Monday, October 21, 2013

Got My Mojo Workin' - Part Two: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

When I originally started this blog 2 years ago it was to document my journey to run 3 half marathons in a year and cap it all off with a sub 1:40 half at the age of 40.   Since then it has evolved into so much more that I ever it expected it to.  Much like my running.  So it seems fitting that I entitle this post Got My Mojo Workin' - Part Two.  Part One happened two years ago at the same race.  At the time the thought of running a sub 1:30 was just crazy talk.  A pipe dream.

Fast forward to 2012 and the Chilly Half.  Out of nowhere I managed to run a 1:31 and change.  Then I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to break 1:30.  I wasn't going to try to do it that year though.  At that point it was all about trying to qualify for Boston and then running NYCM in November.  But perhaps 2013 would be the year I'd give it a shot.

Once again the Chilly Half in March of this year proved to be a good testing ground for me.  It was my birthday so I was extra pumped to have a good day.  Amazingly I ran a 1:30:49.  I knew that if I trained hard over the summer that I'd definitely break 1:30 in the fall.  I had a P.B at Boston and then spent the summer racing my a$$ off in short course triathlons.  Testing my limits on a regular basis.  I can honestly say all that racing prepared me for this day.  Going all out for anywhere between 1h 15 and 1h 45 really builds your speed.  I definitely raced myself into really good shape.   My workouts leading up to this race had been way faster than my prescribed paces.  I was starting to see sub 4:00 min km's on a more regular basis.  THAT blew my mind.  The speedy guys in my run group helped to push me too.  After my last few track workouts, I knew that sub 1:30 was going to happen.  The question that I was now thinking was How Much?  I had a number in my head but wasn't sure how possible it would be.  We'd see how things panned out on race day.

Race morning was freezing cold.  I bundled myself up in layers and laced up my trusty Mizuno Wave Sayonaras.   G was driving the "race bus" loaded up with my friends David, Heather and Sue.  All of us were running the half.  It was Heather's first and Sue's first half in about 7 years.  We were all fairly nervous, with the exception of David.  It was just another race for him.   It was nice to have the company on race morning.  Normally it's just me and G.   The plan was to have G drop us off while he went to find parking.  He pulled onto Elizabeth street to drop us off and spotted a free parking spot.  SWEET.  He pulled in and we all piled out.  We were really early so we made our way down to the bag check and then opted to keep our warm clothes and hang around inside a nearby hotel for a while.  We ran into one of my run group pals, Steve so he joined our little posse.  8:00 am rolled around and I was starting to get antsy.   But of course there had to be a photo op before we headed out into the cold.

Steve, Heather and I weren't checking bags so we waited for Sue and David to check theirs.  Heather was on a mission to find an indoor bathroom so she ran up to the Metropolitan Hotel.  She came back about 5 minutes later and said that the bathroom was pretty much empty.  SWEET!  At that point I figured it was definitely going to be a good day because luck like that NEVER happens at a race like this.  Sue and I hustled over and were in and out in no time.   We followed the signs to the corrals and as we got to Nathan Phillips Square, G said he was going to head back to the car.  So I got my good luck hug and kiss and everyone else got hugs from G too.  I was really starting to get excited.  I didn't do a warm up run, which is a first for me but I figured if I did a bit of a dynamic warm up while I was in the corral, I'd be ok.

Sue and Heather were in different corrals so we said goodbye to them and made our way into the red corral.  Of course I made a beeline towards the front.  We ran into my friend Bob so we all stopped and chatted.  And of course took some more pics.   I also saw my friend Shannon and stopped to chat with him for a while. 
Freaking love this pic.  We're nerds.

