Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the Chilly Half Marathon and my 6th stab at it. I can honestly say I have had nothing but positive experiences at the Chilly Half and three out of my five previous finishes were PBs. VRPro puts on a pretty awesome event and it makes a great season opener. This year we lucked out with probably the best weather I have ever experienced at this race, maybe even any race – near-perfect running temps, clear skies, dry roads and barely a breeze.
After a couple of frustrating years, I have finally been able to get back to some distance running this year and have my sights set on Around the Bay 30K and Goodlife Toronto Marathon in the coming months (eeeks!). I haven’t been doing any speed work whatsoever, but rather focusing on building and maintaining consistent mileage again for the first time in well over a year. Chilly offered the perfect tune-up race and a good opportunity to test my fitness. I was hoping to finish sub-2:00 after two disastrously failed attempts last fall, but mostly I just wanted to run a smart race, have some fun and not suffer through the entire second half.
It was nice to run into several friends in the starting area; the time passed quickly and nerves settled as we exchanged good-lucks and chit-chat. Before long there was a countdown from 10 and my first race of the year was underway.
I was hoping that a sub-2:00 (5:40/KM) pace would come naturally but regardless of what Garmin had to say, I planned to start nice and easy and keep the pace feeling comfortable. I had a good convo with our friend Andy on the way there about holding back at the beginning of a half and fighting the body’s urge to go faster. I knew this would put me in a good place mentally and help set me up for a successful race. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised when my splits were chiming faster than expected from the get-go at a very controlled effort.
KM 1-5: 5:35, 5:37, 5:32, 5:32, 5:31
It was fun to watch for Hubs and many friends on the first out-and-back and I got a big boost every time I spotted someone for a high-five or a little cheer. The 1:45 and 1:50 pace groups gradually passed me during this section since I had started close to the front after getting caught up chatting with faster friends in the corrals. After that, things spread out and it was time to settle in for the long haul.
I was rocking my playlist while taking in the sights along Lakeshore and just generally enjoying a great day to be running. The kilometres kept ticking by comfortably as I continued checking in with myself regularly. My legs felt great, my breathing was totally in control and I could tell that I was still holding back quite a bit – exactly how I hoped to feel. That said, I still struggled to feel confident through the first half, remembering when the wheels fell off at previous races. I constantly found myself analyzing how I was feeling and thinking ‘Well if I still feel this good in “X” kilometres, then I am in good shape’ etc. Oh the mental games we play!
KM 6-10: 5:29 (gel), 5:33, 5:34, 5:28, 5:33
After passing the half way mark, I started mentally counting down to the ~13Kish turn-around and again cheered for friends heading back in the opposite direction. After making that turn I finally stopped second-guessing myself and realized that I was in pretty good shape for exactly the “best case scenario” race I had hoped for.
KM 11-15: 5:29, 5:29, 5:27, 5:36 (gel), 5:29
I continued reeling in the pace and told myself I could pick it up a bit after the 16K mark, with 5K to go. This seemed to happen pretty naturally and I found that I was starting to pass people as we made our way back along Lakeshore toward the finish. I thumbed through my iPod for my favourite power songs to really kick it up a notch and enjoyed some euphoric running moments along this section. I am not ashamed to admit that I played ‘Let It Go’ twice in a row. Even some of the lyrics were appropriate:
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!
You can go ahead and make fun of me now. 😉
KM 16-20: 5:24, 5:24, 5:22, 5:24, 5:17
Passing the 20K sign and barely feeling tired, I found another gear as the crowds thickened along the sidelines. I was excited to see Hubs and Andy as I rounded the last corner heading up to the finish line. I was so happy, you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
KM 21: 4:51
last 100m: 4:16/KM
I wouldn’t change one thing about how this race went down. Negative split, no walk breaks, strong and happy start to finish. Can they all be like this?