On Saturday, I ran my first half-marathon of the year. It was called the Run For L’Arche. Originally, I signed up for this half marathon as part of my New Years Resolution to try winter running. In the past, when winter has hit I’ve given up on running, at least outdoors. But I have found this makes very difficult training considering we get winter basically from October -April. This year, I did fairly well with my winter running although, I have to admit, I’m still a bit of a baby when it came to the cold so when it would dip below -10 Celsius, I would move my run indoors to the treadmill. I figured that was a safe bet since my half marathon was at the end of March and we should be done with the cold weather….boy was I wrong!
I had been checking the weather forecast multiple times per day since the 14 day forecast was available. At first it said it was going to be 6 Celsius! I was so pumped, a perfect temperature for running. But then as the days went by and we became closer to race the day, the forecast got progressively worse. My 6 changed to -15 with a “feels like” -22 Celsius. When I saw that, I was terrified. I have never run in that cold of weather. I don’t even have appropriate winter running gear and I had no idea how to dress! I didn’t want to overheat but I knew I was going to be out there for a long time so I had to make sure I didn’t get frostbite! I was really worried about my bottom half. I have a pair of New Balance Heat running tights but when I have run in them in -10, my thighs have been cold. So I went on the hunt the day before the race for an under layer. I checked multiple store who all told me they didn’t have them anymore because all the winter stuff is gone. Ugh, am I the only one who hates that stores have their summer stuff out and it’s impossible to buy something that’s for your current season! So I decided I would have to suck it up and just wear my NB tights and hope they worked. But on race day, at the last-minute as I was walking out the door, I saw a pair of my running capris hanging up in the laundry room and decided to layer those underneath my tights. BEST. DECISION. EVER! On top, I wore my merino wool under layer, a Nike thermal running hoodie & my Lululemon Forme jacket. And then of course I wore a toque and gloves.
I was completely prepared to do this race on my own without any support as Tom was out-of-town and I hadn’t told many friends about it. But my friend showed up at the start line to cheer me on and I was really so grateful. You cannot underestimate the amount of energy boost that support gives you.
The start was self-seeded. This wasn’t a huge race, there were 236 runners in the half-marathon. So I joined near the back. We were all jumping around like beans trying to stay warm. The announcer was trying to say something but the cold made the microphone cut out and the air horn was frozen. But eventually, I did just hear the speaker say “go”, and we were off!
I ran this half marathon using the Jeff-Galloway run-walk method that I have been training with. Although, I changed my rest from 1 minute to 40 second. So I was doing 4 minute running/40 second walking.
I was feeling good the first couple of miles. Too good, in fact. My planned pace during my run is 9:30/mile. Every time I looked at my Garmin though I was closer to 9:00. I kept on trying to slow myself down as I didn’t want to burn all my energy at the beginning and be dragging at the end. But still, my body kept going faster, so eventually I decided to just go with it. Maybe I was feeling great today and I would finish faster than planned, I just let my body rather than my Garmin dictate my pace.
Around mile 4, all of a sudden I felt hungry. This was really strange, I have never felt hungry on a run. I ate my normal, pre-run breakfast of 2 pieces of toast, peanut butter & 2 eggs. I decided to start with my fuelling earlier than planned because I knew if I already felt hungry this could mean a crash later on. I pulled out 3 of my honey stinger energy chews and got those down. And I started taking Gatorade earlier than planned as well to give myself that extra boost of energy.
At mile 6, we hit a wind. A ferocious wind that was causing tears to stream from my eyes and make me want to quit. On top of that, for the last half mile to the turn around point, we were off the paved path and were running on snow covered ground which is a lot harder on the legs. As I ran in the wind towards the turn around point, I just kept thinking please let that wind be at my back when I turn around. But no, I turned around and was hit hard. That wind was coming straight on. I took my first unscheduled walk break at that time, feeling defeated already and I was only half way. I went to take some more energy chews but they were frozen. My lips were also frozen. I could barely chew let alone chew a frozen gummy. I managed to get one down but I knew I wouldn’t be able to take any more chews throughout the race.
Miles 7-8 my pace started to slow, my legs felt heavy and I felt like I needed more energy. I went for some Gatorade, but I wasn’t able to get the cap open because it was frozen shut. I took off the whole lid and was able to drink some Gatorade, although, it was mostly ice crystals which didn’t help my frozen lips situation. A little while later when I tried for some water I found my whole water bottle was completely frozen. I realized at this point I had to rely on the aid stations for any future water/Gatorade.
Miles 8-11 I was able to get back in a rhythm and keep up my planned 9:30 pace. But by mile 11 I started struggling again. I was so cold and felt drained of energy. I was talking to myself, trying to pump myself up. I literally kept saying to myself, “everything ya got, everything ya got”, in the exact high pitch voice of Lonnie from the movie, I Love You Man.
I wasn’t able to complete my 4 minute runs by this point, I was just trying to go as long as I could before taking a walk break. Although, somehow I was still passing people. The last 2 miles or so is always full of the “zombie walkers”. Which are people who pushed too hard at the beginning and are struggling at the end, they basically are walking like zombies because their legs are just done. Don’t get me wrong, I too was a zombie walker but I was a faster zombie walker than many! Realizing that gave me the last push of adrenaline that I needed. When I came across the last bridge I knew the finish line was on the other side, I gave it all that I had. And when I saw the clock read 2:13, I couldn’t believe it. I was going to make my goal! I pushed and pushed! I crossed that finish line and got my much deserved medal.
Final time: 2:13:24! A whole minute and a half under my goal time! I was so happy with this considering the struggles that I had. And as a true runner, it got me already thinking about my next time goal.
At the finish line they had water, chocolate milk and bananas. In addition, there was a pancake breakfast that had pancakes, sausages & eggs! I tried eating my banana but all I could taste was lactic acid which made me want to throw up. After saying goodbye to my friend who came back to cheer me on at the finish, I went to the pancake breakfast. However, I still wasn’t feeling up to eating. I tried a couple bites of my pancakes and ended up throwing it in the garbage. My stomach was turning, I did however manage to drink my chocolate milk! Just as I tell my running room groups, sometimes it’s easier to drink something than eat once you’re finished. And I didn’t want to miss that half hour window to replenish!
The race was really well-organized. There was a lot of great volunteers on the course telling you which way to go and I was amazed by the supporters out there braving the cold. There was this one group dressed up as superheroes who were awesome. They really helped me near the end. They had great signs, like “Chuck Norris never ran a half-marathon” and “It hurts more to quit than to finish”.
Would I run it again? I’m not sure, when I finished I definitely would have said no. But the weather in March is so unpredictable, next year it could be 6 degrees! At the very least, it’s unlikely that it could be worse than this year. Right?
What was your toughest run? What did you get up to this weekend?