Yesterday I participated in the 12th annual HSBC Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, ON. It was a much smaller event than my previous experience at the Scotiabank Toronto Water front Half Marathon in September (2000 runners compared to 10000+), which made for much more manageable crowds at the start and finish of the race. To demonstrate, it took me 3 minutes and 38 seconds to cross the official start line after the gun went off at the Scotiabank, and it only took 13 seconds at the Chilly.
The race was well-organized with an enjoyable route (flat!), excellent volunteers, plenty of food and water and a fun atmosphere, but definitely lacked some of the hype and mania that made Scotiabank so exciting. Although, my cheering section (namely my cousin Leanna) more than made up for it. :)
Leanna and her hubby live in Burlington and came down to see me off and it was great to see them before the race. Certainly helped calm the inevitable pre-race nerves.
The weather yesterday was ideal. I honestly could not have asked for a better day. It was a few degrees above zero, sunny and clear skies, and no wind. I was perfectly comfortable in two thin layers and quickly ditched my hat and gloves.
I will definitely run this race again next year...and hopefully Mother Nature will be so kind.
But anyway, enough of the boring stuff, let's talk about THE RUN!
I met up with a friend (Michelle) from the Running Room and a buddy (Dave) at the start line and we kept each other company as we waited for the gun. It went off at 10:05 on the dot and we were off! As I mentioned, we were through the start line in 13 seconds. It was crowded for the first half-kilometre or so, but we quickly spread out and got into a rhythm. Michelle and I separated after about 4K and I was on my own.
I maintained a steady, quick pace (well, quick for me!) and felt great. I have to admit, I glanced at my Garmin a few times and worried that I was starting out too strong, but decided to run with it (no pun intended, hehe). I was taking brief walks (30 seconds or so) at the water stations every 3K.
My cheerleaders met me at a few spots throughout the course to give me a wave and cheer me on. It was amazing to see them and I really appreciated the support. They snapped this great picture along the way:
So I trucked along, enjoyed the sights, eavesdropped on other runners and even had brief chats with a few. At one point, I felt my hat fall out of the back pocket in my shirt, but I didn't want to turn around so I just let it go. A fellow runner was kind enough to scoop it up and catch up to me to return it. Awesome people.
I was feeling truly fantastic until about 13K when I felt myself getting tired. I was really worried at this point that I had given too much in the first half and was about to hit the wall. I dug deep, envisioned the finish line, and kept on moving.
At this point, I started doing 10&1's. I knew I was ahead of schedule for my goal and wanted to make sure I had enough steam to finish the race, and it definitely helped. It was around this time that the 1:55 pace bunny and his group came up behind me. I decided to try to keep up with them, but only lasted a couple KM's.
I remember hitting the 16K mark because I thought to myself "It's just 5K. How many times have I run 5K?" I really took it a kilometre at a time from that point on. 15 to 19 were extremely difficult. I felt tightness around my knee, one foot was asleep and my legs felt very heavy. I concentrated on my breathing, counted steps, reminding myself over and over how close I was to the finish line.
I was taking a walk break when Dave came up behind me (yes, I was ahead!) and got me going again. I remember him saying "2 hours! You're so close!" So I kept running.
I could hear Dory from Finding Nemo in my head singing "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..." but of course it was "Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running, running, running..." I was possibly borderline delusional at this point, but I needed something (ANYTHING!) to keep my mind off how sore and tired I was.
I really wished I had music with me for these last KM's. The rules said no Ipods and I wasn't sure how strict it would be, but didn't want to take a chance. Naturally, pretty much every other runner was wearing headphones. A few good power songs would have come in very handy. Next time...
So I made it through those grueling few KM's to the 19K mark. I could smell the finish line at this point! I glanced at the time and knew I wasn't going to make 2:00:00 so I just forced my legs to keep on moving. Once I hit 20K, I dug deep and willed my legs to carry me faster. As it turns out, my last kilometre was one of my fastest!
I turned the final corner and ran through the crowded 'chute' to the finish, spotted my cheerleaders and booted it across the line, clocking an official time of 2:01:00. SO close to the 2 hour mark, but I am ecstatic with my time. And now I have a goal for next time!
No regrets, but if I had started out a little slower, I probably could have finished with the same time and a lot less suffering toward the end of the race. Definitely a learning experience.
I also have a newly black toe to show for it. Nice. :)
This is a breakdown of my pace throughout the run (give or take):
And the victory pics!
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