Friday, April 25, 2014

Grudge match

I've had something rankling since May 1st, 2011. Something that bothers me every single time my brain tosses it up for examination.


The time it took me to run my one and only attempt at a road marathon.

Of course, I've done longer races. I actually ran my first Horror Hill 6-hour about 5 months before that marathon, completing 44.1km in total. I've run that 6-hour 3 times since, plus the Run for the Toad 50k last October.

Still, my mind comes back to that marathon. Almost nine minutes over the Oprah line. A 6:35 per kilometer pace, on the road. Even a namby-pamby talk show host was dusting me by 12 seconds every one of those 42.2 kilometers of pain. I was shooting for under 4:30:00, and I missed. Miserably.

I hate it. I hate it even more than I hated my Around the Bay PR of 3:04:23, up until I smashed that last month.

You see, my crappy* showing at the 2011 Waterloo Marathon was entirely my own fault. I had the whole winter to train, as I'd signed up in the fall (I think in the post-race delirium from Horror Hill), yet I spent what would have been a relatively pleasant season for running absolutely failing to do so. Ok, so the weather on race day sucked - 7c/45f with rain and strong winds that became a headwind in the last 10km - but lack of preparation and

Let's whip out the spreadsheets one more time:

Forgive me. I'm an accountant. It's what I do.

I was only running 3 days per week back in early 2011, and I'd skive off my long run about every second week in order to either race something silly (like Frosty Trail of the Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8 mile), or just to cross-country ski or snowshoe with Tanker. I probably averaged about 2.5 runs per week through January and February. I kept telling myself that I'd run for 6 hours/44+km on minimal preparation, not knowing how different ultrarunning on trails is from a road marathon. March saw me pouring on mileage for which I wasn't really prepared in a last-ditch effort to cobble together some semblance of readiness.

It didn't work. This time, however, things are a little different.

  • Per the spreadsheet, I've put in an additional 221.6km of training so far - by the time I'm done my little shake-out run tomorrow morning, I'll be as close as makes no odds to having 800km of hay in the barn for this race. That's basically more than an extra month's worth of prep vs 2011.
  • I've been running 6 days per week for a few years now, and despite the absolutely horrible winter we experienced this year, I've not allowed it to get in the way of Doing The Work.  I think there have only been about 4 times in the last 4 months that I haven't got my 6 weekly runs in, and those were due to (minor) injury or illness.  
  • Race-specific preparation is much better. Long runs have happened. Hilly runs have happened. Long, hilly runs have happened. Six of the last 13 weeks have seen over 50km of running; 3 have been over 60km and I even managed 70.57km in my final build week. My highest mileage week in 2011 was 53.33km - one of only 2 weeks of 50+km total mileage. I also have 3 runs of 30+km under my belt this time, with 36k as my longest training run. The last marathon was attempted on a single 20 miler (32.9km), with every other long run being under 30k.
  • I have sorted out the nutritional issues that were plaguing me in 2011. I hadn't yet become aware of the whole host of food allergies that had completely wrecked my digestive tract, leading to generally poor health and a portajohn break at the halfway mark of the marathon.
  • I am about 8lbs lighter than I was going into my 2011 attempt, partly as a result of figuring out what I should and should not eat for maximum belly happiness.
  • I am coming off a really gawddamn good performance at Around the Bay, which is a very similar race to the Waterloo Marathon - a few tests early on, a big flat spot in the middle, and some tough rolling hills in the last 10km. This also served as an amazing preparatory workout for the marathon.
  • I have done a 2-week taper for this race rather than a 3-week taper. While I think I needed the extra recovery time in 2011, I feel better racing long distance if I don't drop my training too drastically too far out.
  • The weather is supposed to be sunny but cool-to-mild (high of 11c/52f), which favours my less-than-optimal-for-cooling build, and the light winds (10kph/6mph) should be a tailwind through the final hilly 10k of the course. 

