Clinging on. For dear life.
That was the theme for this short but intensive race. Quite honestly, it would have made more sense had I participated in the Canadian 5K Road Race Championship which was held half an hour before this particular B&O Yorkville Run. However...
I had no prior 5K running experience.
This is ironic but true. Over the five years of running, never had I once officially raced in any 5K runs. Ever. I mean over the course of my marathon training, 5K is absolutely achievable but just simply overlooked. That all changed when I made my debut on the crisp early September Sunday morning. My mentally going into this race was pretty much "all hands on deck" and taking the suggestion from my brother to simply "run for your life" ?
Preparation wise, I took this opportunity as a serious track workout style kind of run, except - well, as fast as I've ever been on a risk-it-all ordeal. Days leading up to this race day, I still did my due diligence to taper, carb up, and get my mind in-tune for this race.
Prior to start, I warmed up at the outdoor 300 metre track where all the vendors are positioned in the inner field. That was when the Canadian 5K Road Race commenced, giving the remainder of the participants a good 20 to 30 minutes of preparation time. I gradually made my way to the start line, which was nearby the Four Seasons. Knowing that I might get myself into a total log jam of people, I deliberately tucked myself at the edge of the front of the line.
My plan for the route? Just gun it and bolt down.
And that was exactly what I did when the horns were sounded off. I was bursting out of the floodgates for the first three kilometres heading southbound on Bay Street. Going downhill at 3:05/km pace for the 1st k, 3:11/km and 3:13/km right after, I think I'm going to wreck this!
Made a right turn to Dundas St West and then turned right to Parliament St heading northbound. But there's a catch - uphill ????
The remainder mileage was short but unforgiving. I knew I was giving my heart a hard time, especially with the 190s range HR. It was really obvious too as I was pretty much closing my eyes and grimacing my way through to the finish line. I started off at the first member of the pack too. Now I finally experienced what it's like to be the forerunner of a race and gradually having the lead slip away. Definitely going to remember this example and remind myself of "this is what complacency feels like if you don't do enough ground work for anything in life". Harsh but got to swallow the bitter truth pill sometimes.
FINISH LINE & SWAGS:
End up finishing with an official chip time of 18:26 minutes. I actually surprised myself quite a bit, thinking that I would really get a marginal sub 20 minutes time. The possibilities of improving my time can only get better from here on if I stay committed to doing speed work, whether on the tracks or designated tempo / race pace time within a scheduled outdoor run. With a premium admission fee (which actually goes towards local charitable causes), the swags and medals were just as fancy. The B&O H5 wireless headphones excited me the most especially since I got a thing for premium audio experiences and Bang & Olufsen is definitely one of them - so much so that I rather sacrifice my other headphones for profuse sweat abuse and leave these ones as an in-home inner space serenity. The medal is just as notable. Mainly because it's engraved with the word "CHAMPION". Well not really for me, but rather it stands out as a power bank for your electronics which I have never seen before.
I think for next year, I will forego with the Championship 5K now that I have attained their qualifying time of 19:00 minutes or faster.
Looks like I'm also featured on the Bloor-Yorkville BIA newsletter recap too! Fun times - M.W.
The Shakespeare run finally returned in 2018 after years long hiatus from what used to be called "A Midsummer Night's Run". This time around, this run is hosted by the Toronto Beaches Runners Club and renamed this run as "Shakespeare Runs The Night". This race offers a choice of 15K or 30K. I opted for the 30K as a dress rehearsal run for my main fall races.
The route of this run is essentially a loop around from the Ashbridge's Bay Park to the Tommy Thompson Park for the 15K whereas the 30K is two loops of that. I recall that it was quite a hot, humid night only to be made even more humid as it rained for majority of the day until the rain subsided midway through my run. This was also my very first evening running race as most running races commence in the morning hours between 7:30 am to 10:00 am range. It was especially neat as I sported on my USB rechargeable LED headlamps, the Nathan Halo Fire (review of the headlamps here). Organizational logistics was exceptional, with plentiful of sponsors as well as volunteers to coordinate with the route guidance and photographers for the action shots.
