Race Report: (Not so) Chilly Half Marathon

On Friday I shared 3 goals:

A. (I hope I can): sub-1:50:00

B. (I think I can): PR sub-1:52:29

C. (I know I can): Event PR sub-2:01:00

Thanks so much for all of your awesome comments on yesterday’s quick post.

Here are the stats:

Clock time – 1:47:52
Chip time – 1:47:41
Average pace – 5:06/KM = 8:13/mi
Overall – 565/2499
Gender – 126/1323
F25-29 – 13/159

Pre-Race: On your marks, get set…

Being at the beginning of March, the weather is always unpredictable for this race. We lucked out this year with the most beautiful weekend yet – clear, sunny skies and sweltering mild temps from about 2C (36F) at the start to 10C (50F) by the time we finished. Perfect!

Here’s what I wore and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The start time of 10:05 allowed us to sleep in til 6:30 and leave the house in daylight. We live about an hour away and arrived in plenty of time to snag a great parking spot right near the start/finish area. We took a short walk to the host hotel where they were handing out the ladies’ race shirts which hadn’t been available in time for kit pick-up. This worked out well because we were able to hang out in the hotel lobby for 45 minutes or so before making our way back to the start line.

We carpooled with Patricia and Ueli, our Goofy companions, and the four of us got to catch up with Mel when she spotted us at the hotel.

We had several other friends running that day and I was looking forward to watching out for everybody on the out-and-back course, including Juliana; and Meghan (first half!). Shout outs to Laura and Marci, though unfortunately I didn’t get to see them out there.

Before long, it was time to make our way to the starting area for one last stop at the port-o-potties before squeezing into the corrals. There were many more runners this year (3300 in the half) and I decided to line up pretty close to the front – closer than my pace would dictate, but I have had too many experiences with a crowded start and dodging slower runners. I made sure to stick to the right side so I wouldn’t get in the way (I later learned that I had made the right choice – many of my friends who started farther back had a slow start with a lot of jostling and weaving).

I have to admit that I was extremely nervous about this race – I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this nervous! I just hoped that my nervous energy would translate to speedy legs when it was time to run!

The Race: … Go!


The course changed this year and had us running primarily on Lakeshore Boulevard. We started with a short out-and-back to the west followed by a long out-and-back to the east (with a short leg to the north for the turn-around). It was also flat as a pancake.

And we’re off! It felt good to hit “Start” as I crossed over the timing mats. The nerves gradually subsided and I quickly found my focus.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a 1:50 pace bunny. I’m still not completely confident in my pacing abilities, so I monitored the Garmin pretty closely as I settled in. I had written my target 5K, 10K, 15K and 20K splits on my hand in permanent black marker (watch out for a pic below) – I absolutely loved this and will be making it a habit for future races.

My plan was to aim for a 5:10/KM pace (8:19/mi) and try to hold it steady throughout the race. I knew we’d have a pretty significant head wind (20 kph) for the final 8K, so if I could bank a small cushion I would feel good about that. The kilometres were ticking by fairly easily and I concentrated on memorizing how that pace felt so I wouldn’t have to check the Garmin so frequently.

I often caught myself questioning, ‘Can I really keep this up for 21K?’ but promptly shut off that voice in my head and worked on 1 kilometre at a time.

I was on my own and couldn’t seem to find anyone to pace with – there seemed to be spurts where I was getting passed all over the place, but the next minute I would be working my way through a crowd. I was running fairly consistently, so I knew I just had to keep it up and not get caught up with others around me.

4:58 – 5:09 – 5:13 – 5:05 – 4:58

5K split: 25:23 (goal 26:03)

People-watching became a welcome distraction after the first turn-around, and I had already spotted a few familiar faces.

It was a pretty quiet course with no entertainment and minimal crowds; I was really glad that I had loaded my iPod with power songs to keep me pumped up. I coasted through the aid stations (which seemed to be well-stocked with water, E-load and gels) since I had opted to carry my 10-oz Nathan Sprint handheld, which worked out perfectly.

At 7K I got to see hubs who was out being awesome and supportive since he wasn’t able to run. It was a great boost to see him and tell him I was doing just fine.

(I’m holding a Gu in my left hand which I took just after 7K.)

