Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

Race date: October 18, 2015

After I ran the Ottawa Marathon in May, I decided to take some time to finally look after my right hamstring. I signed up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half marathon, took a few weeks off from running, and then began a slow, and sometimes discouraging summer training cycle. My leg was healing, but I’d lost so much cardio throughout all of this that I couldn’t keep up with my usual running buddies anymore. I have always been a back of the packer, but I was now running behind the back of the pack. Alone. It was a very humbling time for me.

In the final couple of weeks before the race, I was starting to feel some improvement. Not being left behind right from the get go, feeling a little stronger. My final race pace runs had me at a 7:05m/km and feeling winded so I decided that my goal for the race would be to just run comfortably, stick to my 10 and 1s and try to come in around 2:30:00.

This was the third time I’ve done this race and each time has been a slightly different course. The current version of the course was by far my favourite.

It was a special day for me because1-_DSC5194 my daughters were there to watch me run a half marathon for the first time and Mike was going to be there taking hundreds of photos.

12115751_10156257660030160_2760446347450234148_nWe met up with Ginny and Julie before the race and walked over to the start together. I enjoyed being able to leave home 45 minutes before the race avoiding the pre-race port-a-potty situation and just getting comfortable in the corral.

It was a cool, crisp fall morning and we were all wearing throw away tops over our race gear along with gloves. I had on a jacket, gloves and arm warmers that I would either give to Mike if I saw him within the first 5k, or throw away if I missed him.

The plan was to start out together, but to run our own races. We all agree that training together is great, but on race day, it’s your race. You have to run it for yourself.

The race has both the full and half marathons starting together with each corral going off at 5 minute intervals. As we slowly walked up to the start line you could feel the excitement growing. We reached the mat at the start, shouted something like “let’s do this!” and we were off!

Right near the start I spotted Mike and the girls taking pictures and cheering us on. What a great way to start a race.

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I almost immediately fell just behind Ginny and Julie. Not because I couldn’t keep up, but rather because I really wanted to run this race alone. I didn’t want to be subconsciously running at a faster pace than I should be, potentially burning out prematurely.

The first 10km of the race took us through some of Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods and landmarks. We ran up University through Queens Park turning onto Bloor and passing through Yorkville, the Royal Ontario Museum and then down Bathurst past Honest Ed’s (it will always be Honest Ed’s – even when they finally close for good). By 2km I had already taken off the jacket and tied it around my waist until I could find Mike. The arm warmers and glove came off shortly afterward. 1-_DSC6008At around 5km I saw Mike and the girls and prepared to stop for a second to give them my stuff. I had a hard time getting the jacket off my waist. The knot had tightened and my fingers were a bit cold so I lost a few seconds but not a big deal.

I continued down Bathurst, across the steel bridge, onto Fort York Blvd. and then began the long out and back on Lake Shore Blvd. where I moved into the centre of the street hoping to see some of my friends on their way back and was happy to see Andrew who was pacing a friend to a Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon run in a suit. I also saw Colin, Melissa and Greg along the way.

I was running comfortably through the front half of the race, not putting any pressure on myself, and only glancing occasionally at my Garmin, but each time I did, I was happy, and even a bit surprised, to see that my laps were consistently well under a 6:50m/km pace. Even the laps that contained a walk break in them were in that range as well.

The back half of the race took us the rest of the way out along Lake Shore to the turnaround at Ellis and back into the city. I was still running a fairly consistent pace and feeling really great but knew that I had to run the hill up to Jameson along this stretch. This out and back along Lake Shore is one of my least favourite places to run. There is a park that runs adjacent to the street with a trail on it that is very heavily used by runners, cyclist, inline skaters. 16-145154Personally, I’ve never liked running it. I’ve always preferred to run on the streets in the city than to run in the parks. I need the stimulation to keep my mind occupied. But near the end of this training cycle, I ran the trail a few times. I think that may have helped. There were no mind games. I was running at a good pace and even when I got to the Jameson hill, it didn’t seem as big as it usually does.

17-145559As we approached the city again, we were treated to a spectacular view of our great city with its beautiful skyline and the CN Tower in all it’s splendor. I ran through the 18k water station that was run by some of our running community, and then made the final turn onto Bay St. with 1km left to go.

Everything was going fantastic. I had been running consistently throughout the race. And then, it happened. As usual with about 2km left to go, I looked at my Garmin, did a quick calculation, and confirmed that I was ahead of my 2:30:00 goal time. So, what do I do? With 1km left to go, I take a walk break. For no reason other than I could. It was just a short walk of a few seconds. Maybe 10 or 15. But it was the first of 3 short walks I took in the last km of the race. I guess in the grand scheme of things it didn’t make much difference in my overall time but I think this is what I really need to work on. It seems that every race, regardless of the distance, I talk myself into taking unscheduled, and most importantly unnecessary walk breaks near the end.

In the final stretch of the race, it was great to see the crowds getting thicker. I was able to see Sonia and Jonathan waving and taking pictures and just past them I saw James with his parents and the girls, and Maria and Miguel with Zach. It was great to have the support!

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All in all, I’m really happy with the result. I finished ahead of my goal, I had no pain from start to finish, and I ended the day celebrating another awesome race with a group of my family and running buddies both old, and new.  I can’t think of a better way to cap off the 2015 race season.

Official time: 2:25:36.7

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