Monday, May 6, 2013

2013 Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon Race Report

When I signed up for this race early in the year, I was planning on doing it as a training run for Welland 70.3, but since new coach came on board, things have changed a little. I was told that it wasn't a good idea to do the 70.3 in June, and that I should be aware of recovery times after each race and that everything I do this year has to be carefully planned so that Ironman Muskoka 70.3 in September is not jeopardized. Alright, I said, but I'm already signed up for a 30K, a 5K, a half marathon, all before June... can't I race just a little then? At Around the Bay, I only "raced" 10 of the 30K, but at the Run 4 Hope 5K I had no specific directions, so I went all out. Little I knew, the day of the 5K, I found out what coach had in mind, written on my May training plan:
I want you to train through the half marathon. Therefore there is no rest. You run on tired legs.
Damn. Shit's getting real. Okay then... keep calm and train on. I ran, I biked, I swam... I even went night geocaching again. On Saturday I had a 2h long bike in the morning (50km), then I had to drive downtown and pick up my race kit, then quickly come back and go to a BBQ with Zin. In pictures, the day went like this:
Yeah, I don't get it either.
Can you believe this weather?
The horses are out for a trot
I wish my flower bed looked like this
Direct Energy Centre, deserted outside, buzzing with athletes inside
Inside Direct Energy Centre
And finally, the runners' expo. You thought I'd never get to it, I bet.
Here's a picture of my BBQ dinner to make up for it.
Moving on, this pic is making me hungry. I only had about 15-20min to spend at the expo, as in my infinite wisdom I had parked the car about 2km away and I still had some serious walking and driving to do. So I picked up my bib and my t-shirt, had a quick chat with Alex at "Boston, we run with you" fundraiser booth, then went back home to shower and get ready for the BBQ. I would like to mention this initiative, started by Rob Kent, a member of a runners' Facebook group that I am part of, for giving people the opportunity to show their support to people of Boston and be able to help by donating money to Boston's Children Hospital in memory of Martin and all other young victims of this tragedy. I was definitely proud to pin my bib on this beautiful t-shirt:
Proud to be wearing yellow and blue
Sunday morning I set my alarm for 6:15am and planned to leave the house an hour later. No problems there, managed to get a decent sleep, I had very little to worry about. Funny how shorter races don't give you the butterflies as much. But it was the first time that I was racing the Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon, so I was excited to discover new running paths in the heart of the city. Despite getting this email the night before, I was relatively at peace with myself.
All I would ask of you is to try to negative split the race.
Wait a minute, a negative split?? How in hell am I going to do this? How can I beat gravity? So, not only I run on tired legs, coach wants me to negative split (I love you too, coach). I replied saying that I was going to "do my best" and honestly, that's all I could hope for. I had no idea how I was going to race, other than follow whatever my legs and heart would want to do. My lovely husband drove me to the start and dropped me off with about 15 minutes to spare. People had just started to gather in the corral and I looked for the 2:00 pace bunny, after all, this was my goal time. Then all of a sudden, people started moving back and I found myself just ahead of the 1:55 pacer. Interesting... was that a sign? I tweeted my friend Carol to join me, and she arrived just on time, seconds before the race started. With a hug, I told her that I was planning to average 5:30-5:40/km, but let the downhills do their thing.
And then there was no more thinking, only the rhythmic breathing, legs moving fast, watches beeping, the energy of the race immersing almost 5000 people. The first water station was at 2km, that was quick, I told myself. Shortly thereafter legs started to get ahead of themselves, so I told Carol that I was going with them! First three splits 5:33, 5:19, 4:51. Those downhills were fast, indeed. But before I knew it, Hoggs Hollow, a long, bloody beast of a hill appeared in front of me. I didn't even know it had a name until yesterday. I did my best to keep a strong and steady pace, but here the 1:55 pace bunny passed me. Gave myself a little pep talk, no need to fret, I'll make sure to stay ahead of the 2hr pacer. 
Hoggs Hollow on the horizon.
The first 10km went really fast, they were all on Yonge St., lots of people out cheering, even saw a band or two. I  decided not to stop at the water stations and drink my Metagenics Endura mix only. I was also taking 3 Clif Shot Blocks every 4km, so nutrition was going well. First 10k split: 53:19.

Right after we turned on Rosedale Valley Road, I caught up with the 1:55 pace bunny and I passed him!! That was also going to be the turning point of the race for me. Coach said to do a negative split, there was my chance, I'd better take it. Picked up the pace and decided to stay ahead of the 1:55 pace bunny for as long as I could, hopefully he was not going to catch up with me, or ... I don't know what I would have done, but a slingshot made out of my SpiBelt, sounded good enough to knock him out.
I really, really enjoyed this part of the race, too beautiful!! Alas it only lasted for 3km, then we arrived on Bayview Ave and it already had something of a home stretch with 6km left. I knew that we were going to get back on the streets of downtown Toronto, and then the crowds were going to take us home. Or something like that. The anticipation helped keep the adrenaline up. I did my best to keep my vitals in check and it looked like everything was holding up well. Not slowing down, I had a bunny on my tail! Actually, I don't even know, after I passed him, I never looked back, but I was aware of my blind spots and so far so good, he wasn't on the left, and he wasn't on the right. 

I stopped taking pictures, this was not a time to play, too many potholes and tramway tracks to look at anyway. And I hammered down some more. It felt harder, I didn't think I was going any faster, but the watch was there to tell me, you are going strong, so keep at it! Soon I was running on Front St. and was praying the Police Gods that they weren't going to stop me to let the cars cross the road, or I was gonna be really mad. And you don't want to get mad at a police officer, ever. Worst idea of the day, I said. Thankfully they all saw it in my eyes and feared my wrath. And I kept going. Eventually we turned down on Bathurst St. and I knew that I had it, there was only 1km left and I didn't feel too bad myself.

So many people were at the finish line, I could see the chute from far away and it just drew me in like a magnet, I couldn't feel any pain, it was just perfect. I, too, had the perfect race. I finished strong, proud of beating my 1/2 marathon PR by 13 minutes, with an official chip time of 1:53:59. I could not have asked for better conditions, I ran in shorts and t-shirt, I didn't get too hot, I didn't drink too much to get stomach pain, I didn't get any cramps, and I was able to pick up the pace and deliver a solid time. I don't have official pictures yet, but I got the funky stats below:

After crossing the finish line, I got my medal, ate 2 bananas and drank 4 cups of water, before making my way out of the crowd and back to Direct Energy Centre where hubbs was waiting to pick me up. He drove me to the nearest Tim Hortons, where he bought me an iced capp. I love this man!! Here I was waiting in the car and taking a selfie with my medal for the road. 
I could not get enough of that feeling, I was happy to my ears! 24h later, I am still happy and still smiling. Today my quads are a bit achy here and there, but given how much TLC I gave my legs since yesterday, they better thank me soon : ice bath, foam roller, walk, swim. I may not run today, but tomorrow I should be all good. It's all good. It's just wonderful.


  1. Your average speed was 11.1? Holy CRAP!

  2. AMAZING! Great recap and awesome race! You did so amazingly well! Look at that speed! You are going to be so strong for that 70.3!!!! Congrats!