Saturday, April 1, 2017

Race Review: Golden Shamrock Challenge

Over last weekend I participated in the Golden Shamrock Challenge - a weekend of running sponsored by Millennium Running that included the Shamrock Half Marathon on Saturday and the 2-mile Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday. When you take on the challenge, you have the opportunity to earn TWO medals - a medal when completing the Shamrock Half and a magnetized clip on GOLDEN medal when you complete the Shamrock Shuffle!

Even Kiwi thought I was a little crazy taking on this challenge!

I needed a training half in March for my marathon training, and it turns out the Shamrock Half was the only half that was going on in ALL of New England last weekend. Lucky for me, it's super close to my home town AND my family. I've run one other Millennium Running event, the RibFest 5-Miler, and had a really positive experience with that race, and I'm happy to say that I had a really positive experience with the Golden Shamrock Challenge as well!

Shamrock Half Marathon

If you don't know, the Shamrock Half Marathon is the first spring half marathon that Millennium Running has ever put on! Saturday was a rainy, cold, and even SNOWY day which is never the best condition when you're running 13.1 miles, but honestly the race was so well put together that the weather was my only complaint! Millennium did a great job of keeping everything close to the starting line (bib pick up, merch, food, bathrooms, etc.) and kept the energy up with plenty of music and opportunities for photos in front of the start/finish! Exhibit A:

The course itself was extremely spectator friendly with 3 loops that take you by the start/finish location multiple times. I was able to see my parents several times on the course which was so much fun! I love when courses are more spectator friendly - it definitely makes everyone at the event much happier! The course took you through neighborhoods and right through downtown Manchester so you had some variety of scenery. Each loop connected at a different spot as well so it didn't get boring just running through the same streets each time. SUPER important to keep that in mind when designing a looped course! There was also plenty of water stops, bathrooms, and even gels at the 8mi mark (albeit they were a tiny frozen due to the cold temperatures... never thought I'd have to chew a gel before!).

There were a few hills, including a nearly ALL uphill mile 10 and 11 (yikes)... I was definitely thanking my lucky starts that I live in a hilly area and that's my normal training situation. Otherwise I might have keeled over :P However, the spectator friendly course, the change of scenery with each loop, and the amount of support you had on the course from race volunteers made the run so much more enjoyable, so A+ to Millennium!

Overall I did much better than I was expecting to. I was on PR pace until mile 10 & 11 which absolutely drained me. Even with the course being a gentle downhill and relatively flat for miles 12 & 13, I was totally gassed out after those final hills. Even so, I did SO much better than I thought I was going to do and I am very proud of the way I ran! And of course, I was super psyched to earn the first part of my Shamrock when I crossed the finish line! I would definitely recommend the Shamrock Half Marathon and would say it's a *perfect* half marathon for someone who is training for their first!

PS: Huge shout out to my parents for cheering me on in the pouring rain and freezing snow! <3

Shamrock Shuffle

Sunday was the 2-mile Shamrock Shuffle which took you on a much abbreviated portion of the half marathon course and stuck pretty closely to downtown Manchester the entire time. This race was much more packed which often times makes things a bit more fun! The facilities were generally the same, except that there were things set up in the nearby hotel in addition to what was set up near the start/finish.

I treated this race more as a speed training and really tried to push myself as hard as I could through this race and it. paid. off. I managed to run at a 8:40 pace which I'm not sure if I've ever run in ANY race ever. I was especially surprised because I was definitely sore from the half marathon the day before! Again, I was thrilled with how I ran and really enjoyed the short course, even if they stuck us with another gnarly hill at the 1-mile mark. Damn you, course designers and your hills! :P My mom also ran/walked the Shuffle with a friend from work so my dad and I got to watch her cross the finish line. We also got to see a couple get engaged at the finish line which was so sweet! :)

After some ~drama~ in the hotel (hotel staff trying to kick out Millennium when folks like me were trying to get the Golden Shamrock piece of the medal; owner of Millennium scrambling in to get shit straightened out.... #JohnRules) I finally got my hands on my Golden Shamrock and officially completed the challenge! :D PROOF:

I had a fantastic weekend of running and hanging out with my parents. We had so much fun spending time together and doing what we love to do, which for some reason is running ridiculous distances... :P Highly recommend you take on the Golden Shamrock Challenge next year if you can! Millennium did a great job hosting their first spring half and puts on amazing events for runners and spectators alike!

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