Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-Marathon
I took this particular week on the easier, relaxing side with the Niagara Falls International Marathon still fresh on my mind. Meanwhile, there was lots going on leading up to the local Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon happening exactly one week after the Niagara Falls. I signed up for this race months ago, speculating that I should have more than enough rest days to recuperate.
There was also another event called the Ghost Race happening in Toronto as hosted by Lululemon from October 13 - 22. Essentially, it was a live run that starts from a certain marked location and keep following through the hints within their set course. Once the course is completed, the raw GPS data must be uploaded onto the Strava app for validation. In the Toronto region, the run was located at the Martin Goodman Trail. I ran through this route with my buddy that was making a short homestay visit while we were picking our packet pickup at the Exhibition Grounds located in the Enercare Centre. I noticed that this event was mostly hosted in major cities. Although this is fine, it would be much preferred if they also have events like these in the uptown area.
A couple of days after the Ghost Run, it was finally the main feature - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. For me, this was effectively a mini redemption run - to expel some frustrations from the week before and also rectifying the smaller actions that attributed to last week's fuck up.
This year, I started all the way at the end of the first (red) corral. I was banking that this would give me ample of space to maneuver around various runners and set a constant, sustainable pace for the remainder of the run. The notion of "don't start bursting out of the floodgates too fast" was by and large from the very start of the race - especially since I committed such a rookie mistake still fresh from one week prior. I was very cautious of my pace for the first five kilometres of the race until the slight downhill segment (similar to the end line of the Sporting Life 10K area at the bridge and then the down slope) and then I started to increase my pace comfortably from the 5th kilometre to the 13th km where you do the turnaround at the Lakeshore Boulevard. I also conserved enough energy to make a huge boost by delaying my energy gel intake so that way the calories kick in right when you start running uphill at the 14 - 17th km slot. At the end of it all, I managed to register in a final chip time of 1:32:46 which almost eclipsed the all-time PB time I got back in June 2017 from the Barrie Half Marathon. Not bad considering this was a secondary cool down from the full-marathon from the week before. More importantly, it acts as a huge confidence booster with another few weeks until a second redemption opportunity knocks in the form of the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon.
As my university's universal motto goes, "keep pushing on!" (or Surgite!) - MW
Niagara Falls InternatioNal Marathon
The struggle was real... That was my takeaway from this very marathon that I trained all year long for. It was a humbling experience, as do for every other races out there, but one that will surely be made memorable!
The race itself was a spectacle, only one of very few marathons that starts from one country and ends in another. In this case, the start of the race began in Buffalo, USA and ends in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
I felt extremely confident going into the race, having competed in a few other shorter distance races such as the MEC Trail Run FOUR and the Oasis Zoo Run 10K weeks prior. With the speed that I pounded out, I should more or less be able to replicate similar results for this race... right?
Two weeks prior to race day, I winded down on the mileage as per a full scale tapering should. I did run that once or twice to get the legs moving and not forgetting how to run. Drove down to Niagara Falls the day before and headed straight down to the expo at the convention centre for packet pickup. The first portion of the lineup (specifically for the marathon) is the Canadian border pre-screening. It required passport verification for border admission upon entry coming down from Buffalo during the race. The next sets of lineups were for bib pickup and long-sleeve shirt pickup. The amount of vendors available at the expo that day seemed to be limited. Aside from the main sponsors selling their merchandise and a few race booths, that was pretty much it. The remainder of the day was spent on hunting down a decent Italian restaurant with lots of pasta for carb loading for the next day. Frankly, mission failed as I settled for hotel provided coupons for some place located inside the Fallsview Casino (aka bad decision #1). The spaghetti and meatballs dinner portion was awfully small and expensive and left still hungry. I recall that's when the nearby Boston Pizza by Clifton Hills came to the rescue.
Jump forward to the next day for race day. Woke up around 4:30 to 5 am. Had my morning ritual food routines of banana and yogurt. Double check the items to bring for bag check. Note, the weather forecasted for race day was increasingly deemed as crappy with a muggy, then a strong wind storm awaiting for the second half of the day. As a result, I packed more than I have to - with change of socks, dry hoodie, and flip flops just in case I get drenched and get sick because of it. Left the hotel at around 5:30 and camped by the shuttle bus area for the first shuttle that departed at around 6. The shuttle drove down from Niagara Falls to Buffalo via the QEW (Queen Elizabeth's Way) highway towards Fort Erie. From there, we entered the border and once again a screening of passports was conducted for everyone on board in the bus.
