Saturday, February 8, 2014

Race Report: Calgary Hypothermic Half 2014

AKA - the one with all of the pee jokes in my head

AKA - the day I earned my personal worst

AKA - the one I was so sure was mapped out by the same guy as Chestermere

But let's go back a couple of days, shall we...

I knew package pick up was on Thursday and Friday and, since I need to pick up hubby everyday down near Eau Claire - I had decided to go Thursday since Friday was the one day I didn't actually need to pick him up!

I realized at around 7pm, when I was back in Langdon, that I had forgotten.  Doh!

But never fear - hubby fixed it on his lunch break and grabbed it for me.  Phewf.

Nothing too special.  Just a bib and the hat and gloves that come with the race, plus an issue of Running Room Magazine.  The hat and gloves fit perfectly.  Not sure how much I'll wear them, but it's hard for me to find gloves that fit so I am sure those will get some wear on warmer days.

I did wish they had included a printed map since having one at package pickup hadn't really done me any good.

I laid out a few things last night but I woke up feeling really unprepared.   I ate breakfast, had my coffee, fed the girlies and got ready to go.  With such a drab day ahead, I decided it was time to SPARKLE.

I wanted to be able to park in the Fort Calgary lot so I aimed to be an hour early.  Turns out that wasn't early enough.   The lot was full when I got there and street parking turned out to be maximum 3 hours!  Since I anticipated that it might take me 3 hours to run the thing and I was an hour early...well - that was not so good.  I luckily found a parking lot a few blocks away with a more generous time limit.  And then I ran to Fort Calgary from there.   It was so cold there is no way I could have walked it..  -18°C with a windchill of -26°C I might have had hypothermia before I even got there!

Once I was inside, I headed straight to the washrooms.  The line was so slow and once I got to the front of it, I saw why...only one stall for a race that was (at least) half women.

Shortly after, I found Tina and Sue and we killed time before the race with a few photos.  I'll post the nice one since I am sure the ones with the big "eff you" to the weather will show up in a few other places...

Before we knew it, it was time to head out to the start line.

Now my race strategy was pretty simple.   Go slow.  Don't fall down.  Don't get injured.  Be prepared to walk.  Capture snowflake medal.

I was NOT concerned with pace and time.  In healing my hammock injury, I learned that slow is best for me right now.  I also know that I hadn't trained well for this so I wasn't willing to risk anything.  If I had to walk it and my finish time was 3:22 then so be it.  I needed to finish healthy and happy.   and, on a day like today, not frozen to death.

Hypo half in Calgary can go any number of ways weather-wise.  It's a little like roulette.   Some years it is unseasonably warm.  Some years it is unbearably cold.  Some years it is mild.  You never know what you're gonna get.   To make it even trickier - you have to register well in advance because this thing - BOTH WAVES - sell out.  EVERY year.

This year I was taking my chance...and the roulette wheel landed on unbearably cold.  But I know winter running along those pathways.  I was 99% sure I was dressed fine for it.  I just had to warm up and it would be all good.

So, we were on our way.  Sue, Tina and I started together.  My vague, overheard understanding of the route told me we were running west and back. Imagine my surprise when we suddenly turned EAST!  And looped around Fort Calgary and then headed west.

I had immediate visions of Chestermere - my ultra-half back in the summer.  

But I kept going.   At the first walk break, Sue decided to pull ahead and keep going so I stayed with Tina and we picked up another lady - Karen - who stayed with us for a few kms before also pulling ahead.  Tina and I were on our own.  I was alternating between perfectly warm and freezing cold, depending on the level of windbreak along the river.   

There may have been a few odes to the weather.

But we kept going.

Even when we started to notice that our watches were consistently a kilometer ahead of the posted signage.

We crossed over at Crowchild Trail and the temperature plummeted.  No windbreak meant my ears were numb.  Thank goodness for the hood on my running jacket.  It truly saved the day.

Of course, there was soon a sharper problem than cold ears.

By 7k, my bottles were icing up. And we had yet to see an aid station  It was around here that my phone stopped working too - so no more photos for the rest of the race.

Now we were seeing people on their return trip.  We kept going west and I just kept wishing that the whispers of the turnaround being at shouldice were wrong.  I pulled ahead of Tina at this point.  I was feeling really strong and wanted to go with it.   

A bit before Edworthy, I passed Sue going the other way and, with a high five she assured me the turnaround was soon.  I immediately figured that meant it would be at the washrooms and relief washed over me.  I pretty much HAD to get to a washroom or I was going to pee my pants out there.  With renewed purpose - I pushed forward.  

The turnaround came sooner than that.  And the only water station of the whole race - it would turn out.  To get to the washrooms, I would have had to run another third of a km to get to them.  I already worried that the course was long - that would have been too much for me.   I decided to tough it out.  If it got really bad - I figured I would run into a restaurant or detour to eau claire or something.  We'd just call it bladder training for now.

