Sunday, September 15, 2013

Race Report: Loop Around the Lake Half Marathon

When I decided to take Labour Day weekend off to heal my calf, I knew I was going to have a 20k run to make up before Harvest, I decided to register for a race a bit closer to home - Loop Around the Lake Half.  Chestermere is just 10 mins from Langdon so feels practically like a local race for me :)

The route was flat and straightforward and I really liked that.  Two loops around Chestermere Lake.  I've run the route a few times before so I knew what to expect.  Oh - and the money raised supports Chestermere Library - books and running in one fell swoop.  The only thing missing would be a medal :P  Oh - and the fear of coming in last place since the teeny tiny field is also quite speedy.

Last minute, Tina decided to join me.

Package pickup was right before the race so we arrived early and nabbed our stuff.   Nothing too special - a tshirt, a couple of coupons and a reusable bag.

The chip was separate from the bib so I got to do my favourite trick that I learned from Coach Brock at Nike Women's...crumple the snot out of it and it will be all soft and non-annoying.  I wish I had more opportunities to do that.

And the chips were on an ankleband.  Not my favourite format, but better than a bib chip.

Shortly before the race, the race director, Bernard Maillet, called all of the half marathoners over for a pre-race powwow.  He explained how the course had to be changed from the two loops around the lake and would now be 22k instead of 21.1.  Ok...not that big of a difference, though enough to throw me off my game plan of trying to use this as a chance to break my 2:15 instead of waiting until Harvest Half.

He gave us a bunch of turn by turn instructions that went in one ear and flew right out the other.  They might have made more sense to the people who live in Chestermere...not so much to the rest of us.   All that was becoming abundantly clear was that this was not the simple 2 loops of the lake that I had actually signed up for.

Soon, the 13 of us in the "half" were lined up and ready to go.

Yep - that was all of us.
The course headed out as though it would be a loop...right up West Chestermere Drive.   This part was exactly how I would have run the loop anyway so I was still familiar at this point.

I was feeling really good but trying to go out conservatively.  This was going to be a fast field, if past years could be believed, and I didn't want to burn myself out.  So, staying just under 6:30, I tried to focus on being consistent...and I was winning at that.

When we got to the canal, the course marshall directed us away from the bridge and told us to run along the canal.  It was around here that my magic pants started to cause me grief.  The have never chafed me before but today looked like all of that would change.  I ended up taking a few steps to adjust myself while I was out of sight of everyone else but nothing I did seemed to help.  I decided to just keep going...

This was a fairly short stretch and when I reached the marshall at the other end, he told me to get on the sidewalk and keep going.  Sage advice...since there wasn't another course marshall for a couple of kms.

I actually started to think I was lost.  The course wasn't marked and there was no one in sight.  The next fastest woman was out of sight and Tina was a speck behind me.  But I stayed on the sidewalk and tried to trust.  I know I lost so much time pausing at each street to make sure I wasn't supposed to turn.

I was so relieved when I finally saw this lady with her giant furry earmuffs (it was pretty chilly when we started out...maybe not giant fuzzy earmuffs cold, but yeah...).

It was just a couple of blocks past her and we turned onto 17th ave (I can't remember what it's called in Chestermere...but it connects to 17th SE).

It was here that we ended up with the 11k race stragglers.   The next couple of kms were bobbing and weaving around leisurely walkers.

My knee was keeping pretty calm - just the occasional nag and actually only really hurt when I spent any long amount of time walking.

Soon, we were back at the rec centre (around the 8k point) and passing the finish line.

It's never easy to do that - pass the finish before you're done...but I was looking forward to the next stage...actually running around the lake.

The marshalls directed us across the road and onto the lakeshore pathway.  My pace had suffered a couple of the kms in the first 10k, but I was still doing ok.  Right around 6:45 overall, I would guess.

10k in 1:08...not bad.  Not bad.

We came around onto E. Chestermere and carried on past the public beach.

It was 11k before we had a water station.  And that was all that was there.  Water.

Shortly after, the race director drove by to shout encouragement and make sure everything was ok.

Running right to the end, the course took an odd turn...the Marshall there turned us into the countryside...along the road that heads to the High School...and told us to go to the very end.

The day was warming up but a steady breeze kept me feeling fairly comfortable.   The forecasted heat had caused me a fair bit of worry leading up to today, but thankfully autumn came to the rescue somewhat.  Along this out and back stretch, I finally saw the other runners coming the other way.  I suddenly didn't feel like I was so far behind anymore.

Marshalls were at each crossroad and they all said the same thing "Keep going.  Keep going"  Another water station at 13k and then some yappy poodles without owners handy to control them.  The larger kept trying to run with me.

I made it to the end and turned around.  I think it was here where I started to get a little bitter.  The course just didn't make any sense!  

