Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Toronto GoodLife Half Marathon 2011 Race Report

Where do I begin? How can I even remember what the race was like given that almost immediately after finishing I jumped on an airplane bound for Aruba where I spent a week enjoying quite possibly the best vacation of my entire life? I do know that I went from 8C and rainy to 30C and tropical in the same day. I also know that I not only met my A goal (1hr35m) for the race, but also that I managed to sneak under my Dream goal (1hr33m19s) in the process and ended up PR'ing by 9m31s.

But where do I start...

Oh yeah, first a picture of the typical way I spent my evenings in Aruba:

Yes, it was spectacular on all counts and everyone should go if you haven't already...

But this is a race report, right?

Crap, I keep losing focus. Good thing I was able to maintain that in the race. From what I remember, Monica dropped me off near the Start at about 7:45am for the 8am start. It was windy, cold, and rainy. I wore a garbage bag over my t-shirt and a throw away hoodie on top of that. I was still cold. This was a relatively small race (4070 total participants) and so I was able to easily find my way to the front section. Upon getting there I noticed that the sign indicating where the 1hr35m runners should line up was behind me and so I moved back to stand right beside the goal time that I wanted to run. I looked hard for the 1:35 pace bunny, but he/she never showed. The 1:30 pace bunny was beside me and I almost had a notion to follow that group, but in the end I decided that it would be ridiculous to try and so never even bothered trying.

Anyway, the race started and I trotted off at a nice easy pace after discarding both the hoodie and the garbage bag. The running felt much more difficult than it should have and I was immediately worried that this would not be my day. However, I made an effort to not let that bother me and just tried to stay relaxed, checking my Garmin once in a while to make sure that I was neither going too slow nor too fast.

The course for the first two thirds has a lot of downhill sections and I knew that this would be the time to try and gain some ground on my goal time given that the last third is uphill. I was running at 4:22/km average pace and started to feel a bit better after a few kilometres. One of my splits was 4:01 and that had me a bit concerned, but it was downhill so I went with it.

Then, between 4km and 5km there is a big long hill called Hog's Hollow. I could see it looming in front of me and it definitely looked daunting. The entire way up I just concentrated on keeping the same effort level as I had on the flats and downhills and trying not to care about my pace. In the end I passed lots of people who were struggling on the incline and managed a 4:45 split. This was good and I knew that the toughest part of the course was over. OR SO I THOUGHT!!!

The running for the next ten kilometres went well. I walked through a bunch of water stops, but my average pace remained between 4:20/km and 4:22/km. In the back of my head I knew that 4:30/km pace was very likely to get me my 1hr35m goal time, but I also was still hopeful that I could manage 4:25/km pace overall and sneak under my dream goal of 1:33:19. That goal came from my 10K race two weeks previous and based on McMillan Running Calculator. I knew it was aggressive, but I wanted a good challenge given that this was my goal race for the Spring and that I was heading straight into a week of lounging at the beach in Aruba. So I kept on chugging along.

Monica and Owen popped up along Yonge at what I seem to remember was the 6km mark, and then again at the start of Rosedale Valley Road at about 13km. I threw my baseball hat to Owen as my head was feeling like it was trapping a lot of heat and kept on running.

Then, the one thing I did NOT anticipate happening happened. Right at the 15km mark, after all the downhills were behind me, my left calf twinged and almost completely cramped. Oh CRAP! I thought to myself. I really had a moment there where I felt like my whole race was going to be ruined.

I quickly decided that a defeatist attitude would get me nowhere and focused on maintaining a form that would protect the calf. From that point on it was a real battle. Every time I felt a bit better and picked up the pace the calf would start to seize up and I'd have to back off. The last 4K up hill was really tough not only because I was pretty well spent by then, and not just because it was straight into the wind, but also because it's very difficult to run uphill without pushing off with one's calf muscles!

Anyway, the kilometre markers were coming way too slowly for my liking. The 20km mark took forever! But when I passed the 20km mark I finally was convinced that 1hr35m was in the bag. I had no idea if I was even close to 1hr33m19s and was just hoping at this point to break 1hr34m.

The last section was tough, but I did manage to sprint a bit once I could see the Finish line. And thank goodness I did! Had I not done that I would likely have missed my Dream goal by mere seconds and would have boarded the plane to Aruba a bit disappointed.

Instead, the result was a great send off.

And Aruba was a great prize. I can't wait to go back, though I know it won't be anytime soon.

Lastly, I ran 5 times on the Island and it was slow, hot, easy, and fun. When I went running this morning here in the City all I could think to myself was, "Where's the Ocean?!"

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Blogger AndrewE said...

That is just awesome! And followed by a fantastic holiday!

May 25, 2011 at 2:16 AM  
Blogger Nelly said...

Awesome race recap! Amazing that you simply blew away your race goal and PR, even with a calf that wouldn't cooperate!

Sounds like the race went perfect. Almost seems like you could have gone even faster if your calf had not seized up!

And Aruba sounds awesome!

Sounds like the last week was pretty much a dream!

May 25, 2011 at 8:17 PM  

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