Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Chilly half marathon 2016 race report

Ah, the Chilly half marathon. I have complicated feelings about this race in general – other than Around the Bay, it’s the race I've done the most often. It was my first ever half back in 2012, and I've run it every year since except for last year. (To be honest I don't remember why I skipped it last year – probably because I was really focusing on Around the Bay? I dunno.)

So I have fond memories of finishing my first ever half marathon at this race, but then the next one was kind of sucktacular because I was coming off an injury and had to treat it as a training run. Which is fine, but it's not really why I race, you know? A plus of the race is it's convenient and close to home – but on the other hand the swag is often pretty lame. Seriously, I see people running wearing the 2013 and 2014 jackets and wonder how they can tolerate it. 5 minutes in those things and I’m sweating like I’m trying to make weight for a wrestling match.

I set a half PB at this race in 2014 with Nicole as my super pacer, which was awesome – but then that PB stuck around a lot longer than I expected, even after taking two tries at trying to break it, and failing pretty miserably both times. I was starting to wonder if 2014 had been some sort of crazy fluke and I’d never get close to 1:50 again!

So, somewhat mixed feelings. But I was feeling pretty great leading into this year’s edition of the race, confident I could hold the 5:15/km pace that would net me a PB, and determined to put in a solid effort and see where that would take me.

Getting my shit together

And things started off well going into the race – this year's swag is a New Balance long sleeve that is super soft, fits perfectly, and has fancy touches like thumbholes. Seriously, probably the nicest race shirt I’ve ever gotten. Happy to have a race souvenir I’ll likely use quite a bit.

I never know where to look in bathroom mirror selfies. #awkward
With a 10:05 start it was a pretty leisurely morning. After bagels and tea, the husband and I headed downtown around 8:15, and snagged the last parking spot in the lot behind the Performing Arts Centre. Score! Then we went inside where I spotted Ivanka, Nicole, and Sam sitting in the theater and we did the usual pre-race stuff (eating, bathroom, bag check, bathroom, damn it where's my gloves, bathroom). Soon it was time to head out to the start, and on the way we bumped into Paul! I didn't manage to get over to Foot Tools to meet up with my tri club, though. I wanted to stick with the girls so we could at least start the race together.

Pre race good luck hug
I knew I wouldn’t run with them long. I had decided before the race that I was really, really going to focus on settling into 5:15 ish pace right off the bat, rather than running 10k at 5:05 and then starting an inevitable ever slowing grim death march for the last half. Reasonably even splits was my goal here. I would be running my own race.

The only time all morning I was this close to the 1:50 pacers. As soon as they a) announced the wrong target pace and b) said they were pacing by gun time, I knew I wouldn't be sticking with them.
Sure enough, I lost everyone within a few minutes of getting across the start line. But that was cool. Just settle in. Long way to go.

And we're off!

Km 1-5
5k: 26:12

Right where I wanted to be for the first 5k. I had side stitches on alternating sides through the first couple of km, but they eventually went away. Nothing else exciting here other than seeing the leaders come back the other way and a little bit of dodging around people. And I tossed my gloves at the first water station. Captivating stuff.

This has to be early in the race because I look so damn chipper. Even my ponytail is loving life.

10k: 52:17

So in the sixth km you come back through the downtown area and the street is lined with people cheering for a block or so. Pretty sure that’s why I sped up a bit there! Damn that is motivating! But I brought it back down after that. I had a lot of trouble getting my gel down at 8k – I had it inside my Spibelt instead of on belt loops or in an easy to access pocket like I usually do in races, which was a mistake. It was a complete pain in the ass getting it out. Also, at this point I was feeling overdressed and really regretting the tank top under my long sleeve and the ear warmer I was wearing. The pace was feeling good but I was a bit cranky.

This was probably earlier in the race, but whatever. I do remember running behind that girl with the hydration vest for quite a long time.
15k: 1:18:27

After 13k I was really feeling over this whole race business. Looking at the splits I was a bit fast on that km, so maybe that's why things took a bit of a downturn. Plus just after 13k the race route turns around to head back to the finish and, and we met a little bit of headwind. Wind sucks, yo. It was pretty mild as winds along the lake go, but mentally I was reverting to a three year old on the verge of a tantrum. "I no like wind!! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!!!". However, the wind did cool me down and I no longer felt overdressed! Silver linings.

20k: 1:45:01

Gotta be honest: the wheels were starting to come off. I passed my husband (who was having a really bad day – he’s still recovering from a bought of the flu), and I was torn between pushing on and keeping him company. But I knew the PB was still within reach, and he wouldn’t want me to give up on that. I was losing my mental mojo, though. In km 17 I stopped and walked for 15 seconds and forced myself to drink as much of the Skratch mix in one of my bottles as I could. Sugar always helps – but getting it down during a race can be a challenge. Then I started running again and found myself running alongside a lady in a blue jacket, and we kept each other on pace for a few km. I also grabbed an orange slice as we went past the church, and that was a nice distraction.

Why do we do this again? Ugh.
And this is where all those hours on the bike paid off in a semi-unexpected way. With 3k to go I started picturing myself in the pain cave, doing a 15 minute long sweet spot interval with Trainerroad. That’s it, just 15 minutes. Picture that green target line and just maintain the effort you need to match it as the time counts down. You can do it. You've done it a hundred times. It hurts, but you always, always finish the interval.

And it totally worked! Mentally I dragged myself out of the ‘I’m going to just slow down’ mindset and I held pretty close to pace! This is kind of huge for me, and one reason I’m so thrilled with this race. I’ve always felt my late race mental game is weak, and this one proved I can tough my way through it!

Attempting to give the photographer thumbs up while also TOTALLY DYING.

5:02 (and 4:37/km pace for the last 100m!)

AND I HAD A KICK. You guys. I usually drag my ass across the finish line with nothing left to speak of. This race I had an actual kick! Hot damn.

Sprinting to the finish and looking dead sexy. AIR. I NEED AIR.

Chip time: 1:50:34
Gun time: 1:51:47
Overall place: 795/2233
Gender place: 230/1159
Age group place: 35/156

I don't think I've ever gotten a decent finish line photo at this race, so why start now?

So freaking happy.

Post race

A photo posted by Sam J (@sammykaye71) on

Cute (and large!) medal
So there it is. Finally got that half PB. Learned a few things (especially around my hydration/nutrition strategy, but more on that in another post at some point). Overall, it couldn't have gone better for me. Perfect weather, good friends, a new PB? Excellent, Just wish my husband had had a better day. His time will come, I know it!

Next up - Around the Bay!


  1. Who paces to gun time?! Congrats Emma - a great race!! I knew you would do it!

  2. Who knew trainer road would pay off in such a great way?! Congrats Emma! Well deserved PB!

  3. Congrats Emma, that's huge! Way to push through the "mental" that will stay with you from now on. Nice PB :)

  4. Wahooo!!! You are awesomely inspiring. Well done.

  5. Well done, Emma. Fantastic pacing and mental push. I wouldn't say your mental game is weak - no one can push through a 70.3 with a weak game. Congrats on breaking that PB barrier. Next up: ATB!

  6. Smokin race and awesome report! Sounds like a such a well-executed day for you and congrats on staying strong for that final push. Yay!

  7. So that's what you were looking like, now I know I saw you at the finish stretch (I was cheering at the side). Great mental game at the end!