Everybody looked like Papa Smurf – Hypothermic Half Marathon

On Sunday we ran the Hypothermic Half Marathon in Sarnia.

Mei's selfie while running in the snow. Covered in snow.

The instagram version of my selfie (taken at an unflattering angle. It’s hard to take good selfies while running!) during the Hypo Half. You can see where this blog post is going. Dan calls this my “Papa Smurf” photo.

People have asked me why we chose to do a run in Sarnia. It was partly for the fun snowflake medal, but mostly so we could visit our friends Stephanie and Jamie and their daughter Madison. We hadn’t seen them in about a year, so the run was a good excuse to get together (not that we need an excuse!). We had a really good time catching up and hanging out. Now that the weekend is over I keep thinking about how adorable Madison is and how funny some of the things she is starting to say are. I can’t wait to get together with them again (and maybe not have a half marathon cut into our time together!).

Anyway, back to the race recap.

Me, Arlene and Jason in our running gear before the race.

Me, Arlene and Jason before the race.

The race started at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, which was later than the races that I’m used to (and kind of nice that we didn’t have to rush). We got up at around 6:30 a.m. to get ready and Jamie very kindly made us oatmeal for breakfast. This was perfect for me because I eat oatmeal for breakfast every day! Steph and Jamie gave us directions to get to the start at the Holiday Inn and then we were on our way. Jason and Arlene were also running the half, so we met them at the hotel. I was trying to decide whether or not to wear my Yaktrax, but I figured the roads would be clear and made the game time decision not to use them. Worst decision ever.

Dan at the starting line wearing his new hat (we got very good hats and gloves for running the Hypo Half)

Dan at the starting line wearing his new hat (we got very good running hats and gloves instead of shirts for running the Hypo Half).

Before the race (race organizer with megaphone at the starting line).

One of the race organizers explained the rules to us before counting down at the start.


Line up of runners before the start.

Arlene and I looking thrilled at the start.

Arlene and I looking thrilled for the race to start.

After a quick warm up we lined up at the start. There wasn’t a timing mat or anything to indicate that it was the start so we followed the other runners. One of the race organizers told us not to expect the cars to stop for us and to be careful during the run. It was at this point that I realized they hadn’t closed or partially closed any of the roads for the half. I thought longingly of my Yaktrax but it was too late to go and get them. Soon we were counting down and then we were off.

One of the side streets we ran down (covered in snow).

This was one of the side streets that we ran down. I thought about my Yaktrax often during this race.

The people who run the Hypo Half must be very fast. I lost Dan and Jason (who are much faster than me) almost immediately. Arlene was beside me and then she was gone. I felt like I was sprinting the first kilometre and then I finally calmed down and started running at my own pace. Lots of people passed me but I didn’t care. We were also very lucky about the weather. It was -10C (-15 with windchill) but felt relatively mild compared to what I’ve been running in. Unfortunately it was a bleak looking day and snowed for the entire run.

Eventually Arlene and I were running together again and I felt better. We trained fora marathon together so I’m comfortable running with her. Besides the snow that was falling, I found it challenging to get into a rhythm or keep a steady pace. Since we were sharing the roads with the cars (and the sidewalk, wherever there was one, was totally out of the question) I kept having to switch from running in the middle of the road where it was clear to running in the snowbank. Without Yaktrax this made for a slippery, slow run and I was exhausted by 10k.

Arlene during the run.

Arlene during the run.

Mei selfie during the run. A few snowflakes starting to get stuck in my eyebrows.

I took this selfie during the run. You can see some snowflakes starting to collect on my eyebrows.

I thought I saw Dan up ahead and told Arlene. A few minutes later she said “I think that is Dan!” Dan has been struggling with an injury so it didn’t surprise me that he had had to slow down. I caught up to him and he told me he was thinking of pulling out of the race. I told him to do what he had to do. At this point Arlene was walking a little and she told me to run on ahead, so off I went (though not very fast as I slipped and slid).

