Things I learned at this year’s Shamrock:
– Running in the rain doesn’t suck. Running in high winds does, a little. Walking around before and after a race in the rain does, a lot.
– Racing never gets easier, only faster.
– The first four and a half miles of the Shamrock 15K are worse than I remembered.
– My Garmin and the Shamrock Course designers need to get together and decide how long this course really is.
The weather was awful but the crowds were still huge this morning. Runners are crazy. It was cold and windy and pouring down rain. Believe it or not, even though I live and run in Western Oregon, this was the worst race weather I’ve seen. I got downtown with about an hour left before the 8:40 15K start, but ended up parking almost a mile away. By the time I’d registered, it was about 8:20. I cheered for the first few waves of 5K finishers, dropped off my last bits of warm clothing at the clothes check, and hurried into the starting corral with 90 seconds to spare. I lined up pretty far toward the front, since last year I’d spent a lot of time blocked in during the first mile.
And we were off. Overall I felt cold and mentally unprepared. Heading up Burnside was easy enough, though, and running with the crowd I came through the first mile in 7:06. Of course, the mile marker on the course was at somewhere around 1.1 miles by my watch, and this trend would continue all day. They say this race is a 15K, or 9.3 miles; my GPS says it’s 9.53. Looking carefully at my GPS track, I concede: they have it right, not my watch. Its accuracy among the tall buildings downtown is bad and it shows me wandering a full block off-course sometimes. Bear in mind, then, that the mile splits I’m reporting are a little off, on the fast side.
Before the end of the first mile, the race turns up Broadway. Which is a hill. You might not notice it so much when you’re driving around downtown Portland, but it really is. The entire second mile is up this hill. It hurt a little. I kind of wanted to stop to breathe. 7:54. I knew it was going to get worse before it got better.
The next two miles are almost entirely uphill, on Terwilliger Road. They are unspeakable torture. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you. Or they won’t, since they are unspeakable. My no-good, lying GPS says I ran both miles three and four in 8:08.
Mile five has the last of the really bad parts of Terwilliger and gets you past the Chart House restaurant (and the dreaded bagpipers) and Capitol Highway. There’s some downhill in here, but I was still exhausted. 7:56.
About a third of the way into mile six, you climb the last hill on the course! This could be seen as cause for celebration, but the hard pelting rain being driven by the wind straight into our faces this year put a little damper on that. Two-thirds of the way through, we rounded the corner and started heading back into town on Barbur Boulevard. 7:30.
Well, that’s it for the hard stuff. Now all I needed to do is hang on and run downhill. I can breathe downhill. I can think about moving my legs faster and passing a few people. Mile seven, 7:12; mile eight, 6:50. I’ve heard that back in the old days, the 1960s or ’70s, they defined “running” as going under seven minutes a mile and called anything slower than that “jogging”. This frame of mind isn’t real popular any more, but it still comes to mind on those rare occasions when I break the seven-minute barrier. Look at me! I’m running!
Right at the start of mile nine, when you turn off Barbur onto Front, the 8K course merges with the 15K one, and suddenly things get a heck of a lot more crowded. Unfortunately, at least with my timing, these weren’t the fast 8K front-runners either. I did my best finding a line through the crowd — sidewalks and median strips helped some — and turned in a 6:54 mile nine.
Being done then would have been good. But going by my watch, I still had half a mile to go. I grunted through it in 3:30. What did my watch say? 1:11:11. A pretty-looking number, but not the 1:10:00 I was hoping for. My watch may say I averaged 7:28/mile, but the course is officially 15.3 miles and I actually averaged 7:38. Still, it’s a PR, beating last year’s time on the same course by 4:44.
That’s about it, except for cheering on a couple of people to the finish line, retrieving my clothes, and slowly and coldly making it back to the car. About an hour after I got home, the sun came out. Boy, was I mad. Where was it when it counted?!