21 Hours 45 Minutes
The usual white hatches of city streets on Google Maps were instead highlighted by a sheath of candy cane coating. This colour scheme piqued our interest as Christmas had been gone for a while, although the cold continued to subsist into February.
“It says there’s a half marathon tomorrow in Grimsby… we should do it.” said Brian.
“Tomorrow?” replied Brittany.
“Yeah it starts at nine.”
“Oh sure. Why not?”
And that’s the story of how we signed up for our first running race with 21 hours and 45 minutes left to prep.
Tale of Two Deals
So, the tricky part was that neither of us had run a half marathon before. We figured we’ve both gotten the distance of 10K and a bit pretty well down pat (at least for completing it) with the amount of running workouts we’ve been doing of that distance in our training –
But no time to worry about that stuff right then! If we were going to run this race the next day, we had to get some logistics sorted out – pronto. You see, the other tricky part is that we don’t really have reliable access to a car. Unfortunately, we were already just a tad too late figuring this stuff out because the car rental branches closest to us were closing for the day very soon. We weren’t going to get to one before it closed. We scrambled looking through our other options for getting to the race and back, and the best one seemed to be this: to take a chilly ~10km bike ride to an Enterprise rental branch in the next town that was still open into the afternoon that day and pick up a car to use for race day. We got there just in time and they gave us the weekend rate ($12.99/day for 2-3 days) too!
Now back to worrying about the first tricky part: getting prepared for the race. Fuelling for the longer distance was one particular concern. We hadn’t used energy gels before, but thought we could make this race our first trial using them (yes, we know you’re supposed to have done your trial of them before you race with them). So off to our local Running Room we went for those and some gloves that’d stay dry for such a long distance outside. Ha, another deal! The store was having a Family Day weekend sale of 20% off, so it made for a good excuse for us each to buy a new pair of shoes to alternate with or replace our current pairs. Now home to pack, eat, reflect, and relax for the rest of our prep.
Then we got to race day. Here are each of our little stream-of-consciousness summaries of our thoughts as we went through the 21.1km course:
Sure, now that I’m going faster than a walk, my right foot is doing that weird thing it does sometimes for the first 100m or so of a jog until I’ve run it off. (It’s like the feeling when you don’t have your full flexibility of your fingers, neck, ankle, or other joints and the only way to fix it is to crack it). Well, I’ll just run it off.
The pack is de-compacting. It feels safe to run faster than this… let’s go! Let’s also embarrass Brian a bit with a goodbye we part. I yell back, “Byyye, toé! Love yyyou!” and run away. (Contrary to Brian’s opinion, most of those words are English). These gloves are too warm!
I thought I had double-knotted you, right shoelace! I pull over to the side at the 2km sign and re-tie. Better that happened sooner rather than later when I’m exhausted.
Oh, a speed bump and a “SLOW” sign. Dis. Re. Gard.
Front of my left thigh is getting tight (thank you, last Sunday footy practice!)… better pay attention. AND let’s try fuelling up. Gel pack! OMG! It’s delicious! Hon honnn! New favourite dessert! If I didn’t know anything about basic calories-in-calories-out, I’d use this as a filling for making donuts!
Is that a Donald Trump support flag in those people’s yard? I’m gonna keep running.
The tightness in my left quad has been getting worse. The muscle is definitely cramping now, quite painful. I thought this might happen. Brian and I talked about this, what I plan to do if it comes up. Luckily the cramping is high enough that I can reach it to squeeze and massage it as I run, as awkward as it is to try. I have to keep going and hydrating… even as these new people are passing me. Ok, come here, Nutella-flavoured gel! I love you!
I think the cramping in my quad has quieted down to just muscle tightness. I’d really like to pick up my pace – why doesn’t it seem to be working? I’m getting close to my max. 2-hour goal. I’m getting a bit worried.
Going up this course’s biggest hill – finally! Bring it!
Standings & Results
Finished in 1:55:29 placing 4th in my age group and 24th of all women.
Okay group start, don’t let others spur you on to run faster than you normally do. Pace yourself. My left ankle is being grumpy, I really hope this doesn’t turn from dull to horrendous after the 10k point.
Yup, there goes Berry. Oh – she yelled she loves me in Quebecer French and now some people are looking at me. Ah well, it’s supposed to be fun, right?
That wasn’t so bad and here’s an aid station. Da fuq are with these cups? Oh God, there’s Gatorade all over my balaclava!
My hands are freezing, maybe pulling the fingers in and keeping a loose fist inside the gloves will help that.
Shit, I got a stitch. Better slow down. I’m probably too excited and perhaps running a bit faster than usual.
Making pretty good time compared to normal. I guess training has been paying off. Shove a gel in my mouth and let’s see how the rest goes.
So many people passing me.
Man, where did all these people passing me come from? Why can’t I increase my cadence? What am I doing with my life? I know I’m going to finish but was I hoping to finish this tired? This bloody headwind!
Okay, people are cheering me on and shouting encouragement. I can pull through.
Woah, they announced my name. That’s kinda fun.
Standings & Results
Finished with a time of 2:19 in 9th place of my age group 89th for mens’ overall.
Standings – Analyzed by Brian
It was pleasantly surprising to see Berry place 4th in her womens’ age group and for myself to place in the top 10 – albeit 9th – of my age group… until the post race results came out and I realized there were only 9 people in my AG. That being said, it makes my life a little bit easier as I can only go up from here. Furthermore, I had only taken to running approximately a month and a half before this and still have a bit of extra cushioning around my tummy to loose, so I’ll take it.
That being said, I won’t take it lying down. I need to know precisely how bad I did and how much room there is to improve. To this, I scraped the table of the race results and used the default kernel density estimate present in seaborn to approximate the probability distribution of selecting a runner at random and finding their time for the race. The dashed lines denote the guntimes Berry and I finished with. It is clear that even with small prep Berry has fairly respectable results being approximately one standard deviation above the mean. On my end, there is much work to be done as I was approximately 2 standard deviations below the mean. It was also somewhat comforting to see that my placement wasn’t DFL in mens’ (just in my AG).
NEEDED: Brain Power, Not Horsepower
It seems fairly fitting that in the parking lot of the high school there was a big sign that read “NEEDED: BRAIN POWER NOT HORSEPOWER DRIVE SAFELY”. While it is true that perhaps we had the horsepower to finish a half marathon we’re not sure if it was a fairly wise decision to register on such short notice. We are going to go ahead and say that it was though. Sure, the next day our quads were so tight that foam rolling them caused us to roll around foaming at the mouth in agony. Walking up and down the stairs as we performed household chores the next day was an extremely awkward affair as well. These things though are short-lived while the memory of the finish leaves a longer aftertaste.
The true danger though would’ve been the inadequate preparation leading to an injury. There is no doubt that a full marathon would’ve made our ankles and knees a chalky powder had we participated in a marathon instead with our level of prep. Still, that seems to be the point of endurance sports, you prepare to the best of your ability and take a calculated risk – if it pays out you get a dopamine hit and a story to pull upon in times of doubt and need in the future. While it may of been a bit silly to enter our first race as a 0-degree, half-marathon, with less than 24 hours notice, but at least we got a hell of a lot of mental training during the course of completing it.