Half Marathon

Short endurance races, half marathons are a great course-length to test your ability to run a modest, achievable distance. Whereas a full marathon pushes a typical runner past the point of exhaustion, requiring on-course fuelling, long-haul mindsets and perfect pacing plans, a halfer can be done with a bit of water and a “take yourself to the edge of you ability” approach. Run hard, run long. Run. I typically hit the two hour and change mark, but my crew is plus or minus 30 minutes on that pace.

Hypothermic Half (2018)

Distance
Race Status
When
2 years ago

I’ll sum it up. I had barely slept. My stomach was hosting a butterfly convention. And I couldn’t eat more than a few bites of my breakfast. 

Couple the fact that I haven’t run a half marathon in seven months with the bitter truth of an ambient outdoor temperature of minus twenty degrees, and I was second — third — ten times guessing my decision to tackle the Hypothermic Half Marathon this past weekend.

I mean, ultimately it turned out okay. 

It was brutally cold, but I managed to over-dress.

The icy roads were not my friend, but I didn’t slip much and never fell, just mostly trudged along on the slick and slided a bit with each step and because of that lost a good 10 – 15% of my energy to the lack of traction.

The company helped. It’s tough to speak much when your face is alternatingly wrapped up in fabric or frozen and numb, but I ran a chunk with Leon and then a chunk with Linda and then another chunk with Leon. Jenn was on medal duties. Ron was guarding the buffet. And I crossed paths with a dozen other people –from past running pals, to Strava followers who I only know online, to the Premier herself who passed me at the start and never looked back — all who helped keep the slushy thoughts from freezing solid into my brain.

In the end it wasn’t my fastest race –far from it, actually– but I’m feeling pretty warmly about how this chilly adventure turned out overall… and I think it’s inspired me to sign up for a few more halfs this coming year.

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Moose is Loose (2017)

Distance
Race Status
When
2 years 7 months ago

July 11, 2017

Two days later and I’m home sick… mostly because of this half marathon I think.

See, heat and I don’t get along. I think I got a touch of heat stroke a decade or so back and ever since then my tolerance for temperatures higher than, say, 35 C are just in the pits.

But you sign up for these things weeks or months in advance.

You don’t know what the weather is gonna be.

You pay your fifty or sixty bucks and you pick up your race package and you shrug off the weather because… meh… what are you gonna do.

I should have probably sat this one out.

I finished. I got my funky little moose medal and posted the obligatory pics onto social media. But the guy you see in that photo went home to utterly crash, and not in the whoa, tough race sort of way. More of in the, why is my head throbbing and why am I feeling chills in this sweltering heat sort of way.

I hydrated.

I slept.

I even went to work yesterday thinking everything was good.

But two days later I’m home sick because my brain finally settled into a “yuh… maybe take a day to rest this one out” kinda state.

The race started off alright. I cleared the first third of the distance at a respectable sub-six (min/km) pace. I was actually (if you only counted that part) on track for a sub-two hour half.

Then I left the shady area at about the same time as the sun rose high enough in the sky to start being a problem.

Another third of the way I had slowed to about a 6:15 (min/km) and was starting to really feel it, but I was stopping at every station and grabbing more water than I normally consume. Hydrating. Keeping to the shade of a creek-valley trail.

Then it opened up. The shade vanished as we had to cross over a major vehicle bridge, and climbing the short little hill to crest up to that the heat caught up with me. The ambient temp was only about 28 C, but combine that with two-thirds of a half marathon and some unfiltered sun and that add-fifteen-rule and you’ve got a feels-like temperature in the low 40 Cs. 

And I don’t thrive in that.

I ended up walk-running the next three klicks. Then picking it up a little for the last stretch, clearing the finish with a worst-time-in-five-years 2:18. A finish, and though it always hurts to lower the bar like that, my body was mourning the next twelve hours of mild heat-stroke symptoms more than it was worried about my time.

I’ll chalk this up to a lesson learned. Race fees paid or not, sometimes you gotta know when to lower your expectations or even just sit one out.

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Hypothermic Half (2016)

Distance
Race Status
When
4 years ago

Leading into the Hypo Half I’d argue that fate was conspiring against me. 

Not only is the run traditionally the coldest race of the year, frequently tanking temperatures measuring in the low sub-zero teens, or colder, but the conditions are iffy at best. A cold winter run, a river-valley-view neighbourhood street with a base of snow and ice, a cold wind blowing off the frozen river valley, and nothing driving you forward save for the thought of a buffet brunch at the finish line.

Top that off with the consideration that my training hadn’t gone exactly as planned. I spent most of January sick and still I have this lingering cough that I can’t seem to shake. I’d run about half as much as I would have liked, completed but a single long training run, and didn’t do any of the other supplementary building such as hills, speed training, or whatever.

Oh, and then we were out of town for the day yesterday, at a birthday party for my dad eating pizza and straining my calves crouch-walking around the shallow swimming pool, and then eating some cake and ice cream before driving home in the pitch of night to get a restless night of sleep.

