Monday, September 27, 2010

Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2010 Race Report

Ahhh. Where to begin? Well, how about I just briefly recount the pre-race stuff and then get right into the run itself since that is what I will want to read about a year from now when I am about to try running it for a second time (all things falling into place as they should to allow me to do this, of course).

I had a good sleep the night of the race and woke up on my own (prior to the alarm going off) at about 4:30am feeling quite good and not very nervous. Having been sick in bed Monday through Wednesday leading up to this race left me a little bit shaken in the confidence department, and coupled with my right heal still giving me problems I was not sure what was going to happen once I started running. I thought that my heal would give me trouble as the race progressed and felt confident that I could run through the pain without slowing down too much. I was also buoyed by the fantastic weather forecast that would make the conditions for running absolutely perfect.

I set off on my bike at 6am to catch a streetcar from Broadview Station at 6:10am and everything was smooth as silk. Easy bike ride took 5 minutes, locked up the bike, and waited a few minutes for the streetcar. The ride to Dundas and University, near the start line and my office, was fast since there was no traffic at that time of day.

I made it up to my office at 6:35am and set about getting prepared for the race. It was great to not have to use the porta-potties and stand around in the cold, that's for sure! I could see the start line and corrals from my office window and watched as the crowds grew bigger while the Sun slowly brightened the sky. A couple of visits to the washroom and double checks that I had everything I needed and I was off at 7:15am for the 7:30am start.

I walked the short distance to the Yellow Corral (marked by a big ring of balloons over the street) and mixed with the other runners. This race had both marathoners and half-marathoners starting at the same time and it was quite crowded, but I must commend the traffic control volunteers who ensured that people were lining up in their designated corrals. After a short time it was time to get going as the horn went off and I walked toward the timing mats. Reaching them I said good luck to my neighbours and hit start on the Garmin. I was off!

The beginning of the race was a dream. Everything felt awesome and I was really having fun realizing that I was actually running something for which I'd been training since November of 2009! In a sense I had already won. Given my running history it was a real accomplishment to just be able to start, and here I was not only at the Start Line, but also feeling good. At that moment I knew, just absolutely knew, that I would make it to the finish. I wasn't foolish enough to estimate how it would happen, but I was filled with confidence that on this day I would become a marathoner.

And so I ran. With a big smile on my face I simply ran. I took an occasional look at my Garmin to make sure that I wasn't getting too excited and, therefore, increasing my pace uncontrollably, but everything was going so well that I didn't really have to do that as often as I did. The splits bear this out as my pace was rock solid and steady for a long long time.

The run meandered through downtown and then we headed West along Lakeshore Blvd. toward the turnaround point at about the 12km mark. I saw the elite runners go by on their way back East when I was around the 8km mark and they were flying. It was magical to see these athletes glide effortlessly and all of the runners around seem to have had the same feeling as I did because we all cheered them on loudly.

At about 10km I opened a Clif Shot and slowly ate it while I ran. I had been walking through every water station grabbing one cup of Gatorade and at least one cup of water and after having the Clif Shot I only took water at the next station. Next thing I remember is hearing Monica and the boys call out my name at the 15km mark. They were standing on a pedestrian overpass and I couldn't see them since the Sun was right in my face low on the Eastern sky, with me running straight at it at this point. As usual seeing/hearing my family was a real boost and my pace picked up as a result ever so slightly for that split. The weather was sunny, very little wind, no humidity, and the temperature was perfectly cool. I still had that smile on my face as things could not have been going any better for me.

The kilometres kept flying by and I continued to run at my goal pace with little effort. As I rounded the Cherry Beach turnaround and ran back North I saw a friend running the other direction and we high-fived each other. She seemed to be running very strongly and I could tell she was having a great time. This was at about the halfway mark in the race, and my splits continued to be rock solid. I felt awesome.

Not much to report over the next number of kilometres, though I did cross the 21.1km mark at exactly the right split (which was 1:45:27 and made me happy) and then at around the 24km mark water station I took a bit of extra time to drink lots of water as I had eaten my second Clif Shot and wanted to make sure I was properly hydrated. I think I had three cups of water and walked the entire time to make sure all of it went into me and not onto me. I got right back into my groove at that point and ran strongly until I started to feel a little bit fatigued at about the 28km mark. This was nothing bad, and not unexpected, so I was still confident that I would be able to hold a steady pace for the rest of the race even if I started to slip a bit. The splits bear this out as my times crept up by a few seconds per kilometre for the next few clicks.

