Monday, August 22, 2011

Race Report: Edmonton Half Marathon 2011

As part of my summer of craziness (aka Marathon training), I signed up for a bunch of half marathons to keep me going on those long runs.  Yesterday was one of those halfs...the Edmonton Marathon Half.   It was only going to be part of my run for the weekend (since I decided to go for 29K this week instead of next) so I knew I needed to be super smart about it.

We picked up my race kit on our way through Edmonton to my in-laws place.   The expo this year was ALOT better than last year.  I wish I'd thought to bring more money so I could buy some goodies because there was some pretty cool stuff there.  Instead, I picked up some more bondibands in colours I didn't have yet.   The race package didn't contain anything too special...just my bib, the requisite flyers and the second ugliest race shirt (second only to last years for this event).

Oh - and then there's the timing chip.  it was a bib chip...but it was a bib chip that makes those other bib chips from my Calgary races seem like the best thing ever.  This one was a sensor that laid flat on the paper and then had  a giant foam thing over it.  ya - comfortable.  bet those full marathon people really love that.

But I favourite part of the expo was discovering Embee body wallets.  I was stupid and didn't buy one for myself right then and there, but it was such a cool idea for runners that I know one is in my future.  Maybe she'll be at Okanogan so I can get an expo deal on it (they are quite a bit more expensive to buy online).

Ok - so that was the Expo.  Saturday, I spent hanging out with family and taking Doodle to emerg (ya - good times...luckily just an ear infection but still gives a sense of how much sleep we had this weekend (Read: none)

On Saturday night, I asked my father in law how long it would take me to get from Stony Plain to Northlands park for 7am on a Sunday...he told me an hour.  Sunday morning, I was up at 5 and out the door by 6.   It took me 25 mins.  No - I didn't speed.

Upside to arriving an hour and a half before the race starts?  Well - you get super great parking.  I was really close to the start line (very important for finish line stumble back to car).  But no one else was there so I sat in the car for 5 mins and contemplated what to do...decided maybe getting that 8K in BEFORE the race might be nice because then I could just get my medal and leave after the race.  So, that's what I did :)  

Running through the early morning streets of Edmonton was much like going anywhere in Edmonton is...not too exciting.  It's not that pretty of a city.  If I had given some forethought, I might have tried to get to the paths of the river valley but I didn't want to get lost when I was on a timeline to get back to the start line.  I just ran a quick out and back to get in that 8K (I got back to Northlands just in time to see the full marathoners heading out!) and then hit the washrooms (yay for real toilets at the start line) and lined up for the race.   It was 5 mins to the start.   This meant that everyone was quite crowded in and there was no way I could work my way forward to run behind the 2:30 pace bunny.   Instead, I was surrounded by walkers.  No worries, I thought - I'll run with the back of the pack and just go with it.  I have a goal of 2:45 for this and running at the back might actually help me stay on track for that slow of a half.

And the full marathoners are off!
The start line from the back of the pack

The race started at 8am and was a slow crawl to the start...and then we were off...I felt like I was going slow but a quick glance at my Garmin told me I was going quite quick (sub-6 min/km).  I felt good, though so I just tried to back off a bit and keep going.  Out of Northlands park and onto 112 Ave.  My first observation about Edmonton roads is that they are in much worse shape than the Calgary roads...very uneven and in desperate need of repair.  One of the best parts of this race, I soon discovered, was that they have portapotties at EVERY waterstation - SCORE!  I took full advantage of that along the way - since I wasn't racing this.

Then it was onto Jasper Ave and into downtown.  I was feeling good, but the temperature was really staring to climb.   So hot.   I was grateful when we turned into residential and the treelined streets.  I passed the 10K mark in around 1:10 and thought that was a nice pace to settle into for the rest of the race.   There was this one bridge we passed over that was super ridiculous...the bridge wasn't paved - it was all this open grating!   with the road it passed over VERY far below.  More than a little disconcerting to run on.   Shortly past that point, I saw one of my TNT buddies, Tim, pass in the opposite direction with the full marathoners.  I called out to him, but he is so fast that I don't think he heard me.  Then, a little after that I saw my bloggy friend, Sue, pass.  She looked much happier than she had the last time I saw her in Lacombe!

