Tuesday, January 27, 2009

hypothermic half marathon- a spectator's race report

So I’ve been a spectator at quite a few running events, but this one was a little different because it was in January. Standing and watching in the cold is definitely a different experience. I’ll start by saying that they call it the Hypothermic Half for a reason and it did live up to its name. While it wasn’t as cold as it had been earlier in the week, Sunday morning was still in the “double digit minuses” and there was a bit of a wind chill. I’m pretty sure it was in the -20s when you factored the wind in, though luckily the wind wasn’t strong. So for the very first time that I've watched a race, I didn't envy them as much as usual.

Jordan got up before I did to do the usual pre-race routine while I stayed warm and cozy in bed. It felt a little shocking to get out of bed in the dark on a Sunday, but off we went in our rental car. The parking lot was mostly empty when we got there but it filled up pretty quickly. It is kind of funny to sit in a mostly full parking lot with people who are just unwilling to get out until they absolutely have to. No one wanted to be out in the cold any longer than they needed to. Eventually, however, we needed to find the bathrooms (5 minute walk from the car) and the start-line (another 5 minutes or so). I assumed my role as “pack mule” as Jordan took off layers and handed them to me before heading into the pack of runners. As he handed me his jacket, I was a little shocked, but there wasn’t much of a wind and he promised to grab it from me at the turnaround. I have to say, I was pretty jealous of the people right in the middle of the start pack…all those bodies keeping them warm. Since it was a small race, there was just a guy giving a couple of instructions (which I don’t think most people heard) and then a “Go”. Off they went.

Since the race was on the Experimental Farm, there aren’t a tonne of trees, so from the start/turn around/finish line (the race was divided into 4 5K loops and a 550m out and back to the finish) I could see a lot of the progress. Not enough to pick out Jordan or anything, but it was really quite interesting to see the “regular” runners going along and then seeing the fast ones wiz by them going in the other direction. I’ve definitely been on the side of running along and watching the fast people go by, but I haven’t been able to just observe it before. Kind of cool.

The other fun thing was watching the frost accumulate on any part of any person that it would stick to. Eyelashes, regular hair, beards, the little hairs that aren’t noticeable until you run in the winter (that’s right ladies, you too can get a snow-beard). The various states of frostiness were fun to watch. Everyone was as unique as…well, a snowflake. (and as we were discussing on the side-lines: friends tell friends when they have a snow beard)

All was well until about 45-50 minute mark when I started to get pretty darn cold (despite my hand and feet warmers…those little things can only do so much I suppose). But, some people came to my rescue and let me sit in their van for a little bit. I was back outside at the 65 minute mark just in time to see Jordan at the turnaround to start his last loop. At that point I knew I was cold but that I only had to be out there another half hour maximum.

The finish looked like it was a bit of a tease. They had been doing 5K loops so once they were at the end of their last loop, they still had 1.1km to go. This was an out and back right on the other side of the street from the other turn around. It must have been hard to think about "ok, still 1.1K to go" when you kind of feel like you're at the "done" point. But, such is life when you do road races I guess.

The guy that won finished almost 5 minutes ahead of everyone else...pretty impressive. Especially considering he didn't have that runner "look" to him: he almost seemed to run like a rugby player. The second and third place finishers battled it out to the end and finished within a second of eachother- always fun to watch. Especially when you're right there to watch them finish, then introduce themselves to each other and congratulate each other on a great race. The fourth place finisher had the goal of finishing top 10, was in fifth going in to the last out and back, but managed to catch up and pass before the finish. Plus he had the best snow beard of them all. I was pretty excited to see Jordan come in 4th place...not just because I thought it was pretty cool that he finished so far up in the standings (1st in his age group), but because my toes were ready to call it a day and I was getting almost getting to the shivering and teeth chattering point. On any other day, I would have stuck around to do some more cheering, but once he finished, we made a beeline for the car to get warm as quickly as possible.

It was an interesting race to watch. There were walkers (who started at 7am!), volunteers, quicker runners, and slower runners (good on you for braving the cold for 3 hours...you are braver than I am). Even though it was a small race, there were all types of runners. I guess I would have been one had the stress fracture not broken up my winter running (ooh, bad choice of words), but maybe this once, I was happy to be on the sidelines.


liz said...

My friend Meghan was in that race! It was her first ever half marathon, and boy did she pick an unlikely month to officially start her running career. And Congratulations to Jordan - first in his age group - now that is impressive! Almost as impressive as his snow beard.

lu said...

i am glad that you guys stayed out in the cold long enough to take that photo!

and i must admit that although my 10km clinic started last week, i decided that anything below -20 was too cold to run in and have not yet gone for my first run! eek.

kris said...

You got into a stranger's van?

When I first glanced at your blog I thought that was a picture of some random senior.

If you're going to be a pack mule on a freezing cold day I guess getting handed layers isn't the worst thing you could be carrying.

k said...

Liz- was she running with a pack of Meghans? When I was looking at the race results to see if I knew anyone else that was running the race I noticed that 3 or 4 Meghans (with various spellings of course) finished all in a row. Weird! Regardless, what a brave soul to have this be her first.

Lu- I think it is just fine (and probably smart) to have a cold limit on your running. I definitely have a heat limit!

Kris- If you can believe it, they actually gave me (a stranger) they key to their van. They told me to go sit in it and warm up and return the key when I was done. When I joked that I might just drive away in it, they said "it is a Caravan...I don't think there is much danger of you running off with it".

lu said...

i am not sure if you or jordan have a fancy display case for your medals, but i came across this charity's website today where you can donate your running medals and they give them other people dealing with life challenges. i am not so sure about giving someone with a disability a medal just for living, but it does seem like a good idea for those medals that collect dust and for people who lack the sentimental connection to such things like me.


Kirst said...

That's a sweet beard. Congrats Jordan!