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.

Edmonton Police Foundation Half Marathon (2015)

Distance
Race Status
When
4 years 9 months ago

It’s funny how you can be very happy with a result and simultaneously kicking yourself over the same thing.

Despite (and against) a number of factors, I scored a personal record in this morning’s half marathon. A PR for my best half marathon ever. KA-POW! 

According to the official chip tracking posted on the website and forever immortalized on the Edmonton Police Foundation Half Marathon webpage my time was a respectable two hours and fourty-eight seconds. That’s right: 2:00:48… blasting through my previous best time of 2:03:45 set back in 2012 by nearly three whole minutes.

As a side note: according to my watch, my time was 2:01:45. This is technically wrong, only because after crossing the line I noted that my distance (which varies by the accuracy of the GPS on any given day, was at 21.03 klicks. Strava, which I use to track everything these days, doesn’t give you credit for a half marathon, and thus a record for the half, unless you hit that 21.1 klick mark. No mulligans. No editing or adjusting after. I’ve missed credit on February and March because my watch came up short and with this record I wasn’t missing this one. I think that’s a bug, but whatever. So I walked for about a minute after crossing the line to make sure I got the full 21.1 km — knowing the chip would record my verified race time. 

It doesn’t sound like much but in a half marathon, three minutes is a heavy chunk of time. Three minutes is months of hard, fast, painful training pushed out in rain, or snow or at five in the morning when I’d rather be sleeping. That three minutes, for me at least, was hard won. 

Back in 2012 I had just trained crazy hard all summer. It was in that few months that a monumental shift occurred in my effort and attitude towards this crazy sport and I’ve yet to look back. Even so, I’ve yet to even come within five minutes of that time since. Two-tens, two-twelves, and even a two-oh-eight once, but always the elusive two-hour mark was far, far away.

Now, a roughly two hour time is not amazing, I admit, and it’s definitely not going to put me into contention for elite status or win me any fame and glory anywhere besides my own head, but for a guy who sometimes (read: often) questions the sanity of this whole running thing, it’s nice to know I still can find room to improve. So all in all you’d think I’d be over the moon right now.

The thing is… I choked. I could see the last stretch and I just couldn’t for every yelling, screaming, berating pep-talk I was giving myself inside my brain, bring it home. With two klicks left to run my legs were not cooperating with my brain: the wall had officially been hit, and… 

But let’s back up a bit, shall we?

The weather was chilly, right around freezing and threatening to only warm up a little bit. I got to the race just in the knick of time, traffic and parking being unexpectedly insane and literally jogged the klick from my car to the start to catch the gun. In this moment of haste, I had to decide between the gear I’d brought along, parsing out a few of the options based on weather and weight. I went for the slim belt, no jacket, cap and gloves. I left my hydration fuel belt in the car –dum, dum, dumb– along with my nutrition.

I ran the whole race only stopping at about half the water stations and never taking any extra calories. This seemed fine, at least for the first nineteen klicks. Then it was all I could do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I even had a few seconds of head-spinny dizziness and walked it off, but it passed. But the effort was lost and the seconds were squandered.

I mentioned in the open that I was kicking myself over a great time.

The fuel is why: I checked my math at 10.5 klicks along and holding my pace I would have hit 1:57. I checked my math at 16 klicks, and with five klicks to go I was still on track for about a 1:58. Ditto at seventeen. Ditto at eighteen. Ditto even as I entered the home stretch at nineteen. A few jelly beans or gummy bears or a couple swigs of Gatorade and I’d probably be rocking a blog post about my first sub-two right now. 

Runner meet the wall. 

But all that aside, half marathon number four of 2015 was otherwise awesome, and a great run. The route was challenging but amazing. The event was really well organized. And I’m still standing to write about it a few hours later.

And I guess I have a goal for Calgary in a few weeks. Sub-2?

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Red Deer Hypothermic Half (2015)

Distance
Race Status
When
4 years 11 months ago

Twenty-Fifteen's 3rd Half 

… is a title that makes a lot more sense when you realize that this post is (a) about running and (b) referring to my third official half-marathon race of the calendar year.

In a (possibly misguided) attempt to run a half marathon every month of 2015, I crossed March off the list yesterday as we travelled South to Red Deer and I ran the Hypothermic Half in that sleepy little city I once called home. My third of 2015. Third. A goal that is both a little goofy and a a little meh. 

Yet, here I am: a mere 10 Sundays in this year and I’ve got three halfers under my belt. Nothing to scoff at, I suppose.

The race was hardly deserving of the name. Usually the Hypo is (locally) famed for the extreme cold weather that tends to appear this time of the year. But yesterday was awesome. The temperatures were hovering right around the zero-degree-freezing mark, but for me that meant shorts weather, and I’m glad I opted to avoid longer pants. My legs are not really prone to suffering in the modest cold as much as, say, my hands and head — which were adequately covered. 

There were obstacles: some nicely slicked up spots in unexpected places, and one that nearly brought me down, as well as a few massive trail-blocking puddles and some minor off-roading that took us through a snowy patch which actually did bring the girl I was drafting behind just then clumping onto her face in a snowbank.

I conquered the single hill with only a slight moderation to my pace, and despite the scattered presence of water stations (there were only three!) I managed to stay fairly hydrated due to my near-perfect wardrobe selection reducing the sweat-loss factor.

In the end it wasn’t my best time, but it was my best on the year. A modest 2:09… I’d love to break that two hour mark, and I think it is definitely in the cards for this grand year of half running… but perhaps on a race with a little less ice.

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Star Wars Half Marathon (2015)

Distance
Race Status
When
5 years ago

January 22, 2015

Barely more than a year after completing my epic Dopey four-race challenge in Disney World in Florida, I found myself once again staring down the start line of a RunDisney event in the wee pre-dawn hours a few hundred meters from yet another a famous theme park Disneyland, ready to run twenty-one-point one klicks.

On a completely different side of the continent, in the cool morning of a California January day, I laced up my shoes and trotted at a casual but brisk pace through the dimly lit corridor of the Disneyland Resort, past the security check, between the grand gates of California Adventure and the Magic Kingdom, along the mostly closed shoppes of Downtown Disney, and swooped South by the meters-tall Mickey Mouse sorcerer’s hat that greets visitors to the Disneyland Hotel. I had left the hotel with one or two other runners in my shadow, but by the time I reached my corral I was in the company of hundreds… soon to be thousands.

Half in January:
Star Wars RunDisney Half Marathon 

I arrived with thirty minutes to spare, and claimed a few square feet of asphalt and curbside calf-stretching zone while I watched the pre-race entertainment on the giant screen suspended from the pedestrian bridge nearby.

I hadn’t run a Half Marathon since my epic-fail showing at the Edmonton Half in August, and –shorter, highly successful races aside– I was feeling the nerves. Sure, I’d run a couple 10 klick races in darn-near PR times. And sure, my very recent 5k set the bar for my own personal record making quite high. But my calves had been acting up again (as I told no one) and having walked around the Disney Parks for two days of fun prior to the event, well, let’s just say I was more than a little anxious over the upcoming twenty-one klicks.

Fireworks. Spectacle. A thousand geeks in Star Wars costumes punching their way at lighspeed from the starting gate. Could one expect any less of a Disney event. If nothing else, Disney knows how to put on a show. Disney should probably be reserved for celebration events; huzzah-me-type end-of-season training rewards. But I was getting my fireworks before I’d even run a single step of my single half marathon on 2015.

After that what else is there to say? We ran. There were jedi and droids, wookies and yodas. I ran in the glow of a few thousand lightsabers as I weaved my way through the parks, up Main Street USA, along the neon aisle of Tomorrowland, past Darth Vader posing with fans and waving at Stormtroopers who were riding a carousel behind a pink fairty tale castle lit in the discotheque flash of a surreal dreamlike bit of insanity. 

We ran and we ran some more. California Adventure was starting to glow with the slowly rising sun, but the faux rockscape of Radiator Springs was lit in a magestic orange hue that was spectacular to run nearly solo through as I neared the final twists of my in-park running.