I was soon on my way back.  Through the treelined neighbourhood, across the horrid grate bridge (I took the sidewalk this time) and back toward downtown.   I was starting to slow myself down ALOT with my walk breaks getting longer and longer.   Shortly after entering downtown, this lady started running toward me with a big smile on her face - and it was my runner girl JS!!! She was in Edmonton for her brother in law's wedding and the hotel was near the race route. :)   I was so happy to see her!  Especially at that point where the heat plus my added distance was starting to make this race feel really hard.  We walked together for around 5 mins and then, as we came up to the running Elvises, she turned back and left me recharged to run for a bit longer.   I was able to run fairly steadily after that - still taking very long walk breaks whenever I wanted them - and it wasn't long before I was in the homestretch on 112 Ave again.   There was no shade in this stretch.   The heat was baking me and a mosquito had somehow gotten into the top of my bra and bitten me (he paid for his crime with his life).  I was starting to get really out of it and my Nuun was running low.   Another lady wheezed to a stop near me and, sensing she was looking for someone to chat with, we walked together and talked races.  She told me about how this was her second half and that she had done San Diego a couple of months ago.  I told her I had a couple of friends who ran it with TNT and she said she had done hers with TNT, too - meaning she had been on the same team as V and Mary!  She totally remembered them and for a moment, me and this stranger (Jodie) had bonded.  I shared the story of my TNT experience and we walked to the entrance to Northlands Park - agreeing to run to the finish from that point.  

We started running together, but she quickly gasped and told me I was too fast and to just go on without her.  I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 2:46 exactly and, as I made my way through the finish chute to the medals, the volunteer was standing there reading to put the most amazing medal over my head.  I felt like an Olympian!  I had just run 29 kilometres and won a finishers medal for it.   And what a medal it was!  Wide ribbon.  Substantial medal.  This was no light bauble on a lanyard!  See for yourself!

and the Garmin (loved the new Garmin, light and comfy):

The time discrepancy is because of the potty stops)

Things to love about the Edmonton Half Marathon:
  • Very well planned
  • Decent Expo (this year - I imagine it can only get better in future years given how much better it was this year from last)
  • Well spaced water stations
  • Superb volunteers - very encouraging
  • Portapotties at every water station
  • Roving medics that moved along the route in a little utility truck
  • Real toilets and running water at start/finish (much nicer than visiting a portapotty at either of those points)
  • Awesome medal!
  • Friendly runners - so many people encouraging each other along the way.  It was refreshing.
  • Excellent post-race spread

Things that are Meh about the Edmonton Half Marathon:
  • Horrible race shirt - unisex, huge logo, just generally ugly
  • Unexciting race route
  • Not many spectators (though there were some very enthusiastic, elderly lady cheerleaders at one point)
  • Road quality - very uneven.

Things I learned running at the back of the pack:
  • It's a very lonely place to be.  In a half of this size - the middle of the pack is fairly dense and you are never far from another participant.  The back of the pack thins out quickly and, while you aren't weaving around many people, you are also very alone for the majority of the race.
  • Along that same vein - you miss out on the energy of being in a large race.  
  • Being passed by racewalkers really sucks.
  • Finding out that racewalkers can WALK faster than you can run really, REALLY sucks.
  • Some of the more inspiring stories are found at the back of the pack - people who are testing themselves.  People who are achieving something they never thought possible.  It is kind of amazing that way.
  • I won't run at the back again unless I absolutely am forced to...that's my biggest lesson.  There's nothing wrong with being back there - I just know now that the energy of the middle of the pack carries me when my own energy starts to wane.


  1. You didn't think the Run for L'Arche was THE uglist shirt ever??? My second worst shirt was the Edge 2 Edge (Uclulet)shirt ... which is a bummer because it's pretty, but just really cheap scratchy material ... that bites! Best shirt? RED DEER!!! Awesome shirt ... you must come up and get one, maybe next year? Hint!

    Yeah, LOVED the Edmonton medal, so nice!!

  2. lol..L'arche was definitely up there - though I forgive it because it is a white long sleeve and I need more of those for my 4am runs so idiots in big trucks can see me. General public, however, will not see that one EVER! I just find the edmonton one to be so ill fitting - like a boxy rectangle and the logo is so huge.

    And the fact that they print "Fast and Flat" on the thing...well, at least it's not false advertising on the flat part when I'm wearing it :P I don't like that meshy fabric for tech shirts. I prefer the smooth.

    My fave shirt was the Calgary Police's a Zorrel brand and so comfy. The Calgary Marathon ones are really nice too - small logo and good quality. Honestly, though, if they want me to wear a race shirt to run in...they might want to consider screen printing lulu tanks :P

    and I want to wear my medal from yesterday...and never take it off... :D

  3. Yeah, no public has ever seen my Run for L'Arche shirt ...ever! But yeah, I guess it would make a good beacon for the truck drivers, never thought of that!

    Was it necessary to print "Fast and Flat" on that? um no! That took the advertising a little far, I don't know any WOMAN that would like FAST and FLAT written on their body ...

    I heard the Calgary Police shirt was awesome ... still on my list to do oneday ... Yes, lulu tanks are abundant in my closet too ... love them! ).


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