Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sporting Life 10K - Race Report


This morning I ran the Toronto Sporting Life 10k straight down Yonge Street with almost 13,000 of my closest friends, and it was a blast! What a sea of humanity at the beginning. This was only my third race ever and by far the largest as far as participation goes. The family was kind enough to wake up early and drive me to the Start area, where I was simply amazed at how many people I'd have to navigate in order to reach the Port-O-Lets and then the appropriate corral for my anticipated finish time. Let's just say that as I waited in line to use the facilities I became more nervous about getting near the start as the PA announcer kept on saying that "all runners should now make their way to the Start. 15 minutes to go!". The line moved slowly enough, but eventually I had my turn and started to jog around the thousands of others making their way to the starting area.

I jumped a barrier to get on the sidewalk when the runners became too thick to pass, and quickly discarded my long pants and sweatshirt. There would be no need for either of these since the weather was absolutely perfect for running. By 8am, the start time, it must have been about +10C, sunny, and absolutely no wind to speak of. I found the red corral and navigated to the farthest right. I didn't know how I would get around all of the people standing so close to me, or how they would get around me, but I figured that most of them would be faster than me. The Red Corral was for those who would likely finish between 40 and 48 minutes, and my PR was closer to the latter. My goal was to try and finish with a pace as close as possible to what would be a BQ if I were to run a full marathon: 4:36/km, or 7:26/mile. With the significant downhill running that this race promised I thought this was reasonable as far a goals go. In the back of my mind, though, I was hoping that the run would go well enough to give me a shot at my 2009 goal of a sub-45 minute finish.

The Race

Interestingly enough my left side was bothering me a little bit this morning, the same left hip area that hit me before the Around the Bay a little over a month ago. This time it wasn't that serious and I just had pretty tight muscles due to all the baseball catching and helping coaching that I was up to over the past two days. I thought I was in decent shape, but I suppose throwing is very different from running. As I stretched and jumped around nervously I made a conscious decision to not let this tightness bother me and just have fun running.

Then, before I could think about this stuff any more, the starter blew the whistle and we were off. I could see the lead runners take off and waited patiently for my turn to move forward. I walked with all the others until I hit the first of two timing mats, pressed start on the Garmin and began running.

I focused on a guy in front of me that seemed to be holding a steady pace similar to mine right from the beginning and followed his lead as we navigated around tonnes of other runners. I had to jump up onto the sidewalk a few times, but overall I think this race worked out pretty well as far as navigation went. I kept following this runner for at least the first 4 kilometres and was feeling pretty good. My watch read pretty decent splits (though I was a bit skeptical as to the accuracy of these readings):

1. 4:19
2. 4:11
3. 4:24
4. 4:15

The bulk of the downhill sections occur in the first half of the race and I figured that's what accounted for my good splits. However, with each passing kilometre marker I could tell that what the Garmin was telling me did not correspond to what the markers were saying. This really became apparent as I entered the downtown core and the Garmin really started to struggle among the tall buildings. By far the toughest section of the race for me was from the 4k to the 7k mark. Mentally I was having trouble convincing myself that I could keep running as hard as I was until the end. Physically I began to struggle as well, with a stitch in my right side pissing me off to no end. I tried my best to change my breathing pattern, but it seemed like forever until that stitch went away.

5. 4:31
6. 4:19
7. 3:28 (this is where I got really suspicious of Garmin)

3:28? Yeah right! As if that was possible. The watch started to give me readings in the 6:00/km range and I began to wonder if I was truly slowing down so much. I mean, I was dying a bit, sure, but by THAT much? In general the people running around me stayed the same, so I figured that the watch was simply having real issues with the tall buildings. I was now entering the last portion of the race, heading west, and it was flat from here on out. Some runners started to blow past me at this point, including a couple of young kids and a guy in cargo pants. Cargo pants? He didn't look like that good a runner, but obviously was pretty fast to be running like that wearing cargo pants and looking as fresh as he did. Nice work Commando!

By now my Garmin was really out of touch with reality and as it beeped off the splits it was falling farther and farther behind the race markers. I couldn't wait for the Finish Line at this point and was hurting pretty good. However, based on my Timex (which I was wearing on the other wrist) I could tell that no matter how far off the Garmin readings were it looked like I had a shot at that 45 minute 10k, and was definitely going to reach my pre-race goal of holding 4:36/km pace overall.

As I turned onto the bridge at Bathurst St. and shortly thereafter onto Fort York Blvd. I could see the Finish Line Banner in the distance and just told myself to hold the pace as best as I could. A little disheartening, given how much pain I was in, was seeing a pair of ladies that passed me at this point, one of which picked up the pace, turned around and asked her partner to "smile" while she snapped a couple of pictures, all the while kicking my weak ass. These were accomplished runners just out for a fun run, and I was very impressed indeed.

