race reports running


Alright, bear with me, this is a long one. The Shamrock Run was the first race I ever ran back in 2012 (I know, I keep saying this, deal with it). For a few years it was the only race I ran. I, and a lot of runners in Portland, judging by the crowd size, feel like I have a special kinship with it. So I’m going to dive right in to the whole day.

For those who want a TL;DR, it goes like this: I ran well despite my leg issues, I’m glad I got under 40 min, and I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t beat my original 2012 time of 38:28.

A classic finish line pose I call “Josh Thanks God He is Done Running.”

So, I woke up as I always do at 6:30 am and was like, “Why is it still so dark outside?” before remembering that Daylight Saving Time happened. I hate DST but it’s even worse when you have to run that day. I lost an hour of precious sleep!

Got up, got dressed, debated how many layers to wear (answer: more than I should’ve), got all my stuff together and then proceeded to walk to Waterfront Park. It was a surprisingly warmer morning than I was expecting. The path to the Morrison Bridge was confusing to find and also puts you under the bridge very early in the morning, which just feels sketchy overall, but nothing sketchy was going on anywhere. I saw one guy who looked like a panhandler and genuinely wondered if we was getting any money this early in the morning.

I’m not sure if this is true or not but Shamrock has always been the first “destroying Waterfront Park” event of the year to me. The park has a long beautiful stretch of green grass that absolutely gets mutilated into a muddy shithole every year as tons of people show up to do stuff by the river.

Not my photo, as I am not 50ft tall.

Like, Portland Parks & Rec is there every week come springtime through the fall seeding the absolute shit out of that lawn with quick growing grass. The grass farmers in the Willamette Valley must make bank off of them.

I got there with about 15 minutes before start time. Now, you’ll notice in my race results image above — the 5k race had over 4,000 runners. Thankfully, this race has been going on for 45 years and thus they run a tight ship. (Side note: I was trying to find old photos of me at prior runs and realized that back in the day there could be up to 35,000 runners, so our measly 15,000 this year was not that great in comparison!) The setup was clean and precise and they had huge signs for everything like gear check and whatnot. The atmosphere is great too. It’s the first “real” race for Portland, or a big corporate one at least, and people love dressing up like stereotypes, and it does have a bit of a big party vibe to it, which certainly helps with getting amped up to actually do the run itself.

The sky threatened rain and drizzled a bit throughout which fumbled my run up a bit, so I guess I’ll just talk about the run itself now.

In order to get 4,000 people running, you have to do it in waves, which is why my chip time was 39 min but my gun time was 55 min. A 16 minute difference between the race starting and me actually running. It’s one of the most frustrating parts of Shamrock for me, because 15 minutes standing in line crushes my warmup, and also by the time I started running, the elite runners were not only finished, but were like standing around with their medals, probably ready to run a marathon. It’s just not super great to be a slow-ass runner and run past people that could beat you twice in a 5k. Oh well.

Also the lady announcing the event at one point between waves just randomly said she was born in South Africa, which was weird. She wasn’t and isn’t from Portland. Got it.

First race thing: I set up a PacePro split thing in my Forerunner before I started. It was a 5k split with a negative pace increase per 1k? Something like that. I don’t know the terminology. It sort of helped. The damn thing alerted me constantly, whether I was ahead, behind, or on pace, which meant I was checking my watch a lot. Ultimately a good thing, I think, but I probably need more practice with it.

My goal time was 38:00, and I could’ve split these by miles but ended up not doing so because my Shamrock Run splits thing didn’t sync for tedious reasons1I have two splits so far: one for parkrun and one for Shamrock Run. The parkrun splits are the one in the image above. Originally, I had the Shamrock Run splits set for 1k increases but for a goal time of 37 minutes; when I hurt my knee I decided to switch it 38 minutes and to mile splits, rather than kilometers. But I forgot to sync that with my watch, so I had to use the parkrun splits instead. Tedious! and it seemed better to ease into what would be around a 10:30min/mi split at the end. Ultimately I think it was helpful to be reminded where I was, pace-wise, but I also found the interface confusing because it was my first time using it.