Fate was prodding me.

But I got up at six, ate, caffeinated, dressed, drove (stopping half way to pick up Lynda) and we skittered our way across the ice towards the start line.

And then the temperature wasn’t too bad.

And the streets were not clear, but they weren’t too bad either.

And the wind gusted a few times, but it wasn’t worth complaining about.

And the company was great.

And the sun came out.

And we ran.

Our first half marathon of the year (and Cody’s first half race ever) and our times were so-so but we had modest expectations, and cute finisher medals, and then we ate brunch, took lots of silly photos and dranks lots of coffee before we called it a success and went home to rest

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Kathy's Run for Pancreatic Cancer (2015)

Distance
Race Status
When
4 years 3 months ago

October 26, 02015

At some point, much earlier this year, before randomness, injury, and life interfered (as it always tends to do somehow) I made a Faustian-esque bargain with the running gods that I would attempt to complete twelve half marathons, one per month, over the duration of 2015… in exchange for Ultimate Running Knowledge

Or, maybe I just thought it would be an interesting idea… I’m not exactly sure how that all came about.

Anyhow, it may seem premature to be throwing in the towel and declaring my loss in this wager quite yet, there being two full months of the year left, but I’m going to tack up a virtual notice right here that after this past weekend’s completion of my sixth half marathon of the year, I think I’m officially done with halves for 2015. 

Finding local races in November and December were going to be tricky, anyhow, and having run what I’d call my “slowest but most satisfying” race of the year on Saturday, I’m leaving this goal half fulfilled.

In 2015, in fact, I’ve run twelve races to date, but only six of them halves:

  • Resolution Run 5k
  • Disney Star Wars Half Marathon
  • Edmonton Hypothermic Half Marathon
  • Red Deer Hypothermic Half Marathon
  • Edmonton Police Half Marathon
  • Calgary Half Marathon
  • Banff-Jasper Relay, Leg 6 (18.3k)
  • Edmonton Canada Day 15k Race
  • Color Me Rad 5k
  • Melissa’s Road Race 10k
  • Edmonton Fall Classic 10 Miler
  • Kathy’s Run Half Marathon

…and have one more 5k on the docket for early December to make it a lucky thirteen on the year. That last 5k will tally my race distance for the year at a hair over 200 klicks. And all this while dealing with a side-lining calf-and-back soft-tissue injury that left me barely able to stand up straight in mid-July, let alone run.

But I pushed on… for whatever that effort is worth: Little to you, but immeasurable to me. Some of that recovery has been very much a solo effort, but there has also been a long list of patient and encouraging running partners who have nudged me along, pushed me to keep up one day and on another, to resume that vague quasi-leadership role I always seem to reluctantly fill. They know who they are and I doubt they want to be called out too publicly for that, but without any and all of them, I’d have probably resumed a couch-potato lifestyle over the summer and I definitely would not have been standing in the chill October air on Saturday morning waiting for the start of yet another half marathon.

It was not fast. 

But sometimes races are about competing with others, and sometimes they are purely about competing with some vague and ineffable demon who is holding you back with self-doubt and the haunting knowledge that with any and every step that damnable pain could lurch back through your muscles and send your flailing into a month or two of random spasm and unending discomfort. 

Not fast is not necessarily bad.

The air was chilly, and the hundred or so runners launched into a winding and somewhat convoluted route that toured some of the best trails in the south half of the city’s river valley. Fresh asphalt, pocked stretches of old re-purposed road, gravel paths through the trees deep with autumn leaves, four crossings of the river, a collection of rolling shale trails, a construction zone through a busy park, and finally a sprint across the dewy grass and through the finish gate.

Jenn, dealing with a similar leg-cramping issue as I over the summer, had registered in the race just a week prior to the date, and was even more reluctant than I about our hope for success. “Two-twenty,” I had joked to our small gaggle of run clubbers who were participating, and she shot me a dubious look before I could correct my jest: “I’ll just be happy to finish on my own two feet.” I had tracked along at her pace until about seventeen klicks in, but her injury was nagging again by that point and we’d lost ten or fifteen minutes to breaks so she could stretch out her nearly-cramping toes. I was reluctant to leave her behind, but there is a balance between being a supportive running partner, and dragging someone up to a pace where they risk further injury… and I was dabbling in the latter. So, we parted ways and, the clock already past two hours, I sprinted the last four klicks, feeling good, but feeling the total distance too, finishing with a clock time right around the two-twenty I had joked about.

Someone slung a purple participant medal around my neck. Claire dragged me to the food tent to get her a cupcake. Photos were snapped. Backs were slapped. And we watched the last few stragglers, including my abandoned training partner, roll in with near-tears of satisfied pain on their faces.

I went home. Hydrated. Ate. Relaxed, and I may have even dozed a little on the couch in the warmth of an autumn sunbeam while the dog slept nearby and the television babbled away in front of me: all roads eventually lead to the couch, it seems.

