Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Remember January?

Lots of talk of New Year’s resolutions, goal setting, race planning. Pouring over calendars and searching websites. One thing became quite clear, May 15th was the day.
 I wanted to go back to Toronto and rerun my fall marathon. I knew I could do better.

 Disney gave me hope and Around the Bay provided a reality check.

So I adjusted my goal, and ran a good Half Marathon on home turf. It confirmed I made the right choice in stepping back. It was a hard decision, and I had a difficult time coming to terms that is was the right one.

I had a visit with my chiropractor mid-week to tweak on prerace issues, we discussed my sore lower back and calves. She did a quick Trendelenburg test. I thought my aches and pains were a glute problem, her diagnosis was my SI joint. My hips were out of alignment, not significantly but enough. After adjusting my sacroiliac joint, she went to work on my right calf. It hurt so much, I had to concentrate on not reacting and be so careful not to mule kick her into the middle of next week. Not even my massage-terrorist inflicts the kind of pain I felt this time. Keep stretching your soleus was the only parting advice she could give me.

I couldn’t figure out what to pack on Friday. The weather forecast had it wet and cold, I deferred my packing until Saturday morning and didn’t take anything long sleeved for running. I did remember a pair of wind pants and those were the only long pants I packed.

The trip to Toronto with Gillian and KO was uneventful, especially when Brant took over mid-way. We were able to check in when we arrived at the hotel and then grabbed the shuttle bus to the expo.

The expo was smaller than in the fall. Not as many exhibitors, nothing really stood out. We did the traditional meet and greet with John Stanton and picked up our pace bands. At the iRun booth , I met Lisa and Brock. You can read about Brock’s running makeover here.

I stopped at the Run for Japan booth, made a donation and they thanked me by offering me a shirt for my generosity. I didn’t realize they were raising funds by selling cotton and technical T’s. I really liked one of the technical shirts and the volunteer had to rather sheepishly tell me that they were $30. I quickly topped up my donation and will proudly wear that shirt as often as I can while training. If you haven’t made a donation to Japan Earthquake Relief please consider helping.

It was raining harder when we were finished at the expo. After the shuttle back, we decided not to go back to the hotel and grabbed a coffee at Second Cup and loitered on the covered patio until close to 6pm before heading over to Joe Badali’s for dinner.

Dinner was a mixed blessing. Our waitress explained, the kitchen was overwhelmed by a large order from group of fifty high school age kids. Our order was slow to arrive and food wasn’t the best. The complimentary cup of coffee really didn’t make up for the overall experience. Still it’s been our traditional pre-event ritual to eat there. We’ll see about next time. 
We opted for a cab ride back to the hotel and called it a night. The busses to the start line began at 6am. My plan was to be on the first one, and relax inside the North York Civic Centre until it was time to check my bag and get in to the chute. Gillian was going to take the early bus with me even though her starting time for the marathon was an hour after mine.

In the fall, I discovered that the hotel doesn’t open their café until 6am on Sunday mornings. The staff recommendation was any number of “fast food” outlets within walking distance on Yonge Street. I was up at 4:15 and wandered across the street to the Golden Arched establishment for a toasted egg sandwich on an English muffin, to my surprise that menu item isn’t available until after 5am. I wandered back across the street in the wind and driving rain pondering how anyone was going to run in these conditions. It was not the least bit pleasant and I was a bit concerned after hearing my wife’s description of the weather they had been getting back in London.

A return visit to the Golden Arches resulted in two breakfast sandwiches and a much needed cup of coffee. Back to my room, eating and getting dressed. I went with the same clothes that I wore during the Forest City Half Marathon. No fuel belt, two gels, and gloves. I covered my feet in a thick layer of Aquaphor hoping to keep them from getting waterlogged. My only change was a return to my Zensah calf sleeves, I wore then in Hamilton and cramped near the end. I didn’t wear them for the FCRR Half and had issue at 19km. My calves were already sore, if I could squeeze a couple of extra kilometers out of my legs, it would be worth it. I finished packing up my gym bag with a G2, dry clothes tucked in to a plastic bag, and rain ponchos. Then down to the lobby to meet Gillian.

We were on the first bus to Mel Lastman Square, arriving around 6:40. We went straight to the washrooms hidden in a corner of the lower level of the Civic Center. No line-ups but I had a bit of a wait for the person ahead of me. This particular location was a single-seater.

