Just a warning, this post will be a novel.
This past Sunday I ran the Chilly Willy Winter Run, in the 21K category. The temperature was a brisk -20C and I was wearing 3 layers of pants and 4 layers of shirts (this sounds way more ridiculous than it actually was). I was really worried that I wouldn’t be layered enough but it was actually perfect.
Here was the route: Chill_Willy_HalfMarathon_Map
After I ran the Roots & Ruts Trail Race in September, I decided that I wanted to run a half-marathon. I signed up for the Chilly Willy and I downloaded the Hal Higdon half-marathon training app (which I highly recommend). I originally intended to run a practice half on Noah’s 4th birthday (December 19th). This did not happen, partly because of laziness, but also because Noah got sick a few days before so I missed some training days, I was planning two different parties that weekend, still trying to finish up my Christmas shopping, etc. I didn’t really feel the crunch because it wasn’t a race I had actually signed up for.
Fast forward to January. Well, Noah had now been struggling with the same respiratory illness for over a month and that meant that I had to completely skip every single one of my regular morning workouts. I tried to go to the gym in the evenings, but that is literally the worst time for me, so let’s call my attendance….spotty.
One night I was brushing snow off my vehicle before going to the gym, and I happened to be leaned far enough over and at the perfect angle for the snow under my left foot to give way, and I sprained my ankle. I hit the snow bank. I still went to the gym after sitting down inside after awhile. I took the week off from any actual foot-to-ground cardio and instead spent my cardio on a stationary bike watching Donut Showdown on the Food Network.
After not doing any actual running outside for 3 or so weeks, I chose the Saturday the week before the race to do my long training run. I was supposed to do 16KM but ended up doing only 13KM because we had to go to Edmonton for a pediatrician trip the next day so I couldn’t take as long as I would like to.
The TLDR is: the last month of training before the race was bad. I don’t know how to fully explain how frustrating it was to miss so many workouts simply because my poor child could not get over his illness. The only good thing is that I had planned my training for a race in December, so I had basically finished my training up until the portion where I was supposed to taper before the race. Originally I had hoped to use that extra month between my unofficial and official race to work on my time a bit, but that clearly didn’t happen. (Grr!)
Pre-Race (night before):
I had Chinese food for my carbo-loading meal! I had been looking forward to it forever, it was delicious. FWIW, I hadn’t really super-stuck to the “regular low carbing and then cycling into high carb the week before the race” thing, but….whatever. I tried. I ate Chinese food. I enjoyed it immensely. No ragrets.
Pre-Race (morning of):
I had been doing a ton of research about what to eat before a half, and I ended up settling on eating exactly what I normally eat before a race, but times two. I knew that I couldn’t shove that amount of food into my mouth all at once, so I decided to split it and just have a double breakfast.
I got up at 7AM. At around 7:10 I had a tbsp of peanut butter on toast, half a banana [I normally eat a whole one but I’m bad at prepping so I only had two in the house], and a hard-boiled egg. I started chugging water. (I may have forgotten about extra-hydrating the days before. Sigh).
At 8AM I had my second breakfast, of the same things.
I regretted not picking up a Red Bull.
I added 4 Nuun tablets to the 2L bladder of my Geigerrig hydration pack. I had never used the tablets before (and the Geigerrig itself only once, FWIW), but I crossed my fingers that my iron stomach would not give up on me for consuming the electrolyte water without testing it out first. I also packed 2 packs of Honey Stinger energy gummies, a banana, pack of gum (I can’t workout without gum, no idea why), lipgloss, mini Kleenex, an extra pair of gloves, extra socks, an extra shirt, and my Buff.
I wore my Canadian Mudd Queens and green Spartan bracelets for strength. My nails were also painted green for the occasion. (Green = cerebral palsy = Noah).
I had my husband drop me off since I assumed that parking would be a gongshow. I actually could have driven myself, because when we got there at 8:20, the parking lot was basically still empty.
8:20 – 8:45 was spent nervous-peeing and chatting with a couple of women that I know.
At 8:55 we made our way to the start line.
[Note: ‘#’ = “approximately”]
Start – 9:00AM
Things started out okay. I was in the back half of the pack out of the starting gate. My headphones were wrapped around my Geigerrig strap the wrong way, so it was very annoying trying to figure that out with gloves on when the race had already started. I NEVER listen to music when I run, but in this case I wanted to be able to hear my Nike app so that I could hear my pace. But I finally sorted out my shit and was on my way.
Condition: frazzled, panicky, a little nauseous (I think I ate too much).
# 0.5 miles — 00:05 into race
I had a pretty good pace going at this point, I was passing people and trying to get in a good spot in the pack. But then I decided to be a dumbass….
