A few weeks ago I ran my 15th half marathon, on a whim. On the Friday of Winterman, my Mom, who was going to be in town that weekend, texted me to see if I wanted to do the race. I would do the half-marathon and she would do the full (her 50th marathon, I should add). It was admittedly the first time I entered a race last minute. I had unfinished business at this race after being pulled off in 2014 due to a frost bite scare. The forecast was looking great and in the back of my head, I knew I would get a mental boost from running a race. Normally I build a half-marathon into my marathon trying cycles, but given that Shamrock Marathon is in March, there are limited half-marathons in the lead up. Whereas with later spring marathons, take your pick of X, Y, Z, March-April races to use as trainers.Now if we back it up a bit, I wasn’t having a great training week up until my Mom’s text. I was feeling sluggish, and had decided to take a few days off. In fact, I was on the fence if I would even do a long run that week. As much as I love marathon training, that’s one of the downsides of being in (nearly) continuously training-mode. You run the risk of feeling over trained and unmotivated; I’ve accepted that this is a very normal part of the process and don’t beat myself up *too much* for having these thoughts.
The Winterman race is a long standing event that runs annually in February. For the past few years the temperatures have been -20ºC, or colder. In fact, last year the event was cancelled. The event begins at the Canadian War Museum and does an out and back loop along the Sir John A. Parkway. In theory, this is a great training race. The route includes two hills that runners hit four times per loop, and is run almost primarily on the road. There is about a 500m loop on the sidewalk at the War Museum. That said, it has historically been known to be covered in snow, salt and ice. To be expected with a name like Winterman, I suppose.
Race Day. We missed the race registration online, so we sent my Dad over to register us at 6:30AM on the morning of. I really do have the best Dad. I was sitting on the couch drinking coffee when he came back to with our bibs and ankle chips. Ok, so this is really happening. While I wasn’t planning for this to be a PB race, I expected a 1:4x, preferably on the lower side. The day before the race we were in Montreal visiting my sister and brother-in-law and were walking around downtown all day. Seeing that this was not a race I was planning for, I didn’t fuss with my normal pre-race routines. I’ll JFR, was the plan.
I live conveniently close to the start, so Mom and I walked over 28 minutes before the start. It was a beautiful day and I was truly happy I decided to run this race. After running the majority of my long runs on the treadmill, I was desperate to remind these legs that we gearing up to run fast outside. The goal is the Shamrock Marathon, after all.
The race begins. Wow this crowd is moving fast. I quickly realize that the vast majority of the participants were running a 5K or a relay. Just like in a marathon, the course always clears out once the 5-10K'ers are gone. As always, I repeat not to get ahead of myself. I encounter the first of the rolling hills and I am reminded of how many times I’ve run this stretch before. Today I will be running it 8 times (4 loops, out and back). Oh joy. UP AND OVER.
4:58, 4:53, 4:45, 4:54, 4:45
It would be great to be in top 5, I think. Then remind myself that this is a training run, no pressure today. Keep your head. I take a Hammer Gel around 10K. I’ve been using GenUCan lots in my training, but I’ve decided that gels are easier to use on the race course. I used this race as a practice run for my stomach. Thankfully, no issues!
4:49, 4:57, 4:57, 4:46, 5:01
After the second loop, I tell myself we are on the penultimate loop. I smile thinking of my coach saying this to us as we run around the track. I know that this is the point in the race/workout that matters. Over the years this is one area that I’m proud of. I often use the second half of a race or hard work out to prove to myself how badly I want it. That said, this doesn’t make the running part easier, especially with these darn hills. I clear my mind and tell myself we are in the home stretch. I see my mom and a few familiar faces and give a thumbs up. This gives me a boost (it always does).
4:56, 5:00, 5:16, 4:58, 5:01
Alright. Last loop. I’m feeling good and almost giddy thinking that my long run is ONLY 21.1K. This is what marathon training does to you (we are a crazy bunch). I know that next week I have a 36K ahead of me. As I run the final kilometre, I am reminded why I love racing. I love the final push of a race where your mind truly does run the body. As a peel around the corner, I see my Dad and our dog Tucker standing there. While it wasn’t a PB, this was a great run.
4:47, 5:09, 5:10, 5:06, 5:00, 4:42
Have you run a last minute race?
Did you run a race this winter?