Hypothermic Half (2020)

Race Status

something something crazy, something something repetition.

February 16, 2020

About 15 klicks into this morning's race I remembered why I never do this run.

The annual Hypothermic Half physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. You're facing down the elements, you're facing down a few months of winter break, you're facing down a grueling course that should be easier than it actually is given that it's just flat urban street even if it's covered in ice and chop-snow that is the texture somewhere between oatmeal and beach sand.

I had a strong first half. I think this was because I've been training a strong 10 klick base and cross-training. I think it also had something to do with the footing, which deteriorated into a brutally broken course after the first lap of halfers, then a full slate of 10 klick and 5 klick racers trudged into into chop.

The second half did me in. The mental game got me, telling myself that I had to hold it together and pondering how I lost 20 minutes of speed in a mere four months. You don't tend to think rationally mid-race, which is part of the challenge, shaping the run into instinct and a plan and just sticking to it all. Instead, you berate yourself for things that are obviously beyond your control: the conditions are meant to be hard, and if it was actually a cold-cold day, and not just a brisk -10 C with a slight breeze on the East arm of the loop, my extra twenty minutes over my last half could have easily been thirty or forty extra. Holding my "on a whim" with limited training first half of the long, long year to a mere 15% time increase was actually pretty respectable.


I slogged thru to the finish, shivered myself to balanced while waiting for a few of the ladies to cross the line, and then we went for brunch.

When I got home I hung my medal and realized that this was at least the fifth time I've run the Hypothermic Half: two locations in 2015, 2016, 2018 and now 2020. Every time there has been a kind of test: a physical, mental, and emotional draining that happens that lends me the inclination to avoid this run in the future. One of those famous who-said-it quotes online is: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results ... and while it probably doesn't matter who said it to if it's true or not, I'm not sure where that leaves me.

...and then I picked up my race package

February 15, 2020 (1 day pre-race)

On my way home from work Friday as the long weekend kicked into gear. I walked across the high level bridge and up to the Running Room store to nab my packet and big and swag.


This was a race that used to be quasi-famous for its unique give-aways: a backpack for a few years in a row, a hydration pack last year. Not to mention the epic brunch at the finish line. It’s worth it for the bacon alone, everyone says. This year we got a purple toque and an insulated coffee mug. I don’t need another shirt, but I also don’t need an insulated coffee mug. Whatever. It’s about the run, right?

In my head this race is simultaneously a throwaway and a big deal.

I’ve been resting, on a break, cruising through a conditioning phase while I await the kickoff of my real training... and then here I am running a half marathon tomorrow. What the f? In my head I cross that start line in about 24 hours and Chicago training begins. I’m not going to crank distances or anything stupid this early, but my mind will mark a start and an end. The end is obvious, but this race, crossing that start line is the first step towards another marathon. My first big race of the year to my last big race of the year. If that makes any sense.

...and then the forecast narrowed in

February 14, 2020 (2 days pre-race)

Almost exactly 48 hours before the race and (tempted by Valentine's chocolates I'm not supposed to be eating!) the sun is bright, the forecast is chilly but mild and the long weekend is about to roll in with a full roster of activities and running.

Multiple people I know are vacationing or leaving on vacation shortly. My folks are posting pics from Cartagena where the temperatures are too hot to be out doing crazy things like half marathons and I only mention it because they are there for a family wedding and if we had been more inclined I may have been wandering around a Columbian beach this morning rather than trolling the Edmonton forecast for hopes of moderate temperatures for a long Sunday race.

...and then it snowed

February 12, 2020 (4 days pre-race)

I'm writing this from a bus, which is both a testimony to the robustness of this website's technology's efficacy from a mobile device but also a herald of the weather because the weather and roads were too stupidly icy to drive today.

They say it's a blip in the weather. It'll be great weather for the long weekend! They say a lot of things. But rash decisions have left me pondering the efficacy of medium term weather forecasting yet again.

Also... of the two other people I know who are running, one is currently sick with the flu and the other was having serious doubts about the race at our crew dinner last night.

We ran in the muck of it last night and after five klicks of pounding through ankle deep fresh snowbanks I was ready to plop into a comfy chair and forget that I owed the streets a lot more footfalls in 2020.

...and then I thought: maybe I'm crazy

February 11, 2020 (5 days pre-race)

I've told no one except my wife at this point. I can't explain the general secrecy motif I have going on. It's not like it's a big deal or anything, but I think I just want to show up with as few expectations as possible.

I've been re-reading all my old race reports, a consequence of spending time building out the initial phases of a site like this one, and there has been a theme running through my training over the years. I've become more and more casual about longer and longer races.

Back in 2012 a half marathon was a BFD. I trained. I fueled. I honed. I fretted and lost sleep.

By summer of 2019, I was wandering four hours through the streets of Dublin and drinking pints of Guinness an hour before crawling into bed and wandering over to the start line.

So right now I feel pretty casual about the half... but my anxiety has switched over to the full. I'm lightly freaking out about the full. I'm having second thoughts about the full -- which is now booked and non-refundable paid for so I'm running the full. A big part of me wants to move the needle on feeling more relaxed about the full and turning the half into just a thing I do on a whim feels like a step towards that.

So, I've booked it and told no one except my wife, and maybe I am crazy.

...and then it was a thing

February 10, 2020 (6 days pre-race)

Despite my better judgement, in a moment of weakness (or would you call that strength?) and having checked the weather forecast for the upcoming weekend I registered for the Edmonton Hypo Half. I said I wasn't gonna do it, and I swore I was on something of a training break, but I'm feeling pretty good with the cross training, and feeling pretty well-breaked with the six weeks of not-running-so-much, I kinda got in a what-the-hell kinda mood and just signed up. What else is there to say? Well, sometimes you just say yes, even when it's a dumb idea.

The last half marathon I ran was in October, in the Okanagan and it was a damn good run. Standing on the start line of the hypo in mid-February, it'll be almost four months to the day since that race. Different province, different season, different weather, different mood.

A few people I know are running, but I'm thinking I'm just gonna keep mum about this registration. If people find out, sure, I'll cop to it. But part of me wants (a) an out if the forecast lied and (b) a not-a-big-deal approach to this one.

Game on.

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