During the Chilly Half Marathon in March, my friend Emma told me about this $15 race series that Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) hosts from each of their stores. Since their Burlington, ON store is a relatively short 30 min drive from my house, I looked into their race series, and found that they have two $15 half marathons this year. Since the half marathon is my favourite race distance, I registered for BOTH of their half marathon races.
Saturday was the first of the two MEC Half Marathons that I registered for and I had a blast! I set my alarm for 6 am, because the race was at 9, and race kit pick-up started at 8 am. I read somewhere (I can’t remember where) that your body isn’t awake enough for peak performance until you’ve been up for three hours. I’m not sure this is really true, but it’s a guideline I’ve applied for all of my races since the day I read that article.
I quickly got dressed in the clothes that I had laid out the night before, and found that I had a TON of time leftover, so I grabbed a coffee, my iPad and relaxed in bed enjoying the sound of the birds chirping while my kids were still sleeping. So amazingly peaceful!
At 7am my oldest daughter, Sierra, woke up, came into my room and gave me a hug and wished me luck. Her two sisters heard us talking, so they woke up, and the four of us went downstairs for breakfast. I made them each breakfast, and grabbed a quick bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios for myself. At 7:30 I woke up my hubby so that I could leave to go run.
READY TO RUN!
I got to the race relatively quickly – there was no traffic on the road and because this is a small race that’s completely enclosed in a park, I didn’t have to deal with any road closures getting to the race either. I love that! There was no line up at race kit pick up, and I literally parked 25m away from the finish line! (There’s nothing worse than having to wait for shuttle buses to take you back to the start after a race when your body is going into shock and your legs are tired and weak). I picked up my race bib and chip, and then returned to the car to relax while reading Runner’s World on my iPad, and got myself fuelled up with some eLoad Endurance and Clif Shotbloks. I then noticed that everyone was walking away from the bib pick up and diagonally across the parking lot and disappearing behind small forest.
I then followed the runners back to the finish line area where the chip pick up girl was leading us through a warm up and stretches:
And then we walked 30 meters to some flags and mats that I hadn’t noticed before which was the start line. We “lined up” (there was a grand total of 39 people running the half marathon), and then we were off!
The start line
I settled into a comfortable 6 min/km pace right away. Without the hustling and jostling of a crowded race, I didn’t have the same surge of adrenaline or competitiveness pushing me to start faster than I should. I saw a cute, tall girl with a really even pace and nice stride, and stayed behind her allowing her to pace me through the first 9 km of the race. My training over the last month has been non-existent. As in I only ran a total of 8k during the few days before the race, and had taken the other three weeks completely off of running to allow my injured heel to get better. I wasn’t sure how long my heel would last, and I was also wearing my orthotics to prevent further injuries, so I wasn’t sure how long it would be until blisters would form on my arches. My goal for this race was just to finish. Finishing faster than my last half marathon (2:09) was going to be a bonus.
The race wraps twice around the start area, then head’s north to do an out-and-back, then back into the finish area. After looping the park, the out-and-back goes along Hamilton Waterfront Trail, which is so beautiful! The day was foggy when the race started, but as we ran we could see the sun trying to burn away the fog:
So I stopped and took a few pictures of Lake Ontario:
At the 9k I was still feeling good and realised that if I turned on the jets I could be really close to breaking two hours, and even run a negative split. So that’s what I did. Kilometer by kilometre I started passing people. With only 39 people in the race, there weren’t too many people to pass, so I started counting my “kills” (a term I picked up from running Ragnar last month). I killed 4 chicks on my way to the turn around, and then killed two more at the water station just after the turn. I saw a guy running ahead of me, and spent the next few km’s trying to catch him, without burning myself out in the process. He stopped to pick up some garbage and throw it away in a trash can along the route so I took the opportunity to kill him. I then spotted another guy about ½ a km away, so I quickened my pace a bit to try to catch him. I finally killed him at the 19k mark. At this point I looked at my watch, I had been running for one hour and 52 min, and if I was going to break two hours I had to maintain my pace, or even quicken it just a bit more.
Now I don’t know about you, but speeding up to run faster after running the furthest you have run in over two months is almost impossible. My quads were screaming at me to slow down or stop, especially my left quad which had bared most of my weight during Ragnar while I was favouring my right heel. I cranked up my tunes so that I couldn’t hear the few spectators telling me that I only had a km to go etc. (I find that the spectators always have their distances wrong so I prefer to ignore them). I then booted it, and finally rounded the start line corner to see the clock ticking down at the finish line..
I did it! My official chip time was 1:59:13!
Thank you MEC for putting on such a well-organized race! I had a great time, and I can’t wait for the next MEC half marathon on October 19th!