I’ll start this off by saying that this was the most challenging half marathon I have done yet. That should give you an idea of where this is going.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Friday – Pre Race Evening
Friday afternoon Jamie, Dan and I packed everything into my car and did the three hour drive into the mountains to Invermere, BC.
When we got there, we picked up our race packages at the community hall (gotta love small town races), then drove up to Panorama to our hotel. Jamie, the hotel booking master, found us a two bedroom (one with a queen, one with two twins) two bathroom place on the mountain with a full kitchen. This was great. We planned out all our meals and snacks, and spent $30 each for a full weekend of food.
Chelsea arrived at about 8pm, right when dinner was ready. We got our carbo-load on via veggie sushi (yams, rice, and avocado) and butternut squash on the side topped with maple syrup and butter.
Obviously there was pre-race pie time. Of the apple variety.
While getting our poop in a group for the next morning, we read on the race info sheets that listening headphones were not permitted on the course. Something about safety and running across and along the highway. Bummer. But it was something I could manage.
Saturday – The Race
Jamie, Chelsea and I got up bright and early at 5:30am. We all made our respective pre-race breakfasts (instant oatmeal and a ProBar for me), I did some last minute rolling on the travel roller, wrote my pacing plan on the back of my hand and we piled in the car at 6:30am and made our way down the mountain.
The girls dropped me off at the half marathon start, we hugged good luck and they took off to the 10k race start (my start was at 7:30 and theirs at 8:00).
I did my usual 2-3 trips to the porta potty, did about 5 min of warm up jogging and head to the start. The first section of the race was up a country road along some small acreages. It was a pretty area and a quiet, cool morning.
I got my Garmin (a new one that I’m borrowing-to-trade-for-a-different-watch-from-my-mom, not my ancient one) to sync to satellites, and hit “start” as I started the race. However the watch didn’t start. It restarted, then synced again to satellites, then restarted, synced to satellites, and again and again. It eventually got to the home screen, and I hit start again and the same stupid routine started. Eventually the “low battery” alert showed up and it shut itself off. Great.
With no way of tracking my pace, no music, and the 4km long uphill to start off the race, I was in a shitty mood. I talked myself down and repeatedly told myself that I’m going to bomb every race ever from here on in. Dramatic, I know. I had to remind myself that I was running up a very gradual but significant hill and that’s what the issue was, not my ability as a runner, which helped. Obviously I felt a lot better once I hit the turn-around point and was able to spend the next 4km cruising downhill.
We then continued downhill towards the lake, winding through the residential communities where many people have their lakeside cabins. The downhill was refreshing, and then went into rolling hills. We ran past the 10k start, then eventually went into a nice downhill slope again that was in a wooded area. At this point, I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me or hear anyone close behind me. I enjoyed that moment. It was really pretty and calming.
Then we got back into rolling hills. I started feeling pretty exhausted around 14-15km, like I just wanted to sleep on the side of the road and my left hip/IT band/knee was killing me. Then a woman came up to pass me, but instead of passing, she told me that I had been her pace bunny the whole race. I told her I had no idea what my pace was, and I was losing steam pretty quickly. She told me that we were going ~6min/km and offered some encouragement, and we tackled a hill together. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going any faster, but I was too far into the race and didn’t have enough juice to really make up much time.
On the next downhill I sped ahead of her. At one point there was a weird dirt hill about 50m long and STRAIGHT up. I walked up that. There was no way I could run up it. There was a nice long downhill and I was passing quite a few 10k walkers. This was about 3 or 4km from the finish and I was feeling good and tried to push the pace.
Then. THEN. Guess what happened. The uphill from hell. HELL. It was at least 1-2km long and it was brutal. I know I got to the top with around 1km left to the finish, and I really wanted it to be over.
The last 1km was downhill and a bit curvy but I didn’t really push it. As I rounded one of the last corners, I saw Dan on his skateboard. He yelled, “LET’S RACE!” and I used my last ounce of energy chasing him to the finish. At one point I said “I think I’m going to throw up!” and someone near me laughed. I rounded the last corner, saw Chelsea and Jamie and they yelled some Alexi Pappas style encouragement to me. I crossed the finish line at 2:01. Not what I had hoped for, but not entirely terrible.
There were people after the finish collecting the timing anklets. Bending down and standing back up to retrieve my own anklet messed with the blood levels in my head and I rode the line between barfing and fainting for a while. I kept walking to get myself back to normal, and eventually all my pals found me. Jamie finished in 1:17 and Chelsea in 1:13! Way to go girls and congrats to Chelsea for her first race!
We stretched in the grass and took some pictures together. The line up for the free breakfast was too long so we made our way through the start area again, pet some dogs, and had a quick chat with the lady that I had pace bunny-ed. Invermere is full of nice folks.
After the Race
We went back to the condo to shower, make pancakes and bacon and put our bathing suits on. We packed up beer and snacks and went back to Invermere and spent the afternoon at the lake. It was great.
That evening we drank more beer, made dinner and wandered around Panorama (while Dan watched a movie and avoided us drunk girls).
I’m not 100% sure how I would have done had my watch worked. I didn’t want to push myself too hard especially at the beginning, but I think I was too conservative. I also think I should have consumed more gels as I was pretty drained during the race.
Even though I took two rest days before the race, I think I should have toned down my workouts that week as well. For instance, maybe don’t do hill repeats during race week? Even IF it’s “JUST” a half marathon? My legs didn’t feel “fresh” right from the start. This is the only thing I could attribute it to.
Also, writing your pacing strategy on your hand is great in theory, but not when you have a handheld water bottle. Shit rubs off by 10k. Duh.
I’m not all that bummed out about my time. I placed 33/80-something in overall women, and 10/25 in my age group, which is ok. It was a hard course and I had no idea what I was up against.
I did have a big achievement this race though, no gut cramping!! I really watched what I put into my face the week leading up, and I think that paid off.
I have the Drumheller Half Marathon coming up in four weeks, which is DEFINITELY flatter than this one 😀 And now I think I have a good idea of how to improve:
– Make sure watch works and is charged
– Eat health leading up to the race (avoid wheat and processed foods)
– Ease up on workouts the week of the race. Maybe some short tempo at race pace, but no more intense hill workouts.
– Go to physio to deal with my hip tightness. I religiously stretch and roll that sucker but it would still rather be tense and bring me pain. I already have an appointment for Wednesday.
I had really hoped that this race was going to ensure me that I was out of the rut I was in, but I think I have some more work to do. All in all though, it was just a great weekend doing what I do with my favorite pals.