Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon: How to Have the Time of Your Life When Running A Marathon

It has been over a week since I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as my first ever marathon. It has taken me this long because how do you even start to put down thoughts to something so epic?

Crossing that finishes line was quiet possibly happiest moment of my life. I had a big stupid grin on my face that lasted for days.

The run however, went the complete opposite of how I’d planned. In my mind I broke the race in to 14k thirds. The first third I was going to keep it cool with a steady-easy pace, the second third either hold that or pick it up slightly. The last third, just do everything I could to hold on to my pace. The first third went really well. I kept my pace under control and was enjoying the massive crowds STWM brings both on the course and on the sidelines. This portion was all done with the Half Marathon group as we traveled out to the Lakeshore and then back.

I was still feeling just fine at the beginning of the second third, I had kind of forgotten about my thirds strategy and was just keeping on with how I was doing. But not long later at around 16k everything came crashing around me. My body started to tire bringing my mind with it. I couldn’t push passed it so I ended up pulling my ipod out to turn on some music. A massively upbeat song comes on and I carry on. Tired, but okay.

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This is actually near the end but I have no photos from the first half of the race

As we approach Bay Street on Lakeshore they start dividing the crowd. The half to the left, marathon to the right. Knowing that alot of people were almost done and I wasn’t even at halfway yet didn’t bother me, but seeing the few people running the marathon did worry me. I’d explicitly picked this race for the number of runners and it was looking like I’d be running with very few for the rest of it. But once we passed Bay and things opened up I saw it was false alarm and though significantly less, there were still plenty of runners on course. I’m hurting quite a bit by this point but knowing the halfway point is approaching and that I’d be seeing my parents soon helped a lot. And at 20k I see my parents standing waiting for me, arms out stretched to give me high fives which was a huge boost and I also begin to see the halfway arch ahead of me.

When things really start to test me is when we get to the Don Valley section. Something about seeing all the runners come back from it and the bit of a ‘hill’ involved going to it and coming back just hit me hard. I was miserable that entire trip up and back. It was in here I first started to succumb to the pain I was in as in and took a walk break,  probably around 25k. Everything was tired and my hip was incredibly tight.

But happy Jessica returned once I was out of there. There was a photographer and I smiled and waved and all was good mentally.

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This is it now, the last out and back section. To get me through I counted down how many kilometres it would be until the turn around, I’d looked ahead of time and knew it was around the 33km mark. This stretch towards the Beaches was a bit quiet but being out and back there were plenty of people around as many were making their return to the finish as well. And even here there were still spectators scattered about, more about these amazing people later.

There were also still some cheer sites along here, some so loud I couldn’t even hear my music anymore. Not a problem with me! Loved the amount of noise they amazing people were making. These sections helped keep that smile on my face even through all the pain I was in.

In to the Beaches section brought tones of spectators and cheers and finally that final turn around well positioned as it meant only a straight back 8.5k to go. Also a man giving out pieces of banana, awesome man if I was more with it I probably would have hugged him.

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I’m in terrible pain this whole time, taking walk breaks frequently and doing everything I can to try to keep going. My nutrition was good, I didn’t feel drained in that way but I started occasionally grabbing Gatorade (yes a complete no-no as I never drink it but I was desperate for something to help!) to see if that would help. But by this point I’m not finding sugar of any use. And I find Gatorade a poor sports drink because it is so sweet. Nuun probably would have helped me a lot more at this point. My muscles just don’t want to move me forward but I persist.

Going in to this race I’d wondered if the CN Tower would become a Beacon of torture. But I actually found it pretty comforting on the way back because I knew I got to turn before it. It was like, look where that is, it’s not as far as I have to go. Also seriously well placed turn with having 8k left to go. After 33km you know you’ve got this thing done.

Obviously the pain and tiredness I’m feeling is only escalating but my mind is happy. I’m having a lot of fun even though I just can’t wait for it to be over and I’m thinking a lot about how I didn’t know it was going to be this hard and hurt this much, especially so early. I did not expect the pain to start setting in at 16k. I didn’t expect it until the mid-late 20s so I’ve pushed through much more than I thought I’d have to.