Getting irritated.
Soon, on this return trip, I encountered Tina.  She was starting to feel as "off" as I was with the race.  But we were finishing...

The race director drove by again and this time, it felt more like a "we've never had runners this slow in my race before" move and I hated it.  I understand that he was trying to be involved and helpful, but his presence really started to bug me.

I kept going and soon was back in town again.   A couple of zig-zaggy turns and I was at the lake again.  For a race called "Loop Around the Lake" there sure wasn't much "lake" involved!!

Oh - and the Race Director was at this point too.  The guy was everywhere.

This part is always my favourite.  When the path turns to gravel and winds around the southern tip of Chestermere Lake.  It is aways so pretty.  Lake on one side, country on the other.

My spirits lifted a little as I ran this part.  I figured it was almost over.

I just had to cross this bridge and head back onto West Chestermere and it would be the homestretch.  In fact...going that way would probably mean it was still a half marathon.  A REAL half marathon.

But much for assuming.  As soon as I reached the marshall...she steered me a different way...BACK ONTO THE CANAL PATH!

This made NO SENSE AT ALL!     This way- if it was the same as the first time - meant at least another 4-5k and my Garmin was at 20k!

I hit the half marathon point in around 2:35.  Definitely off my goal time, but good considering.

I got to the marshall at the other end and asked if it was the same as last time and he said "yep - follow the sidewalk all the way"  I asked "As far as last time?" and he said "yep"

I believe I said "Fuuuuuuck"   That made him laugh.

At almost exactly 22k, the race director passed me again.  He asked if I was okay and I shouted angrily that there should be a finish line here.  At 22k...if his race was actually the 22k he told us it was.

He kept driving...not sure why.  The way I saw it - he should have whipped out a timing mat and finish line so I could be done.  Ah well - not everyone sees the world the same way I do...

Suddenly, this race was The Big Run all over again.

For the next two bitter kilometres, I started fantasizing about punishing the Race Director for the added length.

A text to hubby, just in case:

Fluffy earmuff lady was still there, sans the muffs now that it was warmer, and was being all encouraging.   She waved me on and I was getting myself ready to head for the highway and the final hellish miles.

But then the next marshall turned me onto Merganser. Oh good...maybe this could be over faster.   The pathway here was brand new.  There were marshalls at every crossroad.  Some of them just encouraging.  Others trying to run with me.  No offense to the running ones - but I was seriously in the Mean Reds and did not need the company.

The encouragement seemed so condescending.  I just wanted to be done and instead I felt like I was being talked down to.   I know that's not how it was meant, but that's what I felt.

Turning back onto W. Chestermere, I was officially in the homestretch.

I pushed on.  My legs were lead.  My brain was lead.  The chafing was unbearable.  I just wanted to be done so I could go home.

Soon, I could see the Rec Centre and as I got closer, at least I could be happy that the finish line was still up.  I'd half expected it to be torn down and everyone gone home by the time I got there.

As I entered the parking lot, the race director came running over to high 5 me (seriously - is this guy cloned? he was everywhere!)...I yelled at him that I was officially not speaking to him for the next 20 years and I turned to the finish chute.  They announced my name as I crossed and everyone cheered.

When I came out the other side, two of the other half runners were there to remove my chip (which had started to chafe me around 23K) and to hand me my medal (something I didn't think was part of the package since it wasn't advertised)

In the end, my "Half marathon" of the day was 25k. Almost exactly, by my Garmin, but seeing as the Garmin regularly shorts could have been more. An Ultra Half Marathon.  The two at the finish line had hung around to compare their distance to mine and both had come up at 25 as well.  We were all in agreement that that was stupid-long.  Imagine if we'd been running our first half marathons?   There is a HUGE difference between 21 and 25k!

There was no food at the finish line for us.  And things were getting pretty packed up by the time I got there.

I will admit - getting a medal did soften the blow of such a terrible race for me.  It didn't wipe it away, though.  But my medalwhore side was happy.

Wanna hear something funny - I actually placed 2nd in my age group!  If they'd had awards for that - I coulda had a second medal!  Honestly, this race was so small that everyone except one guy would have placed!

Next, I went to the fence to wait for Tina.  I figured she was a fair bit behind me at that point, if she'd started to struggle like I had.

I told the marshalls to cheer her by name and everyone else there was waiting for her so they could cheer.

When she came into sight, she had an entourage...she'd picked up some marshalls and a couple of runners had come back to run her in.  I had wanted to run her in too, but I'm not sure I could have run another step today.

We were both so bitter.  What a freaking gong show of a race!   I DEFINITELY will NOT be running it again.  I don't care if it IS close to home.