The streets of Anaheim were a blur. A long suburban stretch through the SoCal flats was punctuated by cheering high schoolers and costumed spectators, music and water stops and the never-ending huffing-and-puffing of costumed runners finally realizing that dressing head-to-toe in a science-fiction flight suit or running with a black cape and plastic mask were not ideal race strategies.

I was getting a little achey by sixteen klicks. I had killed my time dawdling through the parks for the first six klicks, adding at least fifteen, but probably nearly twenty-five minutes to my overall time before the real race had begun. But through Anaheim the need to pose with stormtroopers or pause for jedi selfies had diminshed and I leveled out my pace to finish at a mediocre (but understandable) 2:23-ish, or thereabouts. 

I ached. But I grabbed my finisher medal, a glorious replica of the Medal of Yavin from SW:ANH, and met up with my support crew, ready for another day of showing off my new bling as we wandered through the theme parks… and at least Princess Anna thought it was pretty shiny.

Anticipation

June 10th, 2014

Registration opens in a little less than two hours. And if the pattern holds true, will close about ten minutes later. In other words, we’ve got a very, very narrow window to try and secure a couple spots in the brand new Run Disney offering: The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend.

That’s the problem with a lot of things these days: too many people for too few spots.

Twitter is aflutter. Facebook is brimming with speculation. And the event website has little more than the teasing message: “Registration for the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend presented by Sierra Nevada Corporation opens at Noon EDT on June 10, 2014. Sign up here for an email reminder.”

Email reminder? Ha! By the time I react to THAT the race may be sold out. By the time I put another layer between me and my name on that much coveted bib, it will be someone else’s name. This is not a time for email reminders. This is a time for frantic reloads, and scouring social media for the slightest glimmer of a hint that the opportune moment has arrived.

Virtual line ups are comfortable, because you can sit in a chair and do other things, like actual work. But then you can’t see if there are a dozen other people in line with you… or a million. And when those gates open, and everyone starts clicking at once, there is nothing orderly or calm about it.

Anticipation. Will we get in? Or will we be sitting this one out? I hope. But, that’s all I have and I’m sure when I find out either way, the next few –or next few dozen– running posts will have mention of it.

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Edmonton Half (2014)

Distance
Race Status
When
5 years 5 months ago

Crazy Half 

August 20, 02014

Six klicks with the gang last night felt pretty solid after a couple weeks of aimless drifting and sporadic running. I almost felt as if I could pick back up and attempt this race that their all doing in a few days… maybe not the marathon …definitely not the marathon. But the half, almost. It will be the one year runniversary of my first marathon this coming weekend, and if plans go according to plan, I won’t be running but instead parked at the sideline with my lens targeting speedy-speedsters. That seems to be the theme of the summer: watching races. But I’ll get back into it soon. Really. I have three of my own scheduled for September. We ran six, then went for beers and taps. It was fun. And if I don’t mention it before then, good luck to all the weekend racers.

(addendum)

Call it crazy, or maybe a little nostalgic for last year’s marathon, but I pulled a last minute registration for the half out of my feel-good high from last night’s run. Guess I’ll see everyone on Sunday morning after all.

My Legs Hurt 

August 25, 02014

So, the story of my ninth half marathon isn’t as awesome as I would have hoped this time yesterday. Cruising along and on track for a PR –yeah, really– my calves started to ache around the 18k mark. I slowed, and resigned myself to a good-but-not-great time. I’d swung around the corner at the 20(ish) klick mark, the hints of the finish line visible up ahead further down Jasper Avenue, and –BAM– like being shot in the back of both legs within seconds of each other. Worst. Leg Cramps. Ever. I actually rolled, fell down, was laying down in the middle of the road in charlie-horse-pain-hell, waving off a dozen or so of my fellow runners who were trying to help as I tried not to pass out from the pain. A cop came over, helped me to the curb, gave me some water, and offered to call a medic. But I opted to hobble it in, instead, every step painful for the last kilometer, and ultimately added an extra fifteen minutes to my time because of the injury… all within sight of the end. This morning, my calves are crazy sore, and not happy about anything that involves their participation. Getting to and from work is going to be fun. 

