Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Running Start: Scotiabank Toronto Half Marathon Race Report

Sunday marked my last long run before The NYC Marathon.  I was scheduled to do 35km.  I was also supposed to run the Scotiabank Half so the plan was to run to the start and then do a 3km cool down after the race.  I ended up running with a friend of a friend who happens to live in my neighbourhood and who is also doing NYC.  Lucky for me she also decided that running to the start line would be the best way to get her mileage in.  We met up at 6:45 am in the pouring rain at Parklawn and Lakeshore and made our way east along the Lakeshore.  We ran at a very comfortable pace (5:30's or so) and my legs felt great.  They should have as I hardly ran at all this week.  I've been re-habbing my achilles and I've had both my treatments on days where I run with my group.  My Tuesday treatment left my achilles and calf quite sore.  She had tried like crazy to release my rather stiff ankle to no avail.  I think it finally released on my run because all it did was crack.  I had to stop at 6.5km in because it was affecting my gait.  And it was so loud it was grossing me out.  My Thursday treatment was acupuncture and my calf was so tender by the end of the day I figured there was no point in running.  I'd just rest and hopefully be good to go come Sunday. I felt better on Friday and thought I'd run when I got home but after the day I had, a glass of wine was what happened instead of a run.  Oh well.
I also spent over 5 hours on my feet on the Saturday wandering around the Annual Fall Bike Sale.  I had vowed not to be there for more than 2 hours but G was hell bent on buying a new mountain bike.  So 5.5 hours later, I walked out with a whole new cycling wardrobe and G with a new bike.  Smiles all around.

The run to the start was a lot of fun despite the rain.  Jackie had me in stitches the entire time.  It was really nice to have the company.   We made it to the Eaton's Centre and ducked inside to use the washrooms.  Unfortunately a large number of racers also thought that would be a good idea so we went to the other end of the Eaton's Centre only to be greeted by a similar line up.  Hmm.  It was almost 8:00 am and the race started at 8:30.  I knew that getting into our starting corral was going to be a pain in the ass so we opted to duck out and try our luck at the Tim Horton's around the corner.  Ran in there and conveniently their washrooms were Out of Service.  Uh-huh.  More like they just didn't want a bunch of runners messing it up.  Luckily for me Jackie knew her way around Ryerson so we ran over there hoping that the doors were unlocked.  They were.  Jackpot!!  We had our own clean bathroom with toilet paper!  Oh the joy!

I had called G when we were in the Eaton's Centre and as I had predicted he was not anywhere near us yet.  As we were finishing up at Ryerson he called me.  He wasn't too far from us but I didn't want to risk waiting for him.  It was 8:10 and we still had to run over to Dundas and University so I told him not to worry and that I'd look for him at the start if I could.  We made our way over to the start line and it was complete chaos.  The way they have the corrals set up is awful.  I understand why they do it the way they do but it really causes a lot of unnecessary stress.  There was ONE entrance into the red corral and there isn't really any other way to get to the corrals other than along the next to non existent sidewalk.  I was climbing over planters and jumping into the crowd of runners.  I finally found the entrance to the red corral.  Thank goodness they actually had people screening the runners for the correct bib or else I imagine I would have missed the start.  I wedged my way in and pushed through the crowds towards the front.  I still had my hideous jacket on because I was unable to meet up with G due to him being held up in traffic (no comment).  At that point I don't think it mattered.  I was totally soaked.  I took it off, hung it up on the fence and went back into the crowd.  The body heat of the crowd kept me warm.  In fact I thought I might actually be a bit overdressed as I could feel sweat dripping down my chest.   Nothing I could do about it then as I didn't feel like tossing my nice New Balance shirt.  This is where seeing G would have been handy.  But I digress.

The rain had stopped when we were making our way over to the start line so I hoped that was going to be the last of it.  I didn't even want to see what my feet looked like at that point, never mind adding another 21.1km to it.  As I stood there with thousands of other runners, it started misting.  Ugh.  Then the 1:30 pace bunny made his way into the crowd and stood right in front of me.  Uh-oh.  Sure enough, I started to get crowded by the folks that wanted to run that pace.  I knew that was going to be too fast for me so I tried to get out of the way a bit.  Not an easy feat when everyone is jammed in like sardines.   The announcements started, they played the anthem and the countdown began.

And then we were off!