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I kind of love this picture because I’m unaware of the camera and I just looked focused. Not exhausted or with my head in an unflattering angle like most are.

Coming back into the city at 39k we face our last ‘hill’ a road overpass we’d already come over once just after the Don Valley. Something on a normal day you wouldn’t even think about, it’s not even a bad one. But let me tell you, and excuse the language but at 39k you don’t care, that felt like one big giant fuck you. I even took out my headphones to tell a girl walking (yes of course I walked it, I made it 1/3 up and only because I forced myself to run until the 39k sign) beside me that. At least we got to go down it though. But trying to get my legs to run again took a great deal of work.

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I love this one so much because it so accurately depicts my thoughts. Who the HELL thought a camera at 40k was a good idea? I’m in terrible shape right now and just want this to be over. But fine, I’ll smile with what little I have left. ps behind me is the last little hill we’d just gone over, it is a BIT worse the other side but still, nothing.

I’m listening to one last song and then we’re back into the downtown and I take my headphones out to enjoy the last 1km. The spectator crowds have filled right up and people are cheering all over the place. As I head to make my way onto Bay Street. Run Dem Crew/Parkdale Roadrunners is there welcoming one of their own home and they’re going crazy and since I’m right behind them I get a piece of their insanity too. They formed a tunnel for us to run through and it was one of the highlights of the race for me. Cheers on both sides of me and high fives all around. Then I turn the corner and see the distance countdown. 500m to go. It’s uphill and it’s a struggle but I’m doing the best I can at a sprint. And then my friend are there on the sidelines going absolutely crazy.

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Welcome back full smiles!

I’m rounding the last little bend before I see the finish arches and Taylor Swift starts playing. Could this moment be any better? No it cannot. My name is called and I cross that finish line happier than I’ve ever been.

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Best. Moment. Ever.

Immediately upon finishing I can barely walk my hip is such a mess. But I’m still so amazingly happy. And I felt that high for days. And over a week later I’m still so happy and emotional reflecting back on this experience

The Event

The race was everything. Going in to this you hear everyone talking about how great it’s, best race ever. Participating in it you see why.

Starting right with the expo, super well organized and a ton of vendors. And I mean actual vendors selling things, not just booths and booths of other races. Though they were there, they took up an insignificant amount of the booths.

Race kit was okay, nothing significant but the shirt is Asics, mesh and the women’s has a bit of a v-neck so should be more comfortable but truthfully I haven’t even tried it on yet.

Race morning was smooth I got there early enough that I had no issues getting a Porta Potty though the line did pile up quite a bit. I saw after they did have another row set up on the street by the corrals but many probably didn’t know about them. But, more Porta potties could definitely have been added (and a replacement of toilet paper at the end I went in to a couple that were out). I dropped a bag so my parents wouldn’t have to carry it around the bag drop was also well done, split up by distance and then by bib number with large labeled signage so you knew which booth was yours.

I got in to my corral around 8:30 as you needed to be in before the 8:45 start. The time flew by even though my corral didn’t head off until 9:00 with the constant heading up after each wave it felt quick.

Now the big event, why everyone loves this race so much. The spectators and volunteers. These people were phenomenal and I cannot thank them enough. They were the most encouraging people I’ve ever experience on a race. Calling you out by name and looking directly at you as they give you their little pep talk. I was fully grateful for each and everyone of them and know I probably would have laid down to cry at some point if they were not there. To give up hours of your Sunday to cheer on a bunch of strangers who lost their mind, and to do it with such passion. You’re all heroes.

I’m so glad I picked the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as my first marathon. The amount of runners, the spectators and volunteers really help keep you going when you’re slammed hard in the face with just how much a marathon will take. You know it’s going to be hard, but you really don’t know what to expect, so do yourself a favour when you finally take that plunge for a full and go for the big one. And if you’ve already run a full go for this one too because the experience is insane and you should live it.

I would absolutely consider running in this event again, though probably just the half next time. I liked that I didn’t study the course map too well going in to my first full so I’d like to repeat that ignorance and not know what’s coming for me when I decide to do another full.