My Legs (Still) Hurt 

August 26, 02014

Another pain-and-recovery update: Yesterday sucked. Yesterday every movement of my legs, anything at all that put stress or strain on my calves, felt like a delicate balancing act of ache and that urge-to-stretch-it-out and the feeling that they were one-second-from-going-nuclear and right back into a full-on cramp. The last thing I wanted was to be rolled and broken, crushed to the floor of the mall as I was walking to the LRT, or trying to get some lunch from the food court, so I hobbled slowly, stairs the most painful of all, but made it through the day with just a few bruises on my pride. I spent the entire evening doing careful and slow stretches, sitting on the floor on in front of the television to distract myself, icing and then kneading each of my lower legs with a little massage ball. Resting. Elevating. Massaging some more, all before crawling into bed early and hoping that I wouldn’t be woken in the middle of the night with explosions of cramping pain. This morning things are improving. My legs still hurt, but they now feel like they are stiff and sore, in need of a really good stretch or massage, and I don’t have that ready-to-implode feeling (not as much) anymore. I’m thinking I’m going to need a few more days sans running, but with work I could be back in action by the weekend.

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Run Wild (2013)

Distance
Race Status
When
6 years 9 months ago

 My athletic interest has me running epic runs these days. I’ve run a couple of races, one for each of the last weekends:

First… a pretty little bedroom community just a gnat’s breath to the North of Edmonton, the City of St. Albert played host to the RunWild race series on May 5. I had found myself registered in the half-marathon, and had been actively maintaining my training for that race over the last few months.

Then summer happened. No, really. All in one day. It’s as if on Friday morning we were thinking about how great is was going to be when the snow finally disappeared and spring arrived. On Saturday we were in shorts, doing yard work. And on Sunday — race day — we were full-on in Summer, having skipped Spring altogether.

The consequence was multi-fold. The race course, which was meant to be a relatively flat run through the river-creek trail system that bisects the City, was flooded. Really flooded. So much flooded in fact that I was surprised to have seen a map of a creek on Google Maps when I loaded it up to find out the name of the lake we had run beside that morning. It was not a lake, obviously. And because of the flooding they had diverted the route up and into the neighbourhoods adding a multitude of more hills than I was expecting.

It was also hot… the hottest weather we’d run in for six months, in fact. It was even warmer than my December run through the streets of Las Vegas.

I ended up with a modest time of 2:08, a very nice finisher medal, and a goodly case of heat-stroke to boot.

April 23, 2013

My first half marathon of the season… year… well, since Vegas, anyhow, takes place in just a little less than two weeks. At least three of the fine folks from my running club are joining me on the RunWild course in St. Albert, Alberta on the first Sunday in May. A bunch of others are headed off to Vancouver. Long-story-short our months of scatter-shot training will be paying off in a mere thirteen days.

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Rock'n Roll Las Vegas (2012)

Distance
Race Status
When
7 years 2 months ago

Running Las Vegas
Rest, Race & Rum 

December 2, 02012

Race day. And for the better part of the morning I stayed off my feet and hid myself away in my hotel room. Karin took transit North to some kind of outlet mall, but after venturing out for another quick breakfast, I promptly put my pajamas back on and curled up on the bed to watch some television and rest up for the evening’s race.

Upon Karin’s return, we hit up one of the Treasure Island lobby restaurants for a quick lunch, then sauntered back to the room to get ready. So many runners were wandering around already wearing their gear and numbers and it just seemed like it might be a good idea to prepare and move south to the assembly area sooner than later.

There is not much to tell about that walk. We strolled our way in and out of various hotels, stopping to check out the various holiday displays we’d missed on previous strolls. We stopped frequently for breaks and to gaze at the crowds.

As we reached the Southerly end of the strip, right near the Excalabur Hotel, we paused for a good half an hour on the pedestrian bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard. The full marathon was starting and a crowd had gathered, noses pressed to the one side of the wire fence. I grabbed a small patch of space between some eager onlookers and was able to capture some snaps and some video of the leaders pulling into (roughly) the fourth kilometer of their race. They were moving at a good clip and still looking strong, egging the crowd into cheering them on.

