Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2012 Race Report

My "A" race, eh? This one should go down in history as the race that almost wasn't. And there isn't much that I could have changed anyway - I just wasn't ready for a breakthrough yet, even though after completing my longest run in which I muscled my willpower through 32km non stop, solo and in unknown territory, I was feeling like a champ, ready to conquer the world. But then, in the middle of my taper, I made a choice, that was entirely mine, to run for 1h30 in minimalist shoes because they were feeling so damn good. Never thought for a second that I'd do more damage than my body and mind could handle. The last week before the marathon was agonizing. A nagging pain remained in my calves and no massage, compression, icing, resting or stretching ever made it better. For an entire week, it felt exactly the same every day, always there, always reminding me of my stupid decision, and because of it, I ended giving myself for the first time ever, a significant handicap at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon starting line.
Wet morning at STWM
The night before I only slept about 3h, after nightmares full of fear of doing more damage, fear of not finishing, fear of not even starting kept me awake, questioning everything and especially myself. Even though my massage therapist reassured me that I was not injured per se, she told me that I should not be expecting a miracle, that I was going to hurt. So I wrote this on my cap as a mantra to take me through the day. 
Mantra of the day
Then a friend reminded me that adrenaline is a powerful drug and with that tiny speck of hope, I managed to close my eyes and dream, at least for a second, that I would cross the finish line at STWM.

Woke up at 5:30am and decided to take yet another risk, to wear for the first time ever, a skirt. If I was going to hurt, at least I wanted to try look "ridiculously photogenic". And since I am very familiar with chaffing in all kinds of places, I also decided to put my Sugoi tri short underneath and my long compression Nike soccer socks. The temperature was going to be between 15-20 degrees Celsius, so I figured that I would have cooked in tights. As to the rain and wind, no big deal. Grabbed breakfast, my fuel belt, my hubbs by the hand and off we went. We stopped on our way to pick up Carol who was going to do the half distance (yay for her comeback!), then we drove downtown where we spent a huge amount the time just to exit the highway. Found a parking lot at about 1.5km from the starting line, wrapped ourselves in plastic bags as it was raining pretty hard, then had a  coffee and a pee break and finally walked over to the corrals where we found the 4:10 pace bunny. 
Pace bunny - he was great, right on pace!
My best buddy
Me and my goof
Just as we waited for the gun, the rain stopped and we snapped a picture, then with a good luck kiss, we started our journey on the streets of Toronto. It was going to be hubbs' first marathon ever, and my third. The plan was going to run with the 4:10 pacer for as long as I could, then fall back if needed with the 4:25. My goal was still to finish with a PR despite the pain, which at that moment was nowhere to be found, thanks to the adrenaline rush. The magic number, 5:55/km, 30sec/km faster than my longest run. For 18km, it felt like NO effort, nice and relaxed, I was in the zone, chatting, smiling, laughing at hubbs who was putting on a show. The calf pain started to come back around km 10, but it was not really bothering me, I could definitely handle it. I was taking in fuel on the watch, Gu Chomps alternating with Clif Chocolate Gels, washing them down with water or Gatorade, just as I had trained for. Then all of a sudden and without any apparent reason, I felt like a balloon deflating and before I knew it, I was running 6:30-7:00/km. I could see the 4:10 pacer, our group and hubbs getting farther and farther away and no matter how much I was telling my legs to move faster, they just decided they were going to take a break. By the time I hit km 20, I was almost going to take the shortcut towards the half marathon finish line, it was the quick way out, to end it right there with a PR on the half. 

That thought was so alluring, I had to take the notorius HTFU out of the hat (literally) for the first time that day and stick to the plan. However, for the following 5-7km, my pace kept on dropping and I was getting increasingly thirsty. So I started drinking 1-2 cups at each aid station and pouring one on my head another on my back. I started feeling like I was overheating from inside out. And then at km 28, the sharp stomach pain came and I could no longer breathe, unless I was going to walk. Believe me, I tried, I was still going strong in that noggin of mine. For the next 8-9km I had to keep on doing just that, run for as long as I could bear the pain in my stomach, then walk it out. It was really depressing to see the 4:25 and 4:40 pacers passing by, but there was no way in hell I could keep up with them, I tried, twice again. Legs were feeling fine, pain in the calves was no worse than before, blisters almost non existent. There was nothing else but my diaphragm spasms staying between me and my PR. Oh well. It was again, because of me, taking in too many fluids, and I knew it, yet I also knew that I was supposed to listen to my body and not let the dehydration sneak in. I could feel dizzy at times, and that scared me, but looking back, I am not even sure it was because of too little drinking or too much of it.

Thankfully, once I reached km 37, the stomach pain went down to a level where I could run through it with little discomfort. I decided to stop eating and binge drinking and make a final run for it. I knew I could handle a 30 minute sustained effort. My speed increased again, with each km, I was getting closer to the pace that I started at. I was feeling good at last, watching the sky scrapers and the CN Tower getting closer and closer as I was running down Eastern Ave, wind drying the water off my face and top. When I reached km 40, I was flying. I had to keep my concentration high so I don't twist an ankle on the tramway tracks, but the energy of the city, the countless people screaming my name, it was such a great feeling to take in, that a huge smile installed itself across my face and did not let go of me until I crossed the finish line, in the longest, most rewarding sprint so far.

I finished in 4:49:24, my worst time in 3 marathons this year, but with a smile on my face, which is the most important.

When you get to face the darkness of your mind, and you manage to came out of the battle unscathed, it is a brave thing. I think I am finally getting better at this. I may not have set a PR as I had hoped, but I learned a few more things about myself along the way. I had my best half marathon and my best 30km split, despite feeling devoid of energy at times and my diaphragm getting upset with my drinking habit. Now I know exactly what to work on - holding that magic 5:55/km pace. This is going to be my goal for the ATB 30km in March. Meeting the grim reaper will never feel better, I will become a faster, stronger dinosaur. Uh, sorry... cheetah?

Last but not least, I must mention that unlike me, hubbs had the best race possible. He finished strong in 4h05, never stopped running, never stopped smiling. He managed his pace and fueling like a champ and I am the proudest wifey in the world for seeing him taking up this challenge and even better, having fun along the way. First marathon and he CRUSHED IT. To many more!!
Marathon us
Here is my Runkeeper, fed by Garmin. My hubbs' run can be found here.

And before I go... what happened to my calf pains? The endorphins may still be lingering, but for now they are gone. Magically, yes. I have no other explanation, unless they are waiting for the quads pain to go away in order to make a more dramatic comeback. Maybe it was all in my head after all...


  1. Great recap. I'm sorry that you had tummy issues. There's nothing worse than being your own enemy! I'm happy to read that you had a smile on your face at the end. If you could still smile after all that then it was truly worth it! You'll get your marathon PR next time. I know it. :o)

    It was still raining when I started, which corral were you in?

    Amazing time by your husband! He must be so proud.

    1. Sam, I know, right? Being my worst enemy is becoming a science at which I tend to excel lately. But that's part of who I am, I like to take risks, otherwise I'd find life too boring.

      I was between the blue and green corrals, I started exactly at 8:45. The rain stopped just 1-2 minutes before going over the mats.

  2. Awesome recap! Way to go for it! Too bad about your stomach, but you never know what will happen in a race!

    You're in a good place for a PB at ATB for sure.

    What is HTFU?

    1. Nic, I agree with you, each and every one of these races are a learning experience. If we could predict everything they would not be worth doing.

      HTFU means "Harden the Fuck Up", as per Velominati's Rule #5. http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/ - There is also a YouTube video which I highly recommend : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unkIVvjZc9Y&feature=youtu.be (use headphones)

  3. Nice job! Sometimes it's good to have bad race days because it helps you prepare better for the future. I totally messed up my nutrition in my first marathon back in March and struggled the last 6 miles, but I'm much stronger for it now! You'll be glad for the experience when you do Ironman!

    1. You are unstoppable! I agree, I keep on learning every day. And I will keep training for that PB, I WILL get it sooner or later.

  4. I've been behind in reading blog posts but really enjoyed reading your recap. I know it wasn't ideal however you are AMAZING and I remain completely in awe of you!!! :) Congrats to both you and your hubby for your finishes :) Am toying with the idea of signing up for ATB again this year...and maaaaaaybe the Goodlife Marathon?! I need to re-read your posts from that period for some inspiration I think!! :)

    1. No worries girl, I don't keep tabs on who visits my blog, but it always puts a smile on my face when you do visit. Hope you sign up for ATB, I would have an opportunity to meet you.