The 2016 Chilly Half Marathon is quickly approaching. On March 6, runners in Burlington will be racing for various reasons: a rust buster after holiday indulging, a training run in preparation for a spring marathon, a fitness test after time off from injury or illness, or in my case, a chance to make the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships (WHMC) team.
Last year at this event, Reid Coolsaet ran 1:03:37, which still stands as the fastest qualifying time for the men’s WHMC team. At the time, he was using it as a sharpener for the 2015 Rotterdam Marathon where he would be aiming to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which he did. I too was using it for the same reason, and also successfully met the Canadian standard, which was announced a few weeks after we competed. But last year’s Chilly Half was even more significant for me as it was the first half marathon I raced since fracturing my femur at the Montreal/Canadian Championships Half Marathon just over 10 months before. After crossing the line in 1:14:01 on that brisk morning in Burlington, I clearly remember putting my arm in the air, elated and grateful, knowing I still had it. I was overcome with emotion as I realized that I hit my target exactly, and knew that with six more weeks of training I would be able to attack the Olympic marathon standard with complete confidence. It is a memory I will cherish for a long time.
The only other time I raced the Chilly Half Marathon was in 2012 (read about it here
). It too was a significant year. Our daughter, who I was still breastfeeding, turned 1 that day. And after racing a strong Around the Bay race a few weeks later, my coach and I decided to compete in the Rotterdam Marathon as a stab at the 2012 Olympic Games Marathon standard. I ended up running 2:32, taking 7 minutes off my personal best but it wasn’t enough for the required 2:29:55. But 2012 became the year I put myself out there. I became a serious contender, able to compete at an international level. And the Chilly Half was a big part of that.
The Chilly Half Marathon is an excellent event for runners of all types. For me as a parent, it is ideal because it is close to home; I can be there and back with my family in half of a day. This year we will be celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday once I return. Racing locally also allows me to avoid lengthy travel, eat my own food, and sleep in my own bed the night before. For me as an elite athlete looking for a fast time, the course is certified, record and ranking eligible, and flat with an out-and-back layout, my preferred type of race. While you can experience some wind off the lake when returning to the finish, the support from the other runners on their way out is motivational and encouraging.
In preparing for this event, I started with a similar build to last year by racing the same 10 km and 10 mile races in December. But instead of the 8 km race I would normally do in January and because I didn’t race a fall marathon due to a fractured metatarsal in my foot, I moved up to the half marathon distance right away. I completed the half marathon in Houston in January, and Vancouver in February. I didn’t expect to run personal best times at these races but knew I needed them to build my strength and fitness to have a spring minor peak before my summer major peak in preparation for Rio. I’ve averaged 125 km/week for a few months with plenty of cross training, weekly interval workouts and tempo runs, and most long runs of 30 km. The numbers are there and I believe I am ready for a solid race, particularly if the weather cooperates.
With “Chilly” in the race name, one can expect less than ideal weather conditions but based on the relatively mild Ontario winter we’ve had so far, I and many others are likely approaching it with optimism. If it is a cold and windy day, I’ll likely wear arm warmers or a thin layer under my singlet with a hat and gloves. Regardless, I will be in shorts with my usual compression socks as I find anything longer restricts my knee drive. Fortunately one can get away with wearing less clothing on race day as opposed to a training run because you heat up quickly with exertion, have the benefit of adrenaline, and if you are cold it can motivate you to run faster to get it over with sooner!
As for sport nutrition, if one uses gels, you should plan to ingest the same amount you normally would in such an event, regardless of the weather. As for hydration on a winter day, drinking less liquid would be appropriate as opposed to more when racing in hot and humid conditions. For me, I have an early light breakfast and hydrate well before the race so will likely skip the water stations but consume 3 gels, particularly because of a later 10:05 am start.
For those looking for a shorter race, consider the Frosty 5k that is also also a flat, fast, out and back course.
To all running, for whatever reason, have a wonderful race. Hope to see you smiling at the finish line with your arm in the air!