March 13, 2012

Chilly Half-Marathon 2012 Race Report

by pyrad
Categories: Race Report
Comments: 5 Comments
Date Event Goal Time Chip Time Gun Time
2012/03/04 Chilly Half-Marathon 2:00 – 2:10 2:03:22.2 2:06:43.2

This will be a race to remember. It was the cumulation of a personal experiment in program design while also leading a clinic. On all fronts, I would say it was a personal and athletic triumph!


Training Season Review

This has been a very different training season for me. Since March, I have been a the instructor for the half-marathon clinic at my local Running Room. I felt becoming an instructor was a natural progression after being a student in these clinics for so long. I wasn’t very nervous becuase I knew a lot of people that were going to be in my group. Writing e-mails and planning routes took some time, but it’s a part of the job. I was expected to lead the three scheduled runs each week, which was good motivation get out the door!

I took this opportunity to really try the notion of heart rate training. During long runs, I would run with the slowest group. I would say this was to make sure nobody got left behind. In reality, I wanted to stay below 6:30 min/km so that my heart rate would remain below the aerobic threshold and reduce risk of injury. I planned to do lots of tempo runs, sprints and cross training above my anaerobic threshold, but lots of circumstances meant I wasn’t able to do much.

My goal a long time ago was to do the Chilly Half-Marathon this year in under 2 hours. I thought that was very ambitious because it took me 2:14:45 the year before, and my personal best was only 2:10:43! As the season progressed, I made a spectrum of goals: sub 2:00, sub 2:06, sub 2:10. I thought it was a reasonable spectrum, and it would be harder to be disappointed.

Running with the clinic as the instructor also made me really motivated. As I noticed the group getting faster and stronger, it pushed me too. I thought that as the instructor, I should set an example not only for traning discipline, but also in race performance! It motivated me to get out and do much more than the group so I could stay ahead.

About two weeks before the race I scheduled a 10km race pace training run. I warned the group I was going to take off! It was a struggle, but I finished the 10km in about 57 minutes. I was hoping for better, but it was a good reference point.


Race Day: Pre-Race

The organization of the race was prettymuch what I’ve come to expect from VR Pro: They aim big but utimately the scale of the event overwhelms them. Between the Chilly Half-Marathon and the concurrent Frosty 5k, there were more than 1000 more runners than last year. VR Pro added a nice touch renting out the nearby Burlington Performing Arts building for people to warm-up and use the bag check. However, the building became so crowded that they had to turn people away to prevent breaking fire codes.  Parking in downtown Burlington is notiriously limited. VR Pro organized shuttle buses, but they ended at 1:45 giving people very little time to enjoy downtown Burlington after the race.

We went to the race as a group. We had formed a supergroup of people that were in the half-marathon clinic and some that just happened to run with us on a regular basis. It was nice travelling with the group that you trained with. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: running really is a team sport!

Some of the Square One Running Room Team before the Chilly Half-Marathon 2012. Photo by Mike Cheliak Photography


One of my big race concerns is how to dress. I’m not talking about coordinating the colour of my outfit and accessories! I tend to really overheat and sweat by the end of strenuous races, so I wanted to make sure I dressed properly. During several “dress rehearsal” runs, I wore a short-sleeve teck shirt over a long-sleeve shirt. I found that this worked if I was working hard. I also wore really heavy gloves. While my torso tends to get really warm, my hands always seem to get really cold. With an air temperature around -3ºC, I think I nailed the right number of layers and kind of clothing.

We shuffled into the start corrals 20 minutes before the race started as requested. This was probably a bad idea. I had no time to warm up, so I started the race very cold with a heart rate below 100 BPM.  I was worried about being cold, but we were so packed together that it kept me pretty warm.


