Mount Albert Sports Day 5K

Moving right along… we raced again on Saturday at the Mount Albert Sports Day 5K, a new one for me. The run starts and finishes alongside the fair grounds, and athletes are encouraged to “Come for the run, stay for the fair!” We lucked out with a beautiful sunny and comfortably cool morning, so we did just that.

We scoped out some of the course during our 3K warm-up and quickly realized it wasn’t going to be the flat route we expected. I knew a PB wasn’t realistic, but I thought something around 21:00 should be doable based on recent paces.

The race draws a fast field with lots of youth track clubs, so I expected it to be a fast start and didn’t worry too much about lining up behind a few rows of kids. Turns out, that was a mistake. The first couple hundred metres were mayhem, trying to get around people without trampling anyone. To make it extra chaotic, there’s a fairly steep climb into a sharp left turn right out of the gates. Oof! The way was clear after that, but the hills continued.

KM 1: 4:19

We had an out-and-back stretch on a rolling country road to the turn-around at 2K and it wasn’t long before I could see the lead pack headed back toward me. It was fun to see Andy as well as Instagram-friend Erin for waves and cheers as I made my way to the turn. They were both looking strong near the front of the field.

KM 2: 4:21

I felt like I was pushing as hard as I could, maintaining effort up the hills and reminding myself not to let up, then trying to barrel down the other side to make up valuable seconds. I didn’t think the numbers on my watch were reflecting my output but there wasn’t much to do about that except keep plugging along (and stop %*&#ing looking at my watch, as Andy would tell me. Lol).

KM 3: 4:22 

At the 3K mark we turned into a residential neighbourhood for a long loop to the finish and I knew from our warm-up that the worst of the hills were over. Unfortunately I was pretty much spent and didn’t think there was a hope in hell of picking it up, so I just tried to hold on. I found myself neck-and-neck with Tyler (whose name I learned learned later when we officially met in the food line) and hung on his tail for a while. I made a move to pass a few times but he always fought back and we found ourselves jockeying for position through most of the final 2 kilometres.

KM 4: 4:21

“Racing” against Tyler actually made the time fly by and suddenly we were making the final turn. I had gained a few steps on him but he flew past me on the home stretch yelling “Let’s go!” as he did so. I tried to chase him but there was nothing to give as I ran down the chute seeing the clock tick over to 22:xx.

KM 5: 4:19 (+80m garmin nubbin: 0:18)

I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the result and may have chucked my water bottle in the ditch during a minor hissy fit (not going to live that one down…). That being said, I put in a solid effort, my splits were consistent and I placed very well so it’s still a good day at the races! And then we went to the fair to eat ice cream and get dizzy on spinny rides. ūüôā

22:01
26/386 overall
12/236 females
2/50 F30-39

 

Race for Plunkett 10K

Just 3 days after Whitby Half, it was time to race again at the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics on Wednesday evening. It was at our local park which gave us the perfect opportunity to run there and back (3.5K) for a warm-up and cool-down. Mark and Andy ran the 5K while I decided to do the 10, and we met up with a couple of our fellow Road Runners too!

I knew I shouldn’t race all out so soon after the half, but I thought a tempo/LT effort would give me a good workout without overdoing it.¬†I made the mistake of not going close enough to the front, so I spent the first several hundred metres trying to weave through people on the path before finding some space. Finally I could settle in!

The lead female wasn’t too far ahead but I tried not to get caught up in racing (yet) and focused on keeping my own pace under control. The 5K had started just after us so Andy soon came flying past me with a huge lead! It seemed like a full minute before anyone else ran by. I soon heard familiar steps and looked back to see Mark gaining on me as well just before the first turn-around.

The 5K was an out and back with the 10K running it twice, so we were soon headed back toward the finish line. I remembered feeling completely spent already at this point last year, at a much slower pace, so I felt pretty good about that as I chugged along feeling strong. It was awesome to see friends Scott and Parastou and exchange some encouragement along the way back.

As we neared the next turn-around (being the half way point and also the finish line) I could tell that I was steadily gaining on the lead female. I got some huge cheers from my crew along that stretch and picked up the pace just enough to pass her as we made the hairpin turn.

making my move ūüėČ

4:36, 4:38, 4:38, 4:36, 4:30

The race took on a whole new feeling and meaning for me in the second half, knowing I was in the lead. I had no sense of how far #2791 was behind me and I had to constantly resist the urge to look over my shoulder. I knew that looking back would do nothing for my own race, so I kept eyes ahead and focused on staying strong. A few times I asked myself if I had enough in the tank to pick it up if she caught me again, and I was pretty confident that I did.

