Twenty Valley Half Marathon

Posted: July 18, 2011 in Races
Tags: , ,
  • Twenty Valley Half Marathon (click to see stats & route)
  • Chip Time = 1:52:54 (click to see race stats)
  • Category Place = 10/21 (M 35-39)
  • Overall Place = 48/171
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 166 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 175 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:19 /km
  • Max. Pace = 2:56 /km
  • Calories = 2010
  • Temp = 26º C

When I originally signed up for this event I had three purposes in mind: 1) a nice pretty route through vineyards, country roads and through “secret tunnels” under the QEW, 2) an excuse to keep my running up over the summer months leading into Cancun come September, and 3) the post-race BBQ ‘Finish Line Party’ afterwards.  After all, any event naming itself the Twenty Valley Run, Wine & Dine Weekend is A-okay in my books.  What happened instead was a painful, torturously hot amble through the steep hills and dusty back roads of Jordan; an odyssey that makes Moses’ 40-year trek through the wilderness seem like a weekend in Majorca.

I have been making an effort to get accustomed to the heat but it’s been a slow-developing process.  Yesterday’s event was a unique way to celebrate my 39th birthday as well as providing me a decent opportunity to train in the heat and humidity.  Honestly, I this is any indication how my next year is going to be, well, let’s just say I’m battening down the hatches now.

I wasn’t interested in attempting any new PB’s but, rather, was more interested in testing out my hydration and fueling strategy in dealing with the heat during this first long workout since the Welland Half Iron, only three short weeks ago; you know, my basic ‘go with the flow and see how she goes’  philosophy of racing.

I was very careful in my preparation as I am learning how to do.  I made sure to hydrate well in the days leading up to the event, endured a simulation experiment in the yoga studio this past Friday night, had my customary race day bagel with peanut butter breakfast, downed one bottle of Perpetuem  exactly one hour prior to race time, so by the actual start of the event I was as prepared as I was ever going to be.  I didn’t even experience any of those pre-race butterflies I normally get, nor any anxiety whatsoever about what was in the cards for the day – go for a run with my Coach, eat some burgers, maybe enjoy a glass of complimentary wine, then go home and eat pie.  Sounds easy enough, right?

Oi vay.

From the onset, the pace started a bit fast which is normally the case for running races of this nature.  Instinctually, I latched onto the heels of my coach who was also running the race with me and just settled into the pace as I always do. I enjoy running with company from time to time and this was no different.  I almost missed our early morning runs together into the minus-zero degree weather throughout the winter while training for the ‘Around the Bay’  race…except, well, you know, it was now in the mid-20’s already by only 8:15am.  Whatever, this wasn’t going to be so bad, or so I thought for the first few kilometers anyway.

We ran together like this for approximately the first 4-5 kilometers.  The quicker pace (4:41 /km) felt pretty comfortable for the most part and I was beginning to think I was sweating this whole heat thing a little too much (pun intended).  We rounded another corner and entered into the Schenck Farms vineyards and through those ‘secret tunnels’ under the QEW that I was so interested to see.  Big whoop.

By the 6k mark, maintaining my pace was beginning to get more difficult.  Moreover, my Coach was looking like she was just starting to find her comfortable stride and, slowly, she was beginning to pull away.  ‘That’s okay’, I told myself; she likes the heat where I tend to perform better in colder temperatures.  It is interesting to note here, maybe, that the vast majority of my PB’s this year have been set in either sub-zero, or at least at uncomfortably cool and rainy conditions.  So I made peace with the fact that I was not going to be able to keep up with her that day and set about the task of settling into survival mode, anticipating another long ‘mental toughness’  training day – time to get my suffer on.

And suffer I did.  The first 10k were still respectable at a time of 49:24 but, already, the story was starting to unfold:

Lap (5k)

Total Time

Avg. Pace

1 (5k)


4:41 /km

2 (10k)


5:11 /km

3 (15k)


5:36 /km

4 (20k)


5:50 /km


My second 5k lap was already two and half minutes off my first 5k lap – uh-oh.  I ran through a mental checklist of what I was experiencing.  My legs felt fine, the pace was something that I should be able to sustain easily, I felt well-hydrated as I had been stopping at all the Aid Stations along the way, but my body felt like it was melting and my heart rate was soaring off the charts – it felt like all my strength and energy was being directly siphoned out of my body.  Shit.

I popped a caffeine gel at the 13k mark thinking it might provide me a much-needed zip, and it did stimulate my brain into a ‘Hey, awesome!  Let’s get going!’  kind of attitude, but my poor body was helplessly stuck in ‘Go fuck yourself’  mode.  And so it proceeded for the next 7-8 kilometers.  I even did something I have never done in a race before: I walked through the Aid Stations so as to not miss any precious opportunities to drink some water and cool myself with cold sponges.  I enjoyed the quick return pass through the tunnels as it offered a brief reprieve from the sun, but the run back through the vineyard at the 16k mark had, by this time, turned itself into a grungy dust bowl that kicked up clouds of dirt that caked the back of my throat and stuck to my sweaty skin.  Gross.

At 18k more water was being dumped over my head and down my back than actually going into my mouth as it was beginning to feel like my body was on fire.  One cute girl volunteering at an Aid Station offered to ‘help’ me by splashing a cup of water on me.  Sure, why not?  ‘Have at ‘er, kid’,  I said, and with open-arms braced for the imminent splashdown; I may as well let the kid have some fun, right?  Instead, I was greeted with what must have been an overhand pitch aimed directly at my head as the water – then cup – bounced off my forehead.  Thank you, Nolan Ryan!

Furthermore, all this water was beginning to pool in my shoes thanks to the poor choice of cotton socks I put on that morning (way to go, numb nuts).  The added rubbing and sploshing around inside my runners had led to blisters forming on the sole of my right foot.  Damn!  I never blister.

It was around this time that I decided that I had had enough. I don’t even know where I was distance-wise other than close to the end, but I decided to pick up the pace just a bit thanks to another runner whom I had been see-sawing with back and forth with over the entire course.  As the finish line came in sight, I felt no desire to sprint or finish ahead of this woman, particularly since her family were also there to cheer her in so I contented myself just to cruise in behind her just happy to be alive.

Okay, so I definitely have my work cut out for me.  I am realizing (and it pains me to say it – believe me) I need more long runs in the hot weather…period.  The hot yoga may assist me with my breathing and mental focus, but I still need to condition my body to be able to cope with the heat stress as well.  No rest for the weary I guess…

Yes, it’s going to be a hard, hot couple of months, folks.

  1. Jeff C says:

    The main thing is ‘you got’er done”. I’m sure you’re body will make the adjustment once you’ve a few more runs in this heat…..and apparently mother nature is tuned into your upcoming cancun preparations because she’s got a whole week of this shit planned for you…thanks a lot!!

    (if that doesn’t work you can always steal a page from Chris Chelio’s workbook and drag an exercise bike into the sauna and practice in there…claims it worked wonders for him!)

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