Motion and Rest: 2023 Shamrock Shuffle
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Despite racing the Gobbler’s Revenge on Thanksgiving in November 2023, it didn’t feel like a return to racing in many ways. First, there weren’t bibs due to a last minute snafu, second, there were only a handful (relatively speaking) participants - sixty-six in total, and finally, it was slow.
Of course, none of these things are actual criteria for a race and I don’t want to perpetuate false and strict criteria for racing. Races don’t require numbers. Races don’t require crowds. And finally, races don’t have to be fast. A race is a competition to complete a set task at a set time as quickly as possible; an opportunity to focus on using the tools you have at that moment.
That being said, 2023 Shamrock Shuffle felt much more like a true return to racing. First, there were bibs, actually two bibs per participant if you were entered in the club competition (one for you as an individual and one for your back indicating your team affiliation). My friends, Varun and Carmen, and I, picked up bibs for Varun and me as well as ten of our DWRunning teammates.
There were also many participants - about twenty thousand, not to mention spectators covering the downtown Chicago course.
Finally, it was not slow. It also was not particularly fast.
Since returning to running after injury and surgery, my mechanics have limited my ability to run at faster paces. Each week or two it has felt like my mechanics have changed as I regain muscle that’s been lost during my recovery from surgery. Despite significant progress, my body doesn’t feel particularly smooth or balanced at faster paces. It’s been frustrating to feel like my ability to express my fitness has been limited.
I’m practicing holding this frustration along with gratitude for the opportunity to be back running. 2023 Shamrock Shuffle epitomized holding frustration and gratitude. Initially, I used the word “balance” to describe holding frustration and gratitude, but I want to hold both of them fully instead of feeling like I need to limit one or the other
Race morning was super smooth as Varun drove Brett and I down to Chicago Recovery Room on State and Roosevelt on race morning for the 8:30am start. We arrived around 7am so we had plenty of time to chill out and warm up with our other DWRunning teammates before heading to the corrals. We got into the corral around 8:15am. Without wind, I was comfortable without a throwaway layer in a singlet, half tights and gloves in the corral and enjoyed killing time with my teammates and old friends.
I forgot that there was a delta between the elite start and the mass start. Weird shift, but I don’t have time to unpack that here.
I was really looking forward to the first mile. It’s similar to the first mile of the Chicago Marathon and while crowded always has such great energy. My teammates, Zach, Tristan, and I had decided to try to run about 6:15 for the first mile. I tried to keep the pace chill, but we ended up clocking more like 5:55. I thought I might be able to sustain this pace so I didn’t back off (that’s how it always feels), but after about one and a half miles, my unbalanced mechanics started to necessitate slowing - it felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t push through what I was experiencing.
After clocking just under twelve minutes at the two mile mark, I slowed to about 6:15/mi. I felt/feel a bit sheepish; as a coach, I preach negative splits, but I rationalized that due to my mechanics and strengths a positive split would be a better approach. I consistently ran 6:15s the remainder of the race. I tried to tuck away my pacing angst and frustration to stay present in the moment. To push without pushing too hard. To enjoy the experience of competing on the streets of Chicago with the tools I had at that moment.
I finished holding frustration and gratitude. It hadn’t been easy, but I also felt like I had a lot left. I think it was the right effort for the day. My gratitude grew as I ran into more friends and teammates in the finish area. I enjoyed the race, one tree among the forest of a lifetime of races.
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