Run Like the Devil

Last Sunday morning, I listened to my husband tell me that I should wear my race bib to the Chilly Half Marathon upside down.  “Be 999,” he said.  “That’s a fun number.”

“No way.  This is the number that I was assigned so this is the number that I am going to wear.  Besides, now if I have a bad race, I can blame it on the number and everyone will understand.”

Even though I had the worst number imaginable, I didn’t really care.  I actually thought it was a little funny.  In fact, it helped me to relax a little; I knew that this wasn’t going to be one of my faster halfs, but I did want it to be a respectable race.  In November, I squeaked under 1:40 on a downhill course (1:39:59), and I raced in 1:42 on the Chilly course last winter.  This year, anything under 1:40 would be good.  Maybe Bib 666 would let me run like the devil.

Post-race: with my participant’s medal and AE3, Athletic Energy Nutrition.

Knowing how a lot of people react when they see or hear ‘666’, I wore my jacket to Burlington and I kept it on as long as I could while warming up.  Just before the start of the race, we listened to race director Kelly Arnott, the mayor of Burlington who welcomed and thanked Kelly for the fundraising that her event does for the city, and a minister who wished us a good race.  I was tempted to ask the minister to bless me before I ran, thinking a bit of divine intervention might counteract the devil’s number.  Instead, I just took off my jacket and hoped that no one would notice.

My race plan was to go out at an 8 minute mile pace and bring it down to 7:30 by the 3rd mile.  Even with a windy start, my first mile was 7:38.  “Too fast,” I told myself.  “Bring it down.”  The next few miles were under 7:30 but I was feeling strong.  On this out and back course, I was really looking forward to turning around when the wind would push me home for the last 5 miles, but that did not happen.  If anything, the wind seemed stronger; surprisingly, my mile splits stayed fairly consistent.  I was having a good day.

I picked up my pace quite a bit in the last mile, dropping down to 7:19.  When I made the last turn before the finish line, I could barely see the time on the clock change from 1:36 to 1:37.  I was excited that I was finishing under 1:40 but also knew that I had some work to do if I wanted to keep my time under 1:38.  I tried and, while my legs felt like they were turning over faster, they were just holding steady.  Regardless, I finished in 1:38:12, fast enough for a third place finish in my age group and 88th of 1200 women.   I was especially happy as this was the fastest half marathon that I have run in a long time; maybe there is a bit of a speed demon in me after all.

 

 

What’s in a Bib?

Last Sunday was the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, Ontario.  This race has become a staple on the winter running scene in southern Ontario and, with a few thousands participants, it has also become quite competitive.  This year, it was the half-marathon championship race for the Ontario Masters Athletics, a few Olympians (Reid Coolsaet and Krista Duchene) and other national level athletes like Lucas McAneney were on the line, as were hundreds more who were looking for a challenge and a fast time.

Race Ready: Nothing Can Stop Me.

Me?  In December, I wanted this to be a goal race, one in which to push myself to achieve a certain time.  But winter’s dark, Mama N’s ice and cold, and my nasty bruise from slipping on the ice put that plan on the backburner.  I still had the race in sight, but my goal changed to finish while feeling strong – and I was totally okay with that.  For me, the Chilly Half had become a ‘no pressure’ race.

On Friday night after work, I hustled to Burlington to pick up my race kit and bib.  When I got there, I stopped to chat with Lucas McAneney from The Running Room and told him that I needed to find my race number.  Lucas told me that they had been emailed but, somehow, I missed it.  I was directed to a girl with a terminal who told me “6, 6…..6.”

“What?”  I questioned.  “Are you kidding me?”  She passed me the terminal and I saw my name with 666 below it.  I could only shake my head and laugh as I went to pick up my bib.  The ladies handing them out stood still when they saw my number, looked at each other and were speechless until one commented “You could always wear it upside down.”

A couple of speed demons: Lucas McAneney and me.

I went back to visit Lucas and told him that I liked my number better before I knew what it was.  “Ya, I don’t have a very good one,” he said.  “I got 13.”  At least I wasn’t alone.

When I got home,  Dave told me that he could have saved me the trip to the expo and picked up my kit when he was in Burlington the next day.  “Are you kidding?
I asked.  “Getting this number myself totally made the drive in rush hour traffic worth it.”    When he saw it, Dave also suggested wearing it upside down.

At yoga that night, my friend, Monica, suggested that I ask the race director to exchange my bib for another number.  “No way,” I said.  “This is the bib that I was assigned so this is the number that I am going to wear.”

And I did.  On Sunday morning, I got dressed and pinned my bib to my singlet, ready to race.  But that is another post.

 

Race Report: Chilly Half Marathon

Excited to be racing in my TOC singlet.

Last Sunday was the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington.  I have run and raced this several times and had planned to race it this year, aiming for a sub 1:37.  This winter has been great for runners; my mileage was good and I was getting the speedwork done.  As luck would have it, though, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection the week before the race.  The extra effort that I seemed to be putting into my running suddenly made sense; I couldn’t breathe – simple.  So I quickly accepted the meds that I was prescribed, took one day off training, and kept moving forward.  By the race weekend, I was confident that I would be able to run the Chilly Half; racing it was still questionnable.

The morning of the race, I was up at 5:30 to drive my oldest son to the GO station so that he could catch a bus to Toronto and it was cold.  By the time I got home to run my shake-out, the sun was coming up but there was a face-biting cold wind.  At 8:30, when I arrived in Burlington for the race, it was much warmer and I was glad to have a 10:00 start, but the wind was still noticeable.

I went out with 2 plans.  I wanted to run a 4:40/km pace, which would have me finishing around 1:38.   My back-up was to go out slightly faster than marathon pace, which is 5:00/km.  I realized very quickly that the getting over a sinus infection/wind off the lake combination was not a good one and, by 5 km, accepted that I was not going to run 4:40 that day.  I was totally okay with that, though, as the last thing I wanted to do was blow Boston because of what should be an easy prep race.

So this race became a chance for me to practise.  Not worrying about speed meant that I could relax a little bit and try to enjoy the course.  The Chilly is known for it’s pancake flat terrain, but it was cold and very windy.  I was really looking forward to turning around at 14K and getting out of the wind, but I swear the wind changed direction at the very moment that I did.  Except for the 200 metres at the end, I felt like I was running into the wind the entire time. 

I am particularly proud of my porta-potty pb at the Chilly.  I felt my gut start to tighten up around 16/17K and decided to duck into a porta-potty shortly after.  It was a false alarm – only gas – and I was in and out in just over a minute.  With winter layers to contend with, I was pretty pleased with that time.  You know you’re a runner when you claim a personal porta-potty best!

So what is the nitty-gritty?  I finished in 1:42, 5th in my age group (50-54).  This was also a Provincial Championship race for the 21.1k distance and I earned my age group’s silver medal for that, which makes me happy.  So while I didn’t leave with the time that I wanted, I walked away with a reminder that you need to be in top condition to race well.  And even though I wasn’t in peak condition, I still ran well.

In the past ten days, I can feel myself being stronger and healthier.  Around the Bay is next and that will be a strong indicator of my fitness for Boston.  I can not wait!