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Happy Birthday To Me: The Chilly Half Marathon Race Report

Race:  The Chilly Half Marathon

Distance:  21.1km

Date:  Sunday March 3, 2013

Website:  www.chillyhalfmarathon.ca

This race always happens around my birthday but I think this was the first time that I decided to participate when it actually landed ON my birthday.  This is the fourth time I’ve run this race.  The first time was back in 2008 and then I skipped several years and signed up again in 2011.  I’ve run it every year since and I will probably continue to do so.  It’s a fairly flat course and because it’s so early in the season, I find it a great indicator of where I’m at in my training and what I need to work on.

Much like last year, I didn’t have high expectations going in, mainly because I felt that my training hadn’t been up to snuff and also because I had been under a lot of stress the week leading up to the race.  My eating hadn’t been great leading up to race day either but I did make an effort to get a fair bit of carbs in on the Friday and then clean everything up by Saturday.  I did a bit of running around on Saturday morning and then chilled out for the rest of the afternoon, after I finished packing for my work trip to Miami.

This was going to be the first race using my new pre-run breakfast of chia, almond milk, peanut butter and protein powder.  I figured I’d have to supplement with a little bit of carbs as well so I ate my breakfast about 2.5 hours before the race start and then I had half a Coconut Chocolate Chip Clif bar about 1 hour before the start of the race.  Given the slight stitch I had on my warm up run, I think I should probably have those carbs at least an hour and a half to 2 hours before so they’re fully digested.  I’m happy to say that once I started racing, I didn’t have any issues.

I decided to situate myself just behind the 1:30 pace bunny.  I figured if I could keep him in my sights then I’d have a good day.  This year the race organizers had marked off corral areas but no one really seemed to pay much attention to that so as a result the start was a little congested.  That always seems to be the case at this race regardless of whether or not there are starting corrals.  I was ok with that as it forced me to slow down a bit.  I ran with the 1:30 pace bunny group for the first 2km and then started to back it off.  I didn’t want to go too fast at the start like I did last year.  Last year I just ran like a maniac from start to finish.  This year I wanted to at least be smart about it and try to pace myself.  I checked my pace every so often and I was consistently hovering between 4:24’s-4:30’s.  Definitely slower than last year.  My legs didn’t feel too hot until we hit about 4km then I started to feel better.  So I figured at my current pace I’d probably come in somewhere around 1:35 and I was ok with that.  Just after the 5km mark, I started to settle into a bit of a groove.  My pace had picked up a little bit and I was running closer to 4:20-4:22’s.  I found a couple of people and hung with them for the next 6km.

The first 10km seemed to fly by.  My fueling strategy was perfect.  I had a GU Roctane about 35 minutes before the gun went off and then I had half of one 30 minutes into the race and then another half every 15 minutes throughout the race.  A constant supply of GU goodness seemed to keep my energy level consistent.  I grabbed water at every aid station and drank the GU brew that I brought whenever I had a gel.  From about 5km through to 14km I was yo-yoing back and forth with a tiny but mighty woman.  Every time I passed her, she’d catch me and pass me.  At 14km I decided to really pick up the pace.  I had been gradually increasing my speed from about the 11km mark but I figured I could probably hammer out 7km without killing myself at that point so I decided to let ‘er rip.  I was pleasantly surprised when I checked my watch at the 15km mark and saw that I was just over 1:06 into the race.  Whoa!  I started trying to do the math.  By 17km I figured that I’d be pretty darn close to last year’s time, maybe even faster.   I decided to push a little bit harder.

I reeled in 3 women and several guys.  I felt like I was flying.  At some points I hit some 4:10s.  I figured it was just a matter of time before my legs started to say “ENOUGH ALREADY”.  Sure enough, the lactic acid really started to hit my legs at about 19km.  By 20km my calves had started to cramp and my feet started shortly there after.  I didn’t care.  As soon as I came up the rise just before Brant Street and saw the crowds, adrenaline kicked in.  I saw a race photographer and started waving and smiling.  As I came towards Brant Street and saw G step out of the crowd to high five me.  I can’t remember what I said but I know there was an expletive in there.  I was hurting big time.  I rounded the bend up Brant, my legs screaming bloody murder.  It’s a bit of an incline to the finish line which is never nice.  I saw my friend and fellow West Toronto Pacer,  Roger, cheering me on.  When I finally saw the finish line clock, I started to grin.  As I got closer it ticked over 1:31.  Knowing it took me about a minute or so to cross the start line I grinned even wider.  I was going to beat last year’s time.  I was actually going to set a new PB.  As I crossed the line, I had one last burst of adrenaline that I used to jump in air and click my heels together.  I’ve always wanted to do that for a finishing photo and I figured doing it on my birthday was probably the best time to do it.

My feet cramped as soon as they hit the ground

I hit stop on my Garmin and looked down:  1:30:48.  A PB from last year’s time by over a minute.  Holy moly.  Talk about an awesome birthday present!  Last year I managed to win my age group with a slower time but this year there were a whole bunch of fast old broads so even with my P.B I only ended up 3rd in my AG.  But I don’t care, I’m more pumped about the P.B.  I am inching closer to that sub 1:30…I’m so close I can almost taste it.  It’s funny, going into this race I was so concerned that I’d lost some speed because of the workouts I’ve missed in my training.  Perhaps I don’t need to be so worried after all and learn to just trust in my ability.  Always easier said than done!

Proof, along with my finishers medal

As usual, this race was very well organized.  There is always great communication from the race director.  The course is always well marked and the aid stations are usually well stocked.  I did have a bit of an issue with one aid station that didn’t seem to have any water no matter how many times I called for it.  I ended up having to gulp down an e-load instead.   But given that it was so close to the finish, I figured it wouldn’t matter.

I was really happy to see Team Running Free so well represented at this race as well.  I think I saw at least 10 different people in Team RF gear.   There were the usual smiles and waves exchanged.  Love Team RF!!

Next up is Around The Bay and I have to say, after last weekend’s result, I’m thinking that a sub 2:15:00 will be possible.  I just have to race smart.

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