Saturday, October 06, 2007

Marathon #13 - Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront

It's been almost a week since I ran the marathon and frankly, I'm feeling quite good ... finally. I think I've recovered but the real test will come with my first run. As far as training, I've only gone for a short swim so far on Friday.

The marathon weekend started badly. I ended up working late on Friday and only started my drive around 9 pm, straight from the office. It's a long drive to Toronto and with heavy eyes drooping, I stopped and took a long nap in a rest stop parking lot only to be awoken by Sainte checking up on me ... "That's dangerous, you can't sleep there!" Yes, it was a very long drive. Bedtime only came at 5 am.

The general rule for pre-marathon rest is to get a good night's sleep two nights prior to racing as the night before is always a little nerve-wracking. Obviously, that didn't quite work out as planned ...

The alarm rang at 9:30 am as I had to go to the sports expo to pick up my race kit and a tech shirt that would hopefully fit. I have enough men's large and x-large race shirts in my collection, thank you, and no, I do not wear sleep shirts.

Here we are at the bib pick-up and chip check. I proudly pulled out "my own" chip. (Thanks again, Sainte!)



Feeling exhausted by late afternoon, I had to lie down for a bit. Later on, a little rejuvenated, I went out and did a short 3 km jog around the neighbourhood, just to get the blood flowing but nothing to shock the legs. After a good supper and some quiet time with my mom, it was time to prep for the race (backpack, clothing, race bib, drinks, etc.) I called it a night around 11:30 pm or so and zonked out right away ... I was still so tired!

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Race Date: September 30, 2007
Weather: about 17 C at start, 24 C at finish, very sunny
Wake-up: 5 am
Breakfast: coffee, croissant, banana, some canteloupe

Total July training: no running, no serious swimming, 90+ km cycling, the "+" being some unknown short recreational-pace distance with the kiddies
Total August training: 20 km running, 65 km cycling
Total September training: 48 km running, 61 km cycling, 1000 m swimming

*******************************************************

My two alarms rang too early at 5 am. I got dressed and made my way downstairs to the kitchen. I heard my mother stirring and she soon joined me afterwards. Groggily, she offered to make me something for breakfast but I reminded her that she had (lovingly) picked up what I needed the day before. Then I gave her a hug and she went back to bed. I can't tell you how happy I felt to have my mother see me off to this race ...

At 5:45 am, my good friend, Sainte, came to pick me up. How spoiled I was! It was still dark when he dropped me off downtown at Metro Hall, close-by the race start. "You'll do fine," he said and gave me a good luck hug.

Lots of runners filled the hall. I shared some good luck chit chat with some of the other runners.


First thing I did when I arrived was the ritual wait-in-line for the toilet. Then after taking off my extra layers, I checked in my bag and then did another wait-in-line to try to avoid having to do my usual port-o-let marathon break at 2 km.

Then off to the start line. No evident corrals and the pace bunnies seemed to be scattered hap-hazardly, not that I planned to follow any of them. Everyone started bunching up and slowly moving forward but when did the gun go off? Hmm, I just missed another start to a race. Alright, here we go again!


It was quite crowded for many kilometers and it was difficult to lock in on a regular stride as I weaved in and out of the crowd and they weaved in and out past me. It was a beautiful day and the sun had already risen. We ran through downtown Toronto until we got to the Lakeshore Boulevard. You would have thought the scenery to be more spectacular, as this race is called the "Waterfront" marathon, but unfortunately, due to our sheer numbers, we could not run by the water but on the big boulevard x-100's of metres away, only catching slight glimpses of water every so often through trees and/or past buildings.

The 10 km marker came and went and I could feel the pain in my bunions and also in my hips building up. I had not run anything more than 10 km since the Ottawa Marathon in May, four months ago, and had only managed a measly 8 km in the past two weeks. I passed the 15 km marker and was still hanging on but I had to pop a pain-killer. Though my hips felt on fire, my mood was excellent! I knew what I had gotten into with so little training and had totally accepted it ... why worry about it during the race? Anyway, there was only one really pretty part of the waterfront and it was by the nice condos, restaurants and shops. Why ruin the moment with lousy attitude?