When I got to Tina, she decided to turn around right there and stick with me again.  We stuck together for a little bit but then I pulled ahead again.  By Crowchild I had lost her.  When I got to Peace Park, I left her some funny messages in the snow - figuring she'd get a laugh when she saw them.  I had no way of knowing she'd be on an adventure of her own before then.  I wish my phone wasn't dead there so I could have had photos...

I tried hard to not concentrate on my grumbly bladder.  I started to role play in my head.  I'll admit, most of these were me pretending to be the Doctor's companion and figuring out scenarios where me and the Doctor landed somewhere in the TARDIS.   It was good distraction.  

There were no volunteers and the signage was getting fewer and far between.   I found myself checking for other racers all the time to make sure I was still on track.   It appeared I was.

I didn't know where I'd be crossing back over the river.   I passed the Peace Bridge and Edmonton Trail and the signs still pointed to stay on the North side of the river.  I filled with a sense of dread when I realized it was going to be the Zoo bridge.

It was incredibly hard to pass Fort Calgary on the other side of the river and watch, in slow motion, as all hope of quick washrooms passed me by.   My legs and feet felt good, but the running was jostling my bladder seriously bad by the 17k mark.   It was also making my nose run like crazy.  Yet, powerwalking was keeping me at almost the same pace as my running had been.   So I decided it was time to walk.  I was just going to walk it fast.

I had to keep that 3 hour pace bunny behind me.   I didn't have a time goal, but it turned out my pride was still intact.   I pushed as hard as I could.  and soon I was picking off runners.   My pace was around 8:30 and I was killing it.  So I kept it up.

At 20k - I started cracking jokes as I passed people "Only one more kilometer and then we can pee, ladies!"   A couple of people even laughed.   Possibly even with me.

Crossed over the bridge and started heading west again.   As I was coming up to Fort Calgary - suddenly I saw Tina again.  She was coming around the path from a completely different angle.  I couldn't figure out how she would have gotten ahead of me and then onto that path, but it's her story to tell so I am sure you'll get to read all about it soon enough.

My watch was over 21.1k, but not as badly as I thought it would be.  But if they made me run that same loop as the start again - I couldn't guarantee the safety of the course marshall directing me that way.

Boy were they ever lucky when they waved me into the parking lot.   

I decided to run again in the end.  My legs even had some speed in them for my big finish.  And what a finish it was - with 250 witnesses.  The next wave was just minutes from heading out.

and I finished in under 3 hours.  Barely. 2:59:21  

 A new personal worst, but one I'm pretty proud of.

I mean - just look how consistent this race mostly was:

Look at how even keeled that chart was

If I can do that slightly faster and over twice the distance by June - I could have a pretty sweet marathon finish.

So I may have earned that new personal worst but it was all good.   Because I finally got myself that snowflake medal.  

I wasn't planning to stay for the brunch, but did anyway.  Scrambled eggs, potatoes au gratin (which tasted kind of fishy), fruit crumble, the best scones ever and the all-important coffee.

And now it's all out of my system.  I NEVER need to sign up for this race.  EVER AGAIN.   No way, Jose.  I have no desire to risk hypothermia for a medal ever again.

When I got home, I had the hottest shower ever.  No ice bath for this chickita.  I believe I got 3 hours of that out there!  And then, Doodle helped me recover.  


  1. Yay! Glad you didn't burst. How can they not mark the course? I did it once, and I think that's enough. Though your medal is way classier than mine...

    1. The course was marked - just not well. The distance markers were off because someone took us on a 1k detour at the start. But then there were 2 - 5k markers and no volunteers on course and it was idiotic.

  2. Another entertaining recap! Glad you made it safely Cori! ONE portapotty in a half! That's inhumane. I might have left messages in the snow of a different kind. ;)

    1. one potty? only if you count that stinky gross one that is on the pathway (and always full). There were NONE! It was the worst route in that respect.

      Bahaha...messages in the snow. Yeah - I wouldn't have been able to write those kind as high up as I did without installing some external hose-like extension....

  3. That bathroom thing would have been a major issue for me-that's wrong not to have them on the course! It's unfortunate they didn't release a map because I could've come to cheer you on since it came close to my end of town. What a gong show.

    1. Totally! Never again.

      I love that you wanted to come out to cheer! You're a great friend for even thinking it! It was nasty out there - I couldn't imagine staying out there.

  4. Oh man, sorry to hear that the race was so disorganized. Nothing is worse than that! But awesome job on getting out there and doing it.

  5. No portapotties and 1 water station ... oh and so little signage. Not to mention not a single volunteer from 10km onward. Or say maybe a sign turned (perhaps but the wind) pointing left instead of right...yes that is a half NEVER needs repeating.


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