Sunday, 23 February 2014

Montreal Hypothermic 2014

Last weekend was the Montreal edition of the Hypothermic Half-Marathon, organised by the Running Room. The draw of winter races tends to usually be the same; runners and endurance athletes like to have races as goals and benchmarks for their training. After September or October, there tends to be very little in the way of race options when you live in a Northern climate like Montreal, as a result of the unpredictable weather and sometimes brutal cold. Nonetheless, some organisations put together winter races to give us something to do, and something to humble-brag about. "What did you do this weekend?"  "oh not much, ran a half-marathon in -20C, just normal stuff".
Anyways, after doing the full Winterman Marathon last year, I decided to scale back this winter and do the Hypo instead. The fact that there is a local edition instead of having to drive to Ottawa also helped my decision. Also, a draw for the Hypo is that they always give out a "gift" to participants. In past years I was told that they would always give a Running Room jacket, but this year they were handing out glove/hat packs along with your bib at kit pickup. I'm happy with the gift since I can't find my running hat and my current gloves aren't all that great. One thing is that i wasn't so happy with the pickup location, which was at the Running Room in the Quartier 10-30, a shopping area off the island. Pickup was also available near the starting area, but I felt it would be too busy and stressful. So here is my review of the race, as well as my personal experience.

The race starts on Jean Drapeau, an island just off of Montreal. It's pretty easy to get to, there was apparently nearby parking, and is accessible by metro (subway for non-locals). After leaving the metro, you just had to do a small (but cold) hike to the local Aquatic Centre, and everyone just milled around for a while until the race started. In the wings of the Centre they were preparing the complimentary brunch (more on that later).
About 10 minutes before the scheduled 8:30 race start the officials began shuffling us toward the start line. Strangely, we had to walk about 500M out, pass the finish chute, and then turn around, which was awkward and unusual since we had to keep moving backwards as more people came. It also didn't help that it was pretty cold and they started almost 10 minutes later than they said they would.
The first 13 or 14 kilometres of the race were actually quite nice, pretty scenic really, with lots of packed snow. The area that concerned most people was the section of the course on the Gilles Villeneuve racetrack, which is prohibited from being salted and de-iced as it damages the road. We all thought it would turn into a slip-n-slide skating rink but it was actually very nice.
Toward the end of the first 14km loop the course ran along the river, and this is where the problems occurred. The path was very narrow, and no snow-clearing had been done so the snow was very fresh and powdery. It was very hard to catch your footing, and personally my glutes were burning as I was trying to stabilise. Also, the design of the course was such that we had to do 3 loops through this section. By the end, I was burnt out.
I think that the rough patches negatively affected everyone, including the elite, since the winning time was only 1:28. Its a great time, but I've seen better and would normally expect better on a more stable course. I finished in 1:53, with a solid sprint the last 2km or so. Not my best performance, but I'm happy with it given the course conditions.
After the race was the complimentary brunch! They had out an array of pastries, fruit, wraps, and salads, as well as coffee and hot chocolate. The food selection was really quite nice compared to the apple/banana that some races hand out. Unfortunately, as a Paleo person there wasn't much for my except for the fruit, so I accepted a post-race fructose bombing and made a mental note to devour some protein later on.
Overall, a nice race with a very friendly atmosphere. The course obviously needs to be redone but can easily be fixed. I don't know if I'll do it again, only because I keep realising that I don't like winter races all that much, but I'd recommend checking it out to anyone who is looking for a challenge this time of year.

The TrainingPeaks data for my race can be found at
Thanks for reading, stay safe, and keep trying! 


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