2 Marathons in 3 weeks?
My initial goal was to collect all the Marathon medals around Ontario, without a hesitation I registered the Scotia Waterfront Marathon in the beginning of the year. So what about Toronto Marathon? I already did it last year, why again this year? At first I was planning do the Niagara Falls Marathon, but the price was the same and their medal isn't as nice as the Toronto Marathon medal. I also received an email from Toronto Marathon that this year will be a 4-inch huge medal and early bird registration gets this book - 26.2: Marathon Stories. Regardless Toronto Marathon is only 3 weeks after Scotia Marathon, I couldn't resist the temptation of earning that medal and the free book so I registered it.
The forecast has shown it was going to be chilly on Sunday morning, even more cold than last year. Last year I wore a tech fabric long sleeves jacket and a tech t-shirt underneath, it turned out that after 1k I didn't need the jacket at all, I had it tied on my waist for the rest of the race. To avoid that happening this year, I was planning to do what jonovision_man did last year - tshirt + cycling arm warmer. Due to insufficient time to get a arm warmer that I wanted, finally I've deiced I would rather dress not enough than too much, so if I am really cold I would just need to run faster! :-) I wore a singlet + the Toronto Marathon 2009 shirt this year + wrapped myself with a garbage bag. At first I felt the small shirt is kind of small this year, during the race when I saw other people's shirt, it seems they gave me the women's version of small tshirt...
2 nights before Marathon - I was on a train with my daughter. We saw another train next to ours passing by, I can see clearly inside of the other train from our window. There were dead bodies everywhere in the other train, chopped body parts and blood all over the place. I had to cover my daughter's eyes so she wouldn't see such a disturbing scene. It turns out this massacre were committed by a psycho couple, then they killed themselves after killing everybody on that train, the name of the train wasn't TTC or TGV, it was KISS... that was one of the most crazy disturbing nightmare I have ever had.
1 night before Marathon - My son seems having slight fever and teething, he had a bad night... so did we... waking up every 15 - 20 minutes, seriously he probably got up 20 times that night! Out of all the days, he had to pick this night before my Marathon, I am not sure what to say, just suck it up and beat the Marathon!
Wife dropped me off at North York around 8:30am, I jogged to the start line with a garbage bag, feels a little weird but I wasn't the only one with garbage bag. I placed myself right next to the "sub 4:00" sign. As more people came and I also saw the pace bunnies came in on the left side, I tried to move back a little aligning myself with the 3:50 and further away from the 3:45 bunny. As the race started, I threw off the garbage bag, and didn't feel cold at all. I was glad that I have picked a short sleeves shirt than a long sleeves. The start was fast, this year I have a Garmin 305, I could control my pace much better. Seeing lots and lots people flew by me in the first 2 kilometers, I am sure a lot of them cannot keep that pace for the entire 42.2, probably not even the first half, I just had to monitor my Garmin and stop the temptation to go out fast with them, which I was disciplined enough this time compare to the mistake in Scotia.
1st incident: damn shoe laces
The first couple kilometers didn't feel that great, I didn't double check the shoe laces before the race started. The shoe laces on my right shoe seems too loose and it was bothering me, I felt I was spending extra energy as it felt a bit loose and my shines felt tired. I started to debate with myself whether I should stop and re-tie my shoe laces after passing 401. Finally after finished the downhill of the ramp to Yorkmills, I told myself do not panic, just take my time to stop on the sidewalk and tie that shoes before attacking Hoggs Hollow. That was the right decision. As my shoes felt right, and people started to slow down on the hill, I was building up confidence and running better. Rather than keeping the same pace every kilometer, I kept the same heart rate that that seems worked well with the up and down hills (although mostly down) on the first half.
The familiar bunny
Somewhere between 15k - 18k, I was running next to the 3:50 group. It appears this 3:50 pace group is doing 10:1. I look at the pacer, wow! he was Jose from Scotia Marathon, the pacer I chased (due got into bad starting corral myself) and followed till close to 30k when my legs cramped. I went up and greeted Jose, he remembered me. I told him my disaster in Scotia, he asked how I felt today. I felt just fine at that point, but I said you never know what's going to happen after 30k... Since I wasn't going to do 10:1, we split after a short chat, he said good luck to me and we going to each other from time to time, which I would hope so. So Jose was pacing 2 marathons in 3 weeks! but I guess this pace is an easy run for him. From that point I would get ahead then the 3:50 group would get close to me and then started walking, that has indicated my pace was on target for 3:50 and very consistent. This continues until I had to go to the washroom...