The first mile was fine, other than I knew my leg would hate it from the start. I started slow because my watch told me to (thank you, watch) but I could tell that the walk to the venue was a good warmup for everything but it. The second mile is when things started to get wonky. First, it had threatened to rain but didn’t rain as much. I gambled on wearing a rain jacket and decided to take it off, so I did and tied the arms around my waist, like you do. Except every time I do this, especially when I’m doing it while running, I don’t tie it tight enough and it starts to slip past my butt. Tripping on my own rain jacket would be embarrassing and would likely injure me. So I had to slow and walk to try to undo the knot, which, of course, was too tight and wouldn’t come undone. So in a moment of panic I ended up lifting my jacket up as if to take it off like a t-shirt, but then found that the the arms rested nicely around my belly. A gentle reminder that I could lose a few pounds.

During this time is when “Naatu Naatu” started up on my Spotify playlist and let me tell you, if you need a song to get you hyped and running, this is the song. The moment it popped up I was like, “I am going to fix my rain jacket and then restart this song and then it’s go time.”

Second, after my rain jacket nonsense the race looped back and at some point soon after that, we literally had to stop so that two buses could drive across the perpendicular lane ahead of us. In my mind this took at least 30 seconds if not an eternity, but it was probably more like ten. Still, ten seconds is a lot for me, plus after they let us run again I felt like I needed to rush to get back to my goal time, which ended up winding me quicker towards the end. It was a frustrating moment but would probably be more frustrating for a 5min/mi type of runner, where every second truly counts.

After that was just a rush back to the finish line. A gradual downhill that likely exacerbated my knee and leg issues more than the uphill. I can control the impact of my step going uphill, but downhill feels like I’m lurching and slamming my feet into the ground with each step. Did not like. Once it leveled out you could see the finish line from very far away. Some might say too far, as in, Don’t start sprinting yet, wait an extra block or two.

I was really hoofing it at the end there. Everyone was, of course, but when I crossed the finish line I was probably the most exhausted I’ve been with a race for a while. According to Garmin my heart rate was in the 180s at the end. I’m nearing 40 — that’s, like, the ceiling of my heart rate now. Any faster any my heart would explode like that guy’s head in Scanners. Wild stuff.

Pace chart with my graded pace in gray behind, from Garmin.

Looking at my actual pace versus what I was supposed to be running is also wild. I never thought I’d be interested in this shit but here we are. The part that fascinates me the most is the 4th kilometer, where I was behind pace but the most steadily paced out of all kilometers. Why then? Did my body just fall into a groove? The first kilometer is nuts, and you can clearly see that I was running faster or slower depending on what the watch told me to do. Kilometer 2 is when I started walking, and that bouncing pace in kilometer 3 is when I took off my jacket, then started running to “Naatu Naatu” (that above 10min/mi pace peak), and then walked to keep my jacket from falling off my ass. See, there’s a story in the data, people.

What I am gleaning from this chart is that the graded pace I set for myself wasn’t the best option. In fact I probably should’ve just set a straight pace for the entire thing. It seems clear to me that my pace wants to be more of a 12-12:30min/mi overall, for now at least. Obviously I would like it to be about 2-3 minutes faster, but for now it looks like my body wants to keep around that pace, but I tend to run faster at the start because I am not that good of a runner.

Our medals are … not metal. I think this is the first year the Shamrock is giving out medals beyond just half marathon and top 3 finishers. Because of this and the fact that there were, again, 4,000 5k finishers, my medal is like three thick pieces of poster board glued together. Professionally!

Not complaining, though when I first got the medal I thought it was wood and thought it was very cool to get a wooden medal. Also, I’m wondering what Shamrock does with the exuberant amounts of money it makes from this event. Not that I want 4,000 metal medals in circulation! We probably need all that metal for … the war effort, or something.

