Well, the marathon is done. On Sunday, October 19th, I ran my second marathon. I actually ran it! No stopping for injures. It was a full out, hard battled effort. This was my attempt to both qualify for the Boston Marathon and to run faster than 3 hours. It’s a little strange to be sitting here now and not having my mind focused on training. It’s nice in a way. I think my mind needs the break more than my body does. This marathon was a race I had been building up to basically since I crossed the finish line last year feeling defeated. I had some knee troubls early on which forced me to walk and hobble most of the last 12km in 2013. Needless to say, in 2014 I was back for more; fitter and stronger than ever.
I had been in Toronto for a couple of days before the race for some events. I was part of the marathon flame ceremony where Toronto’s run crews ran a flame up and down a block of Danforth in the pouring rain. I joined my Digital Champion friends and got to catch up with other runners from Tribe Fitness, Pace & Mind, Longboat Road Runners, and Black Lungs Toronto. I also went to the pre-race expo and was able to attend the elite press conference. That was amazing. I ended up sitting with all of the Canadian elite marathoners. I found myself between Rob Watson, Eric Gillis, Rejean Chiasson, Kelly Wiebe, Kate Van Buskirk, Lanni Marchant, Kim Doerksen, and Krista Duchene. I was feeling pretty noob-ish and super happy that I had an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a few of them… Way better than Twitter!! A big thank-you to Jenna for getting me in there.
Here’s how race day went:
I woke up around 6am and did my normal bagel with peanut-butter and a banana breakfast. I felt good. No injuries, no sickness, confident and relaxed. I headed down to meet the Digital Champions for a group picture. The start line was right across the road from my hotel so getting there was a breeze. The Digital Champions (who are social media ambassadors to the race) have been really great for support over the summer. We are a group of runners of all different levels but all enjoy the same thing. Running, encouraging others…and tweeting about it. It’s been nice to see each person grow as a runner. Many were taking on their first marathon. We had a few chats, a quick picture and then I was off to do my warm-up.
After warming up I found my way into the red corral. I gave a few handshakes and hugs to some buddies in the coral. Nils, Kenny, Dana, Andrew, Ryan, Mark, Dave and Rick were ready to go. They’ve been with me throughout the year and we were all about to lay it down. The energy was insane. I felt like a caged animal in that corral. The game plan was to run a time of 2:58. Sub 3. That would be ideal. Goal A: Sub 3, Goal B: Qualify for Boston (sub 3:05) and Goal C: Set a personal best (faster than 3:36). As I found a spot, I met a lady named Kara. She was wanting to go for a sub 3 marathon. Kara and I were side by side from that point on. I had my buddy to keep me company. We were ready.
The race began and I settled in quickly. To go sub 3 I needed to keep my pace between 4:13-4:15 per kilometer. The first km split a 4:15. Good. We’re right where we need to be. Keep moving. Kara and I kept a nice conversation the whole first half of the race. I kept freaking her out I think. Every time I saw some friends I surged forward. I felt good though. I was taking in the marathon experience and STWM is for sure the place to cheer and enjoy the supporters. For the first half I had no real issues. I felt slight tightness around my hip from a past issue this summer but It faded by the half way point. As we passed 7km and 16km I picked up a stack of Honey Stingers from Robyn. She was positioned on the centre median for me at Strachan and Lakeshore. Without her there, I wouldn’t have had my fuel to keep going. I’m so thankful for help from her and my parents who had another stack at 21.1km.
