Better late than never!
On March 3rd, I ran my first race of the year – the Chilly Half Marathon. This event has been on my roster each year since 2008 (except for 2009 when I volunteered because I was still nursing a separated shoulder) and it remains one of my favourites. I love it as a season opener, with its flat and fast out-and-back course, good support and decent swag.
It holds many PRs for me, which makes it hard to check the ego like I had to do this year. I am running a lot less and a lot slower right now than I have in a long time, but I decided to make the most of my opportunity to run this race.
My plan was to treat it as a glorified long run, pacing about 15s/KM faster than I have been running long runs and counting on race day adrenaline, crowds, etc. to make that feel manageable. A (faster) friend, Andy, from my marathon clinic ended up offering to run with me, which I readily accepted. I told him I would be running pretty conservatively and encouraged him to run ahead any time he felt like it. Hubs and Miles came along to spectate and we enjoyed the company of Andy and his wife (who are both hilarious) as we waited for the start. With 10 or 15 minutes to go, we decided to find our place among the masses (just under 3000 runners) and wait for the countdown.
It was a cold morning, but conditions were pretty favourable compared to some years – the roads were dry and the winds were not gusting, so I had no complaints. I remember being pretty comfortable in tights, a long sleeve tee and a light jacket once we got moving.
Once the race started I tried to focus on keeping the pace comfortable, but I wasn’t looking at my watch. Andy stayed loyally by my side as we chatted away and took in the atmosphere. I started noticing that we would pick up the pace unintentionally each time we ran through a particularly busy cheering section, but reeled it in again as soon as I noticed. It was fun to see Hubs and Miles cheering us on, even though I think the pup got a little confused seeing me run by without stopping.
Overall I could tell that I was working a little bit harder than I should have been based on my goals for the race, but I didn’t worry too much about it until I needed a pit stop around 7K and saw that my average pace was at least 25s/KM faster than it should have been. Whoops! Andy had been kind enough to walk as I relieved myself, and didn’t balk when I told him that I needed to slow down a little once we got going again. I was able to keep things much more in control as the miles ticked by, and seemed to prevent the wheels from falling off completely.
That being said, it started catching up to me with 5-6K to go and I finally had to shoo Andy ahead. I know he didn’t mind slowing down and sticking with me, but I found myself getting to that place where I just needed to zone out and soldier through it. I counted down the kilometres and fought to keep my average pace from slowing any further until finally I could see the last turn toward the finish. There was definitely not a sprint in my legs and since I wasn’t fighting for any time on the clock, I just trotted in and remembered those previous years where I had raced down the chute to ensure that I left everything out on the course.
After thoughts: This result is a few minutes faster than I had expected, but the effort was quite a bit greater than planned. Looking back, it is only about 4 minutes slower than the first time I ran Chilly in 2008, my second half marathon at the time. My gut reaction to that is “Ugh” but if there’s one thing I gained from this race, it’s that I’m ready to start clawing my way back.