We were on a long straight stretch, working our way gradually toward the turn-around. I was feeling pretty decent and just hoping beyond hope that I could keep up the pace. I was chugging along, becoming even more consistent with my pacing and enjoying the beautiful day. I had long ago tossed my gloves and now rolled down my arm sleeves as we soaked up the sun over the lake.

5:04 – 5:05 – 5:05 – 5:00 – 5:09

10K split: 50:46 (goal 52:07)

At this point, I just wanted to make it to the final turn-around so I would know that we were on the way back to the finish line. During this time I was watching the kilometre markers for the ‘back’ portion on the other side of the road. Seeing 18, then 17, then 16, all I could think was ‘It would be so nice to be over there right now!’ This is usually the part of a half marathon where I wish I had a fast-forward button. Kilometres 11-15 always feel like a bit of a dead zone – you’re well into it, getting tired, but not close enough to think about the finish yet.

Though of course I was thinking about the finish… visions of crossing that line in under 1:50 kept me going and helped keep me strong and focused. I knew what I had to do… in fact, I was doing it!

Finally, the turn-around! And there’s the wind. Funny how I had barely noticed it urging me along from behind on the way out, but here it was slamming me in the face. I could tell that I was immediately forced to work harder to maintain my pace, but it wasn’t unmanageable.

I knew I would get to see all of my friends again soon and kept my eyes peeled. I heard my name and called out to people all over the place. It was amazing and I felt a wave of euphoria wash over me as I waved and smiled, knowing I was getting closer and closer to achieving my goal.

Best of all, I was on the way back!

I downed another Gu at 14K and added a bit more water to my handheld from a cup, spilling most of it all over myself since I tried to do this while running. I knew I had a few good gulps in there, which would be enough to bring me home.

5:03 – 5:05 – 5:04 – 5:03 – 5:11

15K split: 1:16:12 (goal 1:18:11)

16K/10 miles is a big milestone in a half marathon – just 5K to go! As I passed the kilometre marker, I took a brief inventory of how I felt. I was tired and working hard against the wind, but feeling surprisingly good overall. I definitely didn’t feel like I had it in me to pick it up, but I knew I could keep going.

Around this time I realized that I (almost) had it in the bag. Barring any major catastrophes, I was confident for the first time that I could actually finish this thing at my “A” goal of sub-1:50. It was an incredible feeling and I knew I could enjoy the remainder of the race.

I was finally seeing those 16, 17 and 18 KM markers and yet, they didn’t seem quite so close to the finish line from this side of the road. Hmmm….

I stopped checking my Garmin compulsively and instead focused on picking people off ahead of me and passing whenever I could. (In my experience, I am usually getting passed during the last 5K, so this was a welcome change!) I was focused and determined.

5:04 – 5:11 – 5:04 – 5:13 – 5:01

20K split: 1:41:45 (goal 1:44:15)

I could finally hear the crowds as we neared the final turn toward the finish line. More specifically, I could hear my friends Leanne and Erin cheering like fools and ringing their cowbells. (Hubs told me later that he knew I was on my way up the finishing chute because he could hear them screaming my name from 200+ metres away – awesome!)

Final splits – 4:52, 0:57 (0.22K, Garmin)

Chip time: 1:47:41 (goal 1:49:59)

I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air and let out a holler. I was ecstatic and could not stop staring at my watch.

(With Patricia & Ueli – proof that I wore my jersey after the race.)

Post-Race Thoughts

I did it. I really did it! I’m walking around on cloud 9 with relief and joy and maybe a little bit of shock. I’ve never put so much pressure on myself for a specific time goal, which definitely explains the nerves but also the drive.

This was my 10th half marathon (!!!) and not only the fastest, but the most consistent, strongest and smartest I have ever run.

I hope this is a sign of good things to come for the remainder of this year in running…

Thanks for reading!


59 thoughts on “Race Report: (Not so) Chilly Half Marathon

  1. You really rocked it. I'm so happy for you.And I'm a bit envious of how flat and low your race was. Someday, just once, I want to try something that isn't a mile above sea level and hilly.

  2. Woooohooooo, you totally smashed your A goal, that is so exciting!! I am smiling ear to ear for you right now just knowing how much you raced your heart out and left nothing out there. So very happy for you, you way deserved this awesome time!!