First 5 km

The race started as I expected: A crowded wreck! Of course no one was seeded properly. It was really crowded even though we had 2 or 3 lanes available. I spent a lot of time dodging people. I conciously held my pace back a bit because I knew I still had to warm up. I stayed very true to my race plan, taking a 1 minute walk break even though I was only 10 minutes and 1.3 km into the race.

I was starting somewhere between the 2:15 and 2:30 pace bunnies. During the first 5k I was mixed in with all sorts of runners of different abilities, especially because I was taking walk breaks and people would pass me. There were a couple of people from my group who were running steady. They would pass me during my walk, and then I would pass them during my run part. We kept this game up until at least 10km.


5-13 km

This is where my race got really interesting. My sub-goal was to reach 11km by 1:05. That would give me 55 minutes to do the last 10k, which is almost doable for me.

At 5km, the course comes back near the starting line in downtown Burlington. There was a pretty good-sized crowd gathered. It was at this point I tried to get back on pace. Based on my calculations, I would need to be running at 5:22 min/km not including walk breaks to finish in 2 hours. I was quite surprised that I was able to push to about 5:15 min/km and hold it for the 10 minute run sections! Even my tempo runs don’t get near 5:15 min/km!!

I was darting in and out of traffic with some people from my clinic. I kept being passed by the two girls who were running steady during my walk, and then I would pass them back. Another group member was staying hot on my heels. It must have been around 10km when I turned around to talk to her, and she was gone, and so were the other runners I was running with.

Photo by Iva Ouzounova

On an unrelated note, there was a very beautiful girl running the race too. She had bib 81. She would pass me during my walk breaks, and I would pass her during my run part. After 5km there were some beautiful views of Lake Ontario. Running beside her added to the beautiful sight. I should have said something to her during the race. It seems I lost her too around 8km.

I hit the 11km mark right on schedule at 1:05 and I was really happy. I kept this really fast pace even past the turnaround at 13km.






13-17 km

After the turnaround, I realized that my speed was probably being buoyed by the wind. Once the wind hit me in the face it started slowing me down. I made sure to stay to the left of the course so I could see people heading the other direction. It was nice to cheer for everyone that I knew.

At this point, the race became a real challenge of willpower. Running aerobic is comfortable and I could do it forever. Running above my anaerobic threshold is very uncomfortable. It took a lot of willpower to keep running when my legs were hurting and burning.



Crossing the finish! Photo by My Sports Shooter - Mike Cheliak Photography


17 km to finish

This part hurt. I couldn’t keep a pace below 5:45 min/km. I kept re-calculating what it would take to finish in less than 2 hours. At 16km remaining I had 27 minutes to beat 2 hours. At 18km I had about 15 minutes left. At that point it became pretty clear I wasn’t going to beat 2 hours. I still thought I could beat my second goal of 2:06.

The last 400 meters were amazingly cruel: uphill and into a very strong wind. I was very happy to cross with a gun time of 2:06:43. There was a bit of confusion with sportstats. It listed my chip time as my gun time. I guess my bib tag wasn’t detected at the starting line. They were really good about fixing it. I told them the name and bib number of someone who started with me and they adjusted my chip time. So my official chip time as 2:03:22!! It’s not quite 2 hours, but I’m still really happy. Leaves me something for next time.
Post Race

After the race with my medal. Photo by Iva Ouzounova
I almost collapsed after crossing the finish line. I think I was coughing for about 2 minutes. I must have pushed REALLY hard over th e last stretch. I got to see a lot of people finish and cheer them across the finsih line. My original plan was to run out and run in with my clinic members, but I wasn’t in much condition to do more running. After we collected and got our bags and changed, we headed to a local restaurant that was serving free Chilly and Beer to runners! 

As we left the restaurant, I saw that the last runner was just coming in. She was just over 4 hours. I guess it’s a still inspiring to see someone who absolutely won’t quit.
Sub 2-hours still beckons. And so I have my new goal!





Comments closed


  1. Hong says:

    Way to go CHAMP! keep hammering it and you’ll run sub 2.

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