It was such a cool feeling being in 1st place and I soaked up the extra special cheers (“First female!” Go girl!”) from spectators, volunteers and other runners. Remembering the frustration of being unable to close the gap at Whitby only fueled my fire not to let this go. Finally in the last kilometre I allowed myself to peak over my shoulder, just a quick glance, and there was nobody in sight. Holy crap, I was going to win! I knew my team would be waiting anxiously and it felt so good to make the final turn and see them going nuts!

4:35, 4:38, 4:41, 4:33, 3:38 [820m Рshort course | 4:27 pace]

45:08 (9.82 KM)
5/51 overall
1/19 females

Whitby International Half Marathon

When I was looking for a half to race after my spring goal marathon, I settled on the Whitby International, a first for me. I knew a couple of friends who had run it, the date worked well and it sounded like a good option without going too far from home. It’s a very small race and I knew it was going to be low-key, but otherwise I didn’t really know what to expect. There is very limited information on the website and no pre-race communication; I had to email the race director just to find out if we could pick up our bibs on race morning (thankfully, yes).

We showed up at Heydenshore Pavilion Sunday morning to find a couple of helpful volunteers handing out bibs and cotton t-shirts, and a small handful of runners milling about; it felt more like a community 5K than a marathon which was actually kind of cool! After taking advantage of the indoor washrooms and doing a bit of people-watching, we decided to hide out in the car til start time. It was windy and threatening rain so we waited until until a few minutes before the scheduled start to head over. The race ended up starting late and we also found out at the last second that the full marathon runners (all 36 of them) would go first and we would set off 5 minutes later. I was glad I still had my jacket and left it on until the last minute before handing it off to Andy who was playing chauffeur and support crew for the day.

The route was out-and-back, mostly on the paved waterfront path with a few short sections on roads and some mixed terrain including boardwalk and a steel¬†bridge. It was somewhat winding with lots of small ups and downs – nothing major but enough to challenge the legs. The route is advertised as mostly flat, but I wouldn’t describe it that way personally. All in all I would say it is not ideal for an all-out race effort, but it was enjoyable and only moderately difficult. It was also very quiet with less than 50 people in the half.

With a casual 3-2-1, we were off! I had planned to target about a 4:40 pace to start, gradually working down to 4:30 which would give me a new PB. I knew my fitness level was better than Chilly Half, but I wasn’t quite feeling distance-race ready after several weeks of low mileage and limited¬†workouts in the off season. But, as Andy reminded me just before the start, this¬†was just a bonus race and would give me a great workout regardless. No harm in going out to see what happens!

I realized immediately that I was going to be in for more of a challenge than expected when we were running straight into a strong, gusty headwind which would continue for the majority of the first half. I tried to hold a conservative pace but I was also running in the top 10 and got a bit swept up in that excitement.

1 to 5: 4:35, 4:38, 4:37, 4:35, 4:38

I was steadily passing marathoners who had started earlier – they had to complete¬†this out-and-back course twice and all I could think was how glad I was that¬†I wouldn’t have to face the wind again. It was wearing on me and I faded in the last few kilometres toward the half way mark when the gusts¬†seemed to pick up even more. Nearing the turn I was counting runners heading back and found myself in 6th or 7th place, and 2nd female. The gap wasn’t very big and I wondered if I might have a shot at chasing her down on the way back.

I was surprised to see that Mark wasn’t very far behind me. He’s just getting back in training again and planned on a ~1:45 finish. He was clearly well ahead of that target!

6 to 10: 4:40 (gel), 4:47, 4:44, 4:58, 4:38

I was hoping to feel great and pick up the pace easily with the wind behind me, but it just didn’t happen. I was a bit too spent from the first half and my legs felt heavy. It was a strange feeling because I wasn’t out of breath at all and found myself thanking volunteers and cheering everyone on as they made their way to the turn-around. Usually that doesn’t happen when I’m spent so I felt I should be able to run faster, but I just could not seem to get my legs going.

11 to 15: 4:36, 4:45 (gel), 4:32, 4:47, 4:37

Andy hopped in with me at about 16K and I tried to explain what was going on as he assured me that I was doing great. I fell in step behind him as he pointed out the first place female just up ahead and said that she was in a lot worse shape than I was. I knew I wasn’t going to have a PB at this point so keeping her in my sights and trying desperately to close the distance became the perfect distraction to keep working.

It took a lot of fight not to give in and let up on the effort completely. The little rolling hills felt like mountains and my legs were fighting me on every step.¬†Andy kept encouraging me along and promising that I was closing the gap on the lead female and drawing her in. I didn’t really believe him and knew it was almost impossible as we entered the final kilometre, but enjoyed the fantasy anyway. It’s not every day I get to chase the winner in a half marathon!

Thanks to my good friend Shannon for coming out and snapping this pic!

