Saturday, May 26, 2012

Race report: Goodlife Toronto Marathon 2012

What is that old saying, that you can't run your next marathon until you forget your last one? I'm writing this race report on the Goodlife Toronto Marathon as I'm on a train to Ottawa, where I'm running another marathon three weeks after this one that I still remember.

While signing up for the Toronto Marathon was a late decision, I felt it was just about the right place in my training program. I had started ramping up marathon training in January so by the time I decided to sign up in April, more than three months of training were booked in.

Ottawa I felt would be non aggressive marathon given the quality of my training has been lacking and whether would always be the wildcard.

And who could avoid the temptation to continue a running streak, since I've run Toronto Goodlife from 2009-2011. This year's race route also seemed to be a little interesting, with changes throughout, including a new finish line that was flat (compared with the 'uphill' finish to Queen's Park). The earlier start time of 7:30 and, heck, the fact that a marathon is run in my hometown made it a no brainer.

The race
We started before the half marathoners, so it was not a busy start area, which was a nice change for a chill warmup for the start. Boston Bill Rogders was a guest emcee and was giving us tips on how to run marathons, which I thought was both cool and funny, cause hey, who wouldn't love a tip from one of the great marathoners but who would really need it if they've trained up the to distance. The weather, as he said, was near perfect. Slight wind, cool, compared to the hot Boston. In fact, a few Boston runners were doing Toronto as their make-up run.

The start I seeded myself near the 3:40 pace group, and we took a bit of work to separate ourselves. We were running faster than goal pace. The first bit leading up to Hogg's Hollow went by fast and I started to regret not putting on a singlet instead of my T-shirt, it was cool, but warm enough to go summer wear.

The big uphill, Hogg's Hollow, is not a fun sight in what is a net downhill course. I ran slightly ahead of the pace group because I wanted to get a potty break done at the top of the hill, just as I'd done in previous years. After I caught back up to them after the break, feeling, well, relieved, we went to work on what is my favourite part of the course, which starts on the turnoff near Davisville station.

As a guy who has paced a few half marathons, I have tremendous respect for anyone pulling off the job. I started to tail the group that had thinned a bit. The makeup of this group was very relaxed, and I'm assuming there were Ironman folks doing training, and others just going. The pacer looked at my pace band and said 'where'd you get that!' after I told him what splits I'd be looking for a 3:40. He was using his Nike Plus app, which I thought a little awkward to be proper pacing. A few minutes later, his phone rang (yes, he was wearing headphones) and took a call. Later found out he was a 3 hour marathoner who wasn't used to the pace. :)
Anyhow, I ran with the group right until the bottom of Casa Loma, when for some reason, the banter of one particually loud marthoner (who seemed to be doing a 'training run') got to me and I was feeling pretty good anways, so I paced a little faster.

Saw my buddy Peter who was going for a sub 3:40, but largely went out on my own, down to Rosedale Valley Road. Every year i've run down it, I feel like I hit a nice zone-out period in my race. It's one of the few totally shaded parts and the sheer vastness of the tree canopy makes it a highlight of the course.

Finishing it, and coming back toward downtown, we were again back on streets and in the sun. Ran into Peter and we paced together for a bit until he dropped back (and ended later a tough marathon).

From the half mark to the end, Goodlife becomes a little surreal to me, as it's my daily training route, and pretty much exactly on the same path. It's so comfortable that I can almost close my eyes for portions and anticipate rolls in the hills or curves to navigate. We also passed the finish line on the way out -- not a pretty sight but we did see the leading half marathoners come in.

Meanwhile, I was maintaining pretty consistent and strong splits. Because I wasn't pacing with a group, per se, I just went by feel and looking back at the splits I was maintaing a 5-10 second variance between kilometres. My fueling was happening at the right intervals, every 8K or so, and my extra water I brought with me proved useful for taking gels and occasional sips.

In my mind, I was seeing this as a 35K training run with the option to continue to race till the end. In my heart, when have I really resisted the urge to go with a good running pace. In reality, I took a pace that was probably well within my fitness (I'd assume I'm somewhere around 3:35 fitness these days). Reality and races collide and I found myself still going. At the most westerly point of the course, again still on home turf, I saw the turnaround and was so happy that it came earlier than I'd anticipated. As I turned, and started my way back, I could see all the runners behind me, including in the distance the 3:40 group.

