It’s been a while since I wrote a race report and I’m really excited about this one! The 2016 Chilly Half Marathon was the scene of my last half marathon PR of 1:30:44. That PR has held up ever since and I was really excited to see how well I would do this year considering the work I’ve been putting in to my Spring marathon training plan. My goal was to break 1:30, but I would have also been really happy if I was within the low-1:30 range as that is where my fitness was last year. Even if I maintained the same fitness level this year, I would be in good shape to BQ in May considering I age up for Boston 2018!
The 2017 Chilly Half Marathon fell exactly on the midway point of my 18-week training plan. Coach Colin asked me what races I was registering for leading up to my Spring goal race in May and the Chilly Half Marathon was an obvious choice. The course is relatively flat and really fast. Considering all of my training has been through the rolling hills of High Park/Bloor West area of Toronto, this race would be a great fitness test for me! Also, anyone who trains for a half marathon likely wouldn’t run 30+ kilometers on their long run, so I was in pretty good shape and feeling really strong heading into the race.
For the first time ever, I didn’t visit a race expo to pick-up my race packet. I didn’t have time to drive out to Burlington, so when my buddy Daniel offered to pick up a few race packets for the High Park Rogue Runners, I jumped at the chance. The expo was located in the basement of a Mercedes dealership in Burlington and I remember walking through the booths in record time because it wasn’t very big. The drive out to Burlington one-way would take longer!
Instead, I spent Saturday hanging out with my family. It was really cold, so we were pretty lazy most of the day, but did end up driving out to IKEA in the afternoon! I had St. Louis wings for dinner; not the usual pasta dinner I have before races! I didn’t put too much thought into it and figured if you don’t carb load leading up to a race, the night before is not the time to start! Thankfully, I did have enough carbs leading up to the weekend, so I was not at all concerned.
The race started at 10:00am. Thankfully the late start meant I didn’t have to get up super early to walk my dogs and drive out to Burlington! I picked-up my friends Dom, Anna, and Daniel at 8am and we headed out to Burlington. I decided to wear shorts with compression socks, a long sleeve thermal type shirt with a short sleeve RunTOBeer shirt over it. I also wore my trademark backwards red cap (a FASTcap from Ciele) and my Saucony Kinvara 6 race shoes! We discussed what to wear before the race and we were on the fence about the shorts. I decided to stick to the plan while Dom and Daniel wore tights.
We arrived at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre just before 9:00am, giving us just over an hour before the start of the race. What I really love about the Chilly Half Marathon is the number of friendly faces who meet at the Performing Arts Centre before and after the race! Nearly every running crew in the GTA and beyond convene at this location which gives runners an opportunity to chat with friends and meet runners they may have only known through social media! Socializing with friends prior to the race really helps me take the edge off.
Of the hundreds of people I saw, only 2-3 other people were wearing shorts! I was on the receiving end of a number of strange looks and I was starting to question my sanity!
We headed over to the start line about 10 minutes prior to the start of the race and my first observation was not only was it really cold, there was a nice breeze to remind runners why the race was called the Chilly Half Marathon!
First 5km splits: 4:28, 4:18, 4:17, 4:17, 4:14
The first few kilometers of the race are really bumpy and I’m not talking about the road! I took a few elbows to the chest and clipped a few feet in the process. The course doesn’t really open up until you hit Lakeshore Road. You hit the first of two u-turns around the 3km mark and this is also a great opportunity to see the elites heading West! Once you make the turn, you get to see anyone who started in the corrals behind you. I love seeing friends on the course because it lets you take your mind off the race for a few seconds. To me, this means a few seconds of not worrying if I’m running too hard or not hard enough.
My splits at this point were right where I wanted them. I would have liked to have another 4:25 or so in the second kilometre, but truth be told, I was more focused on keeping the 1:30 pace bunny within my sights than what worrying about my pace!
Second 5km splits: 4:11, 4:13, 4:10, 4:13, 4:15
The second 5km splits were a little faster than the previous splits, but I was not concerned! I didn’t stop at any aid stations during the first 5km, but I did take a sip of Nuun at the 2nd or 3rd aid station and wasn’t at all surprised when I got hit in the nose with a block of ice when I tipped the cup back to take a sip!
At this point, I was starting to reel in the 1:30 pace bunny! It was also around this time the pace bunny lost his bunny ears, making it a little tougher to spot him in front of me! Someone running next to me stopped to grab the bunny ears and attempted to sprint to the pace group (huge mistake), but he sort of ran out of steam and dropped back.
I hit the 10km mark around 42:36, placing me in perfect position to finish close to my targeted finish time!
