Yesterday I ran the Try Events Vancouver Chilly Chase Half Marathon. I found out about this half marathon a couple of weeks ago, and signed up last minute knowing that it would fit in well with my Around the Bay 30km training schedule. I had do to a 22km run yesterday anyways so I thought racing a half marathon would be a good indication of where I was in my training and maybe give me the kick in the pants I needed to take my training more seriously.
The only official half marathon I had done was last April (the Limestone Half Marathon in Kingston, Ontario) and my finishing time then was 2:14:44.6 so I thought a PR would be reasonable, but worst case scenario, this half marathon would just be a way to get my long run in for the week.
The Chilly Chase event itself was fairly small with only 142 people running/completing the half marathon. There was also a 5k, 10k and 15k option as well. They were celebrating their 10th year as an event and their first year with the half marathon option so all runners received a toque and gloves set instead of a technical shirt.
Leading up to the race I wasn’t too concerned as I still had it in my mind that getting a sub-2:14 should be doable and again, worst case it would just be a long run for me. However the morning of the race I was so nervous I thought I would be puke. I woke up just before 7am, had 3 pieces of toast with cream cheese and then made my way to the race start which began at 9am. I want to mention just how much I loved this race, mostly because of how well organized it was. The race started just outside a community centre which was fantastic because it was a cool and extremely foggy 3 degrees Celsius outside so most of the runners were able to stay warm inside (there were lots of runners doing warm-ups and strides outside as well). Another great thing about being in a community centre was no port-a-potties!! We had full access to all of their washrooms and although the lineups were pretty lengthy minutes before the race start, it was much more preferable than the port-a-potty system large scale races use. There was a bag check available but I brought my own lock and was able to to use one of the lockers on site.
I got there about a half hour before the race started and there were already a ton of runners hanging out, warming up, and chatting excitedly. This was my first race alone, with no friends or family (aka my biggest fan my MOM) so I felt even more nervous than usual. Soon enough it was time to head out for a pre-race warm-up. I had my timing chip attached to my shoelaces, my 7-oz hand-held water bottle with a chocolate energy gel attached to it, my iPod shuffle and my Garmin ready to go. I opted to wear my favourite Lululemon running jacket that my fantastic sister had gotten for me last year with a technical t-shirt underneath, my favourite running leggings and of course my trusty Saucony running shoes (the only pair I own :P)
There was a fun warm-up led by 2 girls and before I knew it all the half-marathon runners were being asked to head to the start corral. (Once the half-marathoners had left, the 15k would start, then the 10k then the 5k). There was a 10 second countdown where I’m pretty sure my heart was pounding so loud everyone could hear it, and then we were off!!!
My race game plan: give’er
Just kidding. I had some sort of plan formulated in my mind, which was:
Plan A: Sub 2:10 finish (as in 2:09:59 would be completely acceptable)
Plan B: 2:10-2:12 finish
Plan C: 2:12-2:14:44.6 finish (clearly not getting a PR was not an option)
In order to achieve a 2:10 finish I needed to run about 6:10km/min or 9:55miles/min splits. I was playing around with the idea of running 6:05 splits for the first half and then if that got too uncomfortable slow slightly to 6:10 splits for the second half. I know many runners advocate running negative splits, so running the second half of the race faster than the first, but for this race I liked the idea of doing the hard work the first half and then just trying to maintain and not lose any of the work the second half. So in short, I was aiming to keep 6:05-6:10 splits. I always have problems the first 5km with going out to fast but I was pretty determined to hang on to a consistent pace the entire race.
This was what happened.
100m in: I LOVE RUNNING I LOVE RUNNING I LOVE RUNNING
200 m: whoa girl, calm down. You still have 21 km to go.
1km: (5:46 split) Okay well that 1st km was a little fast, it’s time to slow down a bit.
2km: (5:44 split) SLOW DOWN.
3km: (5:42 split) Dang it Lianna, why can’t you ever stick to the plan?!
The funny thing was, when I tried to slow down to even a 6:00 km/min pace it felt painfully slow and my body just wouldn’t do it. So I decided to keep with a 5:45 pace and see what happened.
4km in and I had run up next to a girl who was going about 5:35-5:45 pace as well and I decided to stick next to her and see what happened. We ran the next km in silence and then finally I turned to her and said “What finish time are you going for?” with what I hoped was a friendly smile on my face. Turns out this girl was super nice! She gave me a big grin and said “Right now I want to finish, either 2:10 or even 2:30 since I missed a lot of training the last few weeks from being sick.” Awesome, I thought. “Let’s go for 2:10!!!” I told her and she agreed and we ran side by side off into the fog along the Vancouver seawall.