My one thing was with 2 water stations. One of them in the first half was a bit spread out for me. I’d wanted to take a gel at 7k but then had to wait until 9k to take it. Not huge and if I’d paid attention to the map better I could have planned for this, but 6-8k is a common area for people to take a gel I believe so seemed odd, they were giving them out a 9k though so maybe I’m wrong? Anyways all others were well placed. I didn’t have any water with me (and I usually do) and never found any too far expect that one and only because of my gel not because I wanted water. And then I found it weird they had the last water station within the last kilometer. Seemed a bit unnecessary and should have been placed a bit farther from the finish. At that point there’s so much adrenaline no one cares about water (though for some reason I stopped anyways), and we’re about to be handed a full bottle anyways.

Other than that, perfection.

My finish time was much slower than I expected it to be, but I didn’t even care, I was having too much fun enjoying the whole experience and crows to be concerned that I’d missed every single one of my time goals. And now, I am official, a marathoner. That is an identity I can take with me for life.

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Return of the Level Headed Runner Thanks to You

So, my last post. Possibly a touch crazy?

I felt so much better after writing it though, also people’s notes of support on here and twitter meant a lot as well. From friends seeing my tweets and letting me know I was being stupid, to random internet runners also letting me know I was gold/the feeling were completely normal. I’m so glad I found all these people and how willing this community is to lift each other up. A year ago I was doing this alone, training for my half, and I did it, and I could absolutely do this alone too. But I don’t have to and that’s even better.

I also went in to my local running store the other day, the manager happened to be working so we had a good chat, the store didn’t even end up having what I was looking for but it was a successful trip anyways. I felt so much better after the talk. She’s an experience marathon runner so we were talking about Toronto Waterfront and other races as well. And at one point I mentioned how I didn’t get my last long run in so I’d only gone up to 32km and she said I was better off without the 36. She said most people who do 36 end up hurting and not in best shape come race day, those that stop at 32 have a better, more successful run. She was adamant 32 was the best place to stop so that made me feel a lot better as well.

And then I had a great run last night! My pace jumped and it was kind of freaking me out so I kept stopping on my runs trying to calm myself down so then obviously that lowers the pace even more with all the breaks so I couldn’t quite believe in and settle in to my new pace. So last night I dubbed the run ‘brain training’ and focused on putting out a steady consistent effort and to not to take a single pause break. The run was a bit slower than my others have been but that was more to do with the wind, my splits where I wasn’t fighting the wind were under 6, exactly where they’ve been lately, but the wind was relentless so the other half (the half on the way back!) were over 6, still managed a 6:02 average which is much faster than what I was running and only slightly slower than what I’d like marathon pace to be so it felt great to get that out! So that’s my last run of any effort, it was 12k I’ll run a couple more times but nothing over 8 and everything will be very light and easy with some strides.

So thank you to everyone who has taken their time to send their words of encouragement or positive vibes my way, it has meant a lot and helped so much!

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This is honestly a random picture because I have nothing from my latest runs. So a pretty sunset picture from a SUP night over the summer goes in.

I promise to pay it forward as much as I can including doing the same for others in my life/on the internet but also I will be volunteering at the Hamilton Marathon on November 1 to do my part to give back to the running community!

Runner in Taper, Approach with Caution. A Tale of Jumbled Thoughts

I’M RUNNING A MARATHON IN ELEVAN DAYS

I’m quite honestly an anxious, terrified, emotional wreck.

Yesterday & Today, a summary:

Why am I doing this

Why am I doing this

I can’t do this

I’m running a marathon!

My family and friends will be there! (cue tears)

Oh my God

What if I can’t finish?

WHY AM I DOING THIS.

Trust your training they say.

You know what, you can shove it. YOU trust your training I’m going to sit here in my pile of doubts and fears.

I have to remember I always feel like this before a race.

This is just significantly worse.

Maybe that means it will go significantly better?

I want to cry.

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In other news let me interrupted you from reading my crazy thoughts with pretty views from one of my last runs before I went insane.

I don’t even know how I’ll get through next week if I’m already feeling like this.

I would have expected these feelings a week from now, a couple days before the race. NOT TWELVE.