David & I:  Totally freezing our a$$es off.
Steve and I were jonesing to get up to the front so we wished David and Bob good luck and made our way through the crowds.  I was trying to find the 1:30 pace bunny but I didn't see him at all.  I figured eventually he'd show up somewhere towards the front but he never did.  I saw another Team Running Free athlete, Mindy Fleming and wished her luck.  I figured she'd totally crush it.  She's super fast.  The national anthem started and I closed my eyes and smiled.  It was finally here.  I got to the start line in one piece.  I was happy and I was grateful.  The anthem ended and I opened my eyes and looked around at the crowd.  Everyone was buzzing.  The energy was palpable. I saw my friend Patrick and said hi.  Two seconds later, the gun went off.  I crossed the start line about 3 seconds later and it was game on.

My original race plan was to find the 1:30 pace bunny and stick with him until about 14km and if I felt good, I'd drop the hammer.  Well, that plan quickly went out the window when I didn't find the pace bunny.  I started hauling ass up University and immediately spiked my heart rate.  My lack of a warm up was felt in my legs for sure.   Steve was right behind me.  I dodged and weaved through the crowd to make my way closer to the curb lane.  As we rounded the bend a long haired fella past me and wished me luck on breaking 1:30.  Caught me completely by surprise.  I always forget that putting yourself out there in the social media world means that people that you've never met in real life may know exactly who you are.  I thanked him and tried to catch a glimpse of his bib so I could see his name but to no avail.  Shortly after that Roger Jonas, a fellow WTP'er passed me.  I tried to calm myself down but my legs didn't seem to want to slow down. 

As we turned onto Bloor I figured I'd try to slow myself down.  No go.  I didn't feel great when I slowed down.  My legs really just wanted to go.  Ok.  So be it.  I'd let them go and see how long they lasted.  Totally not the best way to race a half but it wouldn't be the first time I've done it.  It would be the first time I raced a half without my trusty fuel belt though so I had to make sure I got fluids at every aid station, which I did.  Made the timing of my gel taking a little more difficult than usual but I managed.  I hadn't been using much in the way of gels during my long runs but there was no way I was going to race without them.

We booked it along Bloor and I saw my first familiar face at the first aid station - Paige - a prop stylist I've worked with several times.  She saw me before I saw her.  Of course I got all excited and started woohoo-ing.  There was a lot of that on the course..  I kept my eyes peeled for one of my photographers, Vicky Lam, who said she was going to be cheering in the Annex but I didn't see her.  As we turned onto Bathurst I figured I'd see Christina and Michelle Clarke when I got down towards King.  Michelle had mentioned on IG that she would be down that way.  Sure enough, there they were cheering like crazy.  I had just passed the 6km mark and I glanced down at my watch to see 24 minutes and change.  Holy smokes, was I flying.  I kept telling myself I needed to slow down or else I was going to pay for it later.  Didn't happen.

I motored along, ticking off the km's.  I didn't know where Steve had gone and most of the time I was running solo.  There were usually a few people in front of me and a few people behind me.  I knew that once we hit Lakeshore and the Prince's Gates I'd probably see my friend Kim and her boyfriend Mike.  Mike is the Scotia Sign Guy.  I couldn't wait to see what he'd have this year.  Sure enough as we came up to the gates, I saw them.  He was dressed as a beer bottle with a sign that said "I know you want me".  Best. Sign.  EVER.  Totally made me laugh.  Of course that got a loud WOOHOO from me.   I took my first gel just before the aid station around the 8km mark.  I remember looking at my watch and seeing 33 minutes.  Wow.  I couldn't believe the pace I was running at.  I was curious to see what I'd hit the 10km mark in.

I started to notice some of the people around me and just up ahead of me was my long haired friend that wished me well at the start.  I made it my goal to keep him in my sights.  I glanced at my watch as I hit 10km 40:59.   Wow.  Just wow.   We were coming up to my favourite part of the race.  The turn around at Windermere.  I knew that my friend Kiki would be down there.  She said she'd be at the 12km mark.  Sure enough I spotted her jumping up and down and yelled woohoo and flipped my rock star fingers.  The crowds were dense along here.  It's always a really popular spectating spot.  I totally picked up the pace because of the people cheering.  I rounded the bend, looking forward to hitting the 13km mark and seeing my run group at the aid station.  Much to my surprise, I saw Kiki again.  She crossed the road to come and cheer on the other side of the road.  I high-fived her as I ran by. She yelled that Roger was just in front of me.  There was no way I was going to catch him, I was already pushing it. 