16 to 21: 4:56 (1/2 gel), 4:48, 4:39, 4:45, 4:37, 4:38

Finally the finish line! Mark ended up finishing just seconds behind me – he had a great race but¬†held back at the end like a gentleman so I could “win.” ūüėČ

I collected my prize (sadly no podium!) and congratulated the winner. It wasn’t quite the run I hoped for but after spending 6 years with a 1:40:06 monkey on my back, it feels pretty good to finish a second half marathon well under 1:40. It’s a good place to be as we kick off summer training!

Sporting Life 10K

On¬†Sunday I ran my 8th Sporting Life 10K with Nolan’s Dream Chasers. Together we raised almost $15,000.00 for Camp Ooch this year and not-so-little-anymore Nolan completed the entire race for his second time!

I seemed to recover pretty quickly from Martian and surprised myself with a strong workout last week, so I thought I might have a good chance at beating my ancient PB of 43:08 from 2011 (even though the pace still seemed insanely fast if I let myself think about it).

Mark dropped a few of us off near the start and we killed time with several pit stops, photo bomb ops, chatting with Jonathan (so nice to finally meet you!) and finally a short warm-up jog. Soon it was time to line up in the red corral and we were off!

I knew I needed better than 4:18/KM in order to PB and my plan was to pretty much run like hell and try to hold on¬†– very scientific and strategic! In the past I have often¬†found that the first few kilometres fly by almost effortlessly and if anything I need to hold back to make sure I’m not overdoing it. This time I felt like I had to work for it right out of the gates. I guess that’s to be expected running at paces in the ~4:15 range which is a whole new territory for me right now.

The course is significantly downhill, especially for the first half, so I tried to take advantage as much as possible and avoided hitting the brakes. There’s something so magical about this race – tearing down the middle of Yonge Street in downtown Toronto knowing that there are over 20,000 runners following behind. I loved everything except the strong, lingering smell of bacon wafting out of some restaurants. I tried to take it all in and enjoy myself while sneaking glances at my watch just often enough to keep myself honest. Several times I looked down and thought “I can not run this fast!” Except I guess I can!

4:16, 4:12, 4:16, 4:08, 4:19

I felt like I was working a bit harder than I would have liked hitting the 5K (21:17), but it’s also been a long time since I’ve raced this distance so I just pushed that thought right out of my head and kept¬†working. Shortly before 7K we made the turn off Yonge Street and I knew the course would be mostly flat to the finish – which basically feels uphill after so much downhill. It suddenly felt so hard and I had a minor meltdown in the 8th kilometre, slowing way more than I should have. Thankfully seeing that 4:26 split pissed me off enough to dig deeper and find my pace again. I was even¬†chanting (softly) aloud to myself “Come on! Come on!” as I worked to convince the legs to push just a little harder.

I was so happy and surprised to see my good buddy Quinton around the 9K mark. He seems to pop up at every single race I do and I love it! He gave me enough of a boost to haul ass toward the finish.

At last I was crossing the bridge on Bathurst and making the turn into Fort York. My friend Erin (Nolan’s Mom) was cheering in her usual spot on the home stretch and gave me the biggest cheers. Thank you Erin!

I knew it was going to be close and had to bust my ass down the home stretch. When I was close enough to see the clock I looked up and there was Andy jumping up and down waiting for me just over the line. I think I must have run straight into him without slowing down, squeaking in just a hair under 43.

4:14, 4:19, 4:26, 4:19, 4:12, 0:15 (80m garmin nubbin)

42:59
536/18500 overall
82/10552 females
16/1687 F30-34

The best part was meeting up with our Newmarket Road Runners gang after the finish, all of whom had great races. We are so very proud of all of them and I can’t even express how it feels to see our athletes¬†proudly wearing our team shirts.

Martian Marathon

After an inspiring and exciting trip to the Boston Marathon with our friend Andy and his family, I came home just in time to pack up again and head out to Michigan for the Martian Marathon. Five of us piled into a minivan on Friday morning for our next¬†marathon trip and the ~5 hours flew by with lots of Boston story-telling, strategizing for Saturday’s race and general road trip silliness. We met up with some more friends at the alien-themed expo before checking into our AirBNB in adorable Ferndale just outside Dearborn, MI. The house, town and Pop’s Italian Restaurant were all exactly as awesome as I remembered from last year.

I was full of nerves and excitement on race morning. I knew I was as ready as I could possibly be after the best training cycle of my life including some significant breakthroughs and the first PBs that I have seen in 6 years. With last minute hugs and pep talks, the crew saw me off with tears in my eyes. I felt very prepared and confident but I knowall too well that anything can happen on race day – especially when it’s a marathon. I tend to put too many of my emotional eggs in the goal race basket, as Andy likes to say, so it can feel overwhelming.

On Mark and Andy’s advice, my plan was to start 10-15 seconds/KM slower than goal pace for at least a few kilometres with the hopes of making it all back with a big negative split later. The Martian course is very conducive to this strategy – I would describe the majority of the course as gently rolling, but it is net downhill from the final turn-around at 26K to the finish.

