Montreal Hypothermic Half-Marathon 2014 race report

I am not too sure what went through our heads, I can’t recall how we discussed that, I can’t seem to find old emails or messages about it, but at some point, me and a friend thought it would be a great idea to run a half-marathon in February, in the snow, on Notre-Dame and Ste-Hélène islands. I am fairly sure that when I signed up, I had never ran longer than 10km in a single session. I had three or four months to reach 21.1km – if I had gone from 0 to 10 in 6 months, I could do 10 to 21.1 in 4 more months.

We planned weekly long runs. We planned weekly long runs in the snow. We got served weekly long runs in -30 windchill temperatures, we got served sleet at one point during the run. We ran on ice, in slush. In other words, we thought we got prepared.

I was much less nervous coming to this race than I was at Oka. My expectations were not as high as Oka – I aimed for a result right in the middle of the pack. I looked at 2013 results, figured I could run in 1h 45min, and that would place me smack in the middle of the results – group, gender, overall. A week before the race, the forecast looked good: -6 for the race, and very little snow. The streets were pretty clear around the house, so I figured the trails would be well packed and clear. Almost like a road race.

Damn you Mother Nature.

Of course, weather changed. Forecast went to -12 on Sunday (not that bad) and we got a nice snowfall on Thursday, bringing in 4-5″ of fresh snow. Yikes. On Saturday, I also realized that Ile Ste-Hélène is hilly. Nothing major, but after 15km, any bumps look like Mount Everest.

Regardless, I still planned a 1:45 pace. We arrived early, got the to locker room to put our stuff (my race almost ended there when I tumbled down the stairs leading to the lockers – running shoes and marble floors don’t go along well. Thankfully, more scare then harm). Everybody waited inside the Aquatic Complex until about 10min before gun time, keeping warm. We placed ourselves close to the 1:45 bunny. The road wasn’t large, there was almost 1000 runners, so once the race started, things took a little bit to get moving. We headed in the first loop, a 12km segment that followed the Gilles-Villeneuve race track for the most part. We had a good pace – 4:57/km, which was slightly faster than needed for 1:45. However, one thing I noticed is that we weren’t catching up to the pace bunny. Once we got off the race track and back to Ste-Hélène island, I found out why.

While the race track was clear and flat (about 8km done in the race), the rest, 3 loops around Ste-Hélène island, would not be. Most of it was covered with 3-4″ of unpacked snow, with no clear « running trail ». Very hard to keep a fast pace there without twisting an ankle. We also had to run that section 3 times, so on the second and third loops, we also had to dodge slower runners (and walkers) who were doing laps 1 and 2. There were a few hills, and our pace dropped (at that point I figured out the pace bunny made faster time in the beginning to even it out in the trails). We plowed, we trudged in the snow for an hour. By the end, we were drained.

End result: official time of 1:54:11 (although every runner we encountered said their watches had an extra 700m or so, mine as well – I have my personal time for 21.1km as 1:50:33). While that was slower than planned, it turned out that everybody was slower than planned, so my group / gender / overall placement was in the top 30%, more or less. Hurray for me!

And here I am, drained, but happy with my spanking medal (that I had backward for my sole picture 😦 ).


A very nice experience that I’m sure we’ll be redoing next year.

Next race: Champfleury 10km in April!


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