The last three (and a half) splits from Garmin read like this:

8. 4:31
9. 4:19
10. 4:34
.5 2:05 (4:07/km pace)

Yup, according to Garmin I ran an extra half-kilometre. Afterwards, another runner stopped me and asked what my reading was - his Garmin, it turned out, read 10.49km. Is this race measured properly, or were our watches that messed up? I'm not so sure what happened here, but the finish was fun.

I spotted Monica and the boys about 50m from the Finish Line and they yelled out to me. I raised my arms and yelled back, "Hey!!!". It's such a boost to see them in a race. Then, I spotted that the clock at the Finish Line was reading "45:35, 45:36, 45:37..." and I pushed for the end. I knew that my clock time would mean a PR and I wondered just how long it took me to get across those mats at the beginning. Would I get well under that 45-minute barrier? Just sneak under? Or miss it by seconds? As I crossed the line and stopped my watch I noticed that my stats were 10.51k completed in 45:01 for an average pace of 4:17/km (6:55/mile). The official results?

Gun Time: 45:40.0
Chip Time: 44:57.2
Pace: 4:29 (7:15/mile)
Place: 1013/10761
Gender Place: 865/4860
Age Category Place: 169/793

Don't know why Garmin was so far off the official results, but hey - I did it! Mission Accomplished (and not in that bogus Dubya meaning of the phrase). I have reached my 10k goal for the year, and feel great. It was close, and I know this was a downhill race, but I'll take it.

Monica had forgotten the camera so I have no picture of crossing the Finish Line, and my Dad was a bit late on account of some other event that messed him up getting to the spot, but he did snap a couple post-race photos:

Garmin was drunk.


When mapping the race with Google's GMaps Pedometer the distance works out to about 10.3k for this "10k" race. I guess when it's a race for charity the actual distance is not necessarily strictly measured, which is cool I suppose. The race organizers had to scramble to change the original Finish Line location to another spot in the last couple of months, and that must have changed the distance and tied their hands somewhat. On the bright side it does seem to indicate that I probably ran the 10k distance in a little under 44 minutes! Perhaps Garmin was just a little tipsy... (Thanks to Marci for her comment and indication that her Garmin read 10.7k, thus adding to the pile of evidence on the length of this course.)



Blogger Casey said...

hey, great finishing time! That's awesome!

I had trouble w/ my garmin today, too. It kept autopausing even though I was still running. I found it to be kinda insulting. :)

May 3, 2009 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Running and living said...

Congrats on your PR. I always log more mileage than what the course says, and I think this is typical (though so annoying). Someone told me that I should run in the middle of the street, on the yellow line, as this is how they measure the course (typically). In any case, congrats on a great race and the PR! Ana-Maria

May 3, 2009 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger The Happy Runner said...

Great job!!! That's awesome! Sorry Garmin was drunk, though :-)

May 3, 2009 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Arcane said...

congratulations. Those tall bulding and rather narrow yonge st. causes teh garmin to go all wonky. It happens to everyone.

May 3, 2009 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger Andrew is getting fit said...

What an awesome effort!

May 4, 2009 at 4:28 AM  
Blogger Marlene said...

More evidence: Mine was over 11K!

Congratulations on a seriously kick-ass time!!!

May 4, 2009 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Marcy said...

Holy crap!! Dude what a killer time! You rocked that thing! CONGRATS ;D ;D

May 4, 2009 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger chris mcpeake said...

Nicely done,
Great time congrats on your PB.
I am pretty sure the course distance is properly measured most CRS events are usually pretty accurate.
I run this area all the time and Garmins always have signal problems in the youge / queen / richmond area (cant use autopause at all). BTW mine said 6.3 miles so .10 extra. Seems pretty close when you take into all the weaving in and out of traffic.

May 4, 2009 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger Chad in the AZ Desert said...

That's why I don't race with my Garmin on. I don't like having the distraction.

Congratulations on the PR and the speedy time! You might have to rename your blog soon though - I noticed there was no mention of your ankle in the race. That sounds pretty good to me.

May 4, 2009 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger West Grey Runner said...

Congratulations on the new PB!

May 5, 2009 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger aron said...


May 6, 2009 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger Nitmos said...

Nice PR! Very nice, strong, even splits.

Garmin don't lie. It's the race directors fault for mismeasuring.

May 6, 2009 at 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Distances are usually measured by the shortest distance possible, so right along the inside of any curb, etc. Thus, that is probably why it measured long. Your Garmin is probably right, but so too is the course measurement.

July 18, 2011 at 6:08 PM  

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