I’ll be away for work next week, coming home Friday night. I’m not sure if this will be good or bad, will being in a new place working strange hours help distract me? Or will it make things worse, feeling isolated as I’m away from my family and have limited communication with friends.

This fear and these doubts are pretty crippling.

Must remember to breath.

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Taper is soon

How do you know taper is soon? Your body is getting tired. Things are starting to hurt more. Recovery is slower. Your milage is at its peak.

I’m in the middle of this right now. But I’m having so much fun! I know my body will appreciate the taper but I personally am wanting to hold on to this training. Taper officially begins in 1 week with a slow start and then really kicks in in 2 weeks.

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Gorgeous sunset during my tempo run a couple weeks ago

I really had no idea training for this marathon would be so much fun! When I first started the cycle back in July I was terrified and questioning why I was even doing this. I looked at the later weeks of my plan wondering how I’d even manage. 14km midweek runs? That’s insane!

Nope not insane, so much fun!

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Broke out the possible marathon shoes!

Looking ahead I’m not sure if I’ll do another full again next year (yeah I know I should probably get through the first one first) but I definetly want to keep with this high milage even when training for a half. Because it suits me well. If I’m tired and achey for running, I just go run 10k and feel better. How fab.

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8k recovery run at The Big Wild challenge on Saturday. Legs were dead and still full of lactic acid from running 32k night before but did it with help of a friend who stuck with me and felt much better after

I will not be doing 32km runs though for the fun of it. Did my second one last weekend, yup it sucked by the end. 36 run will happen this weekend. Oh boy. Good to know my body can now easily run 22km though. I will still breezing along until then, it was that last 10k when everything got tired, and the last 4 that were pure mental push to get through it.

Also a VERY EXCITING THING happened a couple weeks ago. I am now [almost] officially a run leader for the MEC Burlington meet up runs! Me along with 3 other runners will rotate through leading the runs and picking different routes for the Saturday trail runs. I’m super excited about this, I loved leading the group one time I subbed in on the Thursday community run and we will also be part of the Events Team and help plan out next year’s race series. I’ll be doing first aid training this weekend and MEC training during the week next week so by next weekend the group will have some new leaders in place! We don’t know the schedule yet so not sure if I’ll be leading or not be possibly!

6 Weeks to Go!

When did that happen?

Getting a little bit terrifying now. September is going to be a BIG month with the amount of milage I’ll be putting in. I’ve been enjoying it so much so I’m pretty excited! But still a little scared. I’m still amazed with my body being able to handle it so well. 6 months ago 50km weeks left me in the foetal position unable to finish some runs. I’ve now run 65km in a week and felt fine, some of these weeks have included 3 runs in a row, something that attributed to my foetal position state. I have not had a single problem running 3 days in a row this time. So much of a non issue I even considered doing 4 days in a row this week but ended up backing out of that figuring I should stop while I’m ahead.

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When you live in suburbs but there's still alot of farm land around.

My knee is still a bit of an issue, I’m icing it as much as possible and its holding up okay. My last couple of runs were not great, first it was because I was running on slanted road near my house which is always an issue and then Sarurday during my 32km (!!!!) run, the downhills I took it wasn’t that happy with, but knees in general don’t like downhills so that’s about it. It definitely doesn’t feel right and ice and my strap are necessary but it is manageable and I’m hopeful I can get this under control without it affecting my training.

And yes I did my first 32km/20miler Saturday!!! I was actually pretty excited to conquer this as 1, it’s first time doing a new distance and 2, these are the runs people dread so I wanted to find out why. Well I did not find out why, it didn’t feel any different for me, I mean aside from being so god damn long. Like passing the 18km mark and releazing you still have 14 more to go. Or being at 21km and celebrating that you’re almost done and then releazing for the marathon.. it’s only halfway. That’s probably the biggest thing is when you’re tired and almost done but not really because there’s still a lot left, and realizing how much more it will be from this point during the actual marathon. But, that’s a realization for all races at every point in running. Even if you’ve run 30km before, you could be in a 10k race and think, omg I still have 5km left to go?? It’s just a game your mind likes to play to try to make you stop, you just gotta power through those thoughts.