Of course I started running far too quickly because my legs felt great.  I was nice and warmed up from my 11.66km run to the start.  To say I got a little carried away by the crowds was an understatement.  At about 3km I finally told myself to "chill the eff out".  I didn't have much of a choice because we were going uptown at this point.  The route for this years race was re-jigged in an effort to make it more spectator friendly and give runners a better feel for the city.  In that regards I think it was quite successful.   I enjoyed running through "The Village" and along Bloor Street, through Yorkville.  Crowd support was a bit sporadic but the weather wasn't great so I wasn't too surprised.  (it had started raining again shortly after the race started).  If the weather cooperates next year, I suspect that the route through The Village will get a lot more entertaining.   We motored along Bloor and then made our way down St. George through the U of T area which is quite nice.  We then hit College which was just plain weird to run on.  I was trying to avoid the streetcar tracks and all the bumps in the road.  It's not the nicest road to run on.   We were at about 5km in when I thought "I don't want to do this".  I was tired, it was raining and my achilles was just starting to ache.  I already had almost 17km in my legs at that point.  I wasn't sure I could face another 16.   But I'm not a quitter so I decided I needed to focus on something else.  I had to banish those negative thoughts.  I started checking out the people around me.  I noticed a guy in front of me wearing a t-shirt that said "I am Chuck Norris" and from the back I would have agreed.  I stuck behind him for a while.  We turned on to Bathurst and I happened to look over and see G standing there.  I smiled and waved and he blew me a kiss.  I caught it and blew one back.  I know, get the barf bucket.  I was bummed that I didn't get to see him at the start and he knew that.  That little gesture lifted me up and I ended up catching Chuck Norris.  I gotta say, this guy could have been his younger twin.  It was uncanny.

We were coming towards Lakeshore and Bathurst and I knew that my run group was manning one of the water stations down there.  Sure enough as I came barreling down road I could see them.  I saw them all before they saw me.  I started cheering and grabbed a cup of Gatorade from Steve and they all started cheering and yelling.  That totally buoyed me along.   By this point the pain in my achilles was a constant dull ache.  I hoped that that would be the worst of it.  I tried not to think about it.

We headed west along Lakeshore and I was bracing myself for the wind.  It's usually pretty brutal along there but it surprisingly wasn't too bad.  There were a few windy patches so I just made sure I slowed down and drafted where I could.  I chugged along Lakeshore at a decent pace.  My legs were starting to feel a bit rough.  I knew the 10km mark wasn't too far off.  Sure enough I crossed it a few minutes later in 44:15.  Not too shabby.  We were heading towards my favourite part of the race.  We usually head west along Lakeshore to the turnaround at Windermere which is always jam packed.  This year they changed it and had the turnaround just past Parkside.  The change and the unpleasant weather didn't deter the spectators.  They were out in full force.  I knew my friends Kiki and Bob were going to be around here somewhere so I kept my eyes peeled for them.  Sure enough I saw them a few minutes later right at the turn around point.  I saw them before they saw me.  There was lots of cheering and I even busted out the Rock On Fingers.  Luckily Bob snapped a pic as I made what seemed like a 180 degree turn.  Apparently a few people wiped out here.  Not cool.
Some people take their racing far too seriously.
 I was actually feeling pretty good through here.  That changed about 1km later.  My achilles really started to hurt.  I tried to ignore it but it got so bad at points that it affected my gait.  I decided it was time to distract myself again so I started watching the oncoming crowd of runners to see if I could spot some familiar faces.  I had hoped to see fellow running blogger Krysten before the race to wish her luck (she was running her first marathon!) but that didn't happen so I kept scanning the crowd for her.  I also tried desperately to spot my friend Kirsten and my RMT David who were both racing.  I suspected that David was probably not far behind me as he was aiming for a sub 1:40.  I was also supposed to find him at the start but that didn't happen either.  The constant stream of people was actually quite hypnotic.  I know I slowed down for a while.  In fact, I got so distracted that I actually missed taking my gel by almost 5 minutes.  And I wondered why I was hurting so much.  Well other than the fact that I had about 27km on my legs at that point.
The next few kms were really tough.  I remember looking up at one point and seeing the 16km mark and thinking ok, just 25 more minutes.  That's it.  Just hang on for 25 more minutes.   At 18km I really started to hurt.  My quads had started to cramp slightly.  I was coming up on a woman in a Longboat Runners singlet.  As I got closer I realized it was the same woman I caught and passed at 20km of the Oakville Half.  Crazy.  I got up behind her as we ran up the Spadina off ramp.  My legs did not want to work.  She started to pull away from me on the downhill.  I caught her again on the flat and we were running almost side by side.  We ran along to Bay Street and as I came under the bridge towards Front Street, she started to pull away.  I was running for all I was worth.  I hurt so much.  I glanced at my watch.  I had hoped to beat my time from last year.  It was going to be close.  I pushed hard towards Nathan Phillips Square.  I actually managed to catch a woman as we passed Queen Street.  I was meters away.  My entire body hurt and my lungs felt like they were going to burst.  I heard the announcer call my name as I came down the finishing chute.  I glanced at my watch:  1:34:15.  I had beaten last years time by just over 30 seconds.   With an 11+ km warm up and an injured achilles,  I'll take it. 

I was sore for two days post race.  Today is actually the first day where I'm not going down the stairs sideways.  My achilles was very sore on Sunday and for some of Monday.  I had some work done on it yesterday and now it feels a lot better.  It's still fairly tight but I'm stretching it every day and doing my prescribed calf raises.  I don't suspect it will be fully healed when I do NYC but at least I know that once I'm done, that's it for my season.  It's time to put the feet up and rest.  Two marathons in one year is too much for this body.

Did you race this past weekend?  If so, what race did you do?

If you did Scotia, what did you think of the new course?  I really liked the changes.  I think it will give out of town runners a good feel for the city.





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