Dreaming of Gold at the Burnaby Shamrock N' Race

After having such a good time at Try Events' Chilly Chase, I decided to sign up for another of their races. The Shamrock'N Race looked like a great one to do next: it was in beautiful Burnaby Lake, had a fun theme, it was not too big and crowded, included a post-race breakfast and, best of all, was on my birthday!


Not being much of a winter runner, most of my pre-race training ended up being at the gym. I mixed explosive strength training for speed and power with some cardio on the treadmill for endurance. I did get lucky with the weather closer to race day with a hot and sunny Saturday afternoon eight days before the race. I decided to use it to do a race effort interval workout on terrain similar to that of the race: gravel. My interval times indicated that I had become faster since my last race and I managed to end the workout with a good final sprint. Another PB-PB (post-baby PB) and course PB (I had run around Burnaby Lake for the Rocky Mountain Soap Women's 5k) were within reach! On the following Monday, during the 20 minutes of 300m intervals workout with the Forerunners North Vancouver group, I also hit a few workout PBs indicating that I was in shape for a good race.

Before the Race

On race day, I arrived one hour early, as required for race day pickup. Parking was easy to find and the washrooms were right next to it. I listened for the sound of Irish music to find the bib pickup area and waited less than a minute in line to get my bib and socks.

I then started to look around for familiar faces and was very happy to see Tibor, a running friend who had generously shared his ride with Bradley and me a few months ago when we all raced the Mission Half-Marathon. He had already run over 11km and was planning on testing his goal pace for the Boston Marathon during the half-marathon race. I was impressed and inspired by his dedication! I then looked for a dry spot to sit and put on my lucky green socks with bells when I saw Gord arrive wearing an Irish flag toque and a green t-shirt that said: "Rub Me for Good Luck".

Selfie by Gord of the Vancouver Sun
If you know Gord, you would know that this is a pretty toned-down racing outfit for him. Gord is a key member of the Vancouver running community who always brings smiles to other runners' faces with his over-the-top costumes, self-depreciating humour, thoughtful words of encouragement, and creative puns. He is also a journalist who covers the local road running scene for the Vancouver Sun. We chatted a few minutes about running in costumes (and the dangers of dehydration and overheating), why I am actually looking forward to turning 35 (so that I can compete in Masters track racing events), and about the return of the Moustache Miler in Vancouver (one of our favourite races). He then had to go back to the start line area to take pics of the race participants before they took off and, as he jokingly said, leave him in their dust. You can view his post about the race and his pictures here: http://vancouversun.com/news/community-blogs/no-walk-of-shamus-in-shamrock-n-race-but-plenty-of-green-race-tales 

Warm Up

 Learning from my mistakes at the Chilly Chase, I isolated myself 40 minutes before the race to get a proper warm up in. I started with a few minutes of jogging, moved on to some drills like walking lunges, high knees, skips, side skips, etc. and then jogged to the start line to check the official warm-up led by November Project trainers. That is where I found a leprechaun. He was as mischievous as one would expect a leprechaun to be. Instead of warming up, he mimicked the warm-up leader by shouting gibberish in a high-pitched voice. I am embarassed to say that I could not resist laughing a little. I found out later that the leprechaun's name was Tilman and that he was well-known in the running community for running (not jogging) in elaborate costumes to push other runners to run harder in order to beat him.
I managed to catch the leprechaun after the race for a picture and promises of good luck!

 The Start

The 5k runners were to leave last, a few minutes after both the half-marathon and 7-mile runners. I tried to stay warm by hopping on the spot and running strides on the grass next to the starting area. A few minutes before the start, I made my way to the front. There, I stood next to a young school-aged boy wearing sunglasses. He seemed very focused. The race marshall asked him what his goal time was. 22 minutes? 20? Less, he answered. His mother explained that despite being young, he has loved running since he first was able to and has already run 5k in 19 minutes. I was amazed. As someone who has volunteered as a track and cross-country coach for grade 6-7 kids, I knew that time likely make him the fastest 5k runner in his age category in BC. I asked his mother if he was in a BC Athletics track club. She replied that he will join Ocean Athletics this season. Knowing what great of a club it is for young athletes, I was hopeful for the racing future of this talented athlete. When the "go" was given, I let the young boy run ahead of me: I knew I would not be able to keep up with him.