The start time for the race was set for 6:00 pm for the 30K with a hard cut-off time of 9:45 pm completion time. As I recall, it was already pitch dark by 8:30 pm that day as I was cleansing myself from the sweat and muck accumulated from the run.
RACE DAY NOTES
Majority of the daytime rainstorm dwindled down just as the race started. It did however rain again briefly as I was entering the Tommy Thompson Park in the first loop. Soon after it stoped, I got humid... quick! There was a brief glimpse of a double rainbow across Lake Ontario as it got rather steamy, with water vapours rising up from the lake and the ground. Also in the Tommy Thompson Park segment, be mindful of narrow passage way when crossing the bridge.
A key signature to this race was also the mass amount of participants dressing up as their favourite Shakespeare characters! Although I did not partake with the butterfly wings setup or the tutu dresses, I still thoroughly enjoyed observing other people's sheer creativity in making this a fun and engaging experience!
I will definitely consider signing up for this type of race again as a fall race prep again! Thank you to the organizers for such a well run event!
Race Season Begins!
It's quite literally been a fast and furious few weeks into the spring season with all the spring races happening. It has also been transition time for me to adjust the running training schedule earlier so I can avoid training in the summer heat. Fast and furious, mainly because of the key races such as setting a new benchmark for the marathon time in Pittsburgh and also a new PR for 10K for the (plentiful of downhills) Sporting Life 10K. I'm proud to say that I'm still basking on that extended runner's high even it's been a few weeks time. But like all things, can't dwell on past achievements and have to plan actionable training plans to keep pushing the PR envelope even further!
May 6: Pittsburgh Marathon
This full marathon at Pittsburgh is my first out of country run outside of Ontario. I was equally as excited as I was with the travelling and the unknown jitters. However, I felt pretty confident going in with the winter training finally coming to fruition with a few side race PRs from Burlington and Hamilton sedimenting that state of mind.
During taper week, I actually did not really minimize my weekly mileage but rather running at a significantly reduced pace - at least just so I mentally don't feel that I forgot how to run lol. I was increasingly carbing up at the second half of the week to reduce the over bingeing the very last minute. In terms of travelling, left Toronto at around 6:30 pm and headed straight for Pittsburgh with the intention of going straight to their convention centre for baggage and bib pickup. That was a relatively manageable 7 hour drive with a pitstop by Grove City as I made it down by around 1:30 pm... quite honestly not too bad in my opinion. That very day, I had a late lunch (not by choice) followed by yet another carb rich dinner a couple hours later so that there are enough time for digestion and be deep sleeping by 10 pm before race day. By the time I'm back to the hotel, I had roughly an hour to pack the next day's baggage prep and bib belt essentials.
Pre-Race Rituals: Hotel Kuerig coffee pod, banana, Starbucks muffin that I got one the night before / anti-chaffing balm applications / Google Mapping the designated parking area again before leaving
I find it nerve-wrecking especially if you have to blindly drive off to a set designated parking that's not your home turf with the addition of public roads gradually being closed off bit by bit as time winds down. Once the parking was done and over with, the first line of business was to do baggage check and then finding my set start line corral. Also in the meantime, it was just as important looking for nearby porta-potty and do my constant cycle from using the stall to lining up again to keep the bowels and the bladders at bay.
0 - 10 Miles
New: I started at the first corral for this marathon. Unlike previous runs, I made a deliberate choice to space out at the very far end so I can manoeuvre around passerby without all too much additional effort. It was also quite new to me to get accustomed to mile markers as I'm so used to seeing kilometres over miles. Throughout the very first kilometre (based from my GPS watch), it was busy hunting for that sweet spot pace where it can dictate the overall tone of the entire duration of the run. Once the pace was attained, I started to push that benchmark pace a bit more and test if it is sustainable enough without any extra discomfort early into the run. The elevation for this part was manageable but the humidity that very day made things uncomfortable (although I can't complain about the overcast skies prior to the rain showers...) I recall that after the initial bit of bridge crossings, that's where that gummy worms pickup from some random stranger really came in handy and euphoric. Essentially those sugar bombs carried me through into the next sequence of the run.
