Hello strangers! I’ve been dying to tell you all about Sunday’s race, but the past few days have been a whirlwind of assignments, speeches and PowerPoint presentations.
Yes, school is pretty overwhelming lately, however… I’m allowing myself a short break today to fill you in on my experience at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon.
In the week leading up to the race, I barely ran. I took ‘taper’ to a whole new level. School was getting crazy and it was one of those weeks where there just weren’t enough hours in a day. Saturday rolled around and I felt like I should be feeling the pre-race jitters, but they weren’t coming. Weird, right?
Sidenote: A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a Globe & Mail reporter looking to speak with runners about how they prepare for a long race. I was stoked to participate! You can check out the article here.
On Saturday, I took a trip to the race expo where I grabbed my race kit and a gel, and signed the runner’s wall:
Then I headed home to make a truly awesome pre-race dinner: Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & ‘Cheeze.’ It was so mouth-watering that I’m making it again at Cooking Club this weekend with the girls.
Sufficiently carb’ed up and hydrated, I laid out all my race gear and hit the hay.
[Confession: I broke several of my cardinal pre-race rules by going out to Oktoberfest two nights before the race. Beer was consumed. Sleep was minimal. But I did manage to carb-load by feasting on homemade pretzels, cookies and schnitzel on a bun.]
Cut to… me oversleeping on race morning. By 40 minutes! This is why I meticulously lay out each and every item I will need to put on, pack or consume the next morning. This time around, my obsessive-compulsive tendencies came in handy. I scarfed down my usual pre-race breakfast of oats in almond milk. Then I called a cab – I was running too far behind to chance it with the Yonge bus.
After meeting up, checking our bags and making a last-minute pit stop at Lynne’s office (conveniently across the street from the start line), we headed to our corral and got our game faces on.
The race was even bigger than last year. It took us 9 minutes to reach the start line!
The crowds at the beginning were amazing. I always get a bit emotionally overwhelmed by all the supporters cheering from the sidelines. This race has the best spectators I’ve ever seen. So many awesome high-fives and signs along the way. I tried to snap a shot of one but Vinda got in my way…
That dude’s sign says “U R All (Still) Nuts.” He added the ‘Still’ after we passed him on the way out (this was taken at 17k of the out-and-back route. By that point, I agreed with him).
Another thing that got me weepy was seeing this visually impaired runner with his guides:
How amazing is that? To run a marathon without relying on your sight. I thought of this guy later in the race when I was fading, and it helped me push through. What an inspiration.
I got into a good groove early in the race. By 6k, the crowd of runners had dispersed a bit and I was in the zone. At one point, I even noticed a $20 bill on the road in front of me – and I didn’t stop to pick it up. Now THAT is what you call being “committed to the cause.”
I took my walk breaks at each water station since I decided to run without my fuel belt. Water for the first few, then started taking Gatorade around the 9k mark. Lime… it did not agree with me.
At 12k I took a gel, which seemed to rev up my energy levels for the next 4 or 5k. But then, I started to get really tired. I was pushing myself, and I knew my body wanted me to back off… but it was a race. I just couldn’t. I cursed myself for my Oktoberfest antics and tried to get back into a good headspace.
I was so happy to see this:
Finally, the end was near. I wished a few nearby marathoners good luck and settled in for the last leg. I kept telling myself, “just 12 more minutes… just 10 more minutes…” but what really carried me through was playing that damn “Woohoo” song by Christina Aguilera & Nicki Minaj on repeat. Like it or not, that tune is pace-friendly.
Suddenly, I was heading north on Bay St. for the last 500m stretch of the race. It was all uphill and straight into a wind tunnel. Thankfully, though, it was very temporary. I crossed the finish line with the clock reading 2:14:59. Later, I discovered my official chip time was 2:05:38… not quite a PR, but almost 6 minutes faster than my time at STWM last year. Win!
But alas, not even the post-race endorphins could save me from what I was about to endure…
The Dreaded Baggage Claim Line of 2011. Seriously, this will go down in history as one of the most epic race fails of all time. I was in this line from 11:15 a.m. until 1:25 p.m. For those keeping track, that means I stood in this line for five minutes LONGER than it took me to run the half-marathon. Unacceptable.
The worst thing a runner can do after finishing a race is stand in one spot in the cold with a bunch of other sweaty, chilled runners. I was freezing, my legs seized up, and I’m pretty sure some dude coughed on my bagel. I also got to spend 2 hours trying not to slip on banana peels and apple cores… all kinds of nasty.
The front of the line was madness. Runners sifting through heaps of bags trying to find their own…
I know the race organizers have received a lot of complaints about the situation already. They have (quite rightly) issued an apology on the race website as well as in an e-mail that was sent to all finishers. I sincerely hope they take measures to improve the baggage claim process next year. I, for one, will not be taking that risk.
Eventually, I met up with Lynne and Manny and we headed out for brunch at the Duke of Richmond:
At long last, it was time for eggs!
Turns out, a hot meal, a nice full-bodied red, and laughs with good friends will cure the most horrid of moods. I could finally bask in my race day glory.