Race report: Shamrock Run

Part of me wanted to whine. Big time. It was rainy. It was windy. It was cold. It was the textbook definition of miserable weather for running.

But my wiser self kept whispering in my ear, encouraging me to have fun, to laugh at the day and laugh at myself.

What did I want to accomplish at the Shamrock 8K?

I wanted to enjoy being part of a race, run hard and have fun.

First order of business: Breakfast. With a noon start (which is much too late for me) I had two mini-breakfasts — a bagel and then oatmeal with a coffee from Tim Hortons, which is running its annual “roll up the rim to win” promotional game. After downing my medium black coffee, I rolled up the rim to … win a free coffee. Score! The day was starting out great!

Then came the next order of business: What to wear. This, as it turned out, was my fail of the day. See, all my running in the last few weeks has been on a treadmill where appropriate dress is rather easy to figure out. (Well, most of the time. Some of the ensembles at the gym really should be given strong second thoughts.) Usually, I’m a strict adherent to the 20-degree rule — dress for the run as if it were 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature, for the bike as if it were 20 degrees cooler.

But my brain started to engage, wanting to take into account the incessant rain and the wind. So I wore two mid-weight layers underneath my running jacket. To quote the movie Pretty Woman: “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” More on that later.

Up next: Avoid drama. Perhaps just putting out the word “drama” helped draw some into my day. But with a little help from Mark and the dance rhythms of the song “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz (“I want to celebrate and live my life”) I put myself in a better place en route to the race. My pre-race visualization included running into my favorite people, which, while not an all-inclusive list, I did.

Before the race, I hung out with Nancy and caught up on her first-time marathon training. While at the start I bumped into one of Mark’s friends (and mine, by extension). During the course of the race I heard, “Hey Amy!” come up from behind me — greetings from Tim, Kate and Allison, all with big smiles on their faces. Didn’t matter that they were passing me, it was encouraging to have positive energy flowing with me.

Next task: The actual race. The first mile felt great and I ran that at a pretty good clip. Granted, the wind was at my back, but I’ll take it, regardless. The second mile I started to get warm. Really warm. I stopped for 20 seconds at a water stop to take a few sips before carrying on. The third mile brought an unzipping of my jacket and much cursing of my wardrobe choice.

I was working hard but feeling good. Until … the turn onto Michigan Street and the commencement of the head wind. This was comical proportions. Actually, my pool running skills came into good use here, not because of rain, but because moving so slowly against the wind felt completely ridiculous. I laughed out loud. I made a deal with myself —  I could walk when I got to the steel grate bridge. But by the time I got there, gutting it out felt about right to me. And so my legs kept a running motion, even if my body was in slow motion.

Much of the fourth mile of the 4.97-mile race is spent in the industrial district of Buffalo’s Old First Ward. Back in the day (the heyday, the 1800s, when Buffalo was thriving,  before President McKinley came for a visit and never returned) the area was key in shipping and in grain production. Today, we can still smell the production of Cheerios at the General Mills plant. Sadly, on this morning, they were not making Cheerios. The smell would have been welcomed.

Have you ever visited an industrial site of cereal production? It’s not very scenic. Nor very protected from nasty, gusty winds which pelted rain drops into my face with a velocity that stung. And that gusty wind reminded me my unzipped jacket was acting like a parachute. D’oh. I zipped up. And laughed.

Half a mile from the finish line and the course turned out of the wicked wind. Up and over one more steel grate bridge.

Tangent alert: Dear woman running her cool down in the opposite direction of the race. I am glad you are finished and that you are fast. Clearly, you are a superior athlete to me. However, this is my race experience still. You do not have the right to bowl me over on your COOL DOWN. Love, Amy.

Closing on the finish line I peered to my right to see my friend, Amanda, cheering on the runners. I waved over to her, she shouted encouragement and I picked up my pace. Finish strong, I thought. Finish strong.

Only my stomach was in a revolt. The asparagus consumed at dinner was apparently a bad idea. (Mark would have told me that, but then again, unless the vegetable is corn or potatoes, he’s out.) Seriously, I thought I would puke near or at the finish line. But I didn’t.

The end result: Well, I wasn’t in it for the time. Suffice it to say it was better than the first time I ran the Shamrock Run — my very first road race ever four years ago. It was a moderate pace, but one I worked for, particularly with the weather, the overheating, the first time running on asphalt and with hills in two months.

I remembered how much fun it was to be part of a race, be part of an event. I ran hard. And I had fun.

Final time? Who cares. My mission for the day was accomplished.

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