I held back consciously as I eased into the race, though my first splits weren’t quite as conservative as I had intended. It was very quiet on the course with only¬†200 people finishing the marathon so I mostly found myself running alone. I didn’t mind the quiet and just cruised along listening to music.

There are some small loops around residential areas in the early miles which appear annoying on paper but actually weren’t bad at all. If anything, I found that it helped break up the race. I soon eased into goal pace and started hitting every split¬†at 5:00, give or take a couple of seconds. I felt ready to settle in for the long haul. The gang surprised me by popping up at 10K which gave me the biggest boost (and resulted in the¬†accidental 4:51 lap below, oops!).

KM 1 – 10: 5:11, 5:04, 5:08, 5:04, 5:00, 5:01, 5:00, 5:02 (gel), 5:00, 4:51

It was pretty uneventful from there to the turn-around. Everything was going how it was supposed to, I felt good and knew my friend Katie would be jumping in with me shortly. Sure enough everyone was waiting for me with some awesome cheers just after 27K and Katie joined me with her bunny ears, a sign on her back and her trademark enthusiasm.

KM 11 – 26: 5:02, 5:06, 4:57, 4:58, 5:03, 5:00 (gel), 4:57, 4:58, 5:02, 5:00, 4:58, 5:00, 4:56, 4:59 (gel), 4:55, 5:00

I knew I was in good hands and just had to follow her. Unfortunately I felt myself fading gradually from about 30K; I just couldn’t seem to keep my legs moving the way I wanted to and my pace was slipping. Andy, Matt and Erin popped up a bunch more times over the next little while and it was so good to see them every time. I later found out that they had to do some very creative driving and clambering up and down embankments in order to see me – never a dull moment! I did my best not to show how badly I was feeling as my legs grew more and more tired and my goal time slipped out of reach.

KM 27 – 35: 4:59, 4:56, 5:03, 5:13 (gel), 5:18, 5:31, 5:59, 5:39, 5:35

By 35K I was sneaking walk breaks despite Katie’s urgings to keep going. She was amazing and said everything I needed to hear but I just couldn’t seem to dig any deeper. Andy obviously noticed from the sidelines that we needed back-up because suddenly I had him running beside me too – in jeans for 6+KM! For the rest of the race I had the best support crew anyone could ask for and they kept me plodding along the best that I could when all I wanted to do was sit on the side of the road and cry. I think that when I started feeling¬†tired long before I thought I should have, I threw in the towel mentally and proceeded to have a pity party for several kilometres. When I started talking about needing to do this all over again, they reminded me that all I had to worry about right now was finishing this race. They told me over and over that I was doing a lot better than I thought I was. They counted down the miles with me, lied about how much farther I had to go (like true friends, lol!) and urged me to get out of my head.

After glancing at my garmin at 40K for the thousandth time I realized that I still had a shot at 3:40 and managed to pick up the pace a bit. Finally, after Andy told me 17 times that there were only 500m to go, we were making the final turn and I saw the rest of my crew cheering like crazy as I hauled myself over the line in 3:39:15 for a BQ and the fastest marathon I have run since 2011.

KM 36 – 42.2: 5:57 (gel), 5:24, 5:38, 5:49, 5:39, 5:23, 5:24, 1:20 (0.3)

3:39:15
45/202 overall
6/67 females
2/11 F30-34

It wasn’t the race that I wanted or trained for but I can’t be too disappointed with those results and it’s hard to feel bad about anything with the amazing support I had all day. I had plenty to celebrate and celebrate we did!

It’s natural to look back and wonder “what went wrong” and we’ve hashed out some theories from high humidity (though temp was good) to nutrition in the days before to being surrounded by sick people leading up to the race and a generally hectic week. It could be any, all or none of those and while I think it’s beneficial to look back and assess the outcome, I don’t want to dwell on “what went wrong.” Sometimes we just have an off day in running and that can happen on race day just as easily as any other time. The marathon is a beast where so many factors can influence the outcome and that’s part of what makes it so enticing, why we keep coming back for more. If every marathon went exactly according to plan, I think it would lose some of the appeal. Every once in a while, everything lines up perfectly and we get the race of our dreams – the one we fantasize about during our training runs, the one where we finish victoriously with arms in the air. I know I’ll have more races like that and it will be so much more satisfying because of experiences like this one.

I had a good cry after the race with my friends holding me up and someone said “those better be happy tears!” to which I answered “I don’t know what they are.” It’s been an emotional few days for me and I am still processing all of it, but I’m focusing on the positives and how far I have come this year. I’ve been training at paces that I never thought possible and the time on the clock last Saturday doesn’t take that away from me. I’m just getting started!