If races had movie titles, yesterday’s race would be “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” The outcome of the race was beyond something I would have ever imagined accomplishing when I first started running (The Good). Yesterday’s race was also a textbook case of, “How Not To Run A Marathon (The Bad).” Finally, the last 10-12 kilometers were a real fight for me. The weather was awful and I was flat out exhausted (The Ugly).
Yesterday Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon was my Spring goal race. It was my third marathon and the first time I completed a 16 week training plan without experiencing a single injury (I only missed 4 runs mostly due to conflicts). Two weeks prior to the race, my right calf was a little sore and it had me worried for final two weeks of my plan. Thankfully, I was tapering and it didn’t bother me at all during the race. I developed my own plan based on how much time I could commit to running. I ran five days a week (three easy days, 1 speed session, and one long run). I also ran 70-80km/week. This is a departure from previous plans where I ran four days a week and 50-60km/week. I’ll be using the same plan for my Fall marathon.
Like most people, I obsess about the weather days and weeks leading up to a race. I had no clue what to wear yesterday. Everything you see below is what I wore with the addition of a short sleeve shirt under my singlet. I woke up at 5:15, walked my dogs and ate a bowl of yogurt and homemade granola. My buddies Dom and Anna (Anna was running her second marathon) picked me up and we headed to the start of the race. We met up with few of our Night Terrors Run crew mates, I polished off a banana, and we headed to the start line.
The best part about not arriving too early at the start of a race is you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what will happen. Less than five minutes after exiting the Civic Centre, we were off!
First 5K splits: 4:21, 4:24, 4:17, 4:15, 4:30
My plan was to run my spits slightly faster than my marathon pace (4:30). If I could hold a 4:24 for most of the race, I could fade a few seconds on my splits and still BQ. That was the plan, but the energy of the runners and the lack of thinking on my part resulted in a fast start. I struggled to maintain a steady pace given the plunge down Yonge street heading towards Hogg’s Hollow. I then approached the biggest incline on the course a little too fast. The worst part of the course (or so I thought) was behind me.
Second 5K splits: 4:32, 4:26, 4:28, 4:19, 4:19
The second 5K took us down Yonge Street before we made a right turn toward Forrest Hill. I started to gain control of my pace, but had a mental block at the 9th and 10th kilometres. I was now running just slightly faster my half marathon pace. Not good!
Third 5K splits: 4:28, 4:34, 4:22, 4:19, 4:19
Forrest Hill quickly replaced Hogg’s Hollow as my least favorite part of the route. We took 10 turns through the neighbourhood with a few small rolling hills. This is the point in the race where I seemed to run through every puddle and got splashed way too many times. I also knew my buddy Daniel would be waiting just past Casa Loma, so I must have sped up to make it appear I was running fast!
16Km to 21.1km splits: 4:17, 4:38, 4:24, 4:11, 4:30, 4:29
Next up was Rosedale Valley Road and Bayview Avenue. At this point, we’re running downhill and my quads are starting to get warm. I was focusing on my turnover and making sure I wasn’t braking. My paces was all over the place and it was at this point I started to realize I was three minutes over my goal time of 3hrs 10minutes. I was elated I was running faster, but also really starting to worry I may have been running too fast!
22km to 29km splits: 4:20, 4:21, 4:22, 4:30 4:26, 4:18, 4:32, 4:33
I group this next segment together because it was mostly flat and just prior to the point the wheels started to fall off. Running through the tall buildings on King Street was fun because my Garmin at one point indicated I was running a 3:20 pace! We headed towards the eventual finish line and where we could hear the music blaring; it’s the first time we realized we were close to the finish even though there were about 13 kilometres to go. I got a high five from a few of my Night Terrors Run crew mates including Domenic. We then headed out towards Humber Bay Park West along the water.
30km – 39km splits: 5:06, 4:36, 4:42, 4:53, 4:53, 5:03, 4:55, 5:04 5:10, 4:55
The realization I went out too fast hit me like a ton of bricks. I was starting to lose my breath and I was focusing more on trying to calculate how much time I could lose while still reaching my goal. My mind was moving faster than my feet and I must have stopped 3-4 times at this point. Fellow runners encouraged me to keep going and I was getting annoyed with all the twists and turns through Humber Bay Park West. I knew once we hit Lakeshore, we would be on our way back, but it felt like we were running through the park forever!
The final 3.2km splits: 5:17, 4:59, 5:01, 4:24
At this point, I was done. I was running on fumes. I saw Brittany from the Runner’s Academy twice at this point and tried to pick up my feet, but I could barely lift my legs. I also noticed my good friend Rose yelling at me to go and then my saviour was quickly approaching. I can’t say enough good things about my buddy Domenic; he’s the best running partner you could ask for (he and Anna drove 140km to watch me finish my first marathon!) A funny thing happened when I first saw Domenic with about 3 kilometres to go. At the same time, he noticed his wife Anna running towards Humber Bay Park West and signaled he was going to run me in. I didn’t see her, but she probably saw the look on my face and thought it was a good idea. I am certain if I didn’t see Dom and he didn’t run with me, I would have walked most of the final 3.5km. At this point, I knew my BQ was in jeopardy, let alone have enough of a buffer to earn me a trip to the big show in Boston. I just wanted to finish!
I was never happier to finish a race. I definitely left it all on the course; unfortunately, I left it out on the course a few kilometres shy of the finish line. My chip time was 3:13:42; a Boston Qualifier and 20 minute PB! I only missed my projected marathon time (based on my latest half marathon success) by 3 minutes! With a 1 minute 18 second buffer (my 2017 Boston Qualifying time is 3hrs 15minutes 00seconds), it’s highly unlikely I will be heading to Boston in 2017 and I’m not going to attempt to qualify for 2017 again. I accomplished my goal and am incredibly happy! I will be moving into a new age category for the 2018 Boston Marathon which means I will have another 10 minutes added to my qualifying time. I have a half marathon and 10km race coming up in the next two months, but I’ll be taking it easy for the next two months. My training plan for my Fall marathon starts June 26th.
Greeting me just beyond the finish line was Domenic, Ron, and Sean (fellow NTRC crew mates). Sean was handing out beers to fellow NTRC runners. I had no appetite, but really needed a beer! I quickly headed towards the exit and headed home in a cab. Yesterday was my son’s 7th birthday and I wasn’t going to get off easy just because I ran a marathon! I quickly soaked my aching muscles in an Epson salt bath and headed to Dave and Busters in Vaughan to chase my son from video game to video game. It was painful afternoon, but I would have done it over and over again!