One of the things that I didn’t like about this race was how close the cars were to us. Because the roads weren’t closed, some of the cars came dangerously close. Some of them honked as they sped by and I worried that somebody was going to lose control and hit us. I started to get mad every time I saw a car, even though that was completely irrational. Seeing a car meant I had to move off to the side in clumpy snow and hope that the car didn’t hit me.

running during the half (roads with cars and runners)

Sharing the road with a car during the half. This was two lanes in each direction, so it didn’t feel as perilous here.

Because of the snow and cold it was also hard to refuel during the run (waterbottles froze shut and it was difficult to eat my blocks), so I eventually gave up on that and just took water at the aid stations. There were three or four aid stations in total and I don’t think any of them had any sports drinks.

Another running selfie. Snow is forming on my eyelashes and cheeks.

I took this running selfie and you can see more snow collecting on my eyelashes and cheeks.

Half marathon road

This road was one lane in each direction. You can see half of the lane is covered in snow. I spent a lot of time running from the middle of the road back into the snow.

Arlene eventually caught up to me and started doing ten and ones. Whenever she took a walk break, I would catch up and pass her. Then she would start running again and catch up and pass me. The volunteers were really amazing during this race. I can only imagine how cold they felt and a lot of them had signs. My favourite sign said “Smile if you just peed a little!”

As I got closer to the finish line it became more difficult to see. I knew there was snow clumping on my eyelashes and I suspected it was catching in my hair. Every time I pushed my hat down the side of my head where some of my hair was exposed felt cruncy. Out of curiosity I took another selfie and then almost burst out laughing at what i saw.

selfie - mei covered in snow

My “Papa Smurf” selfie again. (non-instagram version)

Towards the end I picked up a second wind (or first wind since it never felt like I got going to begin with). As we went back onto the mostly empty side streets, I was able to run in the middle of the road where the pavement was clearer for longer. This helped me get into a rhythm and I was able to finish strong. I knew that this was going to be a personal worst run, but had decided that due to the conditions I would treat this race as a training run (with a medal! Bonus!).

When I finished they wrote down my bib number and my time. Jason was already done and he took my picture and said “I didn’t even recognize you!” Then we watched Arlene, who was only a minute or two behind me, finish. We looked hilarious from the snow.

Arlene at the finish line.

Arlene right after crossing the finish.

Arlene and Mei after the race.

Arlene and I after surviving the race. We were both covered in snow and it was collecting on our faces. Hilarious. Dan said everybody who ran it looked like Papa Smurf.

Eventually Dan, who didn’t pull out of the race, finished too. He was in quite a bit of pain from his injury but he was happy he didn’t take a DNF (did not finish).

We all went inside and enjoyed the brunch that came with our run.

Plate of food from brunch. Eggs, fruit, croisant, danish, yogurt, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns.

A plate full of food from brunch. Delicious.

I’ve decided that I won’t be running this race again. Even though the volunteers were great, the food was amazing, the medal was pretty and the gloves and hat were good quality, I just didn’t feel safe during the race. Some people who we met run this race every year, and that’s fine. They may be comfortable with the conditions but I’m not. The combination of the roads being open to traffic (some areas were one lane roads in each direction) and the poor weather conditions really made me feel unsafe. The drivers didn’t care that we were running this half and many of them brushed past us, and sped really quickly. I’m sure most of them don’t have winter tires and it would be terrible if somebody lost control and hit someone. For that reasons, I’m not running this race again. I’m glad we all survived (the snow, the lack of traction and everything else) and that we had this experience though. This was my sixth half marathon and definitely a memorable one!

snowflake medal

My hard earned medal. This was definitely one of the most challenging races I’ve ever run.

2 thoughts on “Everybody looked like Papa Smurf – Hypothermic Half Marathon

  1. Pingback: On to the next one – the first nine half marathons | Plain Can Be Lovely

  2. Pingback: Bermuda Triangle Challenge – Bermuda 10k, 2015 Race Recap | Plain Can Be Lovely

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