October 25, 2011

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race Report

Date Event Goal Time Chip Time Gun Time
2011/10/15 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon < 4:34 4:44:09.6 4:54:19.9

I recently finished the penultimate race of my summer racing season, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Back in May I had some grandiose plan to cross-train like crazy, revolutionize my diet and somehow finish this marathon in less than 4 hours. With all the set-backs I experienced this summer I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

I was a bundle of nerves before the race. I was nervous, but there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would finish. A speaker at one of our clinics said it was better to be 15% undertrained than 1% overtrained. I was counting on that!

Since it’s my second marathon, I have a very different prospective. This is also really different from other goal races I have done in the past because this time I was well-rested, injury-free and generally healthy. I liked that I had a fair amount of run experience I could draw upon to settle my nerves.

My very first goal race was the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon which I ran in 2:35:20 about a year before. I thought it would be nice to compare how I was then to now.


Layout out my gear before the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

I overthink and overprepare everything about races. My gear was laid out the day before and I had alternatives to alternatives packed in case. I was debating whether or not to bring my iPod. I decided to wear it (this iPod nano also doubles as a second watch) and keep the headphones in my pocket just in case. I packed 5 packs of Clif Gel Bloks. That’s 1000 calories! I really didn’t want to hit the wall. I wore one of my lightest shirts under the assumption that I would overheat. The summer heat was my biggest foe, and I didn’t want it to slow me down on race day.

While waiting for the race to start, I wore a plastic bag to keep me warm. I’m quite glad I did because I didn’t want to have to throw away a shirt or something once I warmed up.

With Eden and Dilip before the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

I lined up in the starting corrals with Eden and Dilip, just like at A Midsummer Night’s Run. I imagined it would be better to run with some friends who have similar pace rather than thousands of strangers.

First 17k

We tried to keep right at the necessary pace to finish in 4:30 with run-walks. Unfortunately, the buildings in downtown Toronto were doing bizarre things with our GPS watches and our paces were quite unreliable. We went with the flow, but by the time we got to 4 km we were already 2 minutes behind our expected pace! There was a sea of people, but the three of us managed to stay together. It was actually pretty annoying hearing some of the half-marathoners counting down the kilometers until they were finsihed. At one point someone shouted “only 10 more.” I had more than 30 to go!

As with previous runs, my shins and my feet hurt a lot for the first few kilometers, but the pain went away after I warmed up properly.

The forecast said there would be a strong wind from the West. On the first stretch heading West on Lakeshore Blvd I didn’t notice the wind at all. After the turn at Windermere, I noticed the extra spring in my step from the tail wind.

Around 16k something started to hurt inside my right foot. It felt like a the bones in the middle were bunching up against each other. It was really painful. After a walk break it went away and never came back. Weird.


Running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

This was a great section of the race for me. The tailwind started to push me and I felt like I finally warmed up.

I felt a little sadness as the course split at about 18, and the half-marathoners got to run to the finish line. I waved a mock goodbye to them.

Around 19km our little running group broke up as Dilip took off and Eden started to fall behind. At that point I broke out my headphones and cranked on the iPod. I got a great set of tunes at the beginning of the shuffle and started flying along Lakeshore.

There was a little gate that marked the 21.1km mark. According to my chip, I passed it at 2:16:39, which had me well on pace to finish around 4:30.

The part running along commissioners street in the 25-30km area was the same area we ran at A Midsummer Night’s Run, so it felt very familiar. It was nice to feel like I knew the area.

For some reason, I thought that Leslie Street was the furthest East we had to go. I really wish I had studied the maps more closely…


My 30k split was 3:16:18, which means I had erased that 2 minute deficit from the beginning of the race and was on pace to finish in under 4:30. However, here is where it all started falling apart.

I started feeling tired around 30k and my spirit was starting to fatigue. I kept popping my Clif Gel Bloks so I managed to combat any chance of hitting the wall because of sugar depletion. In the whole race I went through 5 whole packs. That’s 1000 calories! And then there’s all that Gatorade I drank too. Long distance running really is a cross between recreational S&M and competitive eating!

I caught up with Dilip and we ran through the Beaches neighborhood together. I was quite surprised by the number of people! I was also taken off guard by the rolling hills! The turn couldn’t come soon enough. I couldn’t wait to start heading to the finish line.

Unfortunately, when I turned around and headed West towards the finish line, I got a 30km/h headwind! I was desperately trying to find someone to draft behind, but I was getting worn down very quickly.

Over that stretch I had to stop and walk every couple of minutes. I’ve never felt so much pain in my life. My legs, back, shoulders, and arms were unbelievably painful. I tried every trick I knew for blocking out pain: I laughed at it. I yelled at it. I smiled as hard as I could to try to force an endorphin rush. Nothing…

I joined a march of death of dozens of people just struggling to reach the finish line. Looking at my watch, my chances of finishing under 4:30 were ticking away quickly. I was so disoriented that I thought the marathon was only 41k.


Finishing the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 4:44:10

After the 40km marker I started to see the crowd, and pulled out everything I had left. I actually caught up with Dilip for a while, but he pulled away again in the final stretch.

It was really encouraging to hear random strangers calling out my name and cheering me on. There was a big group of my friends just to the right of the finish line cheering me on which really encouraged me.

I finished with a chip time of 4:44:10. This was almost 10 minutes slower than I would have liked, but I’m glad I finished.

My favourite medal so far. Hard earned.

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  1. Lisa says:

    Great race report Paul! I am glad you didn’t give up! There are always more races to come!

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