Sunday, May 05, 2013

Race report: Goodlife Toronto Marathon 2013 (3:50 pacers)

A few days after Boston, everyone still raw from the attack on our race, my friend Sam direct messaged me on Twitter, asking if I'd consider doing her a favour. The afternoon of Boston, I called her while reporting on the race. She had run it and I was thankful all of those who make up our Toronto running scene were safe. The question us runners asked after Boston was what can we do. Run, I thought. And we did.

(Goodlife Toronto Marathon 2013 race results here / half here

The favour? She had a rough recovery from Boston and hoped I'd help co-pace her group, the 3:50s at Toronto Goodlife Marathon. I was scheduled to run it in my calendar and had no real goals as I'm running Ottawa Marathon in late May. A day later, after mulling the 3:50 pace (a little slower than my long slow distance) I knew the answer had to be yes. Yes, of course, I'll pace runners -- runners who want to get to Boston, finish their first marathon and do the full 42.2. I tried a few pace runs in the weeks leading to the race, and was happy to nail it on last week's 20K run.

Cut off the sleeves for the heat.
I spent Thursday (Montreal) and Friday on the road, Friday sitting through an awards ceremony in Ottawa where my fellow journalists were having quite a few drinks while I filled up on water. My 3K run around Parliament Hill on Friday afternoon felt sluggish. It was warm and humid in the capital. Flew back on Saturday and was battling the high pollen count (in Montreal, Ottawa AND Toronto) by taking my allergy medication. Sam on the other hand was nursing an actual cold only slightly improving by the day -- ain't that crazy for her to even go out there. Rock star.

Carbo loaded on Saturday, had a nice afternoon nap and looked at the forecast: Not too great. A high of around 20/21C, with a low of 11C. That's about 5C too warm, so I cut off the sleeves of my pace bunny shirt (awesome decision as it turns out).


Goodlife guys had a good amount of pacers -- 3:45, 3:50 (us) 3:55, 4:00. We quickly had a considerable group around us and I passed along my extra bands. A lot of questions about whether we'd be doing run/walk and most seemed relieved we were doing continuous. The target was 5:27 kms and to go out slightly fast in the first. 

The first few kilometres of a marathon are always hectic. I've seen pace bunnies go out way too fast, sucked in by the vacuum that is the start. We went out trying to find our pace, and after a little slow first kilometre (believe me, this is good) we were able to hit it on the second kilometre, only to speed up in the next few. That was fine since we had some downhills and we told our group we'd be going out faster on the down hills. Hoggs Hollow, the one big uphill, was between 4 and past the 5K mark, looks like we did them slightly faster than planned. 

1-5K splits (5:31.3, 5:25.8, 5:18.8, 5:15.3, 5:21)

6K to 10K
Down Yonge St we went, Sam and I were really trying to figure ou the pace. With the downhill parts it wasn't an easy task to keep on pace -- you wanted to let the hills do some of the work for  you or you end up spending more work hurting your legs. Sam and I worked well, quickly establishing turns holding the pacer sign. The light wind made it fairly easy to hold and we'd pass it off every 30 to 40 minutes. 

We'd start to meet some of our group. A few first time marathoners, including one who had done an Ironman the year before (and who would rock it with us to the end) and also a woman who needed a 3:55 for her BQ -- it was her first marathon. Because of the mixed group, we mixed up some chatter, tips but mostly trying not to be overzealous in taking the downhills. The next five kilometres are down Yonge Street until we turn off on Chaplin Cr. 

6-10K splits (5:29.8, 5:19, 5:24, 5:28.8, 5:14.8)
Yep, the splits above show a range but I'm pretty happy with them, given the rolling terrain.

10K to 16K
3:50 pace band
Winding our way through the course, we passed by Upper Canada College (more rolling hills than I'd remembered), and into downhill patches. Our group was reaching our stride and our splits were showing it. A bunch of 5:25s, with slightly faster splits as we passed by Casa Loma and down back toward Yonge Street. I told Sam that it was at Casa Loma when I decided a few years ago to 'go race' and at that remembered what our real goal was today. So we held back, tried to run fluid. Turning east, we felt the sun, enjoyed the sights and were happy to be applauded by small patches of spectators -- including one car that really really wanted to get into the intersection.

11K to 16K splits (5:25, 5:25, 5:19.3, 5:19.3, 5:21.5, 5:23.8)

17K to half
Really enjoyed Rosedale Valley Road -- more restraint, and Sam gave me a tour of her usual run routes in the area. We advised runners to loosen up, shake out their arms. Rosedale Valley is one of the best parts of the race and made a mental note to enjoy the shaded portion.