If you read my first half marathon race recap, you’ll know that I enjoy making friends while running a race. In fact, I highly recommend this strategy. You don’t have to talk to them much and I prefer not to know their names because that makes it too personal in case you have to ditch them (or they ditch you). The benefits of making a friend who is going at the same pace are HUGE because now you have another reason to not drop your pace, because you have to keep up with someone else and/or they are relying on you to not slow them down. Also it’s nice to have company because even if you aren’t talking you are still struggling together. And you are less likely to go off course and get lost!
So me and my new friend, I’m going to call her Tammy because she looked like a Tammy, kept up a 5:35-5:45 pace pretty well. In the back of my mind I knew this well was ahead of a 2:10 finish but I figured that it felt comfortable in the moment so I was going to stick with it. Around 7km I could hear Tammy’s breathing get a bit more laboured and around 8km she started to fall behind a bit but I kept looking back to make sure she was still sticking with me. I knew she was trying really hard which was great because none wants friends who give up easily right! Especially during a half marathon.
Around 10km we both got really excited because we knew the turnaround point was coming up (the race was an out and back course), and before we knew it we saw the halfway point up ahead with a water/gatorade station. We both slowed to a walk to sip our gatorade, and I got ready to keep going. I looked back though and my friend Tammy was still walking and I could see she wasn’t feeling so great. “Go ahead!” she said. “I’ll catch up with you!” We both knew that if I kept going at a 5:35-5:45 pace she would not catch up to me. “No way!” I said. “I’ll wait for you.” “No!” she said. “Keep going, I’ll catch up!”
Tammy lied to me. She never caught up to me like we both knew she wouldn’t and I never saw her again.
So onwards I surged, a lone wolf into the fog without a companion and pacer.
I managed a 5:37km split for 12km and 5:34 for 13km. I think it was around 13km that the course went off of paved roads and onto a trail for a bit which was nice and made me glad that I had done a bit of training on trails so my legs were used to the uneven ground and mini obstacles. 13km was where I started to struggle and feel uncomfortable. I had brought an energy gel just in case and was glad I did. I managed to choke down half of it and kept going. 15km felt really uncomfortable but I was determined to hang on to a 5:45 pace. The last 6 km were a blur, a long and slow and painful blur. With 3km to go, my legs felt so heavy and my feet felt really weird, like they were filled with water almost and were so heavy to lift up. I’ve never felt that before. I’m also pretty sure I lost all proper running form in that last 3km. My face must have looked insanely desperate and my mascara was all smudged around my eyes (note to self: when it’s foggy out don’t wear mascara because fog droplets will collect on your eyelashes and it won’t be a pretty look when you accidentally wipe sweat out of your eyes).
The last km was the hardest km I feel like I have ever run. I kept pushing and I was literally wheezing air in and out of my lungs and before I knew it I saw the big blue finish line through the fog and it was kind of a surreal feeling, like a mirage that someone lost in the desert desperately looking for water sees. I squinted at the big clock to try and see what it read. 2:01? No way. It must be 2:11. Omg omg. It really is 2:01!!!!!!
And so finally finally I crossed that finish line with, with a chip time of 2:01:28:3. I was in such a state of shock as I turned my Garmin off and stumbled through the finish chute. There were volunteers greeting me with big smiles and congratulations, and then another volunteer cutting off the timing chip that I had strapped to my shoelaces and then another volunteer giving me a shiny Chilly Chase medal shaped like a snowflake almost.
I was in such a daze as I walked back to the community centre to see if there was any food left. I was worried that since the 5k, 10k and 15k all finished before I would, along with probably most of the half marathoners that there wouldn’t be any food left but I was pleasantly surprised that there was TONS of food left and a good selection also!
I picked up one of everything, a banana, mandarin orange, yogurt squeezie thing, banana chocolate chip bread (mmm!) and a cinnamon raisin bagel (there were also blueberry bagels!!). Also not pictured was a station that was pouring out sweetened soy milk that was just fantastic, I helped myself to about 6 cups of that stuff and the volunteer was just laughing at me.
Once I had time to sit down, I pulled up the half marathon run splits on my Garmin to make sure it really was real and that I didn’t dream I just ran a 2:01 half marathon.
Yep, it was real! :D
I’m still on a runners high from yesterday. Overall a fantastic event, well organized with great volunteers cheering us on through the cold weather. The course was great, fairly flat with minimal hills and the post-race food was the best. This was the best way to start off my 2014 running season and I can’t wait to chase a sub-2:00 half marathon in the future!!