I think at the moment, I though of them, the chatter and the fact that I had a few minutes on them. Screw it, I thought, lets just keep going.

Onn the way to the final 5K, I passed blogger Felix, who recognized me from this blog. He was telling me how his day wasn't unfolding the way he'd thought, and commented to me that I'm usually faster. I smiled as we parted, knowing that yes, I'm not really much faster these days, or at least training up to potential. He reminded me of what I can do in marathons and that helped spur me on.

But the breaks did come -- A little bit of tired leg syndome and also the 'holy crap, this is a marathon'. I took a few prescribed walk breaks to get my legs good and my cardio in a good place.

Still, by the time we reached the final kilometres, I had banked more than enough time to come in under 3:40, even enough time to savour the finish and get my legs ready for the next marathon.

As with all local races, I did bump into several friends, including Sam, who rocked the course after her bad Boston experience, and Lee and Julie, who were cheering on the runners. Lee and I were at the sidelines, watching the marathoners come in. My favourite thing to do is to stand in that final 500 metres and give a little bit of love back. My favourite cheer, 'lets go marathoners,' with the emphasis on MARATHONER. Love this sport, next one's coming up pronto.

Final time: 3:37:25

1 5:10.8
2 5:00.7
3 4:52.6
4 4:38.6
5 4:47.9
6 5:57.1
7 5:10.7
8 5:26.8
9 5:31.8
10 4:39.7
11 5:13.6
12 5:13.5
13 5:15.3
14 5:00.1
15 4:55.2
RESET :31.0
17 5:12.0
18 4:53.2
19 5:10.2
20 5:08.8
21 5:10.2
22 5:12.3
23 5:15.5
24 4:52.2
25 4:56.8
26 5:03.5
27 5:06.7
28 5:01.5
29 5:08.0
30 5:12.0
31 5:05.4
32 5:08.1
33 5:04.6
34 5:05.9
35 5:09.4
36 5:06.2
37 4:54.2
38 5:02.9
39 5:06.5
40 5:25.5
41 5:17.2
42 5:17.2
43 1:11.9

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Race report: Sporting Life 10K 2012

I've watched this race grow over the past 8 years into somewhat of a Toronto tradition. With essentially free entry (the Sporting Life guys gave gift cards for those who registered). But 20,000 plus runners? Wow. (Sporting Life 10K results here / 2013 Sporting Life 10K race info here).

Last week's marathon left my legs in pretty good shape, I ran a few times over the week and even as I was thinking about this race that starts at Yonge and Eglinton and ends near my condo, I mulled a warmup run. So this morning, I ran up the route, logging around 9K uphill, getting the heart going, even beating runners who were waiting for buses to get them up to the route.

Even with a race with more than 20K, I spotted a few other runners I knew, including Fran, a co-worker and a friend who was doing his first race in eight years.

I placed myself in the sub 48-minute corral, really just aiming to go around 47. As the race started, my legs still felt good even with the 9K warmup, so I went looking for that 'comfortably hard' feeling I'd go for in tempo runs. The downhills helped the pace, and since I've run this route so many times (and part of it last week) I was anticipating every rise and fall.

Though it was a big race, I found that most runners around me were going slightly slower than I was, which meant a fair bit of weaving through the course.

Here are the first 5K splits: 4:38, 4:21, 4:21, 4:15, 4:18 for a 22:02 5K. There are quite a few big plunges downhill here, so I wasn't surprised by that speed. Also knew that I wanted to go faster than 4:30 kilometres.

Nothing much to write about the Sporting Life that I haven't said before: road conditions were okay, the downhills really give you great speed, and the only tricky parts in my opinion is to attack the hills and to up your cadence during the flats.

Doing so meant that I had the sensation of speeding up while maintaining pace.

By the 5K mark, I was in the comfortably hard zone, though I was starting to count down the kilometres, which was a sign I was pushing it just right. I never got that 'pain' that you associate with those distance races, but it was okay to fight through.

We turned to go west and I was finding myself boxed in several times. Mentally, it was a bit to urge some speed out of my legs but I ended up continue to pass people right up until the last kilometre.

