Shamrocks on the Rocks 5K, 13 March 2016

What: 5K*

Where: Lunenburg, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and a bunch of Shammies

Time: 29:30*

*For those of you keeping score at home, this time should be a 5K PR for me… however, it turns out the race was only ~3.01 miles according to everyone’s Garmins, not 3.1… boo!!

I ran this race with Colin two years ago. We chose it for its swag and bling, and also because it takes place where Whalom Park – the now defunct amusement park of my childhood – was. Ahh nostalgia.

I had only just joined the Shammies at that point, and proudly rocked my shiny new run club singlet at the race, which felt fitting as it was the Shamrocks on the Rocks race. That idea stuck with me, and this year I shared the race app with my club in hopes that I could rally some interest. The name did drum up some intrigue, as well as the cheap registration fee ($15) and promise of swag and a fun road trip, and a decent crowd of Shamrocks descended on the small town of Lunenburg for a day of fun:

sotrMuch like two years ago, there was a small field of runners (just over 100), and there was a cold wind whipping off the lake. Unlike last time, however, it was a downright tropical 61*; 2014’s race fell in the middle of a polar vortex and it was in the 20s as well as windy. I much preferred the weather this time around! (Even if it did result in my getting sunburned…)

2014 (left) vs 2016

2014 (left) vs 2016

The “on the rocks” part of the race name comes from the sports bar located near the start/finish line – On the Rocks. Packet pickup and registration was held there, as well as the post-race party, and they provided ever-wonderful real bathrooms for us – awesome! We spent a good chunk of time before the race hanging out in the bar, mainly to get out of the wind, until it was time to warm up.

The race started at 1 (something I hate during the summer, but really love during the winter… slightly warmer!), and I tried to take a picture of the runners taking off from my spot near the back, but my phone decided it didn’t want to cooperate. So here’s one I found on facebook (my friend E and I are lurking behind the 3rd dude from the right in the tan shirt):

Photo by Michelle Haggstrom

Photo by Michelle Haggstrom

E and I had decided we’d run-walk the race together – me because I’m just starting my gait retraining stuff all over again, and she because she’s coming back from an injury. However, any time E and I have decided to walk something we always end up running it (case in point: Thanksgiving), so I don’t know why I went into the race expecting to run-walk. Of course we’d run it.

When I first signed up, before my dodgy knees started acting up again, my goal for the race was to beat my time from 2014 (33:08). That had been my second fastest 5K at the time, but as I was doing speedwork again and in the middle of a training program, I thought I’d be prime for a course PR, if not an overall PR. Going into the race – when I still thought I’d be run-walking it – my only goal was to have fun and not get hurt.

Me and the fabulous E, who kept me going the whole way! (Photo by Michelle Haggstrom)

Me and the fabulous E, who kept me going the whole way! (Photo by Michelle Haggstrom)

E and I started at a decent pace, probably faster than I would have chosen, but it felt alright so I kept it up. I didn’t look at Simon at all except for when he beeped the mile marks, because I didn’t want to tempt myself into pushing too hard. I know how competitive I can be with myself!

I was also trying to run the way Jen (Gait Retraining Guru) wants me to run, and how I had run twice during the week leading up to the race. I had managed two 1-mile treadmill runs just to test things out, and both had felt great. So I focused on driving my knees up (rather than flinging my shins forward using my toes, as is my style), and lifting my feet up behind me (rather than just pendulum-ing them around), taking shorter strides, and trying to lean forward a bit at the ankles. (I also tried proper breathing but that was a hot mess.)

My more proper running style made me travel a bit faster than usual – as I found during my last C25K experiment – and so all 3 miles clocked in under 10:00 (!). This only happened once before (well, officially… the Moby Dick PR race has unknown metrics), at the LA race I ran and PRd in back in January. At that race, I started out fast and got slower, having to walk for a bit. This time, however, I negative-split the race, didn’t have to walk once, and was even able to sprint to the finish! Boo yeah!

The sprint to the finish (photo by Jim Fay)

The sprint to the finish (photo by Jim Fay)

E totally carried me mentally through this race. She kept reminding me to breathe, talked me up the Hill of Terror (which I had to walk up in 2014), and kept the pace. When we were approaching the final 100m or so, she mentioned that we were about to break 30 minutes. Even though I had seen the speedy paces on Simon at the mile marks, I hadn’t dared to do the math.

I was so excited at the prospect of breaking 30 that I asked her if I could go for it, got her blessing, and took off at a full sprint. With the speedier Shammies cheering me on from the sidelines, I flew over the finish line at 29:30… and then was forced to come to a complete and immediate stop so that the volunteers could record my time (it wasn’t chip-timed). Ugh. It was all I could do to not keel over, especially because my ribs were angry; they had started feeling funny during the last mile or so, and the final sprint probably wasn’t the best idea in hindsight. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

After staggering around to find water, having E keep me walking a bit so that I wouldn’t actually keel, and stretching (hey! I remembered!), we all crowded into On the Rocks for celebratory beers and the prizes. Every Shammie had run an awesome race, and most people thought they had placed in their age groups. The race was so small, though, that they only gave prizes to the top 3 male and female finishers – Shammies took 2nd place male and 1st place female! And despite lack of age group awards, we swept the raffle prizes, and the beer was cheap, so we were all winners!

Post-beer pizza party!

Post-beer pizza party!