The scenic interesting part of the race was unfortunately over in a few short kilometers and we soon found ourselves stuck in some concrete purgatory. We were running under the Gardiner Expressway, a massive highway structure that passed alongside the waterfront. Several kilometers later, we finally made our way off this dismal part of the Lakeshore Boulevard but promptly got ejected onto the Leslie Spit, a piece of landfill left gone "wild". It was more like another boring out-and-back section with overgrown grass. I was really starting to hurt and had absolutely nothing interesting to distract me.

In fact, the only thing that redeemed running the Leslie Spit was happily leaving it and seeing the 30 km marker. Woohoo!

Then drat ... right back into industrial wasteland. Oh, I could not contain my excitement about the scenery any longer, so afraid to blink lest I miss something (this is sarcasm folks).

Yes, I was a-cryin' inside but I figured I'd try to make up for the pain in gels, Gatorade, and walking through the water stops. My mood was still quite good though as I realised how much closer I was to the finish. Anyway, I wanted to look good for the photographer as I hit the infamous "wall" at 32 km!

Oh oh!!

Why did that sun have to be so strong and hot? Why didn't I feel like I was sweating? Why did these kilometres keep dragging on ... and what was with all these boring out-and-back sections? The runners I passed face-to-face looked horrible and in so much pain ... and I knew I was slower and would be hurting more than they by the time I got to those same points!

Walks at the water stations became longer and I finally resorted to the ultimate "I will not give up" tactic of the marathon shuffle, combined with short occasional stints of the Death March. I had way too much lactic acid build-up in my quads to be able to pick up my legs anymore and I had already popped a second pain-killer, to no effect.

The marathon shuffle proved quite effective as I surprisingly passed people. Maybe I was able to pump my arms harder or quicker?

"Just keep moving forward, keep moving forward."

Only a few kilometres from the finish, there was way too much silence. The streets were almost empty except for me and the other straggling BOP (back-of-pack) runners. There were no spectators. There were no cars. No noise, just quiet. It was horrible and lonely and made this difficult moment even more torturous.

Not until I went back under the Gardiner Expressway and up Bay Street, with little over a kilometre to go to the finish, did I start to see and hear a little more more life. I saw two runners in the distance. I knew I was too far from the man ahead of me to catch him, but me and my non-competitive ego could certainly ping off the girl only a hundred or so metres away from me. I turned the corner into the final stretch and heard the crowd roar. I sped up my pace determined to pass ... but the excited runners ahead of me also picked up the pace ...

200 m to the finish line. I made a break for it, lifted my heavy lactic-acid filled legs and charged!

I passed the girl in front of me, left her in my dust, and crossed the finish line.

Cry of victory! Woohoo!

Marathon #13, the "unlucky" one ... finished.


Another day, another marathon ... this one proving to me how strong the mind can be since I definitely did not have the training.

But I *believed*.

Sainte picked me up after the race and I promptly lifted my legs and propped my bare feet up against the dashboard. More than any part of me, my hips were killing me and I needed to stretch them. I was sure glad that traffic was heavy on the way back home so I could share this precious post-race moment with a good friend.

Sainte dropped me off at my mom's and gave me a congratulatory hug.

What an incredible day. I got to be with my mom and one of my best friend's and also got to collect another medal. On top of that, my mom had pork and tofu soup waiting for me. Marathon #13 wasn't unlucky at all! I told my mom about the race and her comment made me laugh. "If it hurts that much, why do it?"


Afterwards, I got cleaned up and and caught some well-deserved zzzz's. Later on, I couldn't have asked for more than to be eating a delicious home-cooked post-race supper with my mother. Yes, I was a lucky girl today.

For those who have run a marathon or other similarly difficult race, I thought I'd share with you the following picture of some stairs I encountered at a rest stop on my drive back to Montreal the next day.

What goes up ...


Must come down! ... OUCH!


Race time (gun time): 5:16:31.3
Chip time (actual time): 5:11:45.4
Pace: 7:31 min/km

Placement: 1820/2100 runners
Gender Placement: 553/710 women
Age Category Placement: 97/125

10 km split: 1:09:59
21.1 km split: 2:28:13
30 km split: 3:36:32


Was this gruelling marathon worth it? You bet your sassy bottom, YESSS!!

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