So all that was left to do was go have coffee...and bitch.  Something we are both quite good at :P

In addition to the chafing, I endured a couple of other ailments...including my first running blister.  And the bruise on my left foot (appeared after corp challenge) is darker now.  I am wondering if those might not have been caused by the purple laces in my new kinvaras. (insert sad face).  The only laces I could find were skate laces, but I seem to have toe issues and nothing is different about these shoes but the laces.  I'll be keeping an eye on it.

The Garmin Geekery:


  1. That sounds horrible. The course looks like a headless penguin with a knife coming of out his back.

  2. Eeek! Going long on a point to point race is understandable. Even a loop course might be a little long, what with GPS errors, and the need to have the number of loops come out even or something. But 4 K long when there's that stupid out and and back? That's just cruel. Hope the chafing heals up quick.

    1. Exactly! That entire section was utterly pointless and the steady uphill really only served as a way to slow us down until we were too tired to push on the return trip.

      The chafing is feeling much better today. I didn't feel like cutting my body in half in the shower :P

  3. Ah that really sucks! What did the race director say about it?

    1. Not a freaking thing. I think he thought it was hilarious. All in all - this was a schmoz of an event. Even he kept saying "the town doesn't really like me putting on this run" That shoulda been a sign.

    2. Note to self, re: future race plans...

    3. Yeah - I'd avoid this one like the plague. But, on an up note, Harvest Half should feel really short after this one!

  4. Oh man, that race would have put me smack dab in the middle of the "bite me" zone! 25K is an awfuly long half marathon. Great job on persevering!

    1. It was not pretty. T and I did some pretty strong bitching at coffee ;)Now Harvest half will seem positively short! We just trained for it well beyond our need.

  5. Oh gosh that guy! I would have smacked him. And what do you mean you were super fast!!! U were probably just ahead of everyone lol

    1. HA! Yeah...if we look at the results in reverse LOL!

  6. PS I would love to hear more about this writing stuff. I am actually in the midst of co-authoring my first book

    1. I have two novels in progress, but no time to finish them right now. So much for making priorities. I'm hoping this winter, I will be able to settle in and get some real work done on them.

  7. Holy crap!! I laughed. I cried. The only thing that made it good times was knowing you we're prob bitchier than me. Oh man. I've never wanted to quit more than this stupid ass race. I really didn't mind the volunteers at the end of the race. But the high 5 from director man at finish. Well I so wanted to give him a bite me. Fark

    1. I may or may not have punched his hand before yelling at him. I notice he avoided me the rest of the time I was there (It had nothing to do with race cleanup).

      Part of me thinks I should put his name in here so it will come up in Google searches :P

  8. I've had nightmares just like this where they keep moving the finish line. It's a close second to my 'running into very strong wind and going backward' one.

    1. Eep! I've had that nightmare! While training for my first full! This whole thing reminded me so strongly of the year I did The Big Run and they directed us the wrong way at the first intersection and it added 4k to our 10k race! It was so hard to watch all of those first time 10k people crying.

    2. frick. we lived that bad dream. I did that 2011 bigrun too. i used the free entry in 2012. they did not it this year...gee wonder why.

  9. W.T.F???? I'm so disappointed and angry for you! Holy crap that was a small race. I'll definitely think twice about doing that race- I don' need to do a 25K race!

    I think 17th Ave is just called 17th Ave- at least that's what we always called it!

    My dad was actually on the library board when they were planning it so the cause is close to me. Not close enough to run an extra 4K half marathon!

    Harvest Half will feel positively easy!

    1. Here's hoping! The funny thing is, that I would love it if we had more 25-30k races in this area...but I'd like to enter them as a runner prepared to run that distance. Not to have it forced on my at the end of a race.

  10. I think I was the next fastest woman runner. :)
    I was pretty annoyed too.

    1. I'm still curious how the winner managed to do that in 1:26 Wonder if he still has feet or if they burned right off...

    2. how he managed 1:26 for 25 when he only ran the stampede road race in 1:38. which was actually a half. but whatever.

    3. I heard that some of them missed the "up the country road" part of the run. Maybe that's why he was so fast.

  11. I'd be so ticked if my half turned out to be 4k long! So lame! However, I'm so glad the medal whore in you got a medal and my favourite part of all is the new saying "ultra half marathon". That's frickin' rad. Sorry the day sucked but good work sticking through it!

  12. WTF? Wow, that would have pissed me off so much! Amazing that you finished so well though, as 4k is a huge difference! You're gonna kick butt at the Harvest though!

  13. Hahahah I'm sorry but I laughed. I had this happen to me year ago at a race where I signed up for a half marathon trail race, and it turned out to be the 15.5km course, and the 11.5km course put yea that's 27kms!!! It's still a funny story to look back on, and I know as much as it bugged you now, it'll be a good story for you in the future. Good job on sticking it out and finishing!

    And if you do more trail races....never trust the distance they tell you, and the distance your Garmin gives you. It's rarely, if ever accurate.


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