Here’s what my splits looked like for the first half:
4:15, 4:13, 4:09, 4:12, 4:10, 4:08, 4:11, 4:15, 4:15, 4:17,4:12, 4:12, 4:11, 4:12, 4:14, 4:10, 4:17, 4:09, 4:12, 4:07, 4:01
At the half way point, I picked up fuel from my parents who were super hyped to see me. After that, all the weird marathon stuff started to happen. We turned into the part of the course I nicknamed “The Pretzel” which went under Eastern ave along side the Don Valley Parkway area for a couple of kilometers. As we entered this section I noticed Canadian Men’s elite Rob Watson standing on the other side of the road, taking his race bib off. “Wow. I guess everyone has bad days” I thought. I had a good chat with Rob the day before and he had wished me luck. He’s a really nice dude and I hope he’s alright now. We ran through the rest The Pretzel. I saw Kenny, Dana and Andrew as we turned around. “Run strong!” Andrew barked. That stuck with me the rest of the race. “You’re damn right I will, buddy”, I thought. As we came up the exit of this section, Kara and I made a new friend; Another Mike! Mike lives one town away from me. It was nice to have a local runner nearby. This was his third marathon. He joined our Super Team. (I just made that name up now. I like it.. 🙂 )
We came out of The Pretzel and east towards the Beach. Now, between 26-29km I went into a bit of a dark place. I’m not sure why. My right knee started to feel loose. No pain, but as if it could give way. At the same time, my legs started feeling really heavy. Weirdest of all, my hands felt 4 sizes too big. Like Hulk Hands.. I looked at them and they seemed a bit puffy. Maybe the blood had rushed into them a little. Needless to say, this was all gone by 30km when we started seeing crowds again. Kara all of a sudden had this super-hero like second wind and took off. It was just Mike and I now to battle it out. We were now Team Mike. Mike pulled ahead a little. Maybe 10 meters. I had a hold on him. I wasn’t letting him go. Both of our paces started to slip as we passed 33km. I started to feel tightness in my right hamstring. I knew that if I over extended too much it could pull and my day would be over. I went into survival mode. Sub 3 hours seemed a little out of reach now. If I kept it together I could still go sub 3:05 and get my BQ.
Here are the splits from 22-32km: 4:12, 4:11, 4:14, 4:11, 4:16, 4:16, 4:13, 4:16, 4:16, 4:19, 4:16
I reeled Mike back in. Beside him now he said he was hurting. I told him to hang tight. “It’s a walk in the park now!” We were almost there. I felt great! Mentally anyway. Physically my leg was being a whiny jerk but mentally I was all in it. We repeated Mike’s mantra. “Check your form, relax, this is fun”. That helped. Starting to pass other runners coming from the other direction also helped. Unable to call out anymore, I gave a head nod or a little point to friends I saw. Passing the 35km marker I realized that we were 2 minutes behind where we needed to be. Right on the cusp of a sub 3 hour time. Ah well. Keep it together and finish strong.
Splits 33-36km 4:29, 4:26, 4:21, 4:22
Hanging on now, pain was starting to really engulf both of us. “I don’t think this is a walk in the park anymore.” I said. Mike piped up, “Does it hurt?”, “Yep”, I said. “Do we care?” he challenged? “F*ck no” I responded with a surprising amount of gusto. That was our new mantra to get us through.
We finally turned up Bay Street and headed for the finish. I crossed the line with a time of 3:03:12. 174th overall and 7th in my age group. My last few splits from 37- 42.2km: 4:30, 4:39, 4:40, 4:44, 4:43, 4:47, 2:52. My watch measured 42.71km giving that last 0.2km a 4:03/km average pace. Mike turned and hugged me at the end. I think he may have picked me up briefly. I couldn’t even pick my feet up let alone another person. I found my parents, Robyn, and Shea post race. Lots of hugs and a shower followed.
Overall I feel like I executed a good race. I fueled well before and during. I didn’t hit the wall and I was in control the whole time. Obviously there are some things you can’t really control like wind, cold, and when your muscles want to seize up. Given the situation, I am happy and now I need to rest. I’ll be back for another marathon but I’m not sure when just yet. I’ll be taking the next few days to have a good rest and probably the next month off any serious training. Coach Rick and I will probably meet over the next two weeks to make a game plan for 2015. We’ve discussed backing off the marathon distance for next year to work on speed and give my body a bit of a break. I feel working on some shorter distances and speed could really benefit my marathon time. Around The Bay will probably be on the plan but that’s all I have thought of for now.
I have one more blog post that I’d like to share possibly later this week. It’ll be a little more in depth of what my thoughts are towards the marathon and what it is to be a runner.
Congrats to all who ran the race, had personal bests, qualified for Boston, ran your first marathon and raised money for charity. A huge thank-you to Alan Brookes, Jenna Pettinato and Canada Running Series for being huge parts of this race and putting it on flawlessly.
One last thought; Thank-you to the running community. It’s such a tight knit group but includes thousands of people. I can’t even begin to name everyone but let me at least name some run crews. If you’re a runner and not in a group or are looking to start running, I suggest joining one. These groups can be like your family and I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to be a part of several in some way and to call runners from all groups my friends.
Brant Death Racers
Grand River Endurance
Longboat Road Runners
Black Lungs Toronto
Pace & Mind
Health & Performance
Parkdale Road Runners
San Diego Track Club
and last but not least STWM Digital Champions