2nd incident: washroom break
Staring from 10k or so, I kind of wanted to go to washroom... not sure if I hydrated too much or what. However, silly me doesn't want to lose any precious seconds, I kept on holding it but it looks like it would be uncomfortable to run like this for the 2nd half. Finally I've decided to look for a portapodi that doesn't need to line-up before the half way point, it's less stressful to have a slower first half and pick up the pace later. So I took a washroom break at the last aid station before the 21.1k point. After that, I never saw the 3:50 group again, I know they must be ahead of me. But after the washroom break, it felt much better than carry extra liquid on me :-)
After half way on Lakeshore
First half clocked 1:55:25 - 5:28m/k pace. I was feeling great, when we get into the Martin Goodman trail, the weather was just great. Unlike in Scotia Marathon running on Lakeshore, we get to run right next to the lake. I was enjoying the nice view between 21k- 30k. I didn't want to get aggressive before 30k, I just wanted to avoid that stupid calves cramping problem as much as possible. At 27k, 28k, 29k, no sharp pain in my legs, I told myself it's a good sign, now wait till 30k and see what happens. Close to Lakeshore turnaround point, I saw Jose and the 3:50 on the other side, seems they were quite ahead of me... maybe 1k? but I felt my pace shouldn't be too far off. 30k clocked 2:43:45 - still a consistent pace perhaps a little faster than the 1st half, but still some distance behind the 3:50 group.
The fake wall
Shortly after 30k, was it after 30k? I cannot exactly remember, there is this inflatable balloon gate that we had to run through. This is the 2nd year I passed this thing and had no idea what is it for... we just passed the 30k mark so this couldn't be a split point. It was until I read yumke's race report then I realized that was the "wall" - a fake one. Out of 3 marathons, I've yet encounter to hit the wall, it hasn't clicked with my mind that this is the point where the wall begins. At this point I still felt fresh, no signs up cramping - good! now it's time to pick up the pace a little. I started to pick people one by one and passed them.
3rd incident - dropped e-disc:
After 30k one of my goal was to pass others, and avoid people passing me as much as possible. Every time I heard foot steps getting close I would pick up my pace till I drop them within slight range increase of my heart rate, with exception of some really fast ones and I made sure they were relay runners. In this race I was trying something new besides the gel, something called e-disc. The reason was to keep enough sodium and electrolytes in my body to avoid the mysterious cramping issue. e-disc are dissolve-able tablets, I wasn't sure how I was going carry them so I put them in a small plastic zipbag and have them in my fitness belt with my gels. At 30ish km, as I was taking out the zip bag from my belt while running, the entire thing dropped! Lucky the runners behind me didn't step on it, I had to run back and pick it up... and a few runners passed me! that caused a little panic until I passed them.
The feeling of passing people, actually packs and packer of runners felt really great. As we headed back to Queen's Quay. This place reminded me running with my ex-colleague R.P. back in 2007 summer, when I was introduced to running and wasn't running regularly. He took me out for a 8k run. Not only that I couldn't keep up but I made him to take so many walk breaks with me. R.P. was the guy who introduced gel to me and brought me into our corp relay team in Mississauga, someone I always appreciated that introduced me into this amazing sport of running. There was a lady running in pink shirt who passed me around 35k, she seems to be running in some insane negative split and not stopping at water stations, I wasn't sure if she was carrying her own drinks or she simply didn't need to be hydrated as she was getting further away from my sight.
To the finish
Soon we started turning north on York Street heading to Queen's Park. My legs were tired since 38k mark, but heart was still pumping comfortable. I decided to motor up for the last 3k. At this point, I started to see the pink lady getting closer and some other familiar faces passed me earlier in the 1st half, I was all pumped up. Although it was gentle uphill incline, I started to get faster and faster, passing more people included that pink lady!
When I passed the 40k mark I realized I had sub-4 in my bag, even if I power walk I could have had a sub-4 finish, I got little emotional... My eyes got a little watery but I realized my contact lenses might slipped off so I didn't let the tears out :-) It sounds a little silly, my time was far off from Boston Qualifying time and my sub-4 is qualifying for nothing, only for myself I guess. Myself as an naive runner who didn't know what running shoes were, who has issues managing his time being a good farther with two little kids, from not training and entering races, from not following training plans and "run when I have time" approach to enter marathons, training by running up north along Yonge street with a backpack weekly and running for 3:30 hours during a snow storm night... this is where I am, I was really proud of myself!
As we enter University Ave. going around the circle on Queen's Park, Jose with his 3:50 bunny ears were in my sight! One guy I passed said to me "go buddy! the 3:50 bunny is right there, go get him!", whoever you were, thank you for your encouragement, I did what you told me to. I couldn't believe I caught up to Jose a few hundred meters before the finish line, I waved to Jose and shout out "Thank you Jose!", Jose responded back "go for it! enjoy your medal!". I tried to sprint but the last 800m or so my legs muscle were stiff and I started to have little cramps, I couldn't do a all-out sprint. My faces were all in agony and this was when I saw my sister taking photos of me, I had mixed of emotions, I waved to her but couldn't have a better facial expression for the shots. After I crossed the finish line, I waited a few seconds for Jose and thanked him again. 3:49:08 - what a finish, average 5:26 m/k pace, I had a blast.
Last 2.5k splits on my Garmin were: 5:01, 5:08, 4:49.
3 weeks, 2 marathons, 10 minutes improvement, negative split finish on a harder 2nd half course, what better can I ask for?
I was living in my dream that nobody passed me until a week later I saw the stats provided by runpix.com
No idea who were the 3 runners passed me... but I really liked these interesting stats provided by the Toronto Marathon, which we don't get in any other races: