Thursday, October 24, 2013

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon Race Review

Finishing Together! 21.1km Done!
Sunday, I enjoyed the #STWM Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon.  I jogged it, I ran my slowest half time ever...I was basically a tourist taking a ton of crazy pictures & wasn't even tired at the end....and I had the BEST time ever! A couple months ago, an opportunity arose that gave my crazy-busy SIL an actual free/non-work travel weekend that worked for both of us & she asked me if I'd run with her as she attempted her 1st half-marathon.  I was THRILLED at the prospect and we signed up right away! What an honour to help her do this thing!

Separate finish chutes for Half & Full Marathoners
I drove up to Toronto on Friday, making wicked good time (and if you have ever hit the traffic of the Niagara-Toronto corridor, you can appreciate my satisfaction in sailing through it ;)). I got to her place & chilled with the nephews until it was time to go carb-load (Wine is carb loading, right???). (In case you didn't notice, this is part girl-weekend/part family visit).  Normally, about this point I'd tell you all about the expo, however, my BIL was in full-service mode here and not only was he our chauffeur all weekend, but he went and picked up our race kits on Friday for us! So we went dress shopping instead before my nephews birthday party. Full disclosure here: I had never been to a Chuck E. Cheese's before....It is the loudest place on earth! Oh my! But the kiddo's had fun and there was cake, and I love cake.  Yup, pre-race carbs consisted of wine and can be done.

Nathan Philips Square-Start and Finish area

No we aren't sisters, but we feel like it
An early night and I had a pretty good sleep.  C, not so much...but I think that is normal before your first big race.  We were up bright and early and out the door by 6:45.  My BIL was nice enough to get up and drive us to the start.  We left early because we didn't know what traffic would be like with such a big race.  Turns out, there was hardly any and we were plenty early.  It was a little cold waiting for the 8:45 start but we finally made it. The bag check was right in Nathan Philips Square and well organized.  We checked our race issued clear bags around 8ish with no wait and very friendly volunteers.  Already this race feels like a big city well-oiled machine.  Because the start and finish were in the same location, it was nice to be able to scout out the finish area, see where the family meeting area (nicely organized by alphabetized flags) was and you already knew where your bag was going to be. Very nice. There were 5 running corrals and 1 walking corral. We were purple, the last running corral. These are EXCITED people! It was projected times of 2:25 and slower for the half and 4:40 and slower for the full.  Everyone was chatting, excited and nervous! It was neat having everyone start together, but I will say that the half-marathon bibs were much more predominant than the full marathon bibs. One marathoner took a picture of my Wineglass marathon shirt because she loved it so much! We did kind of look like a running ad for WGM! C wore her DNS shirt from a couple years ago too. There were 27000 runners in downtown Toronto on this morning.  9000 for the 5K (that would start before us down on the waterfront and make their way to the common finish), 12000 half marathoners & 6000 full marathoners.  That's a LOT of people! Like triple the population of my town! If that wasn't enough....I saw Kenyans & Ethiopians warming up! At a pace that I couldn't run if I was on fire! It was very cool! Honestly, I think this race is growing on an international scale and is going to turn into the NYC of Canada.  If it sounds appealing to you, I'd think about putting it on your race calendar sooner rather than later.  I can see it getting to lottery entry before too long.

The coveted Blue Track
The waves started at 8:45 and went every 5 minutes.  It was several waves before we even turned the corner and I could see the start in the distance! It took about 20 minutes to reach the start and we were off! We went at a nice easy pace and enjoyed the excitement of the start.  I am navigationally challenged, so I only know roughly where we were, but we started in the northern downtown area by Queen's Park and then went through the University of Toronto campus area.  I had to whip my phone out here for a very bad picture of the UofT Varsity Blues Track for Thing 1.  This is the track he dreams of running on, and will be applying to UofT this month! A Blue track for the Blues...tres cool!

Toronto Waterfront
C & the Inukshuk we passed
We then made our way south towards the waterfront.  The crowds never really thinned out, but neither did the crowd support.  There were people lining the streets the whole way. I had my music turned on, but I wasn't really hearing it and eventually just turned it off and enjoyed the crowds and bands/music along the course.  The water stations were every 2.5km which was a good spacing.  Well stocked with Gatorade and water....and with so many people, the ground was a paper cup wasteland by the time we got to the water stations.  The Gu stations were actually sticky underfoot! We hit the 10km mark around 1:11 and C's side cramp was finally gone.  That is hard right out of the gate, but she didn't stop or walk, she just worked through it nice and steady.  She was doing so well!  It was starting to get a little harder here for her but she had 3 amazing things to look forward to in the next 4km....seeing her husband & 2 kiddo's! We saw them at the High Park cheering area around the 11km mark and it really boosted her spirits & kept those legs strong! We ran along the waterfront from around Ontario Place to just past High Park and then looped back so we saw them again around 13.5km or so.  They were cheering like crazy and it was awesome!  As we were heading back along the waterfront it was SO beautiful.  It really was a pretty perfect running day weatherwise, and it was in a perfect setting.  The boats and sunshine on the water were amazing! In this stretch we had to go up 2 hills.  They weren't huge but they were long enough to make you question whether you could get to the top.  Basically, I ran in front of C and told her to just look at my back & shoes and follow me. We didn't walk and we got up those inclines nice and steady.  At about 15km, she had a huge cramp in her hip that we stopped to stretch out for a moment, but it was only for a few seconds, then we were off again.

Just finished! 
With our #1 fan
Only 6km to go and we start heading off the waterfront back towards the finish.  The full marathoners split from Half just before the 20km mark and went on through some pretty culturally diverse and unique areas of the city.  It looks like a very nice (and flat) second half.  Our pace slowed a bit but we were still running. No walking for us! We did stop to stretch at 20km for just a second then we went strong into the homestretch.  I was so excited and proud of C! She had no real time goal (except she thought she would be around the 3 hour mark) but she wanted to finish without having walked at all.  The crowds were amazing and the last half km, while slightly uphill, was marked out in 100 meter intervals, which made staying focused on finishing that much easier.  We just went sign to sign.  When we turned the corner and finally saw the finish line, C grabbed my hand and we finished side by side crazy happy! I was so proud of C for doing this! She met her goal of finishing without stopping! And the best part was just after we finished we heard the shouts of congratulations from BIL & the kiddo's and she & BIL were happily chatting about how she came in just where she thought she would, I had to interrupt and tell them that the time they saw on the clock was from the first wave & her time was actually 2:35! It was awesome to see her face when she realized she had run 20 minutes faster than she originally thought!  Loved it! Thank you Garmin! And Thank You, C, for allowing me the privilege of being your cheerleader, drill sergeant, goofball running partner! It was amazing!
Nice tech T (Full had blue long sleeve)

And yes, I am definitely putting this on my running calendar for the full.  Overall, I prefer a smaller race, but for a big race, this is definitely a well oiled machine.  Can't really think of anything that was bad about it. Post race, they kept you moving down the block, first stop was medals...and they are one of the nicest I've ever gotten....I REALLY want the big gold full marathon one now.  Then you continued on through the food station.  No stopping though.  They gave you a bag first and you filled it with bagels, bananas, yogurt and kept moving.  Once we made it back to the square there was ample milling around space, booths and entertainment.

Overall, A+ race.

Nice heavy detailed medal (full was gold & bigger)
And if you want to see a couple of crazies finishing the race, check us out here: (click the finish clip) Race video of 10KM and Finish

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wineglass Marathon 2013 Race Report...

Wineglass Marathon 2013

 Well Marathon #5 is in the bag & I couldn't have asked for a better feeling race than this one.  There is something very special about running your hometown marathon...especially when that hometown is very small.  I am sure the tourists out-numbered the locals here the past few days! I have a confession...I almost didn't register for this one.  I actually thought "well I've run it twice, maybe I should find a different fall race". So glad I didn't!

About to board the bus for the start
How do you like THAT outfit?!?
Wineglass Marathon is a family event.  I ran the full, SD ran the half, and Thing 1 & Thing 2 were at the Mile 24 water station.  Thing 1 was actually in charge of it! The alarm went off at 5:10 and SD and I were up for our coffee and bagels & were out the door by 6:15. Since we have both run this before, we have found the easiest thing to do is to drive to the finish line (about 10 min), park the car there & take the buses to the start.  This is a great free feature of this race.  There was a bit of a line for the half buses, but I got the last seat on one leaving for the full start and was off right away & the sun rose as we made the 26.2 mile drive from Corning, NY out to Bath, NY. The starting area was well organized.  There were ample port a potties, a sheltered waiting area with chairs, water & bib pickup.  I chatted with a few of my Ragnar ladies, said Hi to Bart Yasso, checked my bag on the UPS truck (Clear bags only...which seems to be the new post-Boston standard) & headed for the back of the start line.  It was overcast but 64F with 90% humidity at the start.