I could see the aid station coming up and I was trying to figure out what side of the road the WTP gang were on.  I spotted a blue shirt and saw Peter so I pointed and smiled.  I grabbed my Gatorade from him, then another from Al, whose hand I almost ripped off.  I woohoo-ed through this entire stretch.  I grabbed water from Monique and one other person.   It was so awesome to see them all.  Gave me a huge boost for the next little while (FYI, I ran a 4:01km through here!)

I was coming up to the Legion and figured I'd try to see if I could spot some other folks that I knew.  As I chugged my way up the hill I heard someone yell my name.  Sure enough it was Danielle.  She got a loud woohoo in return.  Apparently woohoo was the word of the day for me.  I kept scanning the crowd for people but didn't spot anyone else until just before Ontario Place when I saw Dawn from Shrinking Inkd Girl.  I hollered her name but she was totally in the zone.  We were coming up on the 16km mark.  I was starting to hurt a little bit.  My feet were really feeling it.  I definitely had a blister forming on my right foot.  It was throbbing.  Just ahead of me, I could see my long haired friend.  I was starting to close the gap.

We came back by the Prince's Gates and I saw Mike and Kim again.  I ran across the road to go and high five both of them and then ran back into the pack.  I was flying through here, buoyed by the cheers of the spectators.  I took half a gel as I could feel a bit of fatigue starting to build in my legs.  I started the mental math and the self talk.  I hit 18km and started to pass a couple of guys.  Only 3km left.  Less than 15 minutes.  There was a small pack of us coming up to the Lakeshore ramp.  I held on for dear life as we went up the ramp.  Any sort of incline at this point just made my legs hurt.  I figured the turn up Bay street was really going to suck.  I let my legs go on the slight downhill.  The self talk was in full effect at this point.  19km.  Only 2 more km.  Roughly 8 minutes at your current pace.  Hang on.  Part of me didn't care what I ran the last 2km in.  I knew I was going to break 1:30.  The competitor in me was having none of it.  This was a race and in a race, you give it your all until you hit the finish line.

I'm not going to sugar coat it.  Those last two km were ugly.  They really flipping hurt.  The last km in particular.  As soon as I came out from under the tunnel on Bay Street I felt like I was going to die.  I was running uphill and into a headwind.  A HEADWIND.  REALLY?!?  There had been no wind on the course all day and now this, in the last kilometre.   I remember glancing down at my watch and seeing 5:19km pace.  I gritted my teeth and tried to relax.  Then I thought "Just Smile...you are almost done."  So I smiled.  Amazingly I felt better.  More relaxed.  I watched the signs as they counted down the metres to go.  A girl in pink whizzed by me with about 500m left.  I had nothing.  No answer.  Another girl came up and was just behind me, running just off my shoulder.  I wasn't sure if she was drafting or just didn't have enough gas to pass me.  Whatever the case, her being right where she was flicked a switch in me and I started to pull ahead.

I was closing in on the 300m to mark when I felt the blister on my right foot pop.  I am pretty sure I grimaced when that happened.  It really hurt.  I faltered a bit but regained my stride and kept pushing.  My shadow and I were coming towards Queen Street.  The crowd was awesome.  So much noise!  Amazingly I heard someone yell PK!! and I looked up to see my friend Rick (Sue's husband) yelling and waving.  I waved back.  There was just over 100m left to go and my shadow was still on my shoulder.  I didn't have a whole lot left but I had enough to drop a mini hammer and pull away from her.  I came flying down the finishing chute, a big silly grin plastered on my face as I looked up at the clock.

1:27:11

I had done it.  I blew sub 1:30 right out of the water and I hit my goal.  I had only told 2 people what I thought I might be able to do at the race - G and my friend Caitlin.  In my head I had 1:27 something as to where I thought I'd finish.  Guess I really am getting to know my abilities.

As I walked into the finishing chute, I saw my long haired friend again.  We made eye contact and I went over to him and gave him a hug.  He congratulated me and I told him I kept him in my sights for as long as I could.  I tried to catch a glimpse of his bib once again and I think I saw Alexandre but I'm not 100% sure.  If you're reading this - THANK YOU for your words of encouragement and for being my "Bunny".   The finishing chute turned out to be quite the party place.  Shortly after I saw my long haired friend, I ran into Mindy who ran a smoking 1:23 and change, a P.B for her.  Then I ran into Christina and Michelle.  I have no clue how they managed to get into the finishing chute but they did.  Crazy ladies.  It was great to see them.  I saw my friend Pat who ran 15km to the start then proceeded to run a 1:22 and change.  The guy is a machine.  I grabbed my post race food and started to head out of the chute when I heard my name and saw my friend Stephanie.  I waited for her to come around and we walked into Nathan Philips Square together.  She had a great day as well, beating her previous time by a couple of minutes. 


We came out into Nathan Phillips Square and I saw G right away.  I went up to him and gave him a HUGE hug and a kiss.  I was still in shock.   He was beaming with pride and had his usual "I told you so grin" on his face.

We regrouped on the other side of the fence and waited for the rest of our contingent to come in.  Next up was David, who had a great day despite his lack of training (he ran a 1:38:36 and that was with a pit stop!).  Then I saw Carrie from my run group.  She came bounding over to give me a huge hug.  She had an AMAZING day, running a 1:40 and change taking over two minutes off her previous half P.B.  She was positively beaming.  Next up was Bob, who also had a P.B of 1:44:02.  Like Carrie, he took two minutes off his previous time.  I'm telling you, our little run group is filled with a whole lot of folks who push each other and work their butts off.   Shortly after Bob rolled in, we saw Sue.  Yup, you guessed it.  Another P.B.  1:47:26.  A whopping 6 minutes faster than her previous half time.  Shortly thereafter, Heather came in, grinning from ear to ear.  She ran a 1:55:38 for her first half marathon.  I was so proud and happy for her.  It was definitely a day for records to fall.  Both Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene broke the Canadian Women's marathon record that had stood for the past 28 years.  Totally amazing.

While we were waiting for folks, G was checking the stats and informed me that I came in third in my AG and was the 21st woman overall.  I was completely overwhelmed with emotion.  I got really choked up.  Carrie gave me a huge hug while I blubbered away into her shoulder.  Never in a million years did I ever expect to be in that position.   I had hoped to make the top 5.  I didn't think I'd have a chance at the top 3.   Checking the results online today, I found out that I was actually the 3rd place Masters woman.  This whole Masters thing is really freaking awesome. Ironically this was also my 13th race of 2013.  Definitely a lucky 13!

Mmmm...TASTY!
When I got home I found out that 3 more of my friends all had great races as well.  My friend Kirsten beat her previous time by almost two minutes.  Danielle, whom I have been coaching, had a 1 minute P.B over her previous time at the same race and Krysten also ran a P.B.  Smiles all around. 

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.  The weather was spot on.  Sharing the start experience with my friends was amazing (thank you Heather, Sue, David, Bob & Steve).  Seeing G and his big I told you so smile totally made my day.  The best part was the feeling I had going into the race.  I believed in myself and my ability 100%.  There was no doubt.  I can't ever remember going into a race without that doubt.  I guess I've come a long way.  My friend Shannon's comment on my Facebook post summed it up nicely.  He said "You had a positively vibrant aura this morning."  I think my confidence has finally found it's way out and it really helped me shine yesterday.



Thanks again to everyone who has been following along here, on twitter and on instagram.  All your messages of support and encouragement mean so much to me.  As long as I'm able to move forward, I will continue to push my limits.  I hope that you will continue to follow along.

One last picture...as if there weren't enough in here already.   3 very happy finishers.  Woot woot!



Did you race this weekend?  How did it go?

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