Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chilly Half Marathon

March 5th, 2017: The Chilly Half... I had never run it before, but I had heard only good thing. OK, maybe not only, but mostly. The only negative I ever heard was that if it's a windy day, it's a very windy course since there's nothing to block the wind coming off the lake. So, a minor negative, really. Everything else was positive.
I decided in the fall that this would be a good race to run leading up to Boston. Perfect timing, and a good, fast course to test out the fitness and (hopefully) build up some confidence for April.

I arrived in Burlington nice and early on race day. I wanted to make sure it was a stress-free morning, so I left my house not long after 7:30 and was parked about a block from the start/finish by 8:20am. Perfect! I had lots of time to wander around and check things out, talk with some friends, get a warmup in on a bit of the course, ditch some stuff at the car, and go back to the start to line up. It was great not feeling rushed for any of that. 

One thing I noticed when walking around and also when running, was how much colder it felt there than it did at home when I was leaving. The wind coming off the lake made a big difference. But... the sun was strong. When there was no wind it was comfortable, but when there was wind, it was a bit on the frigid side. The wind didn't seem too bad, so I didn't feel like I needed to cover my ears and was able to wear a regular hat (cap), capris, two thin shirts, and thin gloves.

For my warm-up, around I did a 2 mile run with an out and back on the course, then another half mile after stopping at my car to get my number on, etc. I finished up the second little warm-up run about 15 minutes to race start.

As the race started, and we turned the first corner, I noticed that I was just behind the 1:30 pace group. It was windy in this section, so I tucked into the group to get some shelter from the wind. This had me running a little quicker than I intended to run, but it was a bit of a downhill and it kept me out of the wind. I only stuck with them for maybe 5 minutes or so. I got back onto my own game plan at that point. Well.. sort of. My plan for this race was to keep my pace just under 7:15. Aside from the first mile at 6:51, I was running just over 7 mile pace and it was feeling great. So, I figured I'd roll with it. 10K marker... felt great, then reached 10 miles in 1:10:something... and... only 5K left! I was NOT going to slow down a single second. I was focused on a couple of runners in front of me and actually picked it up slightly to sub-7 pace for those last 5K.

I finished the race in 1:32:01. 01..... I couldn't find 2 seconds somewhere? ugh. but I didn't (and don't) care about that... it was my fastest half marathon so far (by several minutes) and a nice confidence boost.

Just before the final turn to the finish: ~12.9 miles
I was proud of myself, not for the finish time itself (I was happy with that as well, of course).. I was proud of how I ran the race. I was super happy with my splits, which I've included below. I'm becoming a smarter runner!

After the race, I ran a cool down with Graham and then went out for chilly and beer at one of the local establishments. The nice thing about this race's post-race festivities, is the spread it out. There are several bars near the finish line that all serve the beer and chilly to the runners instead of just having it in some gym or community center or whatever.

After the beer and chilly, I went back out to watch more friends finishing and then out for lunch on the way home. All in all, it was an enjoyable race day. I think this race might find it's way into my race schedule again in the future.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Late 2016 & Early 2017: playing catch-up

I've been slacking in the blog department again. The fall races had come and gone, I wrote about them... then came winter... and I stopped.. writing, that is, not running.

Let's see if I can remember what's happened since the last post. It's a good thing that I have Strava to remind me.

I did actually have a race in December, but it's one that I don't really think much about. It's a novelty race... but at least only in the fact that a Santa suit is worn. It's still a regular race if you disregard the outfits, which are made of felt, by he way. I hear felt is the new technical fabric for running clothes!

The race is called the Santa Pur-Suit and is put on the main running organization in the area, Run Waterloo.

Photo by Julie Schmidt
My mom has also run this race every year since it starts, which is the main reason that I also run it. It's become a family tradition. My parents were also nice enough to pick up the race kits before arriving at my house on the Friday evening: one less thing to do race morning!

We went out for dinner somewhere.... (I can't be expected to remember THAT much about that day... although now that I said that, I think we went to B. Hmm... I will consult Untappd to find out.... Yep.. we did!), then back to my house.

Saturday morning, we headed to the race, which starts and finishes at the YMCA in Waterloo. It has nice spacious indoor facilities where people can stay warm if it's a cold day. I don't believe it was overly cold that morning, but it had snowed the night before, just as it had each and every year of this race.

I ran started a warm-up solo, then joined some of my Health & Performance (H+P) teammates on theirs. The not-so-cold temperatures made some of the snow turn into slush, which wasn't fun, but hey.. everyone was going to be dealing with the same crap on the roads.

We headed back to the start area and got ready to race. My only real goal for this race was to run it quicker than I had in the past, and hopefully finally be under 22 minutes. I was not hoping for anything close to a real 5K PR, just a Santa Suit PR.

My past times in this race:
2012 - 24:21
2013 - 22:36
2014 - 22:15
2015 - 22:08

The race itself was fairly uneventful... some slippery and slushy spots, but overall, the course was in pretty decent shape. I finished in 21:56. Finally, I've run sub-22 in a Santa Suit. I finished 7th female, and my team, comprised of one guy and a bunch of women, won the team competition.

H+P Dashers minus Larry (L-R: Erin, Emily, myself, Anne) - photo taken at our club Christmas party
Speaking of the Christmas party (see caption above), H+P unveiled the Club Standards that night: new time goals to target, based on gender and age (open vs master). This goes hand-in-hand with our team rankings site, which has been in place for a while now (a year or two? I'm not sure anymore). It's fun to have some friendly rivalries within the club. It is so inspiring to see so many race times drop lower and lower within the club.