The Race

Since it was a smaller race on trails, I decided to run for place and not time. I placed my phone in my pocket and did not wear my Fitbit watch. My early racing strategy was to see if one of the top three women were going at a pace I felt I could sustain for 5k and to follow her closely. When the race started, I looked to see who might be leading the women's pack and found a young girl in a green jacket and with a long black ponytail going at a pace that felt relatively comfortable, so I placed myself behind her. As she heard the jingle of my sock bells behind her, she started speeding up a little and then settled to what would be her race pace. After about 600m, I started seeing people "cutting in" in front of us as they were coming out of another path. They had been confused at the first intersection and had unknowingly taken a little shortcut. This got me nervous and made me feel upset as now the race was no longer "fair" to both them and to other runners. If they were to win a podium spot, they would not know if they actually "deserved" that win and the people who placed just behind them might never know if they were actually supposed to have won. Among those runners was a woman who looked like she was running at a pace faster than the woman I had been following. I sped up to catch up with her, but when she saw me approaching she picked up her pace and weaved through a few people to stay ahead of me. This woman had a strong competitive spirit. This should be an interesting race, I thought. Knowing how tiring those speed bursts can be, I decided to calm down and wait until I had hit the 3km mark to try to progressively pull away from her as much as possible. Since she had caught up with me from behind, I knew that if we finished close together her chip time would likely be faster than mine: making her the winner of the race. This would have made for a very bitter loss, especially considering the "shortcut incident.  I could not let that happen. Not on my birthday! I told myself. So I fought the pain, ran as hard as I could, and repeatedly told myself "Wouldn't be awesome to win on your birthday?" as a racing mantra.

The Finish

After the turnaround point, I decided to use every downhill section to pick up my pace a little more. At about 800m from the finish, I was in the lead, but still running scared. I looked back to see how close the other runner was. She was still within view, so I pushed hard. I reached that point where my lungs and legs are burning and where there is a small chance I might collapse or have to walk before the finish. Once I could see the finish line, I started telling myself, don't give up, you are so close!
I failed to smile and "pose" as I ran past the photographer, then barely managed to pick up the pace as I approached the finish line.
The final straightaway. It seemed a longer when I was running it.

When I crossed the finish line I felt both a great sense of relief and joy. It was my first overall win since I had become a mother and my second one ever. My little one was right there at the finish line and nearly just as happy to see me as she was to get "her"souvenir medal.
The second place finisher arrived about 10 seconds behind me based on her chip time. I introduced myself, congratulated her and then we talked about the race, the course confusion, the thrill of competition, and what went through our minds during the race. I joked about how I knew it would be an exciting race when I saw her speed up and weave between runners to stay ahead of me. She admitted that she had planned on outkicking me in a sprint finish, until I had managed to pull away by more than 20 meters. She also explained that she had not really be training for that race, and kind of joined it at the last minute because her partner was racing the longer distance. I was impressed and hoped to get to race against her again when we both had trained more. The third place runner (the one who initially lead the race) arrived a few minutes after, which meant, despite the course confusion, there would be no doubt in the mind of all podium finishers that we got the spots we deserved.
What the finish looks like after racing a 5k

The Podium

Only just a few minutes after the third woman crossed the finish line, they announced on the speakers that they would hold the 5k awards ceremony. I loved that this race had a real podium and a proper awards ceremony: it makes the experience of placing in a race extra special. 

The young Brendan O'Brien, remember his name, managed to complete the 5k in just 19min37s and won the race! 

With Sheena and Erin on the podium.

When my name was called, I was very excited. It was now official: I had won the race! I stepped on the podium, shaked hands with the other runners, congratulated them, and smiled for the camera like they do at big sports events. The medal was very big and heavy: the little one loved it when I finally gave it to her.

Making it Official on Athlinks

A few days after the race, I got to relieve the joy of my win and post-baby personal best and course personal record by claiming my results on Athlinks, a website that allows you to research and save all your past race results and to connect with other local runners before and after race.

I entered the name of the race on the main search bar, clicked on the year of the race, then scrolled down to the 6th overall spot to claim my results. I was excited to find out I had placed in the top 10 out of 140 runners for both genders too!

Green Sock Half & Shamrock'n Race


Green Sock Half & Shamrock'n Race