The Hypothermic Half Marathon was the first race I did in 2013. I was on my way to doing a full marathon for the first time and found this race was a good early test of my training. It was the day after my birthday last year and it was the first half marathon I had done in 20 years. I was definitely super nervous.
Thanks in no small part to Alan (one of the amazing Amherst Striders and one of the most giving and encouraging runners I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing) I somehow dragged my carcass across the line in just under two hours – exceeding my dream time for the day by 18 seconds. Looking over my shoulder to see the pink ears of the two hour pace bunny baring down on me in the last kilometer may also have been a factor – recurring bunny nightmares may also be explained by this.
This year I was hoping for an even more enjoyable experience. I had a lot more training and miles under my belt and had been working with a coach since last spring. I also did 2 other half marathons last year making the distance and effort needed more familiar. The conditions were very cold (-17 C), but sunny and the roads were dry. Pre-race I did my warm up and chatted to a couple of local runners about their hopes/expectations for the day. (As a side note, this race marked 52 consecutive weekends of running the half-marathon distance for Rick, another of the Amherst Striders – amazing stuff!!).
For the first time, I tried taking Energy Bits before a race (more on that in my next post), swallowing them about 15 minutes before the start of the race. I did my usual mental check and routine and made my way to the line. There was a lot of cold but happy looking people gathered around, trying to stay warm while waiting for the horn. Finally, the horn sounded and we were off.
I can usually rely on my first kilometer being a little fast just due to adrenaline, so I made a conscious effort to hold back a bit. Much to my surprise, when I checked my pace I was a shade under 5 min/km which was faster then I had intended (about 5:20/km for the first half). It actually felt very comfortable, so I decided to just go with it and see how long I could keep it up. Knowing the course didn’t really have much in the way of hills and being familiar with it helped me to make that decision as well.
Luckily, I was joined by another local runner, Reg, who had said prior to the start that he had a similar goal of something in the sub 1:55 range. He felt good as well and thought that staying with each other could help with the pacing. As the kilometers rolled on, things were going very well and we were managing to keep a steady pace, right around the 5 min/km mark.
The cool temperature didn’t feel so bad with the sun, and my layers certainly did their job. The only complication that arose was by 4 km in, my water bottles had both frozen. I don’t like taking water at stations along the way because I stubbornly refuse to walk, even to take in water properly so I inevitably end up wearing more water then I drink. I had anticipated this problem though and filled extra bottles for my wife to have in the car where she and the boys had parked to see me on course. The first time I tried to take a non-frozen bottle as I went by was a bit of a fiasco as I dropped, then kicked the bottle so had to slow down and pick it up. Two other handoffs went smoothly though and having water as needed was soooooo useful. Yay, planning!!
Just prior to the 10 km mark, Reg slipped on some ice and tweaked his knee a bit. He tried to keep the pace up, but decided to ease back a bit, telling me to keep my pace up. My goal for the year is to go sub 1:45 and my current pace was going to have me close if I could keep it. I adjusted to running by myself and started looking for someone in front of me to pace off of if possible.
By 15 km, I was just over 75 minutes, but I knew that the last 6.1 was going to be a struggle to maintain the pace. I passed my family for the last time before the finish line at 18 km and my pace had fallen a few seconds per km between 15-18. I knew that the sub 1:45 was not going to happen today, but got a boost knowing I was going to see Stacey and the boys at the finish line and managed to pick it up again. I managed to get just under 5 min/km again for the last stretch and crossed the line in 1:46.50, shaving more than 4 minutes off my previous best half marathon time.
Overall, it was a well organized race and for mid-February, you couldn’t really ask for better conditions. I am super pleased with the start to my year and hope it bodes well for what’s to come. My next major race is the Fredericton Marathon where I am registered to do the full. It’s a beautiful, flat and fast course and I’m hoping to take some time off my previous marathon last October.