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!
This race happened exactly 4-5 weeks after my last race which was the Sporting Life 10K back in May. It was a nice kickoff for the summer season as the temperature was mild in the early morning hours before really becoming a scorcher later on mid-day.
I managed to mix up between some leisure road runs and some trail runs leading up to this race. I once again had the goal of hitting sub 40 minutes, especially since I managed to pull off a 37 minute ish run from the Sporting Life (with the sharp downhill advantage). Looking back at my training log, I took 3 days off leading to the race so I most definitely went into this race with some seriously fresh legs.
This race is heavily reminiscent of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon route which happens in October. The start line was westward from the Nathan Phillips Square but instead of heading northbound, the route heads southward and turning into Bremner Blvd (where Rogers Centre or Skydome is) before gradually transitioning off to Lakeshore Blvd. Special note to be cautious of the limited amount of space available to maneuver especially when going though the Front Street and into the overpass. Your speed may be affected by the mass amount of runners trying to squeeze through one another and could get chaotic real quick.
You continue to cruise down the Lakeshore Blvd and turn around near the Budapest Park and head over the opposite direction of the Lakeshore to head down to the finish line. Depending on the running pace and time of the day, the heat really began to pick up and boy was I ever glad to run by those mist spray stations! This 2018 edition was considered to be forgivable especially since after hearing of the major heat that people had to endure the year prior. As much as I absolutely loved the black Lululemon Metal Vent Tee shirt, the black colour quite literally captured all of the heat and may not necessarily be a good fit. But I'm a monochrome person so I didn't really mind, plus I wore my sponsored singlet so it was all good!
FINISH LINE & AMENITIES
I recall a row of vendors such as photo booths, Saje holistic sprays, pretzels, and baggage pickup following right after picking up the finisher's medal. And then once you make that left turn into the bandshell theatre area, there's even more vendors and a stage where they hosts yoga sessions throughout the hour. It was simply lively there and people genuinely excited to finish. All this before 1pm into the day. And that's a warm fuzzy feeling with the runner's high gravitating you for the remainder of the day!
Would definitely look forward to run this race again!
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.
What's Been Happening...
Spring is finally here and it's also pretty much transitioning into spring running season! Looks like I already broke my resolution of posting more often and then doing the exact opposite couple weeks thereafter ?- I guess I'll make it easier on myself by doing monthly editions, perhaps that will keep things more interesting
I have been keeping average weekly mileage ranging from 75 to 85 km for the past few weeks. This also includes visits to the gym and the dreadmill in which I make sure I don't take any shortcuts by maxing out the incline on the treadmill and steady pace. Majority of the runs stuck to my marathon training regime for May, while other runs are squeezed in strictly as a post-daytime work diversion and clearing my mind (and it helps!) And shoes! Out goes the old ones that accumulated over thousands of kilometres and in comes two pairs of Saucony as my primary workhorses. TBH, the more mileage racked up, the better the excuse it is to buy more pairs of runners as a reward to myself ?
Throughout the past weeks of missing in action, I ran the Chilly Half-Marathon in Burlington and also the signature Around The Bay 30K in Hamilton as training benchmarks towards the main goal of the full marathon in Pittsburgh this upcoming May. For weekly long runs, I managed to set a minimum of at least 25km and keep pushing the mileage boundaries without provoking any preventable injuries. The biggest highlight of them all is my recent 50km run with my brother from my house all the downtown Toronto! I am extremely proud in the sense that I checked off one of my bucket list items and actually turned that mythical points of destination into reality.
First race of the year! This race is the first since the last one in Hamilton for the full marathon. It was a great opportunity to shake off the rust and the race day jitters altogether. Call me superstitious but I am a big believer of starting things (or in this case, the running season) on the right foot (and pun intended!). By getting my pre-race routines and game day rituals right, it helps me significantly to replicate the same best practices for the year ahead. In this case, this Chilly Half helped set the tone for the Around the Bay couple weeks later.
This was my first time competing in this race. Race day pickup was at Mercedes-Benz Burlington. As a car guy and related to my daytime work, I had an enjoyable time being fascinated by nice cars all around not to mention the very long sleeve race shirt for this year. It was a nice touch to have it in black with silver caption accents, so nice that Canadian Running had an article for that very subject.
The course itself was flat and very reminiscent of the Barrie Half Marathon route that I did last June. The start line was somewhere within the middle and you first run towards Hamilton before looping up the lakeshore area northeastward towards Oakville. The only obstacle for this race was mainly the weather as it can significantly vary from year to year. This year was sunny but quite windy so my pace was adjusted to tailor to the conditions. To my delight, I managed to obtain a new half-marathon PB by 2 minutes over the past record in Barrie.
Would I do this race again? Certainly will and I did! The 2019 edition of Chilly Half will be Sunday, March 4, 2018. And it just can't get any better with free beer and chilli after race to complement that PB.
Around The Bay
...I enjoyed the Valley Inn Road so much I came back this year to conquer it again ?- NOT! I am so glad my winter running training plan effectively bailed me out amidst my busy work schedule week. My mind was not ready but my physical training offset the indifferences and it all turned out great. I rode the confidence booster from Chilly Half into this race as well as the lessons learned from last year and the year before in 2016. This year, I decided to tackle the first (fast) corral but tucked myself way at the back of the line. Why? Ample of space within my surroundings. Also, this gives me enough time to slot myself in a comfortable but fast enough of a pace to set the tone for the entire duration of the race. By the 2nd kilometre, I felt that pace I had was sustainable enough to keep me going and so my next priority was finding somebody with the same pace to run behind so I don't feel the full brunt of the headwind crashing towards you. The Burlington skyway segment brought me back memories from my Hamilton marathon so that was a nice distraction during the run. Another thing I did differently was sticking with my gel pack intake during my run and being discipline about it. Just that alone gave me sufficient time absorbing the calories and converse it into my run when I need the energy most. Compared to last year, I had not feel especially tired or suffer tremendously compared to last year and especially during the infamous hill, I felt that I still had lots left in the tank to tackle the hill. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself being featured on Canadian Running's coverage of this year's ATB, check out the YouTube clip below!
When everything's all said and done, I managed to carve out an 11 minute PB over last year's result which further sentiments incremental improvements towards the grand prize: full marathon PB and eventually be competitive enough to chase for the unicorn.
Pittsburgh Marathon is only a few weeks away and I have one more short distance race (Race Roster Spring Run Off) and a few more long runs before tapering. I have been seeking areas with major hills to combat such obstacles if it very well indeed shows up. I'm feeling mentally confident but it doesn't mean jack if I don't continue trusting and following the process set in place for myself with my training. You know what they say: "actions speak louder than words" To be continued next month with updates to my progress then! Cheers - M.W.