Did I gain Ultimate Running Knowledge in my quest to race this year? Probably not. I took on a stupidly ambitious goal, but a goal that inspired me to push myself harder than I would have otherwise dared, and a goal that (or so I’ve gleaned from various conversations) has inspired a few others to push themselves too, to run faster races, more races, marathons in faraway places or distances at spectacular paces. In that way it was not a failure: just a very high bar that turned out to be a little too hard to leap, what with a bum leg and all. 

While the running gods may have won their bet this year, it’s not over: our game has a few more rounds and a few more inspired goals before I finally someday, far off in the future, hang up my shoes and settle back into the couch. Until then… I’ve got some thinking to do about next year.

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Calgary Half Marathon (2015)

Distance
Race Status
When
4 years 8 months ago

Another weekend, another race. But actually…

Our little group seems to have so many meaningful race day milestones these days –a mark of pride and achievement, to be sure– that I’d be remiss to try to name any of them as the “Definitive Weekend of Running Awesomeness” for fear of leaving one out. But if I was forced to make a shortlist of, say, the top five annual(ish) weekends that leave an indelible mark upon our crew, Calgary Marathon Weekend would likely be in that list. 

Sure, it’s only been a couple years in which Team Terwillegar has found ourselves populating the ranks of runners racing through the downtown streets of our neighbor city, but in those two years we’ve earned a consecutive pair of outstanding and epic participation badges from whichever higher running authorities happen to award that sort of thing. 

This year was no exception.

We met for a pasta dinner the evening before, twenty-eight of us filling the tables in a crowded corner of the Old Spaghetti Factory down by Eau Claire Market. There was a distinct air of pre-race jitters, not a drop of alcohol displacing the forty jugs of water that were consumed between heaps of delicious pasta. And the talk was largely a mix of anxious nervousness and speculation on the fate of another of our running pals who, in those very moments, was in the last hours of his 100km ultra marathon a few hundred kilometers away… but who hadn’t checked in to social media for a few hours following an ominous “at 50km very dizzy” comment. (He turned out mostly fine, not quite finishing the race on a bungled ankle, but earning more admiration in all our eyes than I think he’ll ever believe…)

Then race morning arrived. A few lingering nerves. A transit system that left at least one of our crew running for the start line, and a packed corral that scattered a large lot of our team to the winds of solo running. 

I stuck with Lynda and my brother for the first third of the race before I lost them in the shuffles. Lynda raced ahead and the next I saw of her was at the finish where she was celebrating her first sub-2 half and, of course, a personal record. Derek had some foot issues, and lost his momentum, but finished still standing. And unbeknownst to me, Stacey was less than a minute behind me for most of the race and nearly matched my time, coming in a mere sixty-odd seconds at my tail.

Jenn had some leg cramps, a frustrating prospect to which I can relate all-too-well thanks to a similar episode last year at the Edmonton Half. To her credit she worked through it and lost only a couple minutes, still cracking a half marathon PR. As she announced as she found me in the grandstand-slash-finish line at the end, she’d “pulled a Brad” and tumbled down to asphalt town thanks to some calf cramping. Potassium!

Leon surprised us all, announcing the evening before (in classic Leon style) that he’d in fact registered for the ultra 50k race… and not the impromptu running of the marathon which we’d assumed he’d spontaneously registered for less than a week previous. He rolled through with a little more than five-hours and thirty on the clock, though I have some evidence in my phone’s chat history that suggests he spent more time texting in the last 8 klicks of the race than running. Still… he ran for three-and-a-half hours longer than I did yesterday.

Oh, and don’t forget Dave, who pulled out a Boston Qualifier time in the marathon yesterday. A bunch of us hung around to watch him finish, squeezing in a nail-biting time with just a minute to spare. Much deserved kudos there!

And of course Heather’s crew who has let the rest of us schmoes mooch and shadow them in their diligent and (obviously) rewarded training regime of the last four months. All those hills and meticulously paced tempo runs made for a slate of awesome first half celebrations. I’ve only just got to know a lot of these folks but hopefully their experience this weekend was positive and keeps them coming back for more torture… at least for the rest of the summer. After all… Edmonton is only a few months away!

I’m hesitant to try and find logic in my own time. I rolled in with a 2:04 on the clock. Four minutes slower than my last half, and not quite meeting my soft goal of casually hoping for a sub-two time. I hadn’t slept great and I had some random aches and pains, not to mention the heat and I are generally not great pals anyways… I would have preferred a steady eight Celsius over the gradual climb into hot-and-sunny that met us during that long morning. That said, I didn’t crash. I just started with a really strong first ten klicks, a strong but slightly slower next five, and an average last quarter. No walls. No fails. Just a solid, but okay race. I probably could have pushed through some of the fatigue, but part of me was just fine with trotting along at a sub-six for two hours and seeing where that landed me.

And I’m happy with that…. particularly since I’ve got another crazy run next weekend.

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