Exited on to Bayview and felt the cooler air accompanied by the sun that'd only warm up the course. It was close to 9:30 a.m. as we rounded the corner and hit the half mat, running back toward downtown. Splits were starting to come together

17K to 21K splits (5:22.8, 5:25.5, 5:28.5, 5:19.5, 5:26.8)

Half in 1:54:05 / Goal pace 1:55

So we'd banked 55 seconds through the first 21.1K Not bad. Downtown passed and our work had begun. Since we had banked almost a minute, we knew that we could get to work. 

Now it's a good time to talk about the perils of pacing. So easy for a cheering spectator to give you a boost, so simple to get sucked into a surging running group. Runs like that leads to PBs but for us, the goal was 5:27. And since I was new to 5:27s and Sam was recovering from her cold, we tried to keep each other in check. It'd go something like this:

Me: <looks at Garmin, sees faster pace> Hey Sam, lets slow down a smidge
Sam: Great <slows down a smidge>
We hit our pace

Me: <going out a little overzealously, at 5:18 or so>
Sam: Hey Kenny, hold back a bit
We slow down to meet the pace

To our group, thankfully, overall, we were killing it on the course. They were so gracious, saying 'You guys are awesome pace bunnies!', to which Sam joked 'if we don't hit pace, it's Kenny's fault!' It was a joke, but we were trying to keep it light and I think the group appreciated it.

We made it down to Fort York area and on to the Martin Goodman Trail. They had a huge sign misspelling Marathon (MARTHON) -- Mars thon, huh, I joked, the copy editor in me wanting to strangle someone. After a 5:18, Sam and I agreed to slow it down to 5:30s since we'd bank so much time, give runners room to get their pace in check.

22K to 29K splits (5:21.8, 5:23, 5:27.5, 5:13.8, split reset :48.2 partial split 4:37.2, 5:18, 5:30.1, 5:33.8)

30K to 35K
Out on the MGT, my house, wind slight, and slightly cool with underlining warmth, if that makes sense. It must have been that it was a course we knew well, or that we were ultra keen on hitting pae, that our splits were bang on: 5:25s to 5:30s. We tried not to lose too many runners but clearly our pace group was starting to pass a lot of runners on this stretch. It's a narrow course and cyclers were still coming our way so it was tough to have a long uninterrupted stretch. 

Also, the water stations were not manned with enough volunteers. Not the volunteers' fault, as they were really scrambling to keep up, but as our pace group arrived, we tried to make sure our group all had water. I had always grabbed an extra cup to give to our group members but it was not easy to get what we needed. Again, not the volunteers' fault. We ran to Humber Bridge and out to the most westerly point. It was 35K and we had told our group members to put on their game face, work it. By that turnaround, we had lost a few members but I later found out many of them used us as distance carrots.

30K to 35K splits (5:29.3, 5:27.3, 5:30.3, 5:30.5, 5:25.5, 5:30)

35K in 3:12:22 / Goal pace 3:10:47 

Final stretch
Heading home, we had two guys with us. We wanted to help them to a strong finish while trying to maintain a consistent pace. A few rollers but otherwise, we were running strong as a group. The heat was starting to rise and I made sure that we got water at every water stop (not an easy task, as it turns out). Myself, I'd taken all five gels at the appropriate spots but I hadn't taken nearly enough Gatorade as I was making sure to give an extra cup to the other runners. 

Sam was really great, encouraging the guys, talking them home, telling them to push through your usual 6K runs. Lee was at the side and he ran alongside us when my left calf gave a slight tightening, mini cramps. Changed my stride a few times and was able to get the cramp out, immediately hydrating with what was left of my water supply. 

Want to know what it looks in the final 5K? Lee took this shot of us.

We reeled in other runners, urging them to join, and some did, a few asking whether we'd be doing walk breaks (no!). We happily hit the last hill and at 41K left one of the runners go. I told Sam my left leg was cramping a bit but we didn't really lose any pace cause we were going at a good pace. The final kilometre was a tonne of fun, urging the crowd to whoop it up, we traded high fives with Marlene. Looked at our watches and knew we'd come mighty close. Traded a fist bump and cruised in on a perfect day, 21 seconds ahead of our goal. Job done!

36K to 42K splits: (5:29.8, 5:20, 5:27, 5:20.3, 5:22.8, 5:18.3, 5:23, final stretch 2:49)
Final time: 3:49:38

We waited for a few runners, got a few compliments and the lady who was looking for a BQ got it, thanks us, wanted a picture (which she got with me -- Sam hightailed it to a portapotty). They were thankful but I was just as pleased to do the job.

Thanks Sam so much for the opportunity, was an absolute pleasure!

3:50s pace bunnies!

Job done!


Robin said...

Nicely done, congrats...that's some good pacing!

Patrick said...

Great job!

macnic said...

AMAZING JOB, Kenny and Sam! You need to pace a 1:45 half again...

Marky Mark said...

Great job and a gripping race report as always! The allergies are a real drain so between that and Sam's cold it is even more impressive.

Mari said...

Well done, Kenny! Sam, too.

marie said...

LOVE this!