Race report: MEC Burlington Race # 2 — 1/2 marathon

When I realized that I couldn’t register for the Waterloo 1/2 marathon (great small race! check it out!) this spring due to a basketball conflict, I looked around for other local races and settled on MEC Burlington’s Race #2 at Confederation Park in Hamilton, which offered 5k, 10k and 21.1k distances. I had never done an MEC race before, but for $15, I decided to try one of their small, low key, no frills races.

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“Race central”

Alasdair was to have run with me, but he’s still rehabbing a calf injury. In the end, it turns out he couldn’t even come to watch (instead, he spent the day driving to Awenda Provincial Park and back!), so this was to be the first time I had raced alone and had no fans cheering for me!

I arrived at Confederation Park in Hamilton at 8 AM, with the race set to start at 9 AM. The weather forecast was looking great, with a sun/cloud mix and the temperature around 10 degrees Celsius. After picking up my race bib, I lined up for my timing chip. It was my first experience securing a timing chip to my shoe with twist ties (they held)!

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To keep costs down, MEC reuses these timing chips

Given the no frills nature of this race, there was no “race kit” with sample products. I was just grateful that there were sufficient toilets! And real ones at that – no portapotties.

Since I didn’t know anyone at the race (Reid Coolsaet, Canadian Olympic marathoner there to do the 10k, and I aren’t exactly on a first name basis), I mostly hung out at the car. It wasn’t long before the race began! I was hoping for my 1st ever sub 2 hour 1/2 marathon, but wasn’t holding out hope. The closest I’ve been is 2:00:32 on a flat and downhill course (the Road2Hope). This course had no run down the Red Hill Valley Parkway to help me!

The first bit of the race course was a small loop through the parking lot, including a thick gravel section that wasn’t so fun to run on. Then we seemed to do another loop before running through back sections of Confederation Park that I’ve never been to before. I was grateful to find a portapotty at the 5k mark, which came at about 28 minutes for me. So far, so good for a sub 2 hour race. One runner was questioning out loud whether we were going the right way. Eventually we made our way onto the Waterfront Trail, and ran along there for what seemed like forever, occasionally through thick patches of tiny black bugs (somehow, I managed to avoid swallowing any, though I did have to wipe one off my lip!)! I was glad that I had listened to the pre-race course description – I found some of it confusing, and couldn’t hear all of it, but I did hear that we would run all the way to the lighthouse on the pier. At least I had something to focus on in the very distant horizon! I dealt with some side stitches as I ran, but they didn’t get too bad. I chatted with another runner for a bit – she asked me if I had been sent running the wrong way near the beginning by race marshals too, but I still don’t know if I ran the extra 400m she did. I just followed the people in front of me!

I didn’t really get a good look at the course map before the race either, so I wasn’t very familiar with the details. As I ran I hoped we wouldn’t be ending with the various loops we did at the start. Near the 45 minute mark I started looking for a water station, so that I could have my gel and down it with a cup of water. As I continued along and realized that we weren’t turning around at the half-way point, I knew that we’d likely be running straight back to the finish line along the Waterfront Trail. At the 10k mark, I was at 56 minutes, so I was still on track for a sub 2 hour race.

I ran near the “wrong way woman” for a good chunk of the race, but just couldn’t hold on in the second half. With about 4 or 5 km to go, a man caught up to me and said, “This is getting hard, isn’t it?” and then, “I guess I won’t finish in 1st place after all. Let’s go for 2nd!” I was pretty ready to be done at that point! I was disappointed to find that there was no water left at the last water station (apparently they ran out of cups), because for once I had decided to run without my water bottle/belt. My pace started to slow, and by far my slowest km was the last one. I’m not sure at which point I realized that sub 2 hours wasn’t going to happen, and that I was just going to run as fast as I could (which felt very slow at that point!).

MEC Race 2

Crossing the finish line

I was disappointed with my 2:06:04.7 finish, but decided to take it as a training run and go for my sub 2 in the fall!

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About to head home

I didn’t realize that there were bananas at the finish – or water! Thankfully I had lots of water left in the car, and headed home pretty much right away. I also didn’t realize that there were draw prizes, so I hadn’t put my race bib tear off strip thing in the container. Next time!

After I got in the car, I realized that I was bringing some dead bugs home with me!

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Just a few of the many bugs I encountered!

An added bonus of this race series is that following the race, you can take your race bib to MEC Burlington and save 10% (race day only). So, you can bet I went there later in the day to replace my #epicfailboots!!

For a small, low key race, I have very few complaints. I would definitely do an MEC race again. I must say though that I prefer racing with someone else, or at least having someone to cheer me on!

Race Stats

Time: 2:06:04.7

Pace: 5:58 min/km

Overall: 62/80

Females 40-44: 5/8

Next up: 8 triathlons between June and September!!

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