Race report: 2014 First Half Half Marathon

I just ran a winter race in conditions so ideal I thought I was running in the spring or fall. It certainly kept me off guard, as I was bracing for ugly weather; I even brought a hat and a toque to ensure proper head coverage. And by the end of mile 1, I was thoroughly overheated. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day for the first half of the year!

Let me backtrack to the training. A couple of colds at the beginning and end of January really affected my running, and it was a little demoralizing as well. I even forced myself to cancel a weekend long run, which was beneficial to fighting the cold, but frustrating that I couldn’t do the run. By the time the second cold subsided, it was taper time, and I just accepted that these things happen, and to trust the training that I had done not just to that point, but over all the years I have been running.

Before the start, I was thinking of being really conservative in terms of pacing: 9:20-9:30/mi (5:47-5:54/km). As soon as the race started and I found myself running a 5:30 for the first kilometre, then a sub-9:00 first mile, I knew I might not be able to sustain it. As I mentioned earlier, I got overheated, but since I was wearing tights and no jacket, there aren’t places on my person to store them my toque and gloves. I thought of the next-best thing: between my tights and the shorts I was wearing under the tights. It wasn’t elegant, but I couldn’t really bear to part with those items of clothing.

As I usually do at half marathons, I mark split times on my watch at 5 km, 10, 15, and the finish. Interestingly, I recorded identical split times at the 5 km and 10 km markers: 27:33, or 5:31/km (8:52/mi). I slightly eased up, but my body was already ahead of my mind by that point. When the course entered the exposed part of Stanley Park, the cold headwind sapped my already-flagging energy. By that point, I was easing back toward a 9:00/mi average. (The course has markers each mile. I don’t know how I managed to calculate per-km and per-mi paces as I passed various distance markers.)

As the course left the seawall at Second Beach and made its way around Lost Lagoon, that’s where I felt totally drained. It was there that I passed the 10-mile marker at around one hour, 30 minutes (or 9:00/mi). Like I did in Kelowna last October, I started doing the reverse calculation: could I finish the last 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes? It didn’t get any easier, with an uphill section, and a stomach that could rebel if it wanted to, as it had done in earlier training runs. I had to take an extended walk break to calm down.

I passed the 20 km marker and figured that I had about six minutes to finish under two hours. Challenge accepted. I set aside what had happened in the last few kilometres and went for it. An uphill led to a downhill coast along Pacific Boulevard back toward the start/finish zone. By then, I was keeping an eye on my watch, hoping that I can make it. As I sprinted the last 50 metres toward the finish line, the gun time crossed two hours, but my watch still showed a 1:59 when I stopped it.

Finisher's medal and fridge magnet marking the finish time for the 2014 First Half Half Marathon

Medal and time-plate magnet with my chip time

1:59:37.67 to be exact! It was a finish that I’ll take pride in, because of the way I fought back in the last kilometre to save the goal time. Fighting the mind when self-doubt creeps in, fighting the body when there’s nothing left: it’s the quintessential race experience.

(Update, 02/20/2014, 22:50 PST: after reading one of the comments below, I realized I hadn’t put down what I had stuffed into my tights. Now you know…)


6 Comments on “Race report: 2014 First Half Half Marathon”

  1. Congratulations! I love the way you summed it up in the last paragraph; it’s so true.

    It’s funny I stumbled upon your post; I went for a run around Lost Lagoon on Saturday morning and got there at the same time that many of the runners in this race were passing. I’m not going to lie…I may have run with the crowd to get that “race excitement” feeling for a little while!

    • Eric says:

      Thank you! It’s nice to know you got caught up with us racers, in a good way :) Will we see you in next year’s race?

      • You’re welcome! And you betcha. I actually didn’t even know about that race. What else do you have on your radar this year? So far I’ve got the Sun Run, the Spring Run-off, BMO 1/2, Seawheeze, and the Rock n Roll 1/2.

      • Eric says:

        I’ve got the Spring Run-off (see you there!), Scotia Half, Eastside 10k, and the New York City Marathon. I keep the list on the side of the blog :)

      • Oh fantastic! I didn’t see that there :P Good luck with New York and maybe we will pass one another in the Spring Run-Off!

  2. Nice! I like that they give you a plate with your official time, that’s a cool idea. Too funny about the hat in your tights!

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