On Sunday we ran the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon, which I had surprisingly never run previously. I did run the full back in 2010 and had a terrible race, which is probably why I haven’t gone “running” back to it. However, I was really excited about it this year as a ton of friends were running and I was anxious to see how much I had improved since my first half this year in March.
It turned out to be a beautiful day – definitely a little too beautiful (i.e. hot and sunny) for racing. Since we’ve had such a late spring here (we had snow a few short weeks ago), we are just not acclimated to running in warm temps just yet. Last week was my first time wearing shorts and a tank top to run all season. That being said, at least we weren’t dealing with the dreaded humidity and it certainly could have been worse. Of course, I was really glad not to be running a marathon that day and I was feeling for my friends who were going to be out there much longer. Luckily they started a little earlier at 7:30 – we started the half at 8:30.
Hubs and I parked and showed up at the start just as the marathoners were taking off. We met up with Kelly and the rest of our gang who were either running the half or spectating for some good lucks and photos. We knew it was going to be a warm one when we ditched the throw-aways early and felt perfectly comfortable standing around in our running gear. You always want to feel cold at the start! A couple of potty stops and it was time to line up. I put myself behind the 1:50 pace crowd and randomly bumped into my good friend Lisa in the masses. Isn’t it the best feeling when you find someone by accident in a crowd of thousands??
It’s a point-to-point race beginning at the very north end of the city, winding down along city streets on a net downhill course to the finish line by the lake. It started out crowded. I was packed in, shuffling along and trying to find some kind of running pace among the masses. Note to self: line up closer to the front next time. There wasn’t a corral system, which unfortunately meant many people were not lined up correctly. This is no big surprise so I just went with the flow until it seemed to open up a bit after a kilometre or so. The good thing is, this is a great way to prevent going out too fast. I didn’t really know what pace to expect (although I was hoping for sub-1:55) and decided to run based on effort. I had told a friend earlier in the week that you should feel uncomfortable during a half marathon, so I reminded myself of that and let myself push out of that comfort zone.
From KM1-10 we are running in a straight line south on Lakeshore. There are some undulations, but it is a definite net downhill. Leading up the 4th kilometre marker is the infamous “Hoggs Hollow” hill. It’s quite long and fairly steep – definitely no walk in the park. But knowing that it is the only significant hill of the course and the fact that it comes so early on make it totally manageable. However, I remember noticing that it was tougher than I had remembered. It was great to see quite a few spectators out lining the street, many with their dogs and coffees, as well as the die-hards with cowbells and signs.
At 11K we made the turn to head down (literally!) Rosedale Valley and Bayview. The course is very friendly here with a winding, downhill grade and I cruised along pretty comfortably. I had a flash-back to the day I ran this marathon when I realized during this stretch that it was not going to be a good day. Thankfully I felt much better this time around – and only had about 6K to go by the time we hit the next turn.
This last stretch was all along downtown streets, mostly in a straight line toward the finish. I really started to feel the heat of the sun pounding down and doused myself in water more than once. My thoughts returned to our friends running the marathon and I hoped they were handling it okay. I was fully in count-down-the-kilometres mode and also knew I was looking at a finish in the low-1:50s if I could hold on, so that pumped me up. The last few KMs ended up being my fastest of the day.
Heading into the crowds, we still had to make another turn to the finish and I had no idea how much farther it was going to be. My Garmin distance was off (+200m) due to wonky GPS signal among the high-rises/bridges on certain sections of the course, so I knew I wasn’t looking for 21.1. I tried picking people off and finally made it across the line feeling and looking like a hot mess. (Notes on fuel: gel at 7K and 14K; salt at start and 10K; ~750mL water from my handheld – refilled once)
That equates a 5 minute improvement over the half in March, with an average heart rate 13bpm lower. I’m definitely happy with those stats!
Congrats to Hubs on his 1:33 – a big step in his own comeback!