Miles 1-5: 10:13/10:20/10:27/10:22/10:31
Downhill, Flat, Uphill 
The gun went off & I stood still.  With around 2400 runners, it took 6 minutes to cross the starting mat.  Soon enough we were off. I started with a couple Ragnar ladies, but they were soon ahead of me.  That's fine, I wanted to run my own race.  This whole race, I just wanted 2 things: to make sure I didn't go out too fast & just run what felt comfortable for me.  As a result, I really didn't look at my Garmin too much.  I had my 5 mile 'beat Oprah' splits on my arm & I checked my watch a every couple miles or so if I noticed my watch beep, but mostly just ran to feel.  I wanted so much not to have a race with a section where I wanted to die or stop.  In that respect I succeeded.  This was a smooth race....I guess some-what turtle-like...slow & steady.  I positioned myself between the 4:30 & 4:40 pacers. I soon lost sight of the 4:30 guy & I hoped the 4:40 wouldn't catch up! The first mile is a little downhill, then it flattens out before you do a long slow climb from miles 4-5.  Crowds lined almost this whole section and then thinned out as we climbed the hill exiting the city of Bath to country roads.  I just tried to run easy and loose & find my place in the crowd.  I skipped the first water station too. Pretty sure I can run 5K without needing water!

Miles 6-10: 10:42/10:12/10:25/10:20/10:30:
One hill, Flat
As you make your way up and out of Bath towards Savona, you run a long county road & I wish I had a picture of the long line of runners out in front of me for as far as I could see. Normally, if I see one runner when I am out, it is an event!  So to see so many runners in my area is pretty cool!  For some reason, I hate to train hills and tend to avoid them, but during a race, I seem to be able to just power up them steadily and ride the downhill with fast legs.  This is where I started to steadily pass people. I took my first Gu at the 10K mark & was feeling pretty good.  It was good timing and as it kicked in I arrived in Savona at the 9.1 mile to what felt like the entire town at one intersection!  This is a great spectator course because you can drive on and off the highway to 4 super easy viewing points.  Savona is the first big one.  Just before you get there too you can see the highway and all the cars are tooting their horns as they drive by. Cool! Through Savona, hang a right and you have just 4 miles to the half way point along a flat farm lined road.  I just ran steady, hit every aid station, and soaked up the atmosphere.  I was feeling good.  It was still overcast, but it was humid. I could feel the salt on my face.  I knew I'd need the Hammer Endurolytes I'd packed.

Miles 11-15: 10:36/10:43/10:54/10:46/10:42:
Flat, Last Hill, Downhill, Flat 
The numbers are weird.  I 'felt' like I was running strong, and I was.  I was running a comfortable pace and passing people steadily.  I had dropped several of the people that had been running around me in the last stretch and really was in a good state of mind.  Miles 14-20 are normally the hardest for me, but I was ok mentally and physically.  My body felt good.  Just the normal tired, nothing crazy.  I had taken my endurolyte capsules at the half along with another Gu.  I think, in hindsight, what had happened was that the majority of runners are early morning runners....people who thrive in cold conditions.  I, on the other hand, because I only run on my days off, generally don't get out there until about 10am.  I have run in plenty of humidity.  Not always well, but I've done it for most of the training cycle.  So, while it was still overcast around at 10-11am, the temps were into the low 70's and the humidity was sucking the life out of alot of runners.  I saw people sobbing in the medical tent at the half way point.  Apparently the race organizers sent a bus out to collect several people who called it a day at the half.  So a ton of people were struggling which made my slower paces above feel fast because I was still passing people.  I wasn't looking at my watch so didn't realize my splits were getting higher.  Maybe if I'd looked I could have pushed it a bit more in this section, but maybe if I'd done that, the last 11 miles would have been a suckfest.  I think I just ran what was right for me. Around mile 14 you hit the last hill. It's not long, but suffice it to say that when I bike this section I drop into my granny gear.  Again, I just plodded steadily up it passing walkers.  Yes, I was starting to encounter ALOT of walkers.  I hit every aid station and started taking both Gatorade and water.  I wasn't dehydrated but I was sweating alot and wanted to be safe.  So far, So good.