  3. Way to go!!! Love the idea of using a marker to keep track of your goal pace. I would love to know what power songs you put on your playlist…I am in need of some new songs. 🙂

  4. Congratulations! You made your hardest goal! You didn't flag and had an awesome pace. Your stats are so impressive. It sounds like you had fun too most of all. I love the friends cheering for you so loudly at the end of the race! Woo Hoo!

  5. Congratulations on an amazing race! I really enjoyed reading your recap. I loved reading about your thoughts during the race and how you overcame the mental obstacles. Way to go!

  6. I think this is *definitely* a sign of a good running year for you!! (psh – it started with GOOFY – how can that go wrong?! 😉 ) It's interesting to read these in terms of Kms instead of miles! When I read that you saw "18, 17, 16…" my thought was "oh there was a Full marathon too?" lol, ah! CONGRATS, Marlene! Enjoy that spot on Cloud 9, it's alll yours! 😉 xo

  7. I know what you mean about giving yourself pressure about a time goal. That can be so hard! You did a great job under pressure! Awesome ! 🙂

  8. Aweseome! It's a tribute to your dedication and training and I also think you should think about doing your next full in similar weather conditions. I think 20+ degrees is a whole different animal.

  9. Great job Marlene! You rocked that Half! Woop Woop! I am also loving the times written on your hand. Little cheat sheet if you will! Once I get into the over 10k's I am going to have to do that to gage myself. I loved reading your recap! Congrats on your successful run!

  10. what a great race report. You have to love that wind when it seems to appear from nowhere. Love how you had all your numbers written on your hand. Don't you find that sometimes you look at your watch a thousand times and really do not take in the numbers. Still I look all of the time…lol!!AWESOME JOB GIRL!!! 2010 will be a very strong year for you.

  11. OMG!!!!! YAY YAY YAY!!! You did awesome girl! Way to totally shatter all goals and expectations! You rock and I am in awe!!! That is a killer pace to hold for a Half! CONGRATS!!!I found that having a pace bracelet during Gasparilla really helped me keep focused. Great idea writing the splits you wanted on your hand!

  12. MARLENE!!! I'm soooo happy for you!!! I loved the race report. You have an amazing year ahead of you!! I loved reading how you knew you were doing it…isn't that the best feeling. I got chills when I read it. congrats, so happy for you!

  13. Love it! You sound so confident and focussed. Power Songs?? Hmmmm, may need to have you mail me a CD for Eugene..I was thinking about if I would be able to run and refill my bottle, nice to know it can be done.2010 is going to ROCK!!

  14. CONGRATULATIONS, Marlene!!!You ran so well and sounded so confident the entire way. I have seldom put much pressure on myself either to run a specific time goal and hope I can do the same at my 10K this weekend. You inspire me!

  15. Great job Marlene! You did awesome and ran a great race!! I am sure this is a great sign of things to come! you have PRed in the shorter distance races and now this one! I am so happy for you!

  16. wow!!! ten half marathons!!!! that is a lot 🙂 you are flyyyyyyyyyyyying in this one. way to go. you really surpassed your goal. enjoy it up there on cloud 9!!! 🙂 xoxoxo

  17. thank you !first time on your blog and I think (I'm sure) I'm gonna like it a lot !I am an overweight/beginner runner, very slow but running is part of my life and I'm sure reading your blog is gonna be very inspiring for me.thank you.www.katoumie.canalblog.com

  18. Wow, Marlene, what an excellent race! I am so impressed with how you mentally handled the race. That tends to be the area I fall apart. Way to believe in yourself and finish strong! I have no doubt that great things are in store for you. Congratulations on your terrific race!

  19. i am getting such a feeling of excitement reading about your pr/experience and how you felt when you crossed that finish line! 🙂 congrats marlene!! you did so well, sooo well. next time you need not be so reluctant with the goals 😉

  20. Wow! Congratulations! I think I'll have to learn from your mental toughness. Hopefully I'll gain some toughness of my own as I race more.

  21. It's been a joy watching your progression over the years (is it years now I've been reading your race reports?). You are speedy. Those are awesome splits by any measure. Anyways, 1:47 is a FANTASTIC result. I think your peak is still a ways away. Congrats.

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