate indicating a trail. Unfortunately again, it wasn’t the trail head! Michael (one of the adults with us) has a Yamaha Rhino (side-by-side) with snow treads instead of wheels. He brought that along for support. It took 20-30 minutes for everyone to get their gear and head out. The six boys went first, but as Doug (another leader) and I headed out to follow them, we saw them turning around. They had lost the trail.

At first we thought they just couldn’t navigate, but then we soon found we were at a dead-end camp site. Luckily there was a detailed map of the area in the camp site, and we soon realized that we were about a half mile from the actual trail/road that we were supposed to take. We debated continuing along the same direction until we met up with the road in a couple miles. From past experience, I knew that these ideas always sound better than they actually turn out to be. We were only ~1/3 mile from the highway, so we decided to turn around and head back.

In the meantime, the Rhino had gotten stuck a couple times due to the crazy deep, mostly unpacked snow (~4 feet deep). That was worrisome, but we were able to dig it out and move on.

When we were finally at the correct road and ready to go again it was 9pm. Nevertheless, with our headlamps on and a good attitude, we were skiing once again. A couple snowmobiles had been on the road, so the snow was a little packed and the Rhino did much better. Michael took the Rhino ahead to blaze the trail, take some gear, and prepare the cabin and a really late dinner.

The boys skied fairly well. Of course, some were faster than others. After a couple miles, four of the boys had distanced themselves out front. A couple boys and Doug and I followed in back. The road was six miles long, which is quite a distance if you haven’t skied in a while — or ever, as was the case with the slower boys. Even for me, cross country skiing was definitely working muscles I wasn’t used to.

I had to encourage the slowest boy quite a bit, although he did well. I had my Garmin on, so I knew exactly how far we’d come, but I didn’t always tell him as I didn’t want to discourage him with how far we had to go. It was cold outside — probably 10 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as we were moving it wasn’t bad, but when he wanted to take a break I would start freezing.

About two miles into the journey I felt some blisters developing on the back of my heels. There wasn’t much I could do. It was freezing, dark, and the snow was deep. It wasn’t worth stopping to me.

The last of us finally arrived at the cabin at 11:20pm or so. The cabin wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was warm and there was enough room for all of us, although there were only 4 beds so some had to sleep on the floor. The outhouse was a 20-yard walk through the snow. There was drinkable water from a pump outside. Drinkable, but not clean. It was yellowish and had some sediment in it. In fact, I was the last one to the cabin and they were melting snow when I got there. I knew the water was drinkable from the Forest Service website, so I went out and pumped for a few minutes to get it as clean as possible. Then we started using it. The cabin definitely has a cool, rustic feel. It’s not just a second house in the mountains as some cabins are.

Dinner was delicious and I was exhausted by the time I laid down at 1:30am.

We got up pretty late the next morning — about 8:15am. The cabin had stayed warm all night. The Forest Service keeps it well stocked with lumber. We didn’t even need to add any during the night though.

A couple of boys made breakfast after some encouragement from me to get going, and we ate scrumptious breakfast burritos. Otherwise we didn’t do much in the morning — we cleaned up the cabin and headed back.

My blisters were huge. I put some duct tape on them and tied my boots extra tight before heading out. [Update: it took them about 2.5 weeks before they no longer bled when I ran. Ouch.]

A photo I took of my blisters after I got home.

The scenery was pretty spectacular as we made our way the six miles back. It was just us and the snow covered mountains and trees. There were a couple hot springs we noticed on the creek where the snow was melted more. Everything was brilliant white, and we even had some snow fall.

Skiing back to the highway from the Stolle Meadows Cabin

I had asked Michael to double back with the Rhino after he made it to the cars and unloaded. That way he was able to pick up a couple of the slower boys that were struggling on the way back.

I was surprised at how much I struggled. I made it back, but the last two miles were a slog. I could run 10-15 miles a few days a week with no problem, but skiing 6 miles was a different matter. It worked my leg muscles differently than I was used to. Plus, my skis are a little small for me and I didn’t glide very well, so it was kind of like hiking with skis on. My slow speed meant I was skiing for ~2 hours on Friday night and then another 2 hours on Saturday morning. I have to run ~15-16 miles to be on my feet that long.

We all made it back safely though. We didn’t have any injuries or big mishaps. Three of the six boys did the whole 12 miles (6 miles out and back), and two more would have if we had been more patient.

A Cold 21 Mile Run to Cap a 72 Mile Week

Yesterday I did a 21 mile run in the morning before going to work. What made the run particularly daunting was that it was -2 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

There was once a day when I was a fair weather runner. I lived near Phoenix, AZ and I generally wouldn’t run in the winter there because it was too cold. Ha! (For those of you that don’t know, the Phoenix area rarely even reaches freezing in the winter.)

I’ve come a long way since then, and now that I’m training for the Boston Marathon, I’m trying hard to stick to my schedule. That means a lot of snowy and cold runs during the past month here in Meridian, ID. This has been a particularly cold and snowy winter. Boise set the all time record for snow-pack this year, and we’ve had at least one record setting low temperature. I’ve done a few runs in the snow and many low temperature runs. I’ve also hit the treadmill — doing as much as 45 miles on it one week.

This week is cold as well, but the roads were clear (from snow) and I really wanted to do my long run outside. Right now I’m doing my long runs on Monday before work. This week the schedule called for a 21 miler. So in the morning I bundled up and headed out at 4:57am. I wore:

  • Shoes
  • Knee-high socks
  • Tights
  • Jogging pants
  • T-shirt
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Hoodie
  • Ski mask
  • 1 pair of knit gloves
  • 1 pair of gardening gloves
  • 1 pair of socks over the gloves
  • Reflective vest
  • Hydration belt

I looked pretty ridiculous.

But, I finished my run.

I was quite happy after finishing. The pace wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad and I had a strong finish without hitting The Wall.

I was even happier when I logged my run on my spreadsheet and saw that I had run 72.85 miles during the past 7 days! That was my highest mileage ever in a 7 day stretch, and my first time crossing 70 miles in a week.

I’m mostly sticking to the “Up to 70 Miles” plan in Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger. It’s going well for me so far, and my knees and ankles seem to be holding up to the heavier mileage demands.

Long runs can be scary and daunting, but it’s always awesome when you finish one. Especially before work. Especially when it’s -2F. But here’s to hoping that it warms up around here sooner rather than later.