Race Report: Chilly Half Marathon

In the summer, I realized it’s not the race that makes a story but the events around it. For the past year, my stories centered around my family. Today, it is about my friends.

Friday, as on any pre-race day, I found myself constantly checking the weather network for updates. From then until Sunday morning, we were facing every type of weather imaginable – everything, that is, except sun: light rain, high winds, heavy rain, freezing rain, ice pellets, snow. When I finally feel asleep on Saturday night, the trees were already covered with white glitter. On Sunday, I looked out the window and the first words out of my mouth were not “Good morning.”

Then, I remembered the e-mail I received the day before: The weather is what it is – you’re tough.

Tough, yes, but I was lacking confidence for this half-marathon. It had become a monkey that I had to get off my back. I needed it to prove to myself that I’m running better than I think; I needed to know that I can still run a sub 1:40 as I continue in my training for that little 26.2 mile jog through Toronto in May.

So, on Sunday morning, Daddy went to Church with Skipper and Little Ironman, and I headed to Burlington with the big boys. Looking back, I probably should have asked my guys to put in a good word for me.

The plan was simple: Shawn and Renaud, both training for Boston, were going to drop me off, run a good warm-up, meet me on the course and run with me for the 13.1 miles. Delilah was going to be there and we were going to try to find each other at the start.

Just before I was dropped off, Shawn made a point of telling me that conditions were tough; the roads were sloppy, with ice on the surface and snow overtop. “If you can run 1:40 or 1:41 today, you’ve run well. That’s like running a 1:37 on a good day.”

The first thing I had to do was find a spot to stay warm. There were still 45 minutes until the start – I thought – so I headed to the sponsoring hotel. Once I felt I was ready to warm-up, I headed outdoors, ran a bit, dropped off my bag at the bag check, ran some more, used the porta-potty, ran some more….Every time I felt that winter chill (starting temperatures were -6C, with a -12C windchill), I jogged to keep warm. At 9:25, I was ready to go and realized – Oh no! – the start was another 40 minutes away. Somehow, I managed to get my times mixed up (blaming that one on a tough week overall); I had another 40 minutes to stand and shiver – or keep warm by running some more. Needless to say, I ran some more.

The race finally started at 10:05 and I was still on my own. Delilah was nowhere in sight; neither were Shawn and Renaud. I wasn’t concerned, though, because I knew that we’d end up at the same place somewhere in the first 5 kilometres and we did. She obviously had a better start than I did (it took me 25 seconds to cross the line) because it took me 2.5K to find her, and we started jostling for position immediately. By the time we reached the 4K mark, Shawn was beside me; Renaud was about 200 metres behind.

Footing on the roads was difficult. In fact, they weren’t even roads anymore but two paths cleared by the almost 200 pairs of feet that were ahead of me. Roads were wet and uneven from the slush; they were bumpy from the chunks of ice that I often had to run on. For most of the race, we really had to run single file in one of the two tracks that the leaders had made. By the time I was at 17K, my back was starting to hurt and I realized it was probably from working so hard to stay balanced during the run.

Despite the conditions, my pacing was fairly good but, as I feared, I started too fast. When I realized that I was around 23 minutes at 5K, I worked to slow down; at 10K, I was at 44 minutes and tried harder to bring down my pace. But, at the same time, I had been working to catch up to Delilah and stay ahead of her. For the next several kilometres, I was comfortable and feeling fairly strong and I beat my 10 mile time from December by a minute. And, then I hit 17K.

With less than 5K to go, I walked through the water station. In retrospect, I probably should have started walking through them earlier (that was part of my plan but things don’t always go according to plan) and, by the time I did, I realized that my quads were tired. A few kilometres later, we stopped again for a quick minute and Delilah passed me. I wound myself up again but that self-defeatest attitude kicked in; she got me and she was going to finish ahead. We started again but, with less than a mile to go, I walked for the last time. Then, I got mad at myself for giving up like that, took off (as much as I could) and ran for the finish, crossing the line in 1:37:07, a second slower than my PB, and 35 seconds behind Delilah.

I didn’t write this report last night because I was so disappointed in myself. But, after reflecting on my run for the past 24 hours, I now realize that I did have a good run. Yes, I finished behind D., and I think that is what is harder on me than anything else, but I have to realize that she has youth on her side; sixteen years younger, she has more to pull out of her back pocket than I do and she has more guts than I. Having a young running friend is good for me because it is fueling my fire so that I can stay competitive for a few more years (we can only hope, right?) but there are days like yesterday when it is just hard to take.

As I am writing this post, I keep glancing at my marathon pace bands. Yesterday, I ran a 3:15 pace; Shawn was struggling to stay with me; Renaud couldn’t hang onto us. And, I’m remembering the pre-run words, “If you can run 1:40 or 1:41 today, you’ve run well.”

The boys, by the way, had an incredible run. I learned later that they ran a 14.4K warm-up, giving them a 35.5K training run (in 2:42 for Shawn). Way to go, guys!

And, I also learned later that I finished 31st of 1213 women, and I earned a 3rd place age group award.

Am I proud? Yes. Am I disappointed? Yes. And it is the delightful combination of those two emotions that will continue to motivate me to chase my dreams.

6 Replies to “Race Report: Chilly Half Marathon”

  1. What's amazing is the standards and expectations we place on ourselves, especially when compared to how others perceive us. I for one, look at your running and I'm amazed. Sorry you were disappointed though, because I for one, think you were amazing.

  2. Cynthia!
    What an incredible race. And all of your posts leading up to the big event. Awesome.
    You've pushed yourself, committed to the training and earned the result.
    And more hardware!

  3. You ran an amazing race in not great conditions. When the roads aren't perfect things are always different. Kudos to you for not giving up. You easily could have and you did not. Be proud of that.

  4. Great way of looking at it. Our coach says the same thing: We can't control the weather so …deal with it. Don't settle and don't bail.
    You did neither….congrats.

Leave a Reply