Monday, 10 February 2014

Hypothermic Half in all its glory

Last year's St Patrick's race took place in almost blizzard weather. That however was a 5k. 22 minutes and I was done, and I won a beer glass for getting top 3 in my age group.
This is a half marathon. -16, and a breeze that in places made for a windchill of below -20. Mostly though it was the overnight thin layer of snow that would slow everyone down. No good purchase on the pathways. 
My first Hypothermic Half, it starts at Fort Calgary, the very origin of the city. It started off slower than I expected, and within a minute my toes felt frozen. Well ventilated shoes really let that air in. 
Distracting from that was the sight of a guy doing push-ups next to the river. He didn't even clear the snow off first. 
At Prince's Island, a very tall guy surged in front of everyone. I went with him, and soon saw my watch reading 4:08/ km. Let him disappear at this unsustainable pace, I thought. Once over the river, the gradient is a bit steeper, the snow a little deeper and the wind faster as well as more head-on. 
The leader had turned around to confirm he was going in the right direction. I gave a big thumbs-up, easily visible with black mittens on (gloves underneath). Up to the turnaround 2k later, I coughed almost continuously. I lost count of the number of times I had to spit.
The turnaround was at 9 k, with the way back following the path north of the river. The lead guy stopped for a drink there too. I had my own, and kept the bottles in my pockets to prevent freezing.
I found myself now in the lead. It meant a lot of encouragement from other runners coming the other way. High fives, and even a honking freight train on the opposite river bank got me a little carried away on pace. I might have even extended my lead for a couple of k. 
Even a lady waving to a friend who nearly clothelined me was exhilarating. 
By 13k, I'd slowed myself down enough to be joined by the tall guy, Nick. 1:28 pace was not going to end well, so restraint was best. Nick wanted to break 1:30 he said. "Not today" we agreed. 
When would he overtake? I mentioned that a win would be good, but I had nothing left. It was my hint that he'd get no contest for 1st when he sped up, which he did at 17k. 
Thinking about this race's place in my marathon training, I was on a gradual controlled slowdown into the finish.
The bridge near the zoo is a nice scenic spot with some stretches of solid ice.
I noticed another guy catching me, and actually gave myself the aim of being overtaken. Without that I would have engaged in an over-the-top finishing splurge. Not today, with half of a half marathon training program behind me, and on my way to a marathon aim that has eluded me for 2 years.
I spotted my wife before finishing in 1 hour 35 minutes for 3rd place. I skidded to a stop before saluting the guy handing out the medals.
The brunch at the Fort (what a great movie title that would make) was just what a runner needs.
A fairly good performance overall. A sub-90 if the paths had been clear. Overcoming tough conditions has its own reward, similar but distinct from getting a PB. Onto the marathon project. 
Here's the link to my race vid:


  1. You captured the course in those pics beautifully! Congrats on a great finish under tough conditions, an excellent start to the year. I'll look out for you at the next race, should be able to spot the GoPro eh?

    1. Thanks! I'd long wanted to be able to watch an "action replay". Next outing is the Calgary Marathon. Will have the camera ready and if the weather co-operates will be wearing Team Canada colours!

  2. Woohoo! Congratulations on an amazing finish and podium placement on a very chilly day!

  3. Great result and performance in those conditions. Mind-boggling for me!

  4. Congrats on the podium! The hypothermic half always seems to fall on tough conditions.