I know that that's not how the saying goes, but the second time in two years I've been the beneficiary of somebody opting to not arrive at the start of the Chilly Half-Marathon, and therefore being offered the opportunity to transfer their bib to me.
While I did not originally have the Chilly Half on my radar for 2017 still it fit into my plan of racing shorter distances (i.e. no full marathons for me) this year. Climbing the age group ladder I had resolved to try to work on improving my overall speed by focusing on 5k and 10k races, with a smattering of half-marathons tossed in for good measure. But when my friend Steve informed me that his wife was not feeling prepared enough to tackle the Chilly Half and that the bib was mine if I wanted it ... well, at that point in time I wanted it. :)
Being fairly fluid with my training plans I sort-of used a schedule from RunBritain.com to try to prepare myself for a decent race. However I was mostly looking forward to being able to join my friends Mike and Dave for another roadtrip (as we'd made this trek last year with another friend Carol), along with their friends Becky and Ashlen. We were also planning to meet our pal (and fellow RunNinja) Rad who was going to be running his first Chilly Half, and likely right around the pace that I was also going to target.
For the second year in a row I did not attend the expo held at Mercedes-Benz Burlington as Mike's dad (running the Frosty 5k with Dave, Becky and Ashlen) offered to pick up our race kits. All we had to do was show up on Sunday morning and arrange a meeting point in order to nab our bibs and step up to the start line.
The departure from Barrie at 6:50am provided us with an indication that this would indeed be a chilly race day - raw temps were around -11°C (with a windchill closer to -20°C) but thankfully without any precipitation. We watched Mike's dashboard thermometer carefully and saw the readout climb to about -8°C when we pulled into a free parking lot in Burlington, about a block away from City Hall and the start/finish chute.
Aside from using the washroom multiple times (see: cold-induced diuresis) and staying warm inside City Hall, it was just a waiting game of about 90 min. before joining the masses in the starting chute. I did note that I spotted one other runner wearing exactly the same Skechers Performance warm-up kit as I was, so I went over to say hi and create a deliberately awkward 'we should have told each other what we were planning to wear' moment ... but it turned out to be fellow Skechers athlete Paul Rochus (who wound up finishing 7th overall), and so I was happy to try to absorb some speed by osmosis.
We managed to meet up with our good friends Rad and Emily just about 30 min. before gun time, and I was amazed to find out that even after having had about a litre of water or sport-drink that morning he had no need to go to the washroom. Must be nice to be young, fast, and have a superhuman bladder.
Rad and I lined up together and wound up running the first 4km or so side-by-side, with Mike quickly leaving us in his dust. We were clipping along decently at a shade over 4:00/km with a noticeably robust head-and-crosswind, and as it was with last year's event I found that the first quarter or so of the course was an easy out-and-back loop that kept the energy high because there were plenty of runners to see as you passed back and forth. It was a bit of a game of 'where's Waldo' as there were a number of folks whom I recognized on the confirmed entry list but hadn't yet seen on the day so I was hoping to shout a 'hey what's up' as I spotted them.
I did my best to try to find a small group of runners to 'latch onto' that would help me stay on target pace, and to that extent there were four Longboat Roadrunners who seemed to be pressing forward at the same rate as yours truly. I also managed to catch up with someone in an Adaptive Running singlet (Larry) representing the crew co-founded by my friend and running hero Stan. Larry was aiming for a casual sub-1:25, so I knew that I wouldn't be hot on his heels but wanted to keep him in sight.
The rolling course essentially offered up about 13km of wind resistance, and it wasn't until the second hairpin turnaround that we experienced any subsiding of the wind, perhaps even some benefit from it. At that pivot point I'd seen Mike flying by way ahead of me (by a good 4+ minutes) and Rad only trailing by maybe 40 seconds at most. I was still feeling reasonably light on my feet and was doing my level best to work the downhills and not redline it climbing the slight uphill sections.
Once again at the 16k point (Appleby Line) I tried to give it some more gusto and managed to find myself creeping up slowly on some of the competitors who were ahead of me. With about 2k to go I was trying to follow the rhythm and cadence of a female racer who seemed to be barely working at all (while I was sounding a whole lot like a rabid dog panting in the middle of the desert), and managed to yet again find one extra gear for the final 1000m. I was far from sprinting (as the finishing chute photo below will attest) and was actually outkicked by another runner who caught me from behind in the last 150m, but in checking the race clock I could see that I was going to cross the line with a modest (13s) personal best.
Yep, that's me hurtin' my way to NYC Marathon qualifying time!
It was awesome to see Rad come flying in behind me by a mere minute, shattering his previous PB in the half-marathon by about 2-1/2 minutes. When we reconnected with Mike, we found that he'd also crushed his previous PB by close to 2 minutes with a 52nd place 1:19 race!
Awww yeahhh boyyy ... I give all the credit to my Adventure Time Jake hat!
It was so great to chat with other race friends on the day as well - Vicki (8-time ENDURrunner), Peter (part of J.P.'s Team), Jeff (who was a default pacer for my 2015 Waterloo Marathon BQ), and fellow Team Skechers athletes Kirstin, Josh, Tanis and Rob. It hadn't turned out to be such a great day for Kirstin or Josh, as both of them had experienced physical issues during the race (so much so that Josh had pulled himself out, which is why I saw him jogging on the sidewalk against the flow of runner traffic at the 10k point). I also managed to finally meet my social media friend Tyler, who was there supporting his Grand River Endurance teammates (Josh and Tanis and Rob) but was himself nursing an injury and not racing on the day.
So despite the race living up to its name, it was another worthwhile trip to Burlington. Now it's time to tackle a few more short races before hitting up the Pick Your Poison 50k at the end of April!
Race gear for the 2017 Chilly Half-Marathon:
- Skechers Performance singlet
- Skechers Performance capri legging & compression shorts
- Falke RU energizing compression socks
- Skechers GOMeb Speed Elite