Overall, I’m so pleased with how this race went. I am proud (and a little surprised) that I was able to run with more-or-less proper form for the whole distance, and super pumped that I managed a good time and didn’t have to walk once! I do have to admit, though, that I’m pretty bummed it wasn’t a full 5K… I really want to know if I would have finally broken 30! Regardless, it was a fun road trip with the Shammies, and everyone had a blast and is already talking about running it again next year. Maybe I’ll run it even faster in 2017!

(Want to know more about the race itself? Read my review at BibRave!)

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Shamrocks on the Rocks 5K, 16 March 2014

What: 5K

Where: Lunenburg, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and Colin

Benefited: Leominster High School’s new track & field facility

Time: 33.08

Photos: (click to open larger versions)

The swag for this race was bright green gloves. I put mine on over my New Balance gloves and thought my hands looked like Hulk's hands. This is my "Dana smash!" face.

The swag for this race was bright green gloves. I put mine on over my New Balance gloves and thought my hands looked like Hulk hands. This is my “Dana smash!” face.

And this is me unable to keep the fierce face on without laughing.

And this is me unable to keep the fierce face on without starting to laugh.

Pre-race selfie in front of the frozen Lake Whalom. It was so cold!

Pre-race selfie in front of the frozen Lake Whalom. It was so cold!

We decided to make our pre-race power-pose shots traditional. Here's Colin's...

We decided to make our pre-race power-pose shots traditional. Here’s Colin’s…

...and here's mine.

…and here’s mine.

This sign was hanging near the finish line. It voices all of our frustrations, I think! This winter has been endless.

This sign was hanging near the finish line. It voices all of our frustrations, I think! This winter has been endless.

Recap: The Shamrocks on the Rocks 5K was a last-minute race for me. I had read about it on Active.com about a month ago, and was excited because a) race swag included emerald green gloves and finishers’ medals, and b) it was in Lunenburg, a town I hadn’t been to since middle school but used to frequent often in my youth during visits to the now-defunct Whalom Park. I originally had plans to travel to DC this weekend, so I had opted out while Colin decided to sign up on his own. Then my travel plans fell through this past Thursday, so I figured why not? and signed up after all.

Even though the day before the race had been in the 50s and sunny, race day was predicted to be a high of 28. (Seriously, this winter has been long and cruel. If I see another polar vortex I will punch it in the face!) Colin and I bundled up and once again donned our St. Paddy’s greenery. (I was also rocking my new compression sleeve and thermal running gloves… read my reviews on them here.)

I had been unable to find a course map for this race, and only knew going into it that we’d be running around/near Lake Whalom. The first mile of the race was relatively flat, with one or two small hills, and flew along in just under 11 minutes. I didn’t feel like we were running much faster than we had in the Celtic 5K, but MapMyRun lady said we were doing about 40 seconds faster. Encouraged by her announcement, we trundled off into Mile 2, only to be met with what I want to call the Hill of Terror. It probably wasn’t truly terrifying, but it was incredibly steep, and it was long! We have a very steep hill on our normal training course, but it’s blissfully short. Not this one.

Wheezing out encouragement like “Drive your knees up!” and “Thighs of steeeeeel!” I tried to will us both up the hill as everyone around us opted to walk. I made it almost to the top and gave up; my quads were burning with a fury unlike any I had previously known, and I watched in amazement as Colin kept going and killed the hill. I caught up on the downhill stretch and we finished off Mile 2 together. Around Mile 3 Colin’s legs went on strike after having carried him fearlessly up the Hill of Terror, so he gave me his blessing to carry on and stopped to walk. I found myself lulled into a rhythm after I’d been on my own for a bit, and felt a little like a robot, which somehow seemed like a good sign.

I chugged the last mile, trying to focus on the rhythm of my feet slapping the pavement and of my arms swinging, trying to pump myself up to finish strong. I pulled within a few feet of a woman in a bright green jacket, but didn’t have quite enough in my reserve tank to speed around her. I settled for pacing her, only to have her stop dead once she crossed the finish. Not only did I almost crash into her, but we also didn’t have timing chips so we were supposed to carry on down the chute and have our bib number and time read out and recorded by volunteers. I had originally been aiming to match the 35:28 of the Celtic 5K, and had been psyched to see a time of 32:[something] as I approached the finish. Thanks to Ms. Green Jacket and her inability to operate a chute properly, I ended up with a time of 33:08. Ah well, it ended up being my second-best time ever, and I’m still chuffed that I beat my time from last week… pretty significantly, too!

I collected my finisher’s medal, then turned back to the chute to watch for Colin. He wasn’t too far behind me, so I was able to just catch him to cheer him on and high-five him as he crossed the finish. After going through the chute (properly) he caught up to the man who finished just before him and thanked him for helping him along. Colin told me afterward that he had stopped to walk a second time, and this other guy pulled up alongside him and said something along the lines of “You’ve been beating me this whole race! You can’t stop now! Keep going, you can do it!” Colin ended up pushing himself to follow that guy, and was able to finish strong. It reminded me of Alexandra Heminsley’s stories from her book Running Like a Girl, where she described moments in races when she thought she couldn’t carry on and other runners noticed and encouraged her, helping her to make it to the finish. I love runners.

My splits:
Mile 1: 10.46
Mile 2: 10.47
Mile 3: 10.28
Mile 3.2: ~9.02 (before I stopped, got my medal, and realized MapMyRun was still running!)