Am I ready? OR How I learned to stop worrying and love the run.


Note: Hagrid (second left) and Lady Sir Richard Carlisle (front right) were eventually disqualified for their brazen display of stockings.

This Sunday will be the cap to my current training plan, a 1/2 marathon in Burlington Ontario. The Chilly Half Marathon is an event that I have completed in the past and one that I have used in my annual schedule to make sure that I stay active during the winter and to develop my competence as a runner. These last few days are the final prep before the event and I, like many athletes move between excitement and worry about my results.

Why this is an Event and Not a Race

I will be gunning for my best time at the Chilly Half, a somewhat quick 1:39:59, and though I will be “racing the clock”, I do not consider this a sanctioned race, but an event. Both from the perspective that I am not in the race (the racers are up the road, completing the course in about 1:10 ( and that the event does not have an official sporting and ethical framework. No officials, no finish judge, no requirement for participants to agree to “fair-play” or “ethical-play” as described by an independent oversight body and limited on-course monitoring to ensure that all complete the distance as described. Without these elements, this is an event and cannot be considered a race. Does this in any way diminish the accomplishments of the participants or the producing prowess of the organizers? Yes, but events like these do what no sanctioned sporting event can do: invigorate the soul of sport, the true amateurs.

Am I Prepared?

Based solely on my past experience of completing this event and events longer, I know that I can complete it within the maximum time allowable (around 3 hours). The question is whether or not I can complete it within my goal time and further, how close can I get to my stretch goal. First, some stats:

Sept 18, 2012 – March 3, 2013: 5.5 months of training, reports are as of February 26.

Total hours: 87.03 (about 90 once the race is over)

Average per week: 3.63 hours

Least: 1.27

Most: 7.00

Longest run D: 18 km

Longest run T: 1:30

Completed total distance: 229.93 km

Other notes: I have stayed stable in my weight over the last 5 months, though have increased my fitness both in the gym (improvement in key max lifts) and on the run (faster per km pace, more capable at longer distances, completing workouts more regularly). I am not as light as I was when I ran my fastest time in 2006 (1:41:56) and being lighter would make running easier, but that is only a small part of the equation. My sleep is variable, my nutrition is pretty good. I have no aches and pains.

What is My Plan?

My event plan must be based on what I have done in training (reality) but also be aspirational enough to entice better performance. I am aiming for an overall average pace of 4:45, though I plan to be faster and slower than that during the race.

  1. Arrive with enough time to get lost, go to the bathroom 3 times and warm-up  Warm-up will last 10 minutes and be completed 3-5 minutes before the start of the event.
  2. Find the 1:45 and 1:40 pace bunnies, place myself in between. I have prepared for these times and as long as I am healthy at the start of the race they are attainable.
  3. Run the race in 4 parts: 2km, 8.5km, 18.5km, End. This mirrors the layout of the course but also the event conditions:
  • First 2 km: get going, be quicker than goal pace and find room to run. Go on watch time, not gun time (total time 9:30)
  • Until km 8.5: To the first turn around at Burloak Drive, average pace 4:45 – 5:00 (total time 38-40 minutes)
  • Until km 18.5: Next turn around is 10 km after Burloak Drive. Aim for 45-48 minutes from the first turn around or a varying pace of 4:30-4:50
  • Finish 3 km: 12-13 minutes max (4:00-4:20 pace average)

What If I Feel Better?

There is a chance that I will be faster than expected through the first and second time checks (due to nerves mainly) and that may entice me to continue the event at a faster rate. That could be a big mistake. The 1/2 marathon is still a long-ish event and I need to respect the distance and keep myself aligned with my plan and training. That said, the middle 10 km is where I make or break my goal and I will look to take every advantage I can.

What If Things Go Off?

  • There is a chance I need to stop for a nature break. A quick pee is nothing negative, but an urgent knock at the back door will need to be dealt with. If this happens I will take the full time needed to rectify (funny?) the situation and then resume the run. A bathroom break like this puts me on the hunt only for the 1:45:00 goal.
  • Weather could be bad. If it is colder than -5 it will be a tough run and I will need to be cautious about slipping or freezing out my lungs. A scarf will take care of this. If is colder than -10 then I am aiming for the 1:45:00 goal.
  • I might get sick in the days leading up to the event. If I have a cough then I won’t do the event. If a very sore throat then I will also back out. Anything milder than that then no change to plans, though I will be cognisant of my condition through the race.
  • What if I strain something in the first 2 km? Or later? A good warm-up will help prevent this, as will being mindful of the road conditions. This is pretty low on the probability scale but paying attention to my pacing plan will help me avoid injury.
  • What if I can’t hold the goal pace? Then I will adjust and if necessary take the event one km at a time.

Handling Pre-Race Jitters

We all get these and for some, this means reduced sleep, more trips to the bathroom and a general state of greater excitement. To me, the feeling means that I am excited and ready for the event and that my goals are within reach. Were I less than enthusiastic I would need to re-evaluate my goals and perhaps my health. In order to harness the jitters to my advantage I usually do the following:

  • Use the extra mindfulness to make sure I am not taking unnecessary risks in my lead up to the event.
  • Use the extra mindfulness to make sure that I do not do anything that could compromise my health
  • Note the extra excitement and give myself a break, noting that I may not be completely myself this week
  • Use the extra mindfulness to make sure that I have everything prepared for the event
  • Visualize the event through the day and allow myself one full review, starting with the travel to the event to crossing the finish line before bed time.

Check in on Monday, I will post my results and an event recap.



coaching for road racers, triathletes, charity riders and mountain bikers