  • While the McMillan Running Calculator claims I can run a 4:10:37 marathon (based on my 2:53:59 ATB finish last month), it assumes I am equally well trained for 42.2km as I was for 30km. This is not the case. I had done an over-distance, hilly training run as my last long workout 2 weekends prior to Around the Bay. My longest training run for the marathon has a 36km trot out and back on a nice, flat rail trail. I'd also put in at least one week where my mileage doubled that of the race prior to ATB, whereas my longest marathon prep week was only 1.67 times the distance of the race.
  • I'm not sure I allowed myself sufficient recovery time from Around the Bay. Running hard on the road for almost 3 hours takes it out of you, but after a couple of easy days I was back out running over 20km the Saturday after the race (that's 6 days post-ATB; I ran 66km total in that 7 day period). The following Saturday was the above-noted 36km slog, just 13 days after beating myself up on the roads of Hamilton.
  • Possibly as a result of a suppressed immune system due to all of the above, I caught a damn cold from a coworker and was a sniffly mess prior to that 36k training run. Strangely enough, I was no better afterward.
  • Because I was a giant pile of exhaustion and post-nasal drip after The Big Run, I ended up having a very low mileage week last week, with low total training hours overall. I ignored my bike, forsook the pool, and spent as much quality time as I could with my bed. I've come around a lot, and actually have done more swimming this week than I did last week, but I'm still fatiguing easily and feel like I've lost fitness (even though that's not really possible in 2 weeks).
  • With a predicted overnight low of -1c/30f, I can't for the life of me figure out what I'm going to wear that isn't going to either freeze me at the start or overheat me by the end.
  • I am being repeatedly kicked in the stomach by pre-race nerves, in a way I haven't experienced in a couple of years. Road marathons are bloody tough, and I have trepidations. 

Still, what else can I do but get out there and give'er?

It's gotta be better than 4:37:53.

* Please note that my disgust over my marathon time merely reflects my opinion of it in relation to my own abilities. It is in no way intended to disparage anyone else's results or achievements!

Thursday, April 17, 2014


The last long run before the Waterloo Marathon is in the bag, and while it may not have been the best idea to run 36km with a cold, I survived and have actually given myself quite an easy week to try to recover from having a head stuffed full of goo.

Here are some baby animals to try to eradicate that last mental image.

I'm feeling better, but still trying to take things easy to ensure I don't get worse again. Fortunately, it's a long weekend, so I can continue my theme of getting lots of sleep and not worrying too much about training.

Also: trying not to eat too much chocolate.

The weather has finally started to feel like spring, and I can hear the trails calling. It felt great getting out for a ride on my motorcycle last Sunday, too, so I may just have to do that again. I'm really looking forward to being able to spend some time with Tanker this weekend - training for long races has really eaten up our weekends since the fall, so I'm happy to have the opportunity to hang out with my best friend.

Though he may decline to be seen in public with me.

I hope all of you are able to get outside and breathe deeply of spring air full of new life after a long, harsh winter. Stay safe and have fun!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Whatever doesn't kill me..

Having successfully managed to fend off the horrible cold that is still messing with Tanker's voice more than two weeks after he succumbed to it, I have been felled by a coworker's indiscriminate carpet bombing of my office with her germs.


Inconvenient, as this also happens to be "hell week" - the week in which I pile on even more bloody mileage than I did for last year's Run for the Toad 50k campaign in order to try to feel somewhat qualified to run the Waterloo Marathon on the 27th.


So, I've kept running, even upping the mileage on my weeknight workouts. It's actually been a half decent week for it, by which I mean only half of my runs have been in the pissing rain. I'm sure this is helping my cold.

I did get to wear shorts.

Cycling and swimming have been the break points, though. I did ride my bike on Wednesday, having brought it to work for my lunch ride/commute to my Mum's, but by the time lunch rolled around all I did was pedal slowly over to the grocery store by my office to pick up more vitamin C chewables (since we ran out that morning) and call my mom to tell her I wouldn't be coming over to infect her with my plague. Tomorrow is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, yet I will not be cycling down to the market. I have done a couple of swims, but they've been short and accompanied by an unsettling rattle in my throat.

I have a big stinkin' run to do tomorrow - while I may have done the 50k on a couple of 30k long runs, a trail ultra and a road marathon are simply not the same thing in terms of stress on the body. So, a-slogging I will go, chasing a 70+k week that may or may not break me completely. I'm popping vitamin C & echinacea, choking down oil of oregano, slurping raw honey and lemon, and basically doing the minimum possible in between an endless series of naps in my car. I'm like some kind of sniffly, over-achieving narcoleptic.

Can I go back to bed yet?

This is seriously all of my current hopes and dreams in one image.

Friday, April 4, 2014

On the bright side..

So I've been pretty sore since Around the Bay on Sunday. Yeah, big shock - run 30km of hills and your legs hurt? Inconceivable!

Except it's rather worse than that.

I did take Monday off, by which I mean I walked 3.5km with Tanker to see a movie at the local theatre. Ease back into running with 4.7km Tuesday (plus a 1,200m swim), 5.3km on Wednesday (plus a bike ride) and 5.3km last night (plus a 1,500m swim). Morning strength workouts have been fairly easy, with the first couple of days just being some dynamic stretching and foam rolling.

I have been taking it relatively easy, but I still feel like crap. The post-race leg soreness seems to have abated, but it was immediately replaced by fresh soreness from this week's easy-peasy training.