Mile 23
Miles 16-20: 10:32/10:24/10:45/10:57/10:23:
This was a miracle. Not kidding.  To have those splits on 16-20 was like a gift from God.  Usually this is my personal sufferfest.  Something hurts or my brain gets the better of me.  Not this time.  I have biked every inch of these roads and know them by heart.  Again, just slow and steady.  No bursts of speed.  Just running what felt good.  By mile 19, as we entered Coopers Plains, it was hot & the sun came out.  I had my last Gu, some Gatorade and water here & enthusiastically turned the corner to head into my neighbourhood.

Miles 21-26.2 (26.35 by my Garmin): 10:56/10:57/10:53/10:43/10:59/10:03/3:20 (9:39pace)
Mile 24
Honestly, I'm looking at these paces now and they seem slow to me.  I've run some faster miles on this course in the past but overall a much steadier race. Plus, though it was close on mile 25, I managed to keep every single mile under 11! It was like the walking dead through this section.  People filled the mile 21 medical tent.  It was so hot and humid this section.  It was starting to hit the 80's through this section.  The best part of this section was that I was seeing people I knew all along it & they were all cheering for me!  It really does help! I saw SD at 20.5, then friend after friend after that.  One fellow XC Mom saw me and ran a section of the bike path with me to see how I was doing...there was so much support and it was lending me wings.  As I cruised through the Mile 24 water station I got huge cheers from the hoard of about 30 XC kids there, including my own.  Thing 2 ran me through it and said he didn't recognize me at first because he was looking for my distinct 'marathon waddle' and I didn't have it.  Felt pretty good to be told I looked pretty good from him.  All the running pictures you see here are from friends who saw me along the course and sent them to me last night.  Such a great running community we live in!

By Mile 25 I knew I'd have to really kick it in if I was going to PR.  This course has always measured long for me....and let me tell you that when your watch beeps 26.2 and you are not even at the 26 mile marker it is hard! The last 1.35 I gave it everything I had and I'm sure if any cameras had caught me at the beginning of Market St I would have been wearing a giant pain face, but coming down that last stretch you can't help but start to smile. People from one end to the other screaming...I mean SCREAMING...for you! It is awesome! I finished in 4:38:50 and Trail Buddy was right there to congratulate me and give me a hug.  I was initially disappointed that I didn't PR, but that didn't last long.  It was my 2nd best marathon overall & my best showing at the Wineglass.  As I started to look at the results, I realized it was a slow day overall.  People that should have beat me were 15-30 minutes behind me.  I am happy to have performed so well under such adverse conditions.

As for the swag, it is stellar for this race: Reusable bag in lime green, long sleeve tech shirt (gender specific), wineglass and Finger Lakes wine split along with a $10 gift card for a little store I love on Market St (I'll be using SD's too!)

This is not just a is a race weekend! On Friday I met Bart Yasso twice!  What a great guy! First I went to a talk he was giving where he spoke about his 'Life on the Run' as Runner's World CRO (Chief Running Officer...where can I get that job?!)  and then the race organizers brought him to speak to the Cross Country Team at practice! He is such a down to earth and engaging speaker the kids were just brimming with excitement afterwards about meeting "such a cool guy!" And although I did not attend, there was a Saturday evening pasta dinner where Bart spoke and mingled with the crowd.

With Bart Yasso!
This race has so much heart.  The conditions were the most brutal they've ever had and they normally have a 6 hour time limit. But they kept the course open 7 hours and 15 minutes and a biker with the last runner so she could cross the finish line and collect her medal! People that were in restaurants along Market St by that point came out of them and cheered her across the finish line! Now that's a class act!

I highly recommend this race!

SD finishing the half in 1:37 for 3rd in AG

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Marathon #5 DONE!!!!

2nd best marathon ever....& in 80 degree heat!  

More later....


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Marathon 5...Here I Come!

In the morning I toe the line for my 5th marathon & my 3rd Wineglass Marathon. I don't know how this will turn out, but I plan on giving it my all & enjoying the my opinion you can do both! Weather calls for rain, 80 degree heat & humidity....oh well, can't change that so I'll just take what the day gives me & hope I make it past the mile 24 water station where Thing 1 & Thing 2 are volunteering without looking dead ;-D

My plan is to clear a path with this outfit: 

They'll be able to see me coming, eh??? 

Can I break 4:30? I think I'm in better shape this year....and you just never know what will happen on race day!