We moved on after the first big waves of runners turned into a steady rush.

Pre-Race

So much of what happened between lacing up my shoes and slipping them off five hours later in our hotel room is a blur that it’s tough to put it down as a cohesive narrative here.

The race was staged as a snaking ribbon of people stretching from the start line back for over a kilometer of page-grouped corrals. I had seeded myself at a guessed time (I registered before I ran my previous half in August) of 2:10. This put me in corral 14, so I’m guessing a good four to six thousand runners back in the pack. Maybe more. Maybe less. But there was a lot of distance and a lot of bodies between me and the start line, and we were packed in pretty tight.

The sun set. The wind picked up. People’s hats were blowing off. Fences were tumbling around. A small branch blew loose from a nearby palm tree and hit some poor guy on the head. Not much I could do, but I could imagine something like that — those little things — could throw a guy off in the minutes before the race.

There were brides-to-be everywhere too. Run-through-weddings were apparently the thing to do this year. And after we’d eventually start I’d do my share of dodging happy couples and various wedding parties strung across the race path.

The first few waves took off right on schedule and we could sort of hear something going on way ahead. It would take another twenty-one minutes and a series of successive “move-ups” lead by a couple gals with signs and ropes before we reached our turn. They were counting down for each corral: 10… 9… 8… 

We were poised there on the start and some Vegas radio personality was revving up the crowd of nervous runners, while we all continued the long slow shuffle to the start line: 7… 6… 5…

It was about here that I realized that standing in a queue for about 45 minutes coupled with the long walk and the extra hydration I had been doing that (and my apologies for the detail, but…) I was going to need to pee soon: 4… 3… 2…

I had my finger on the button of my watch, my video camera secured tightly around my wrist, and … 1… GO!

The Las Vegas Half Marathon

And here is where things get hazy, and all I can offer is some vague impressions:

… thousands upon thousands of people moving forward into the night in a mass wave of movement and spirit. 

… the wind, the noise, the music, and the lights.

… the dozens of people dressed in a vast variety (and quality) of Elvis wardrobe, wedding apparel, flashing, glitzing, glamming, and every imaginable colour and flag.

… stopping for that two minute bathroom break at around the five kilometer mark (because I just couldn’t hold it until the next opportunity.)

… coincidentally passing the finish line (on the opposite side of the road) just as the first place marathoner was making his final dash to the line.

… the streets sticky, tacky, clumsy, and wet with Gatorade.

… the guy who patted me on the back during one of my intervals wondering if I was doing ok because I wasn’t quite moving quick enough.

… more lights, more people, more noise.

… the Def Leppard cover band playing at the gates of Freemont Street and the fire-breathing giant grasshopper nearby.

… dodging and whirling, sidestepping, and trying to keep a decent pace in an unrelenting wave of people, more people, and even more people.

… so many people giving up so close to the finish line, or at least stopping to rest or stretch or massage a knot out of their muscles.

… the growing crowds, cheering and shouting words of encouragement in the last miles of the race.

… the lights and neon as we re-entered the strip, passing the pirate ships and volcanos and fountains and…

… the countless photographers flashing pics and and capturing moments from the blur of people.

…crossing the finish line, throwing my hands into the air in triumph, and then…

Post-Race

Karin had seen me cross the line and flagged me down as I was stumbling forward through the chute picking up the post-race swag and food. I got a medal and a couple victory photos. I chugged a whole bottle of water and a chocolate milk for good measure. Somewhere in there I ate something, too, but that’s all a little hazy.

The chute was a good kilometer long: logistically smart, but it led me in the wrong direction for four city blocks before I could escape back into the reality of the muggles and the crowd. And I sauntered back, wrapped in my free mylar blanket, never actually finding my wife until we met up again the hotel room.

By this point it seemed impossibly late, but it was just barely past eight: so we did dinner, had a drink in the hotel bar, and… well… that was that.

In the end, my time was a modest 2:12. Nine minutes slower than my summer half marathon, but given the crowds, the congestion, and the vacation around which this whole thing was wrapped… well, I was pretty happy.

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