I ache all over, and get tired very easily in the workouts. I can't push my effort level up very high, because as soon as I do I get a nasty pain in my throat. All I really want to do is sleep, but I've only been getting my usual 5-5.5hrs per night, because I haven't got any brighter.

Result? I'm losing the battle against catching a cold. The same one that took Tanker's voice last Wednesday and hasn't given it back since. Waking up this morning I was a bit sniffly and sneezy, and the sore throat now comes and goes at will even when I'm sitting at my desk.

The Waterloo Marathon is 23 days away, and I barely feel capable of getting out of my chair. The weather has also turned back to cold, wet and miserable after the brief reprieve earlier this week.

But hey, it's my day off training, and I GOT TO RIDE A BIKE OUTSIDE ON WEDNESDAY!

So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Around the Bay 30k - March 30th, 2014

After a less-than-stellar short shake-out run on Saturday, an incident with some gluten-contaminated carbo loading food, trying all week to avoid coming down with Tanker's terrible cold, and a good night's sleep (partly thanks to Earth Hour, which made me ensure I had all my pre-race stuff done by 8:30pm - in bed just after 10!), the day of reckoning was finally at hand. I'd put in 3 months of really focused training, plus another 2 months before that of carefully rehabbing a hamstring injury in order to start the build as healthy as possible. The scale showed I was absolutely chock full of carbohydrates just waiting to be burned - maybe I shouldn't have made vanilla pudding just before bed. I had a score to settle with this race, and was chasing a sub-3-hour finish. Time to see what I had in me!

Awoke just after 6am and downed a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel - half spread with dairy free "cream cheese" and the other piece half-slathered with raw almond butter, then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with Saigon cinnamon. I washed that down with a cup of almond milk, chased it with a Medjool date, 1 tsp maca root powder and 1tsp unsweetened cocoa, and figured that'd do. Really hoping to avoid any GI tract issues, I popped a digestive enzyme tablet as well; figure it couldn't hurt. I did my array of odd manoeuvres I've used as a run warmup since November before we left the house, not knowing if there would be a corner of floor space on which I could lay and hump the air like some sort of confused, spandex-clad nymphomaniac. There was also the possibility someone would get the wrong impression and try to join me, so probably best to get it out of the way in private. Ok, I did the routine in front of everyone at Frosty Trail, but ultrarunners are different.

I had made the decision before leaving home that I was ok with possibly freezing to death in knicks, a base layer and Vanderkitten tri top (trust the chub! Trust the chub!), but wanted warm hands, so dressed as such and threw on some warmies overtop since it was -3c/27f when we left. I did bring along my longsleeve Vanderkitten cycling jersey as well, just in case I lost my nerve with the predicted near-freezing temperatures and 25kph/15.5mi wind from the North. My trusty hand bottle was filled with water and had an emergency caffeinated gel in the pocket, plus I had a flask with 4oz of EFS Liquid Shot to tuck in my tri top pocket. I also mixed myself about 1/3 cup almond milk with a big squirt of chocolate syrup to add to a black Tim Hortons coffee, the result being sufficiently mocha-esque that I didn't feel too deprived as I slurped it on the way down to Hamilton.

Readying for battle.

We actually got parked with zero drama, I got out of my warm pants, into my running socks & shoes, pinned my number on and headed for Copps Coliseum. There had been a dusting of snow overnight, which was enough to make the path through Central Park slippery - I was really nervous as we walked toward Copps Coliseum, not wanting to slip or fall and hurt myself. We made our way to the race site in plenty of time for me to hit the bathroom, in which I was lucky enough to be hit in the freakin' ankle bone by the metal sanitary disposal box the lady in the stall next to me knocked off the wall. She apologized, but man that hurt! I hoped it wouldn't affect the race as re-applied BodyGlide, thinking that maybe winning a free coffee on my Tim Hortons Roll Up the Rim cup that morning really might have used up all my luck. I finished up, got a huge good luck hug from Tanker after giving him all gear not essential for the race, and even got in some high knees and butt kicks to warm up a little on the way to the starting line - much more leisurely than the 2012 debacle. I spotted the 3 hour pace bunny as I was headed out the door of the Coliseum and told him he was my new best friend, assuring him I'd find him somewhere on the course. Knowing how weird my pacing was at Midsummer Night's 30k last year I figured having a rabbit to chase was my best bet, since the whole "run ok for 10km, slack off for 10km, then redline for 10km" thing was probably not the most effective strategy.


