2015 Calgary Stampede Half Marathon!

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Hello friends!  On Sunday, July 5th, I completed my first Calgary Stampede Road Race – and my 13th half marathon!  The hubby completed Half #8!  For those of you not from Western Canada and have no clue what “Calgary Stampede” is – here’s a link from Wikipedia explaining the insanity that is Stampede – “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!”  So obviously, this event is held during Stampede week. There is a 5 km, 10 km, half marathon, and kids race.  Oh yah, and a pancake breakfast after the run!

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{ Race Goals } 

This was the race that almost wasn’t.  I had a whole post written about how I wasn’t going to run this race…but then decided on Friday that I would run.  To be honest, I just hadn’t been enjoying my runs lately…and I had a HORRIBLE experience running the reservoir the previous weekend. Also, this course covers 80% of the same route as the Calgary Police Half Marathon that we ran in April – running in the opposite direction (clockwise) – and if you were around for that race recap, then you know that I had a really rough time on the course.  There are two substantial hills – one steep one around the 15K mark, and the other a long, gradual one leading up the finish.  Therefore, I knew I would not be setting a Personal Record (PR).

So…race goals?  To run MY race.

{ Packet Pick-up }

Packet pick-was offered on Thursday and Friday evenings at the Strides running store in Marda Loop.  There was also an “emergency pick-up” option for race morning, should anyone not be able to pick-up on Saturday (although this was discouraged).  The volunteers at package pickup were very friendly and instructions were clear.  The race tee is AWESOME!  The Mizuno technical tee will definitely be getting a lot of wear – the colors and logo are cute, it’s comfy, and it fits well!  The hubby loves his too!  The race package was great – along with the shoe bag, there was a Honey Stinger caramel waffle, Honey Stinger chews, a single packet of Hemp Hearts, and some ads for upcoming area races.

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Hers & His

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Shoe bag!

{ Race Day }

As we only live 10 minutes away, we got up at 5 am, ate our waffle breakfast, got dressed, and made it out the door just after 6:00 am.  The drive was quick – no traffic – and the parking lot was nearly empty when we arrived.  I knew from following the Twitter account where the parking lot was, so we just headed for there.  As we were walking towards the park, we quickly realized that we could have parked ANYWHERE closer along the streets…but in the end it was a good decision for a quick post-race cool-down walk.  We made it to Glenmore Athletic Park by 6:20 am.  The half marathon race was slated to start at 7:20 am, but walkers who thought they would take longer than 2 hours, 45 minutes could start at 7:00. We wanted to be there early so we could park, warm-up, and do gear-check with time to spare.  But to be honest, I think we were TOO early…it was nearly a ghost town.  We stood around with the few people who were there (all of us hovering around the port-a-potties near the start line!) until it got a bit more crowded.  There was no start line set up yet, so we walked around trying to keep warm.  It was very overcast, threatening rain, so we kept our long-sleeves on until 10 minutes before the start.  Bag check was at the track – no line, and fairly quick.  Around 6:45, things started to pick-up around the start line!  The balloon was inflated, the announcer became active and engaging, and people started to gather around.

{ Course Description }

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MILES 1-3/KM 1-5: I knew that the course would be full of LOTS of rolling hills, and some pretty big climbs, so when the race started I quickly found my “happy pace” and just kept at it.  For the first mile and a half, we ran on neighborhood streets, which allowed the runners to spread out a bit.  This was a good thing since the trail narrows once you hit the path leading around the reservoir.  There was a little turn around at the end of a neighborhood, then at about 1.5 miles the trail headed towards the reservoir and across the dam (mile 2).  We had hit the first sets of “hills” between miles 2.5 – 3, but they honestly weren’t that bad.  My 5K split was just above 27 minutes (8:46/mile average) { 8:37, 8:32, 9:12 } 

MILES 4-6/KM 6-10: Miles 4-6 were still pretty comfortable – I had settled in to an under 9:30 pace.  This was a pretty part of the run, following the reservoir pathway along South Glenmore Park.  The water was on your right, and the trees on your left for most of this section.  The runners definitely thinned out around mile 5, and I found myself running alone for long periods of time.  I can’t complain though…it was quite nice.  I started to run with people again nearing Mile 6.  My 10K split was 55:24 (8:59/mile average)  { 9:05, 9:10, 9:21 }

MILES 7-9/KM 11-15: Mile 7-9 are notoriously the toughest for me during a half marathon, as there is typically a definite shift in my pace from the first half of the race to the second half.  And although I was feeling comfortable up through the turnaround, I was already on a gently sloping hill and knew there were still a couple of major hills left.  I was still running strong enough at this point to see the hubby leaving the turn-around path right as I was entering it.  That, of course, gave me a little extra pep in my step!!!  Mile 7.5 – 8 is straight downhill, and I literally flew….and then coasted to the flat section, appropriately titled Weaselhead Flats.  Right before mile 9, there is another major hill (you can see that in the elevation chart below), and I knew this split would be slower.  I didn’t know by how much…but as it turns out, a full 30 seconds slower (due to me walking up the last quarter).  But I was still mentally ok, because I had committed to running MY race.  This is also where I accidentally grabbed a RED BULL from the water station at mile 9.  I passed the first table of water and grabbed what I thought was Gatorade at the second table (even though the signs and cups were clearly labeled as Red Bull….) and took a huge chug before I promptly spit it all out!  I must have been delirious coming off the hill because I should have just grabbed the water!  Oops.  { 9:29, 9:26, 10:04 }

