If I didn’t know better, I might start to think I’m jinxed. This was the second year in a row that I found myself running a crazy-hilly race on St. Patrick’s Day when my insides decided to be profoundly uncooperative. I may sit out a St. Pat’s race next year…
The Shamrock Run in Portland is a really big event — featuring several different distances and a ton of people participating. One figure I saw put the number at around 30,000 across all the events. Such a big festival meant that the expo was pretty decent, the runners and crowd support were enthusiastic, and the organization was solid. And Portland’s light rail system made it easy to get in and out of the race area, though parking probably would have been fine since it starts in downtown.
Apparently, the race is usually cursed with bad weather. While I was waiting around for the half to start, the announcer kept saying this year’s was the best weather in the 41 year history of the event… like, he said it A LOT. We has sunny skies and a start temp in the 40s — which was great. But by the end of the race, I was less jazzed about all the direct sun and temps just above 60.
I’ll spare you the details since my last race review was almost exclusively about digestive discomfort, but this was another race where I really didn’t feel good. Pairing that with the ENORMOUS hill that makes up miles 5-9, and I was very, very glad for this race to end.
I’m learning more and more what to pay attention to in courses — hopefully BEFORE I sign up for races in future. (Future Cate, please take note!) On this race, I spent a fair bit of time thinking about what’s better, and I came up with these guidelines for my future self…
Courses: single loop > point to point > out and back > multiple loop.
I have thus far managed to completely avoid multiple loop courses in my half marathons — mostly ‘cause I have NO interest in getting lapped by the faster runners. That, and doing the same thing twice just seems demoralizing to me. After this race, I really hope to avoid more out and back courses, too. This course involves a long out and back at the start, then another in the middle and at the end (basically, it’s an out and back in segments). These wouldn’t have been quite so bad if there had been timing mats at the turn arounds, but there weren’t — which always leaves me feeling like I should have just ducked through the cones and saved myself some misery. Thus far, my integrity has kept me from doing such things, but when you don’t feel good, that’s a lot of responsibility to place on one’s moral compass.
Terrain: flat > downhill > short, sharp hills > rolling hills > giant, miles-long hills.
Flat is where it’s at, but I’m glad I’ve become more open-minded about courses with hills. If I hadn’t, I never would have run the Heart Breaker Half, which I ended up loving. That race was SO hilly, but they were steep enough that I really got to enjoy running downhill. With some of the races I’ve run on rolling hills, it just ends up feeling like never-ending uphill. And courses like this one (and the Asheville half on the Biltmore Estate, which I ran last St. Patrick’s Day), well, these suck. I really don’t want to be running uphill for several miles straight. I solemnly swear to avoid courses like these in future. Seriously. Ugh.
Weather: fully overcast > light rain > light snow > some clouds > sunny skies > heavy rain > wind.
I really don’t like running in direct sun. Maybe I was a vampire in a previous life, but I find the sun oppressive. I need to look into a running cowboy hat or something. That might help. I want it to be cold and overcast or cloudy or wet more than I want the sun on my face.
Size of field: 1,500-5,000 > 5,000-50,000 > 400-1,500 > under 400 (with some exceptions).
I loved the Heart Breaker Half, even though it was relatively tiny. But usually, I prefer a small-medium size race over an especially small one — mostly cause I’m slow and don’t like being all the way at the back. The upshot of big races is the organization and expo and sometimes the swag.
So, on most of these, the Shamrock Run fell kind of in the middle. It was relatively fun, but I won’t do that course again. No, ma’am. Nuh-uh. Not doin’ it.
Overall Assessment: Good To Do Once (and only once)
Time of Year: Mid-March, on or around St. Patrick’s Day (3/17/19)
Start Time: 9:20 am
Temperature: 41° at the start, upper 60°s by the finish
Size of Field: 1650
Elevation Gain: 629 ft (according to Garmin)
- Well-organized start/finish festival. Unlike pretty much every other race I’ve run, they set the port-o-potties up in clusters spread around the start area. This meant short lines of just a few people if you walked further away from the actual start line.
- Decent bling: the shirt is a nice material and cool enough design. I like the glitter on the medal, though I wish it were bigger (every distance got a medal, and they were all the same, kind of small size).
- Plenty of water stops: didn’t have any issue with water or port-o-potties this time.
- Lots of energy gels: mountains of Stinger gels at more than one water stop.
- Fun atmosphere/crowd support at the start/finish.
- Giant, seemingly never ending hill. So, so giant.
- Soup at the finish. I guess some people are into this, and I do like Bob’s Red Mill as a brand, but I was so very, very not interested in a cup of red lentil soup at the end of the race. I just wanted some chocolate milk and potato chips (neither of which were available).
- Historically cursed weather-wise. From what everyone tells me, it’s usually cold and raining for this race. I didn’t like the sun much, either.
- Late start: I still don’t really understand why the half started after the 5k and 10k. To avoid heinous traffic, I got dropped off fairly early and then had to wait around while the other races finished up. Then I was passing the start again on the out and back section when the 15k Was starting. But by the time I finished, I was at the back of the pack and the event as a whole was winding down.
- Giant, seemingly never ending hill.