Once everything's all said and done, the very first rounds of business was heading straight for the fresh porta-potties. Marathoner's tip: use it to your advantage before the lineups start to pile up! Also, it is usually not a bad idea to grab some water or electrolytes to drink and then start lining up for the porta-potties again. You are always going to feel much better at the start line knowing that nature's call is the last of your worries. The start time was at 10 am so I had plenty of time to spare. I managed to get a short run to shake off some jitters at a nearby park and also adventure inside of the Albright Knox Art Gallery. It was a nice, short diversion but not enough to keeping my mind off from gun-time. It was also becoming increasingly evident that the weather would not be cooperating with the dark ominous clouds with drafty winds started to roll in. A final call was made to the start line, downed my gel pack (my one and only pack... knowing that there will be gel packs/chews available... but ended being mistake #2)
Went and did a quick stretch and on to the start line. The national anthems commenced and then the sound of the gun... GO TIME! The adrenaline must have kicked in... because my first 8 kilometres were speedy, effortless, and euphoric. My end stats confirmed it, averaging around Boston pace... and for that reason it became being mistake #3 - going too fast too quick. I can only take respite knowing that I countered the full brunt of walls of head winds when crossing the border and the mileage shortly thereafter. I continued trekking along until getting to the first water station where they provided energy gel chews. And guess what? I managed to swing my arm out only to drop it all on the floor while running ???. My biggest mistake of them all was NOT turning back and retrieve it again, partly because of the adrenaline and also because of some pride in me of "there's no turning back and just tough it out until the next one".
By now, I would assume that you must have heard of the term "hitting the wall" during the marathons. My first ever encounter just so happened with this very race. I can now say that I actually experienced it and it fucking sucked. It is mental deterioration. It is when the mind says go and the body says no. And when that happens, the mental state of mind also falls in-line with the bodily physical shut down. That's when I started to mentally negotiate with myself as to what completion time is now deemed as acceptable or whether this very race would be the one that you DNF (did not finish) and forever be shamed because you personally decided to quit (based on mental strains and not injury related). Those final remaining segments along the Niagara parkway was made significantly worse when the playlist that I was jamming into was in the sappy, moody section. I recall having to rotate between power speed walking and forceful running during that stretch until the final two kilometres when I started to realize familiar roads at the Niagara parkway.
That was when I once again re-ignited the inner adrenaline out and plough through the remaining distance. As you can tell from my completion pictures, I was mightily struggling and grimacing my way through. I was simply too miserable to reflect on the time and my surroundings except for guzzling nothing but chocolate milk afterwards. I soon realized that after all that mental grief and suffering, I did indeed bested my last marathon PB by a marginal minute ?
It most certainly didn't feel like I triumphed in this race and definitely drove back home with lots of questions, doubts, and what-ifs. Even though the PB was attained, this was not the kind of effort I was expecting if I even want to come close to running at my full capacity. Luckily, I had the opportunity fight my inner demons again and right my wrongs in the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon. One thing's for sure. I won't be forgetting about this particular race anytime soon and definitely lots of lessons learned from this race!
Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon
The weather for race day was certainly not the most ideal with intermittent rainfall and cold winds. However, I was able to manage my overall pace from start to finish as well as even distributing my energy gel pack intake.
Takeaways from this race: maintain a comfortable yet manageable pace / energy gels or chews are your best friend (the more the better... without upsetting your stomach that is) / study the route map and elevation (if you run with music, see how long your playlist is and sequence it in a sense where the most pumped up beats occur when you need it the most)
I especially find this YouTube video embedded from the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon website quite useful as I could envision the time and pace of where I want to be at, at a certain given time during the race.
I look forward to tackle this course again in the near future and use this as my benchmark for potential BQ times.
I'm still smiling ear to ear knowing that a carved out a 19 minute advantage over my last best marathon!
(More Like 2017 In Review)
My marquee races within the last three months was strictly the Niagara Falls Marathon and the Hamilton Marathon. The remainder of the races listed acted as my incremental stepping stone races to measure whether I was close to my maximum running potential or falling short of my self-set benchmarks. Challenges doing so included risks of getting injured, overdoing the runs in between races and timing, and lack of preparation. Now that I looked back into tackling the races from the past few months, I can definitely say with confidence that I am running more efficiently and hungrier for improvements more than ever. As I observed from one of the posts using #runnerscommunity hashtag, I recall the statement of "ALWAYS EARNED, NEVER GIVEN" and this simply speaks volume as to the drive to achieving goals albeit running or pursuing any personal or career related goals altogether. "HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IT?" was a recurring theme that was inside my head in between my Niagara Falls marathon to the Hamilton marathon weeks apart. (to be expanded upon in their individual posts)
What's In Store for 2018?