MILES 10-12/KM 16-20:  At the top of the hill, I took a quick 20 second walk break here (after spitting out the Red Bull!) to get my breathing back to comfortable, then continued along.  Mile 9-10.5 was a gradual downhill.  This whole section of the race was a familiar route along the edge of the park and reservoir – as the hubby and I have run along here during many training runs.  I took my time, focusing on the fact that I had less than 3 miles/5K to go.  Mile 11-12 led away from the reservoir and out of the park, and back through the neighborhood.  This section was a long, gradual uphill, but nothing truly fatiguing.  Right before Mile 12 there is a pedestrian bridge to get over a freeway – a steep switchback sort of climb – which wasn’t too bad as it was short, but it definitely made me glad to remember it was the final “hill.” I knew my pace was creeping upwards, but I continued to run how I felt, focusing on the mile I was in.  I walked through the final water station, then told myself only 1.1 miles to go!  { 9:33, 10:02, 10:39 }

MILE 13.1/KM 21.1:  As I got closer to the finish, I realized that we had now joined up with the 10k runners, so the energy in the crowd had picked up a bit. More spectators were around, which is always a plus in the motivation department. The final mile follows back along the first section of the race, then continues alongside Glenmore Athletic Park.  You can hear the crowds of the finishing area on the right, but you have to go up and around the streets to enter the track from the north. My final mile was an improvement over the previous two miles, but not stellar.  I saw the hubby up against the fence cheering me onto the track!  *woo-hoo*  Once I got around the spectators and entered the track, I literally sprinted to the finish line – a mere 150 meters on the track (half the final curve and the last straightaway)!  And then I was done.  { 9:28 }

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All photos via: Neil Zeller Photography

I somehow did not grab ANY pictures during the middle part of the race…but below are some pictures around the Reservoir from previous training runs:

Reservoir

Here are the course maps and elevation profile (in feet):

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{ How did I do? }

Time: 2:02:50 (9:22/mile, 5:49/km)
Overall: 316 / 575
Gender: 115 / 310
Female 30-39: 50 / 103

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Crossing the Finish Line!  (Photo credit: Neil Zeller Photography)

{ How did the hubby do? }

Time: 1:54:21
Overall: 203 / 575
Gender: 149 / 265
Male 30-39: 47 / 75

Awesome pic of him leading the pack!

Awesome pic of him leading the pack! (Photo credit: Neil Zeller Photography)

{ Best Moments }

  • You finish on a TRACK!  For me personally…there is nothing better than being able to finish half a lap around a track – with the loudspeakers and cheering audience in stands – it all gives me a rush back to the days of High School Track meets!
  • Half Marathon participants got really unique medals (on a bolo tie)  – last year was a sheriff’s badge/this year was a horseshoe!
  • Water and juice boxes were plentiful at the finish area, despite the line for post-race food.
  • Breakfast was a good ol’ Stampede staple: pancakes, sausage, and lots of syrup!  (Although we did not partake in this…I hear it’s fantastic!)
  • Neil Zeller Photography took commemorative finisher’s photos and the best part is you can download them for FREE on Flickr!
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Photo credit: Neil Zeller Photography

{ Post Race }

I had a huge cheesy smile on my face after finishing.  Besides the obligatory sprint to the finish, I had run MY race.  Going from “I don’t think I can run this race” to “I just ran 13.1 miles and added another half marathon to my belt” gave me a huge boost of mental confidence in my summer training.

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When I finished, I received a bottle of water, and eventually made my way towards the bag pick-up to meet up with the hubby and see how he did.  We grabbed our gear-check, which was super quick and organized, and walked around a bit and stretched.  Since I had finished just around 2 hours, you’d think the line for food would be small, but I did not take into account the number of racers for the 5k and 10k – who were all finished and in line. (You could tell these were the events they ran by looking at the color of their race bibs.)  The line went from the entrance to the food pickup all across the bleachers in front of the track. And it was moving SLOW.  Since it was a pancake breakfast, it wasn’t just a standard grab a banana and chocolate milk and go.  We took one look at the line, and decided that it wasn’t worth it.  It was a bit frustrating that we couldn’t just grab a piece of fruit or muffin (instead of the whole breakfast), but we took one look at the long line and decided to bail.

So that was the Stampede Road Race. Would I recommend this race? Sure, if you live in Calgary or were going to be there that weekend.  I’m not sure someone would want to drive a couple of hours there, race, and then drive home.  The route was great – I personally love running by water and in parks, and the swag was great – but one should be prepared for the post-race food frustration for half marathoners.  I’m sure there were plenty of people who stayed and partook in the pancake breakfast tradition (and I’m sure it was delicious!)…but as we only live 10 minutes away, it was easier for us to drive home and make our own meal.

Last note – we appreciate the amazing support of the volunteers who made this a great event!

{ Additional Race Resources }

Website

I hope you have enjoyed my race recap!

Until the next race…

Jen

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2 thoughts on “2015 Calgary Stampede Half Marathon!

  1. Congratulations on your race Jen! I cannot imagine chugging a Red Bull during a race…blech! I mentally struggle with running around Glenmore Reservoir too. Some of those big hills seem to kills me on race day. Great job!

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