Third 5km splits: 4:15, 4:13, 4:25, 4:12, 4:12
Around the 11-12km mark of the race, I found myself a few meters behind the 1:30 pace bunny. I was feeling really strong even with the slight discomfort in my left glute. I never had issues with my glutes in the past (training or racing), so I was a little concerned, but my legs felt really strong so I brushed it off.
Right around the 12.5km mark, things got really interesting. I started to feel something hitting my right leg. I looked down and noticed my shoelace was untied! This has never happened to me during a race and I can’t even recall it ever happening during training!
I tried to run through it and had no intention of stopping, but my right shoe started to get loose and I was afraid it would fall off. I decided I had to pull over to tie my shoe. It didn’t take long and I popped up to see I didn’t lose too much distance from the 1:30 pace group. I made the second u-turn on the course and headed back towards the finish line.
Even with the small blip of 4:25 when I tied my shoe, my splits were really good and I was feeling great at this point of the race. By the 15km, I caught up to the 1:30 pace bunny and locked in to the pace group for a bit.
16km to 21.1km splits: 4:11, 4:18, 4:14, 4:12, 4:10, 3:58, 3:47
Around the 16 or 17km of the race, the 1:30 pace bunny recommended runners who felt strong to push ahead. At this point of the race, I knew I was within range of finishing close to 1:30 and according to the pace bunny, he was a few seconds faster than his scheduled time. I was feeling pretty strong and I was doing a relatively good job with my breathing (something that usually becomes an issue in the late stages of a race!), so I decided to separate myself from the pace group. It wasn’t long before I looked back and noticed there was a considerable distance between me and the pace group. Up to this point, my legs were doing all the racing, but now it was time for my mind to join the fray. I didn’t panic. Instead, I started repeating to myself how amazing it would be to break the 1:30 mark! With that one thought in my mind, I pushed on!
Around the 17km mark, I saw two of the most amazing people on the course. Sherab and Ray are well known to the running community and they are pretty much the best supporters ever. Sherab and Ray came out to cheer on the runners and I saw them on the course a few times and we shouted out at each other, but at the 17km mark, Sherab decided she was going to run ahead of me to snap a photo! I blame them for the 4:18 split at the 17km mark! Totally kidding! Maybe.
What happened afterwards is something I can’t explain. In almost ever race I ran in the past, I typically try to sprint only the last kilometer, unless I’m injured or didn’t leave enough in the tank which often happens!
Knowing I was in great shape to break 1:30, I dug in deep and ran my ass off. I felt myself getting faster and faster as each kilometer passed and I kept my thoughts positive the entire way. At this point, nothing was going to slow me down.
Here are my splits at the end of the race: 4:14 (18km), 4:12 (19km), 4:10 (20km), 3:58 (21km), 3:47 (.1km) and below is my reaction when I crossed the finish line. Not only did I break 1:30 with my chip time (1:29:33), I came in at 1:29:58 on the clock! It’s only thing to know you had a few seconds in the bank because you didn’t start up front, but actually seeing the 1:29 as I crossed the finish line stopped me in my tracks as soon as I crossed the finish line. I fought back the tears, OK a few slipped out, caught my breath, and just looked back at the clock amazed at what I just accomplished.
Aside from the mishap with my shoelace, I ran the best race of my life. I felt amazing the entire race, my breathing never labored, and not once did I panic about going too fast. This race left me so hopeful about my Spring marathon and what I can accomplish. I truthfully don’t know if I would have felt this good had it not been for the work I put in thanks to Coach Colin and his training plan.
The Chilly Half Marathon is easily one of my absolute favorite races. I’m obviously stating this because of the success I had there, but race director Kelly Arnott really cares about the runners and the Burlington community. Whether she is welcoming runners in the Burlington Performing Arts Centre or making sure everyone gets to the start line on time, Kelly is always communicating with people to ensure everyone has a great experience and from end to end, this is one amazing experience. The course is perfect with enough subtle elevation changes to keep things interesting and the crowd support is great! Like any race, there will be pockets where there aren’t many supporters, but in these areas, you can take in the scenic neighborhood or wave at friends passing on the other side of the street!
I hung out in the finish corral for a bit waiting for Daniel and Dom to finish. It had warmed up a bit, but it was still really cold, so we hurried back to the Performing Arts Centre to warm up.
Daniel had to get back to Toronto, so we hung out a bit to chat with our friends and then headed back. I ate two granola bars, a banana and drank a bottle of water and a muscle milk on the way home!
To celebrate my accomplishment, I put together a few IKEA drawers for my wife’s wardrobe.
In less than three weeks, I’ll be participating in the Around The Bay 30K race. This will be my third time participating in this race and I’ll be running it at marathon pace. This is the same approach from last year when I finished under 2:15 and earned the silver medal! I can’t wait to do it again!