I didn't have a single race in January, it was a month of training. I can't think of anything worth mentioning from that month... on to February!

The return to racing happened in February, with interesting conditions. As I'm sure a lot of people had this year, February was warm this year. It was much warmer than usual, and there was no snow for the bulk of the month. This sounds like it would be a good thing for running, and it was for the most part... I got in great training runs with solid footing, but, I had registered for a snowshoe race. I was starting to think that it was going to turn into a trail race, but there was snow the week before the race and it was announced that the conditions were good for snowshoes on the course.

Race #1 - Snowshoes on little snow
The morning of February 4th, I drove to Shades Mills Conservation Area for the inaugural Dion Winter Goose Chase, which was also my very first snowshoe race.

I arrived nice and early, picked up my number, chatted with a few other runners, and then headed out to do a warm-up on the course in my trail shoes. The course was supposed to be a 3 km loop, run twice, so I figured I would just run it once as well as the little bit from and back to the building for around a 4 km warm-up. I ran around a bit and found the start, went through, and started following the flags. After a while, I start to wonder why I don't feel like I'm heading back toward the start/finish area. I looked at my watch and saw that I had already been running more than 2 miles... and I have no idea where I am. I was still following the flags, so I was clearly on the course, but I had run a distance of more than a full loop... and couldn't see anything that I recognized. I looked around a bit, trying to figure out a way to take a shortcut back, but nothing looked familiar. I started running again and calling out "Hello?" hoping that marshals were out on the course and could direct me back. Time was passing and it was getting closer and closer to start time. I needed to get back to the building, take off a layer and get my snowshoes! I was stressing for a moment, but then just found it funny that I managed to get myself lost. I was only planning on running this race for fun anyway, no goals, just a first attempt at running hard in snowshoes. If I missed the start... I missed the start... not the end of the world.

I finally found my way out and got myself to the building with only 7 or 8 minutes until race start. Got myself to the start and got my SS on just in time, while they were making announcements. Turns out the course had been changed and was now a single 4 mile loop. No wonder I was confused on my warm-up!

I lined up, and the girl beside me took off with the gun, but slowed a little after a km or so. I passed her and she stuck on my heels, until she passed me back around 1.5 miles (yes, I realize I keep switching between km and miles... that's just how I roll). I didn't react to her passing me. I just didn't have my head in race mode and just kept plugging away and let her go. Unfortunately, this put me in no man's land. I ended up slowing down a bit and then had to remind myself that even though I wasn't that into it.. I was still in a race and needed to at least run somewhat hard! So... I picked it up and could see people through some of the trees ahead, so I had some sort of target, something to focus on to get myself to pick up the pace and try to close the gap at least a bit.  I was gaining on the girl a bit, but then a hill showed up.. one that I somehow managed to miss on the warm-up, so I had no idea it was there! I was not expecting this large climb just before the end of the race. I did not handle that climb well... so there was no further closing of any gap. I got myself to the top, ran down as quick as I could and finished the race 56 seconds back from her. Not close at all. But... still 2nd female (8th overall) in my first snowshoe race, so all in all, not a bad day.

Just before the unknown-to-me hill. Photo from Spafford Health and Adventure.
The conditions... there was not much snow at all, but it was still nice that the race remained a snowshoe race. I had registered for a SS race two years ago that had been cancelled due to too much snow! (the roads hadn't been plowed yet and nobody could make it to the park).
Race results and recap can be found here.

Race #2 - Trail shoes on snowy and slushy roads
On Sunday, February 12th, I woke up and looked out the window.... what the crap? Snow... and lots of it. It was completely clear out there the night before. In fact, it was really warm the day before! This was less than ideal.... but it's February... what can you really expect?

I arrived at RIM Park with lots of time to spare before the start of the Re-Fridgee-Eighter, the first Run Waterloo event of the year. I met up with teammates and the conditions were on everyone's minds... what shoes to wear? I brought three different pairs because I wanted to see what the roads were like around that part of town. As I drove in, they were just starting to plow, but first round plowing doesn't generally get down to the pavement, so it was iffy.. plus, that was the main road.. what would the smaller roads be like? The answer, as it turns out, would be very very snowy.

I ended up putting on trail shoes, went out for a warm-up with Val and decided that the trail shoes would stay on for the race. A road race in trail shoes..... didn't seem right.... but in the end, I was very glad I made this choice.

In the race itself, I don't think there was a single section of clear road. It was either a thin layer of slush and snow, thick slush, or thick snow. During the race, it snowed, and there was also some freezing rain. I guess it is supposed to be a winter race.... .and it certainly was!

I ran most of the race around what I considered to be half marathon pace, and that's because I couldn't go any faster in those conditions. I felt like I ran it well, that I raced well. I ran the 8 mile distance in 58:22, which I would not have been happy with on clear roads, but in this... I was quite happy with it, especially when compared to last year, when this race was the first indication that there was something wrong with me. It took 2 more races last year before I knew I was anemic, but this was the first race that felt crappy. OK... back to this year. I placed 6th for females.

The best footing on the course. Photo by Julie Schmidt.
After the race, which was the first of any of his races that Lloyd Schmidt has missed since becoming RD back in 1987, a group of runners brought the race to the hospital, where he was recovering from cancer surgery. Lloyd means a lot to everyone in the running community (as well as to many outside of the running community); he is constantly giving and is one of the most selfless people I know. A short video about Lloyd and the event can be found here.

I think that's a good place to end this post. I'll write about last weekend's race in a separate post.