Chilly Half is one of my favourite races! I love the early March timing because it makes for a great season opener to test the legs after a couple months of winter training. The course is flat, fast and scenic along the lake with the double out-and-back affording many opportunities to see other friends racing. I had so much fun seeing many of my favourite “internet friends” along the way, either running or cheering on the sidelines. You all gave me such a boost! (Hi Sam! Hi Nicole! Hi Alex! Hi Laura! Hi Mari! Hi Quinton! Hi Kenny! Hi Marci!).
This year I was extra excited going into the race because I’ve had the best training cycle of my life so far this year and felt more than ready to get a race on my resume to match the training paces on my watch that leave me stunned week after week. I finally felt I had a good shot at beating my long-standing PB of 1:40 from my 2011 “heydey.” It’s been a long road clawing my way back since then with various injuries and setbacks, weight gain and weight loss (then gain and loss again…) and a lot of mental barriers that I needed to break through.
I was lucky to have Andy offer to pace me this year and knew I was in good hands (stay tuned) since he has helped me through several tough workouts and races. Nothing was going to stop me! And then I came down with a nasty head cold on Saturday – ugh, worst timing! I had a minor meltdown and a major pity party but thanks to many good friends who lifted my spirits and helped boost my confidence again, I was ready to give it a shot. Luckily I didn’t feel any worse on Sunday morning and Advil Cold + Sinus took the edge off my stuffy head.
It was a cold, windy morning and we were getting a lot of surprised expressions and comments on the bare legs before the race. I started doubting the decision but knew I would rather be a little bit cold for racing. We visited the port-o-potties, took a couple of pics and then stayed warm in the car until it was time to head to the start line.
We had planned to start on the slower side of goal pace, targeting 4:40 to 4:50 to ease into it. It took a lot of reminders from Andy because I was raring to go as we made our way along the first out-and-back section. It was very crowded through here, though, so I was glad not to be weaving around trying desperately to hit a specific pace.
It was amazing to see Mark and Greta cheering us on around 5K. Still feeling great at this point! We had a good laugh about re-creating a photo op from 2013 (below) and then it was time to get to work.
1-5: 4:52, 4:40, 4:44, 4:40, 4:34
We dropped the pace to around 4:30 as planned and I was still feeling pretty good for a while. It was around 10K that I started to feel the effort was taking more of a toll than I’d hoped. I just felt drained and I’d like to think it was the effects of my cold kicking in. The wind was really wearing on me too and I just tried to focus on getting to the 13K turn-around in the hopes that there would be a reprieve. All the while Andy was keeping me distracted and entertained, reminding me to drink and fuel and also keeping me on pace.
6-13: 4:32, 4:29 (gel), 4:30, 4:33, 4:32, 4:32, 4:31, 4:38
Finally we turned around and it was a mental boost to be heading back toward the finish. Somehow, it was still windy! w-t-f! I told myself it was just an 8K LT run from here (although that sounded really hard at that point). It was fun to look for friends who were racing, exchanging high fives and cheers, or sometimes just a wave when I was really feeling the exhaustion. My pace started slipping slightly around 15K, although looking back I was surprised to see that I managed to keep every lap at 4:45 or faster. It felt like I was moving much slower than that! Andy pulled out all the stops to keep me going and I just tried to keep chasing him.
14-18: 4:30 (gel), 4:39, 4:35, 4:45, 4:40
Finally we were counting down the last few kilometres and I managed to pick the pace back up slightly. Our friend Katie caught up along this stretch and I was so happy to see her looking strong. She gave me the biggest, loudest cheers and I could tell she had tons of energy so we sent her on her way to a massive PB finish! I tried to keep up but my legs just weren’t having it, so I settled on keeping her in my sights.
19-21.1: 4:44, 4:37, 4:27, 5:02 (nubbin)
At last we were approaching the final turn and could see Mark and Greta cheering and snapping pics. It took everything I had to push up that final stretch to the finish line. Even though I had been looking at my Garmin constantly (despite Andy’s urgings not to… oops!), it was an overwhelming moment to see the time on the clock up ahead and know I was finishing in 1:37:xx.
And then, this happened:
Jump to 40 seconds in the clip below and prepare to be impressed:
I had a little bit of help going down, a lot of help getting up, and then we were over the line all in a matter of seconds.
I ran Chilly Half last year in 1:55 and was shocked and thrilled with that time when I was just starting to establish some consistency in my training again for the first time in many years. To improve by 18 minutes in a year is astounding to me, but believe me – I have fought for every one of those minutes over the last 12 months. For years I doubted whether I could ever get back to my former fitness level, let alone beyond. Even as I have clocked faster and faster splits in my training this year, I still questioned whether it would translate to a corresponding result on race day. I have a bad habit of getting hung up on numbers that scare me and for a long time I was still battling a lot of hang-ups over my 2014 injury (yes, I still tape my knee).
I’m so grateful to my coaches Mark and Andy (conveniently, my husband and good friend) who always believe in me when I question myself and have patiently guided and supported me through countless ups and downs along the way. Sharing all of it with the rest of my running family is the icing on the cake!