May 7, 2015
Marathon number 9 is in the books!
This race was a long time in the making. It’s my first “serious” full-marathon since the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in the fall of 2012. I’ve run two Walt Disney World Marathons since then, but those are much, much slower and definitely less serious.
There are some great photos in this post shared by Mark Young and Javaid. As usual, click on any image for a larger version.
|Date||Event||Goal Time||Chip Time||Gun Time|
|2015/05/03||Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon||4:45:00||05:13:53.8||05:15:26.8|
Getting to the race was something of a logistics nightmare. The Mississauga Marathon starts almost at my doorstep, while getting to the start of the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon required considerably more legwork and planning. Fortunately, I love planning and executing a plan!
The marathon started at 7:30am. But if we park at the finish area by Ontario Place we need a shuttle bus to get to the start, and they say it takes up to 40 minutes. Then the Gardiner Expressway was supposed to be closed, making driving to Ontario Place take even longer. Working backwards, that meant waking up at 4am to be ready for the race.
But, things went very smoothly. I got up on time, had my usual breakfast. Our mighty crew met for the carpool at 5:15am. We piled into Javaid’s minivan and drove to Toronto. The Gardiner Expressway re-opened early, so we got to Ontario Place in record time. We parked in the Exhibition Place parking lot mere steps from the East Pedestrian Bridge which took us right to the shuttle buses. We were on the first shuttle bus.
The bus dropped us off by the North York Civic Centre and we were able to stay warm inside. It was a pleasant surprise to run into Hong there.
We headed to the corrals about 15 minutes before the gun went off. I wasn’t feeling 100% so I popped a Halls. I seeded myself WAY in the back, even behind the 4:45 pacer as I planned. As it turned out I never saw her again.
Start to 9km
The first part of the course is right down Yonge Street. This part of Toronto is sometimes called “Uptown” and so I got Bruno Mars’ song “Uptown Funk” stuck in my head.
Around 5km is Hogg’s Hollow valley/hill. According to the elevation maps on gmaps-pedometer, the whole hill is about 40 meters of rise. It looks really daunting because you can see the whole hill very clearly from the top of the other side. According to gmaps-pedometer, Valley Inn Road in the Around The Bay course is 37 meters, so it’s a comparable climb. I walked up it for a bit but realized with the same effort I could jog up slowly.
I suppose the most resounding memory of this first part of the course for me was that it was so quiet. It was not crowded at all in the back of the pack. I consciously tried to hold back my speed. I tried chatting with some of the other runners doing similar pace, but they were either listening to music, already running in a group or already really inconsistent with pace. So, it felt kinda lonely.
Around 9.5km they guided the marathon runners were guided onto Chaplin Crescent and thorough some beautiful side streets a neighbourhood sometimes called “Forest Hill.” Pointing to a particularly beautiful home I told another runner “I want that one!” He pointed at a different one and wanted that one. I said that we’d be neighbours! I think I’m hilarious when I’m running.
We weaved through little streets of this neighbourhood. I recognized Upper Canada College. There was a really nice looking school with baskeball courts later on the route. I thought it couldn’t be a public school. It wasn’t, it was the Bishop Strachan School, a very ritzy private school. And we ran by Casa Loma and through a campus of George Brown College.
One of the criticisms this race has is that the aid stations are poorly manned. I didn’t find that to be true. Perhaps it’s because the crowd was fairly thin around me, but they seemed very well equipped and staffed with Gatorade and water. I did note that most of the volunteers seemed like young Asian girls.
My Garmin was making an odd clicking sound while I was running. I thought it was just the paceband rubbing against it. It turns out the clasp was broken and I was lucky it didn’t fall off my arm during the race!
14km to 26km
Around 14km the marathon route merged back with the half-marathon course around Yonge Street and the Rosedale Parkway . This was actually kind of terrifying. After being rather alone for a while, I saw the horde of runners I was about to merge into. Even more terrifying was that these were much faster runners too. The 1:45 pacer passed me shortly after the merge and I realized this group was running close to 5:00 min/km. Much faster than my 6:40-ish min/km. It kind of reminded me of that “wildebeest expressway” scene from the Lion King. I tried to avoid getting trampled and tucked myself way to the right as hundreds of people passed me.
Occasionally saw some other “blue bibs” and struck up conversation. One gentleman I talked to said he liked the crowed because it gave him some energy. Another said he liked looking at the pretty women.
It was nice to run into some familiar faces during this period though. Healther passed me on the Rosedale Valley Parkway, and Hong not long after.