Gillian and I talked and people watched for another half hour, seeing only a couple of folks we recognized. With about 15 minutes before my start I went outside, pulled out the rain poncho and tossed my bag up to the girl in the truck. It was a steady light rain and surprisingly, the wind seemed to have died down. My dollar store poncho was enough to keep me dry and warm while I figured out where to line-up for the start.

This year, the timing markers were held by volunteers inside the corral. Much easier to see where you should go in 15 minute increments. I found myself just to the left and slightly ahead of the 1:45 Continuous Pace Bunny. I didn’t join the pace group, I was going to use them as a timing gauge as I figured out how my individual pacing out on the course. I’d been finding it took me some time to settle in to a race pace while training and I still wasn’t sure about how my body was going to tolerate the weather or running a second race in two weeks.

The start was like every other start, slow to the line, congested, slow people too far up, fast people too far back. It was a start and I was Ok with the 5:30 first kilometer. What I wasn’t OK with was the 1:45 pace bunny. I was out a bit ahead of the pace group. In kilometer two, he went sprinting by me, bounding in and out of traffic. There are 20 more kilometers to run, you really don’t have to get yourself back on pace in second one. I let him go, and go he did in to the third kilometer. I still held back, not really looking at my watch, just keeping a comfortable pace and steady stride, waiting for openings. Some of the advice I had read online suggested patience when you are “stuck in traffic” hold tight, it will eventually open up, you don’t have to expend extra energy running around people. The advice worked, openings appear, I held my track to the middle of the road and didn’t have to move too much from it.

Ever so slowly, I closed the gap on the 1:45 group. My first checkpoint was the top of Hoggs Hollow. The biggest climb is over at 5km. I was on pace with the 1:45 group and feeling good. Last fall when running with the 3:40 Marathon pace group, I had to hold back at times to stay with the group. This time, I could run how I felt. On the down hills, I opened up and ran with ease. It felt so much more natural. Bob and I had discussed how different it is to run a half marathon. We both agreed that we feel better not holding our pace back earlier in the race, we know we’ll fade, we always fade but we’ve banked time for it.
I made sure I hydrated at every water stop, the first couple were just water and later I went for the Gatorade. I took my first gel just after 8km.

There weren’t a lot of people out support the event along Yonge Street. The Lululemon store had some great signs and there was a good sized crowd at the Running Room as well. 
I did end up behind a couple of lovely young damsels one of which was wearing a 2011 Boston jacket. I commented once on how strong they were running. To pass some time, I mentioned that I felt honored to be running with anyone who just competed in Boston. The non-Boston lass said that's why she was running beside her friend, "She's a great runner!." Miss Boston quipped back , "Geez, no pressure from you two!"

At the bottom of Bayview we were still running together, I decided to ask if they had a time goal. Miss Boston had a PB of 1:41 and wanted to try for 1:39. All I could sputter was 1:40 would qualify me for New York. I had to check my watch along here. For the most part, I’d been ignoring it and just running. If I didn’t fade, there was a possibility that I could finish in 1:40. I pressed on using the mantra of “Leave it all out here, nothing left at the end.”

My right calf was really beginning to ache. Not the spasms that precede a cramp, but and overall muscle ache. It was tightening up and hurt but I could still run. I adjusted my pace a bit by slowing down through the water stops and making sure I drank as much of the cup as I could. I got my second gel into me and prepared for the final push through the core.

I lost my pacers along Front Street (Ok they dropped me like I was running in cotton socks) when I slowed through the water stops. I made a rolling pit stop at 19km and walked while drinking to stretch out the calf. I really tried not to look at my watch too much. I knew I had my 1:45, when I thought I had a shot at a 1:40, I was peeking at it a bit too often.

Running up University was tough. The wind was right in my face. It’s slightly uphill and that damn legislature building kept moving further and further away. It seemed endless. Anyone who has completed Around the Bay knows this feeling. You can see Copps Coliseum from 4km away and it seems to take forever to finally reach the finish. I was fading, I was prepared, “Leave it all out here, nothing left at the end.”

Finally Queens Park. The victory lap, a loop around the park to the finish. The final 600 meters and I was still running. I still had something left at the end.

I used it, all of it.


My best time before 1:44:4

If it hadn't been for the wind that last little bit ...... then again, maybe that wind was behind me earlier.

1 comment:

Lorne Daniel said...

Nice report Jeff - there sure is a lot that goes through a person's head in the course of a race, isn't there? You've done a good job of capturing all the ups and downs here - and great job on 1:42 time.