And then, the dreaded WALL! If that's what it was I hit it head on and it was invisible. There was no warning. I had crossed the 30km mark right on target at 2h30m30s and continued on my merry way. We were now in the Beaches on Queen Street West where I ran so many of my morning training runs throughout the Summer. And then, just past the 31km mark, BAM! Right hamstring seized up with the start of a cramp. I stopped running right away to make sure it didn't take hold. I immediately knew my day was done as far as goal times went. From now on it would be a struggle to stay healthy, not tear any muscles, and try and get across the Finish Line in one piece. The next 10km was comprised completely of walking and jogging, and as I got closer to the end I walked more than jogged. Every time I felt something start to cramp I would walk. When the sensation went away I tentatively jogged. My family saw me at this point and my Dad snapped some photos as I went by (I kind of wish I had some photos from earlier in the race when I was feeling really good and flying along. Perhaps the official photos, once available, will catch some of my enthusiasm before the breakdown.):

The boys came out and walked with me for a short distance. I love these guys! Owen kept saying, "You can make it, Dad! I know you can!" I really needed to hear that at this point, and coming from my boys it was a really moving and special moment for me.

I then started jogging/walking again and left them behind. I would give myself targets to run to before I would allow myself to walk again, but I must admit that most of the time the cramps would take hold too early and I would fail in my quest. This didn't bother me too much at this point, but I was starting to wonder why exactly I was putting myself through this thing by then.

At about 40km my friend (who I had high-fived earlier) went past me and encouraged me to finish strong. I tried; I really did, but she left me in the dust and would finish a full three minutes ahead. My jogging sections became shorter and shorter. My Mom and Sister saw me right at that point too and it was really helpful that they biked beside me for a bit yelling out encouragement. This definitely helped get me to the end.

Then it was just a matter of Finishing as the markers started to show hundreds of metres left before the end. I made a pact at the 500m mark that I would jog the rest of the way, but alas I could not and was forced to walk several more times. A stranger ran past and grabbed my hand as she went past to try and get me going at one point, but I couldn't. At least I did manage to jog across the Finish line and saw that I had come in right at 4 hours on the Gun Time Clock. It was over and I was DONE!

What an experience. I did not meet my time goals, but I did finish under four hours, coming in at 3:57:40.3 on the Chip Time and 3:59:59.3 on the Gun Time. I was the last runner under four hours of all participants on Gun Time! I think that's pretty cool.

After the race I met up with my Family and my Dad snapped a few more photos:

That banana felt pretty heavy (hahaha). Even my biceps were cramping in the last five kilometres, so that was almost not a joke.

And my biggest fans made everything seem less painful. I love these kids so much!

Here is the graph showing the splits for each kilometre of my race, which clearly shows what I described above:

My splits, from Garmin, definitely bear out the gory details. I am still impressed with how steady my pace was for the first 31km! I really had it going there...

My pace per kilomtre for each kilometre of the race, including the last .67km that Garmin said I ran:

1    5:11
2    5:00
3    4:52
4    4:55
5    4:50
6    4:59
7    4:56
8    4:52
9    5:02
10  4:53
11  4:48
12  4:59
13  4:55
14  5:00
15  4:55
16  4:43
17  4:57
18  4:50
19  4:46
20  4:51
21  5:00
22  4:57
23  4:55
24  5:05
25  4:59
26  4:47
27  5:07
28  5:00
29  5:02
30  5:03
31  5:11
32  5:57
33  6:09
34  6:09
35  8:43
36  7:38
37  7:02
38  6:49
39  7:56
40  7:37
41  8:17
42  5:50
.67 8:51

The official stats are included in my last post so I won't bother retyping them here. It was definitely a nice even race until the cramps and I truly believe that if I hadn't gotten sick then I might never had hit that wall with cramps. I might have slowed down a bit, but I would not have been forced to walk. Looking forward to choosing my next attempt, but first I will take some rest. Until then I might give this blog a break as well. Congrats to all who ran marathons this weekend! For better or worse I have joined your ranks.

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Blogger Ace said...

Amazing! Stupendous! Congratulations on a great accomplishment! Marathoner! Like you said after all the physical struggles previously, to make it to this point, well done. Great race report, and I especially liked the encouragement from your sons, that is priceless.

Very happy for you today!

September 28, 2010 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Breaking Three Hours said...

Brilliant article, and congrats on finishing your first marathon. I'm still yet to write my report, need a bit more time to process it.

September 28, 2010 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Scott Keeps Running said...

Fantastic! Congrats!!

My first marathon was 3:51...I was so happy to be under 4hrs.

I don't know why they put The Wall up at the end of these things -- it sure makes finishing harder. :)

October 11, 2010 at 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Congrats on the marathon! That must have been a really special moment seeing your kids at the 30K mark. I just did my first marathon at the San Francisco marathon, and I got exactly the same time as you (3:57) - kind of eerie =) I know seeing family and friends almost made me start crying, you realize that you are running the race for more than yourself. And hitting the wall is indeed brutal!

October 15, 2010 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Vava said...

Mike: Thank you for visiting! And congratulations on your first marathon. Let's hope that wall is not so hard the next time around!

October 28, 2010 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Nelly said...

For sure! Maybe I'll do the Toronto marathon in the future, it sounds like a nice course. I've only ran 1 marathon so far, and likely I won't run another one until maybe 2012 - I was looking into Chicago or San Diego potentially. Hopefully I hydrate and fuel better next time, maybe that was why I hit the wall last time. At least I didn't hit the wall until the start of mile 26 though, haha Good luck with running!

November 5, 2010 at 5:51 PM  

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