Speaking of money, I haven’t talked about the Swag for this event because there really wasn’t that much. The bib pickup at the expo had virtually nothing other than what I ordered — t-shirt and bib. I bought a new beanie and St. Patrick’s Day themed socks when I was there. I do have free entry into the Adidas employee store (and maybe Nike and Columbia too), so I guess that’s something.

At the actual event there was food at the end of the run which included Bob’s Red Mill protein bars (good), lil bags of your favorite Frito-Lay brand chips (good), and a banana (bad). I don’t know what it is about post-race bananas. I think they’re not ripe enough. They taste bad. Then you kept walking and there was a big tent where you got the piece de resistance: Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal.

Now here’s the thing: one of the best parts about the Shamrock Run post-race is that you get a free beer and you get a free hot meal. Well, a lil meal. A mealette. When I started running these back in 2012, a higher-end restaurant in the area called Stanford’s sponsored the run and provided a cup of hot salmon chowder at the end, ladled lovingly out of warming cauldrons. (They might have had a veggie/vegan option too, I don’t recall.) That stuff was de-lic-ious. So hearty and savory and good.

Then, a couple years later, it was corn chowder from Stanford’s. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a good corn chowder, and it was pretty good, but it weren’t no salmon chowder. It felt like a downgrade.

Five years gone from the game and when I get back, Bob’s Red Mill is the big food sponsor now (Stanford’s doesn’t even have a restaurant in Portland anymore, unless you count the one in Jantzen Beach, which I don’t. Might as well be Vancouver!), and they’ve got hot oatmeal, the same little cartons of oatmeal that you buy at the store.

These little fuckers.

I got the brown sugar and maple flavor and it was bad. It wasn’t gross, just … it didn’t taste like brown sugar or maple. Big letdown in my book. In fact after I got home from the race I ate some instant oatmeal and it was delicious! I’m sure Bob’s a great guy and all, but I don’t want your gluten free oatmeal after a race, I want a piping hot cup of salmon and/or corn chowder.

They also didn’t provide any standing tables in the oatmeal tent2Oatmeal Tent is my new band name, by the way., which was not a good idea. A bunch of sweaty and cold people standing around, eating oatmeal. Just imagine it. It’s exactly what you think.

Then I went to the beer garden and drank two beers.

I got two because they gave me a beer ticket for signing up for the half marathon next year. Michelob was a sponsor for this race which means 10 Barrel Brewing was there. It was a delight to see everyone eschewing the Michelob Ultra seltzer fucking whatever they were doling out, grabbing the 14oz pints of 10 Barrel instead. We’re still not happy that you sold out to Anheuser-Busch, 10 Barrel, but damn it if we won’t drink your beer.

(Side note: that purchase happened almost a decade ago … maybe I should let that go. Also they own Widmer too?! Hells bells.)

The beer garden is my favorite place of the run because I’m always doing these things by myself and there is nothing more fun than drinking beer alone surrounded by people who are with other people. At least the Irish music was fun. I also literally get to do an Irish Goodbye.

That was about it. I walked home in the rain. Stairs were … an obstacle. My legs feel okay now but I can feel my IT bands on both sides screaming for mercy. I wish I could’ve beaten my 2012 time, but out of my 5 prior races, that one was #3. Middle of the road, never a bad thing.

Now, the real question is: Am I going to run the Couve Clover Run next week, or just walk it? I guess you’ll find out, or my emergency contact will find out a little bit earlier than you.

Until next time.

  • 1
    I have two splits so far: one for parkrun and one for Shamrock Run. The parkrun splits are the one in the image above. Originally, I had the Shamrock Run splits set for 1k increases but for a goal time of 37 minutes; when I hurt my knee I decided to switch it 38 minutes and to mile splits, rather than kilometers. But I forgot to sync that with my watch, so I had to use the parkrun splits instead. Tedious!
  • 2
    Oatmeal Tent is my new band name, by the way.