10 - 20 Miles
Still chugging along until the upcoming bridge crossing and leading into miles 12 - 13. From there at around near half-marathon distance, a very un-welcoming 43 metres of elevation awaited to be grind through. Essentially, the surface of those roads are highway exit on ramps which gradually merges into a residential road. You know how I mentioned about those gummy worms? They REALLY came in handy as I chewed down on them some more to extract as much sugar as I can to push on through ?. However after that initial uphill, it was not completely done and over with where the next sequence was nothing but small rolling hills around various sub-divisions within Pittsburgh. Although speed made everything seem like a blur, I managed to observe my surroundings and be able to pickup on generic impressions of the city overall and the community that keeps the place operational. Select areas remind me of Hamilton, Ontario when I did the Around The Bay and also the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon.
20 Miles - Finish
This last segment was mostly downhills as the course makes a returning route back into the downtown core of Pittsburgh. I recall the overall pace then was at around roughly 4:10 min/km and the time advantage really had me thinking that qualifying for BQ was no longer just a pipe dream but rather something that I can actually attain with even more serious training from where I'm at now. At around mile 24, I literally tried picking up the pace and flirted with the idea of actually gunning for that elusive qualifying 3:05:00 finishing time. However by the time the mile was done and onto mile 25, it was mathematically no longer feasible. I was not discouraged... very content as a matter of fact. So I consciously slightly dialled back the pace so that I can still finish at a respectable time frame. To my absolute surprise, the final time was at 3:08:48 based on my watch. I can't get any more ecstatic than that!
Takeaways: YES - the qualifying times can be attainable, but the million dollar question is - "how badly do you want it and exactly what will you do to attain it?" In addition to those self-questioning statements, I need to hold myself accountable with an actual timeline to what I plan to do in order to measure progress and self-evaluations. After all, momma didn't raise no quitter!
May 13: Sporting Life 10K 2018
June 2018: Toronto Lululemon 10K
I have been running with my local Lululemon chapter in preparation for the upcoming 10K in June. You see, I love running in groups even more so than just running solo during my own training. I feel even more empowered when I know that I can help somebody make a positive difference, albeit a new PB, feeling good about themselves, moral boost, etc.
Returning to the trails! Now that the Endurance Challenge in Blue Mountains for July is no longer happening, I can finally turn my attention to do trail running at other locations within Southern Ontario and tap into my inner adventure bug. But, I have been even more wary of nature's hazards such as blazing sun damage and disease carrying insects such as ticks and mosquitoes. Aside from that, let's keep adventuring on!
Cheers and until next time - M.W.
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!
The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Edition
Longest. Race. Ever. (For now...) , at least mission accomplished - FIRST EVER ULTRAMARATHON NOW IN THE BOOKS!
But just like how life is about the journey and not the destination, the same can be said for the running train ups leading up to the big day
Respect the distance. Respect the elevation. Everything looks easy when looking at other people's Strava GPS log and observing their metrics until you have to conquer the dexterity yourself first hand. I was pleased with this year's performance for the most part but of course, there are much more things that can be done for next year's improvements.
Trail Running Versus Road Running
I personally tend to consider myself more of a road runner than a trail runner. For competition, I am more bias towards road whereas for trails, I tend to personally enjoy myself with the nature, scenery and surroundings.
Road running is more paved, predictable and highly accessible for runners living in the downtown core or suburban uptown residential areas. If speed-work is necessary, you don't have to go too far off to do so - perhaps a school track field or an indoor treadmill will do the trick.
Trail running is easier on the feet, with softer landing surfaces compared to the hard asphalt. It is the perfect escape from the hectic surroundings of the concrete jungle and the 9-5 office environment. However based on weather conditions, the running conditions can get very tactical. In this particular case with the race, the mud was more so in a clay like condition. Footwork and cadence that you're used to with road running will no longer be as effective with trails. Especially since you also have to be mindful of the surface conditions such as tree uproots, rocks, uneven grounds, bridge crossings - all while trying not to get hurt along the way.