I stepped off the path in order to pass someone, and then I happened to step in the wrong spot and twist my left ankle AGAIN (I KNOW). I hit the ground and some kindly passerbys helped me up.
This was my major FML moment. I may have spouted some choice expletives. I couldn’t believe that I was only FIVE MINUTES in and had already wrecked myself. Once I got back up and moving again, everyone else was already light-years ahead of me. All I could do was walk or limp-skip for pretty much the entire 2KM loop around the reservoir. THIS WAS NOT A GOOD START.
Condition: discouraged, annoyed at self, left ankle in pain.
# 2.5 miles
My ankle was still in pain, but I was able to run for a short distance before having to walk or limp-skip. People were already coming back from the 10K turnaround. Wat.
Tried to drink out of my Geigerrig and my tube had frozen already. I managed to get a little bit out but this was not a good sign.
Condition: concerned about time, annoyed at self for not purchasing insulated drinking tube, left ankle in slightly less pain.
# 3.1 miles – water station/10K turnaround
They were out of cups so I had to share cooties.
Condition: joked around with water station attendant (apparently the pumps for their water had frozen too).
# 4 miles
Geigerrig officially frozen, so I was now wearing a hydration pack consisting of 2 litres of useless water.
Consumed my Honey Stinger energy gummies. They have a weird texture but taste good. I recommend. I could have sworn that I read that you’re supposed to drink water with them, but I’m hoping that I’ll be okay.
Condition: concerned about lack of hydration.
# 5 miles
The path is incredibly treacherous (just lots of uneven snow and patches of ice-snow). I run on the bridge for the first time ever, because an icy metal bridge is somehow safer than the ground today.
# 6.6 miles – water station/21K turnaround
Halfway done! One of the attendants (who I know) made a joke about offering me Bailey’s and I said something like “I wish!”.
Condition: still generally upbeat, jovial with water station attendants, feeling refreshed because I reached the halfway point.
# 7 miles — 01:48 into race
I send my husband a “halfway” update text. I note the time. If I don’t get hurt again, I SHOULD make it back just under the 3.5 hour time limit.
The man on the quad who will come pick you up if you get hurt, stops and asks if I’m okay. He called me “love”, which was kind of cute.
[For the rest of the race he steadily followed me, but he was very nice about it. He would stop for 10 minutes or so, and then I’d hear the quad again and he’d stop 20ft or so behind me. However, I was a little worried that he would make me get on the quad if I showed weakness or that I was in pain]
Shortly after that, I’m on the way back over that same treacherous path, and I almost catch my left ankle again. Right ankle gets a couple twists, but it’s strong and dependable and I don’t get hurt (miraculously)
# 8 miles
Hey, hip pain. I have no idea why but I always have a lot of pain in my right hip after around 7 miles. It didn’t help that I was having to rely on my right leg more than usual because of my ankle. So at this point I have a still-slightly-sore left ankle, a gently throbbing pain in my right hip joint, a useless Geigerrig, and roughly 5 more miles to go.
Condition: in pain, nauseous/stomach ache (probably the gummies and/or lack of hydration).
# 9 miles – water station/10K turnaround
Only 5KM left! This is exciting!
The attendants are running back and forth trying to keep warm.
My cup of water has ice in it.
Condition: slightly guilty about being so slow and making the volunteers have to stand out there for so long.
# 10-11 miles – 2:52 into race
Hip is really bothering me now, but I’m in the home stretch. I am not giving up now. I try to conserve my energy by going back to limp-skipping, but this time leading with my left in an attempt to give my right leg a break.
I bring out all of my chants and pep talks and imagination at this point.
“You are a Canadian Mudd Queen. You are a Spartan. You are Noah’s mother. You have been through much worse pain than this. AROO.”
I envisioned getting my medal at the end of the race. I thought about Biggest Loser and everything that I’ve accomplished for myself this year.
I thought about those first few moments after Noah’s birth when we waited in complete silence, waiting for him to breathe. Or seeing him in his isolette in the NICU. Taking him off life support and thinking that we were losing him.
That pain is so much worse than anything this race could throw at me.
“Canadian Girls” by Dean Brody comes through my headphones, and it pumps me back up. It’s just snow and ice. I’M MOTHERFUCKING CANADIAN. I CAN HANDLE THIS SHIT.
I’m basically growling at this point. I WILL finish this race.
# 11.5 miles
I’m back at Musko. Unfortunately I have to take THE WORST ROUTE IN THE WORLD, back around the reservoir, for the final 2KM.
At this point my right leg is almost useless. I was calling it my wooden leg. I was in a lot of pain, although thankfully my ankle had settled to a dull ache for the last half of the race. But I just kept telling myself….I had already done 19KM, there was no way I was giving up now.
My Nike app told me that I was at 2:52 or so at the 11 mile mark. I’m running the math in my head and it’s telling me that I should still be able to make it under the gun.
I suddenly realize that my stomach ache finally cleared up but I am now hungry. I have no time to snack so I push through it. There is chili waiting for me at the finish line!
# 12 miles
Now I am just going for broke. I know that I am saving my energy to run down that final hill, and I’m hoping that gravity and acceleration will help propel me to the finish line. I am limp-skipping, I am trying to walk as fast as I can, and I feel almost ANGRY. This race will NOT beat me. I WILL make it across that finish line before time runs out. I cry a little bit over varying thoughts, between Noah, getting the medal around my neck, and the fact that I am ALIVE and able to do this race at all. I have a minor panic attack when I hyperventilate from the crying because of the cold air, but I gently pound my chest with my fist to try to concentrate on breathing (I do this when I can’t draw a full breath as well). The quad guy is roughly 40ft behind me and I am trying to get myself together before he sees me, in case he wants to pull me off the course.
Condition: broken, fierce, overly emotional, wooden leg.
# 13 miles
When my app tells me I hit 13 miles, I almost cry again. The final hill approaches. I hit it a little too fast and the impact of foot to ground is a bit much for my hip, but I push through it. I made it almost around the corner past the playground until I have to walk again. I am disappointed.
# 13.1 miles – FINISH LINE, MOTHERFUCKER
I took maybe 4 steps before I’m like, fuck this. I start running again.
I crossed the finish line at 3:21.
I got my medal.
I felt dangerously nauseous and I contemplate running for the bathroom. Instead I walked it off and coached myself away from vomiting. Thankfully I was successful, because otherwise that would have been terrible.
I went inside and got my water on. They offered me chili but I turned it down for the moment. I walked around a little bit and drank the water. I knew I was dehydrated.
I felt a little better and I knew that they were trying to pack up, so I went and got my chili and muffin, as well as another water and a juice box for the road. I already felt slightly guilty enough about taking so long, I didn’t want the volunteers to have to wait around longer than necessary.
I texted Caleb to come pick me up.
A woman chatted me up, we talked about Death Race and other running things. She liked my shoes, so she took a picture of them. She said they might be good for Death Race, although I’m not too sure about that.
The chili was pretty gross, unfortunately. It was veggie chili, and pretty bland too. I love vegetables but good lord, I need MEAT, people! I still picked at it because I knew I was hungry and needed something in my stomach.
Caleb arrived, and then we drove to Tim Hortons to pick up some real chili (LOL).
Condition: in the immortal words of Kristin Cavallari, DUNZO. I had nothing left. I was just trying to get home before my legs fell off.
Post-Race (at home):
When we got home, I was suddenly freezing (hate that part about winter running) so I stripped some sweaty clothes and loaded up on blankets.
I felt better after eating my chili and bun with butter. Caleb was very nice and brought it to me on a plate and put it on a tray for me too :)
After that I got into an epson salt bath for like 1.5 hours (lol, not exaggerating), just watching Friends on the tablet, and drinking my electrolyte water that had become un-frozen (I wasn’t going to waste it!).
My middle toenail on my right foot felt weird, but it didn’t look like there was anything wrong with it. I had a blister on the top pad of my right foot and some weird slight pain in the middle of my left foot.
Later that night I went to karaoke!
Next Day (aka today):
It’s official. My toenail is bruised. I’m not sure if that means that I need it removed or what, but I’m leaving it alone for now.
Overall, I’m sore and creaky like an old lady. I definitely learned a lot and I can see that I need a lot a lot a lot of work before my next half-marathon in May. The Press Run training groups start next month. I think I am going to start C25K later this week….I need to majorly work on my endurance. If I could run for really any decent amount of time, I’m sure I would knock minutes off of my pace. For this race I averaged around 15:40/mile and I know that I could do way better than that. I think that I would have been much closer, if not under, 3 hours, had I not hurt my ankle. It will be interesting to see how much my time improves come May!
- Route: 9/10 – I have no idea why, but I just can’t handle running around the reservoir, and in this race my first and last 2KM were on that route. There were a couple of slippery spots, but it’s northern Alberta in February, there’s going to be ice on the paths. Plus I have fancy winter running shoes so they didn’t give me too much trouble.
- Weather: 8/10 – 5 degrees warmer would have been super, but overall I prefer colder to warmer as it would have made my outfit choice more difficult. I wasn’t too cold but I also wasn’t too warm in my many layers.
- Injuries: 3 – left ankle, right hip, #2 right toe
- Enjoyability: 7/10 – There were a lot of low points but overall it was a positive experience.
- Will I Do It Again? – Fuck yeah!