We ran through an area on the east side of downtown that had recently developed, apparently called “Corktown”. It’s like it popped up out of nowhere! I saw Alice cheering somewhere in this region.
I was worried the fast crowd would make me speed up. I had kept a pretty constant pace and was well aware I needed to save a lot for the rest of the race. I crossed the 21.1km mat with a time of 2:28:54. That was about 6 minutes behind where I wanted to be, but still a respectable time.
Around my 24th kilometer I stated to hearing people tell each other that they were “almost there”. And I could see lots of people visibly struggling. The “halfers” were almost done and I was just over half-way.
The course went through the heart of downtown around 24km of my route. We ran right by the Roger’s Centre, CN Tower, Roy Thompson Hall, and CBC Headquarters.
26km to 35km
The half and full marathon courses split around the 26.5km mark of the full-marathon course right by the Princess Gates of Exhibition Place. That was heartbreaking. It was nice to have quiet again and no so much crowding, but the course they took the full-marathoners on felt like an abandoned trail, while there was lots of activity for the half-marathoners. The full marathon course skirts right by the finish where you can clearly see and hear people finishing the half-marathon.
After that it was a little difficult to navigate because there wasn’t a crowd to follow anymore. Fortunately, there were volunteers at strategic places to direct racers. I remember one of them pointing to her right, and saying to go right, but which would have been my left. At least she was pointing.
The next leg of the marathon course was on the Martin Goodman trail. There were some non-racers on the trail which made it a little hard to judge who was still racing and who was just a “bystander.”
At this point was really starting to lose steam. My legs felt really heavy and I was pretty thirsty. Fortunately, the air cooled noticeably by the lake which made it a little more comfortable.
It was even lonelier on this part of the course. Occasionally I’d get passed by relay runners with fresh legs. I think relay runners should have to wear relay bibs on their backs like during Around The Bay. I did get a nice surprise around 32km when an old friend, Carlos Fraile was on the course cheering on runners! It was nice to see a familiar face during this mess.
I crossed the 35km marker after the turnaround point at 4:15:23.
35km to Finish
By the turn-around point I felt prettymuch done. My legs were shot. I had to bargain with myself to keep running and keep moving forwards. The walk breaks got longer and getting running again was even harder. Slowly my estimates for finishing slipped from 4:55 to 5:00, to 5:15…
On the way back we got to run on a closed lane of Lakeshore Blvd. It was nice that it was just race runners and I wasn’t dodging bicycles, strollers and non-racing runners.
And Carlos was still there around the 38km point!
Towards the end there was something written on the ground in chalk: “remember your purpose.” That one took a little while to think about. May have been the discombobulation of the preceding 40km, but I wasn’t entirely sure what my purpose was at the time. I think I just wanted to finish and get the medal and be done with this.
Not far from the finish I noticed a lot of people walking on the course. I think the 5k started before I finished, and the slower people from the 5k were heading back along Lakeshore too.
Right before the finish line I saw all my friends that I had come to the race with. They made a big fuss cheering. I felt very happy to see them but also a little embarrassed that they had all finished so much earlier than I did.
Finishing the race I got my massive medal. When I put it on I actually staggered a bit.
I put on a happy face. I think I was crying a bit. Probably a combination of pain, happiness, and sadness. In the immediate aftermath, I had the most pain in my quads, hip flexors, and left trapezium. I also had a few nasty blisters on my feet.
I ate the whole bag of sour cream onion rings on the car ride home.
Oh, so that odd clicking from my Garmin during the race? Turns out that the strap was broken at the clasp! I’m really glad it didn’t fall off my wrist during the race! Fortunately, I’m fairly experienced at replacing straps on this watch now.
I did get one of my post-race treats the afternoon of the race: the Little Caesar’s Bacon Wrapped Crust Deep! Deep! Dish Pizza!
As for my performance, I’m disappointed in my time, but not surprised. I’m happy I finished, but know I could do better with better preparation. There are a lot of things I will want to reflect upon this season, but this post isn’t the time.
Thoughts About the GFTM In General
This race gets a lot of criticism, but I think it was okay. There were some miscues: Apparently there were supposed to be two stations giving out gels, but I only saw one. I don’t see this as too bad because a serious marathoner should probably be bringing their own gels. The post-race food was kind of lean too, but again, a serious marathoner may have their own post-race food packed. This race certainly isn’t in the same league as the Disney World Marathons or the Chicago Marathon, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It’s a medium-sized local race, with mild excitement and a massive medal.