Start time to the 50K was at 7:00 am. In order for me to be well-prepared, I woke up at 4:30 am, get changed, apply necessary anti-chaffing ointments / bug sprays, fill up hydration bag and grab a quick Timmies drive-thru run for my coffee. As mentioned previously, always stick to your own preferred race food procedures. For me, it is a whole banana and strawberry yogurt and a large double double for good measures. I left a whole hour around 6 am solely for the washroom routine so that there won't be any washroom related issues during the race.
Prior to the start of the race, I left another 45 minutes before gun time just to get moving / walking / jogging to kickstart a transitional heart rate raise without spiking it from a lack of warm up. Mental-wise, I feel much more prepared than the half-marathon one that I did exactly one year ago. I still recall getting caught up in the opening hype and over pushed myself the first 2 km into that race. I corrected that rookie mistake this time around and instead of being in the middle of the starting wave, I waited for the start three quarters into the start line.
I was instantly discouraged by the sights of the wet puddly mud pits in the first few steps right after the start line. "Oh fuck," I thought to myself, "this is going to be an extra shitshow of a run..." It was that moment where I decided to ease back on my already slow pace so that I can hopefully still have some reserve energy and willpower in me to finish in the final few miles. In my mind, I was solely focused on tackling the first 10 kilometres as they would be one of the most intensive obstacles throughout the run. This was based on other runner's Strava data for this very race and they proved to be beneficial going into this race. After the first 10K and a bit, those clay like mud pits were everywhere as I was going uphill. You simply had to slow down and in some cases, side step on the moss or grab a side tree branch to boost yourself upwards. Technical, challenging but fun I suppose. And then of course the uphills. Lots of them... unless you are an elite runner that has trained up to beat up your quads, it is best to just walk up those hills (or at least power stride your way up anyways) Second half was a bit more forgiving with the trail way for the most part. For me, I had a relatively steady running pace to get a momentum going for several kilometres before those mud pits make their return visit with a vengeance just when you're beginning to feel fatigued. I also recall having to do two river crossings, good for clearing out some mud but bad for getting your feet wet if it hasn't already been like that yet.
When everything was all said and done, the official completion time was registered at 7 hours 57 minutes and 6 seconds.
Three things that stood out during the race was (1) having ice filled into my hydration pack whenever I get the chance at the aid stations (2) dropping ice down into my running jersey as a physical "air conditioning" from overheating, and (3) the importance of bringing ibuprofen if in the case of headaches and temporary pain relief [as this was proved helpful to my brother who was also running along side with me]
The aid stations were plentiful throughout the race, resourceful with adequate liquid and solid fuel as well as medical team readily available for assistance. Another bonus was seeing fellow Team Running Free members providing support simply by being out there (whether volunteering or also racing in various races during the race weekend). Nonetheless, very humbled.
Will I do it again for future editions of this race? Certainly! The amount of future trainings will dictate whether I stay at the 50K distance or further challenge myself to the flagship 50 miles.
Race gear: Salomon SpeedCross 3, CEP compression socks, Ciele FSTcap, Team Running Free triathlon jersey, moist towelette (if necessary)
Playlist: note - for safety reasons, no music was brought so that I have the senses to be mindful of any obstacles and hazards around my surroundings, instead the soundtracks below were played driving up to the Blue Mountain Village and departing from.
Opening & Closing Soundtracks
Looks like weather will be heating up this week, so I will most likely resume recovery running Tuesday and onwards. If not, then back to some indoor recovery on the treadmill. As most websites suggest, we all need some down time for rest and bodily maintenance. So, I will be taking the remaining July and August slightly more on the easier side and not get too caught up with racking too much mileage. Next upcoming race won't happen until late September with the Oasis Zoo Run and hopefully smash the last record set in 2015!
CHEERS! - MW