Here are my satellite screwed last 5K splits: 4:11, 4:38, 4:27, 4:32, 3:42. They are obviously all off because I have a final 5K split of 21:24 which on any other day be a fantastic 5K!

Wheeled it into the end and coasted home. Almost an hour after the race started, I was walking into my condo. That's a morning well spent, 19K with 10K of speedwork and done by 9 a.m.!

Final chip time was 43:26, pretty much a good indicator of where I am one week post marathon and two weeks to go to my next.

Yes, I'm working on my Goodlife race report!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The (unscheduled) Toronto Goodlife Marathon

I've been training since January. The miles have been hard to come by, work's been busy and it's been hard to do the mileage I'm used to. Fear not, me thinks, you've gone through this marathon business many times before.

My marathon at the end of the month is in Ottawa, where weather can do anything to the day. I was looking at my past long runs and saw I've logged enough 18 plus milers and two 20 milers (one three weeks ago) so I decided to pull the trigger

Yes, I've signed up for a 'last-minute' marathon. Not really interested in seeing how fast I can push myself, but taking it as a marathon that I'll be paying careful attention to saving a lot for the last 10K.

The Toronto Goodlife it is, in fact, it'll be my fourth marathon at that race in a row (and the race of my 2009 BQ).

I'm pretty excited and nervous to leap at the opportunity to do an unscheduled marathon. As many of you know, I've done multiple marathoning many times (three in four weeks, two in 8 days) but that was usually the intention of the training season. This time, we'll see how it goes. Training run it is. A long one.

Mississauga Marathon race strategy

Reader Stan was asking for a Mississauga Marathon strategy guide and since we’re about 12 hours to go to the race, I thought I’d oblige with some quick thoughts.

First, I’ve run the marathon there twice, and each time it was a different course at the end. It looks like this year is the same as 2009 when I ran it.

Course in general: It is generally exposed, some hills in the beginning and can be subject to wind since the last bit is on the water. In general, it is a net downhill course, so it is quite fast, especially for half marathoners. For marathoners, the flat and potentially windy (and soul damaging out and backs where you get so close to the finish, you can get a little defeated.

This race report sums up my 2009 version and you can see that I ran a negative split, partly because I was pacing a friend for the first 30 some odd kilometres then bumped it up at the end.

First 10K: You’re running from the city hall/Square One, and it’s a big crowd since you’re pacing with half marathons. I try never to go out too fast but it’s definitely possible to make that mistake. Heading west, you will have both inclines and downhills as you run on wide roads. The second half of the first 10K brings you down Mississauga Rd. which is a lot of fun to run but includes some killer hills that you should get ready for. Before you hit the big downhill followed by an uphill, you visit the U of T campus that’s a nice detour.

10K to half: You run another 5K or so with the half marathoners, then you turn around 15K. I enjoyed getting some peace and quiet when the crowd thins, and it’s a good time to get into the pace. You’re running in neighbourhood so the change in scenery going west is nice. Not much to note other than again when you start hitting south again it’ll be exposed to the sun and wind so plan and dress accordingly.

Half to 16 mile mark: Yep, this isn’t a fun part of the course. Some industrial land. You’ll start to see faster runners who are ahead of you as you hit the lone out-and-back portion of the race. While you should have plenty of energy to go, wind can be your enemy here.

16 miles to 20 miles: Slowly, you leave the industrial part and start heading back toward the finish. Wish it was a straight line but you got a lot of curves. There are hilly bits here and there so be prepared for small rollers. Nothing that will get you but if you haven’t prepared you should.

20 miles to the end: The final bit of the Mississagua Marathon combines running on Lakeshore, where you are running on a main street, running south into a few neighbourhoods. First things first, a lot of people hit the wall on Lakeshore around the 36K mark. They do so because there is a considerable incline. My tactic was always to run it strong and not let the course do me in. Good in a race like this to carry water or Gatorade with you as water stations are not exactly close together (good to check that). The final bit features a lot of running on winding paths, many of them really designed for everyday trail traffic, so it can be quite tight in there depending on when you finish. I've finished a marathon having to wind my way through half marathoners who were just finishing.