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Unexpected nice view of Cootes Paradise during long run

I was suppose to run 10k Sunday morning to hit 61km for the week but I slept in and I knew the run was going to suck enough without the added heat and sun making it unbearable so I moved it to Monday evening, which meant only 51km for the week but I’m okay with it. I created a higher milage than necessary plan with the idea that I wouldn’t hit those targets every week because I never do. Except this time around not only have I consistently met my targets, I’ve even exceeded them sometimes. So dropping down one week, after doing a 32km run, yeah I’m okay with that. And also it’s just adding an extra milage to this week so I look even more insane as the rest of September is now full of 70+ weeks woo!

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I felt completely awful on Mondays run but it was pretty!

So in 2 weeks I’ll be tackling 32km again, and this time I’m doing an easier route!!! All the damn hills Saturday, including a climb up the escarpment because I’m crazy. But then I got to come down it! There was still hills on the way down though… I do like having hills on my long run routes but this was just crazy. Especially since I’d never been on 2 of the major roads I took so I had no idea how many hills I was getting myself in to (answer = a lot). The week after that I’ll be doing 36km, I think I’m going to run a half marathon as part of it, do 15km before the race so I’m tired which will help me keep my pace down, and then do the last 21 as the race. This race is part of the Niagara running series so I’ll get my points and then I won’t have to do the whole thing alone. We’ll see, I think I’ll decide closer to the date, it’s a half marathon so it’s a bit pricey, local so lower but still more than I’d like to spend on something I’m not actually racing.

After 36km, which will be September 27th, I begin a slow taper down to the marathon! So really, 3/4 more weeks left of hard training! Its getting crazy!

Tempo Runs – Not my thing but I’m working on it

I’ve been doing my speed work on Tuesdays this cycle. It hurts to say the least. Tuesday is too close to my Sunday long run, I knew this going in to it but I wanted to run with the group on Thursdays so I decided to try it. But as soon as my long runs ramped up, my Tuesday sessions ended with me hurting. Nothing painful or anything, not injuring myself, I’d have to actually be good a speed work for that. But enough to know these workouts were too close.

So I’ve made the decision to ditch the Thursday groups for September, today will be my last time doing tempo on a Tuesday as next week is recovery week and I won’t be doing any speed work.

I hate tempo so much.

I haven’t done many tempo runs, I usually bail out or just switch to an interval workout instead.

Tempos for me are the most mentally challenging run, I can get through distance runs, that’s not much of a struggle for me, even on bad runs, I can push through that. Tempo? Same can’t be said.

So last Tuesday was my first tempo in a very long time, and I took a new approach, I intentionally scheduled walk break in the middle doing the cruise interval style tempo. I follow a lot of runners on instagram who are Boston Qualifiers who do this so it made me feel a lot better about taking this approach to tempo. It went, not horribly. Last week was crazy hot and sunny and I thought I might puke at the end of my first 3k interval, so I walked it off for awhile and headed in to my second interval, a little bit slower and more cautious, I was working against the wind though so it made an added challenge. I almost made it through that one but did end up taking a mini walk break when I had 1km left. I’m working on the mental, eventually I will get there.

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Not a bad way to end a tempo run though right?

I’m trying not to be too hard on myself about it. I haven’t been running long and been doing speed work for even less. Aside from some fartlek I pretty much did 0 speed training until after my first half marathon in November. And then I kind of just jumped right in to tempo without any kind of build, I was attempting 6k at 5:40 pace (about a minute faster than easy pace at the time) when the most I’d ever done outside of a race was 1km repeats. So yeah, mentally, it wrecked me.

Tonight I’m going to try for 2x4km but I’ll see how I feel, maybe I’ll even cut them down to 2km repeats. I feel even better about this after last night’s MEC talk as Cole said your tempo interval can be as short as 5 minutes. This is very very good to know. I can for sure do 5min repeats, I do 800m repeats just fine (or as fine as you can) and those are just over 4 minutes so less than a minute more and it’s considered tempo? I can do that.

I got this.

Right?

Marathon Training Week 5 – A Perfect Week

I started the week pretty damn sore. A 24k long run on pancake flat road left my quads pretty torn up not to mention the reason I stuck to flat was because my glute and hamstring were feeling tight and sore. So after an intense speed session just 2 days after the long run, things were hurting quite a bit.

I crushed my speed session none the less. First time doing 800’s since my first week of training with that abysmal early morning high humidity performance. I went back to the track ready for a fight. Nailed it, my slowest 800 was a 4:09, near the end when I had started holding back too much in the first lap but I got that mentality out of me for the final repeats and gave them my everything. My intention was to do 6×800 but I ended up doing 7 instead. With warm up and cool down that got me 11.5km.

Before that on Monday I went to the MEC clinic on form, I had no intention of running but I did stay for the warm up and drills to test out what we’d learned, then I left the group with their track work and headed out for a nice and easy quick bike ride.

Wednesday I went to SUP and we did a crossfit lesson which was challenging and a great workout. I really need to get to yoga more often, a few push-ups and I could feel it in my arms the next day. After the workout continued for a bit of a paddle.

Thursday I was still hurting quite a bit, my right quad was not a fan of going down steps and my right hamstring was still a mess. Went out for easy trail run with the group and my hamstring was screaming at me at the end so I cut out at 8.5 when we got to the parking lot instead of continuing on with the others who kept going to get up to 10k. This actually kept me on track for the week as I’d done an extra 500m Tuesday and either my Thursday or Saturday run only had to by 9k.

Friday I took my well deserved rest day.

Saturday back with the trail group. What a run this was, despite the fact that legs were still hurting I actually felt really really good on this run. Which was great because we ended up missing a turn and getting lost which resulted in an extra 2.5k bring the run to 12.5. But the run ended with me feeling better than when I had started.

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All smiles just before we split off from the short distance group as we headed out for the loop that we’d end up getting lost on. I took this photo so no I’m not in this. Fearless leader in the back on the phone informing the other leader of our plan, he stayed positive as some started to worry when we couldn’t figure out how to get back

Someone made a comment that at least the extra millage would mean I could do less the next day.

If only it worked that way.

But it turned out that was not necessary as I had one of my best long runs ever. All thanks to a friend who ended up joining me. I’d planned the route a couple days before, in all I had run every bit of it before but not all together like this. It was really the most perfect route, very shaded, good amount of hills – with a bypass around a couple on the way back (except! it adds a different one, just a baby) and the halfway point was done through a section of trail that was very refreshing and a nice change of scenery. Seriously this route is so perfect I’m sharing it all with you, even though this will be meaningless unless you’re from this area, you can enjoy it anyways. It goes through the infamous North Shore in Burlington, which are the hills in Around the Bay including the big giant downhill, which you then have the pleasure of climbing back out of.

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http://www.gmap-pedometer.com?r=6684300

We mostly struck to this, we took the trail up to LaSalle park instead, and took the shorter route through the trail first to get to the pit stop faster, and then took a bit of an unplanned detour through the cemetery on the way back. But the run was great, great company and I felt really good the whole time, we took a few walk breaks but not many and we crushed all the hills. We even managed to somehow run our last few kilometres faster than what we started. I’ve never felt so great after a long run. Sure I was tired, but I know I could have kept going. And amazing feeling since aside from Around the Bay race, this was my longest run ever. Felt 100x times better than I did last week due largely to the shaded route, nice breeze when we did hit the sun, and having someone there with me who was hating those last few hills just as much as I was.

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Sweaty but happy as we hit the trail section of the run

After the run we walked into the lake a bit to give our achy feet and tired calves/knees a little ice bath. It felt really amazing!

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Lake Ontario ice bath!

After the run I was surprised how good I was feeling, super tired for sure, I’d gotten very little sleep the night before and then I spent a lot of the afternoon after the run having to stand but I wasn’t sore, legs just felt tired. Today I don’t feel sore at all, my hamstring is still all kinds of tight but I feel better today after my 40k weekend than I did on Friday.

Run until it doesn’t hurt!

Hopefully I still feel good tomorrow, sometimes it can take an extra day, but I went for a swim this evening to loosen and stretch everything out so I don’t see tomorrow being any worse.

In total with my 28k long run I did 60.5km this week, the most I have every completed was 52 back in March. I’m super happy about accomplishing this and feeling so great about it!