I happened to run into a couple of friendly faces almost as soon as I joined the throng of runners wandering toward the start corrals, and it was really pleasant to have some company as we waited for the start (hi Jen & Joe!). We were pretty far back in the crowd - I actually saw the 3:15 run/walk pace bunny right behind us, so figured I'd probably have to do some chasing to get up to the 3 hour pacer. As the bright sun shone down on us, I wasn't even chilly; I hoped I hadn't overdressed too much, but was pretty sure I could have gone with lighter gloves - still way better than all the folks in what I'd consider full winter kit around us, whom I'm sure would regret their choices fairly quickly. I also had to pee a bit, despite having slowed way down on drinking water for the half-hour prior to gun time, and my lower back was a little sore. Meh.

Revealing my secret identity at the start line, long before the gun.

Without us ever hearing anything so useful as a horn, gun or any sort of warning, the crowd in front of us started walking, then running, then stopped...then walked and finally ran again. It appeared we were off! I ran away from my friendly faces almost right away; they were following a plan that accommodated one of them recovering from an injury and the other having run 70km in from Toronto overnight, while I was chasing mediocre glory. I hit start on my watch to get some chip time splits so I could monitor my own pace a little and have some clue of when to take in nutrition. Time to find that pace bunny!

The first couple of kilometers were crowded, as will generally happen when thousands of people try to run all at once through city streets. The new route didn't help with this at all, and I spent a lot of time dodging through slower runners, rubbing elbows as gaps opened and closed around me, and wondering if I was going out too fast. I had to watch my step as well, since an entire running store's worth of abandoned warm gear lay strewn about the streets. Passing the 2k marker and looking at my watch I saw 12:11 - I was running a 6:06/km pace, which would see me finishing at 3:03:00 - EEK! NOT GOOD - RUN FASTERZZZ!

Onto Burlington Street, the overpasses began to appear to give an early test to my hill legs. I'm feeling ok, but definitely working. I keep telling myself that I ran 3 hours at Frosty Trail while gasping almost the entire time, so it's ok to push past the comfort zone. I still hope I won't blow myself up, though, particularly as I start to get warm. I finally pass the 5k marker in 29:36 - a 5:55/km pace, which is probably about what I can manage for a 30k. That would give me a 2:57:30 finish if I could maintain it, but really I'm just looking to bank some time while the going is good. The hills at the end would cost me no matter how well I was running, so building a cushion early on was part of the plan. I'd had good success at the Mississauga Half and Midsummer last year with starting behind the pace bunny, catching them partway through and ditching them later in the race, so I was hoping I could pull off the same thing.

From Canadian Running Magazine

I managed to get my gel flask out of the pocket of my tri top (way to run in something you've never worn except on the trainer, K) and take a sip around the 40min mark, just after the 2nd aid station by kilometer 7. I figured I had enough water to get me through to the next one, so was able to avoid the huge crowds and speed (relatively speaking) through even more of the pack in front of me. I was starting to get really warm running in the full sun, so decided I'd take off my left glove to get some cooling - I managed to get it stuffed in the other pocket of my tri top and immediately felt a bit better. The right glove stayed on for another kilometer or so (my right hand gets chilled more easily because it holds my bottle), then joined the left in the pocket. I knew we'd be turning into the wind as we headed for the lift bridge, but the breeze didn't feel that cold. It did get a bit cool as we passed through tunnels or shady spots, but I'd rather be a bit chilly than too warm in a race, especially given the addition of even more hills.

From Canadian Running Magazine
I did get concerned as I saw 55mins on my watch without having seen the 9km marker, but suddenly I was upon the 10k timing mats in 57:52 by my watch. The clock displaying gun time showed 1:04:50 - holy crap, I really had been a long way back in the crowd! I was still passing people steadily, especially as we hit the ramp from Burlington St. to Woodward Avenue - the spectators there were amazing, but many of the runners around me seemed to struggle. I trucked up the grade fairly easily, breathing in the fresh air coming off Lake Ontario, pleased that I'd carved my second 5k split down to 28:17 - a 5:39/km pace, giving me an overall average of 5:47/km for the front third of the course. Over 2 minutes in the bank as I passed the first relay exchange and paused briefly at the 11km aid station to refill my bottle from a handy jug of water sitting on one of the tables. Of course, I managed to pour it all over my right hand as well, soaking it in very cold water just as the upwind stretch began.

Fortunately, the scenery improved dramatically as we ran up Beach Boulevard. Coming from the grim, grey industrial vista (with associated occasional whiffs of nastiness...or was that me?) that surrounded us on Burlington St., the lovely homes along Hamilton Beach and wonderful folks banging pots & pans were a welcome change. My hands were freezing and my legs were starting to protest a bit despite the relatively flat profile, but I was just trying to keep my momentum going and searching for the first signs of hitting the lift bridge. I finally spotted a pace bunny ahead, but it turned out to be the 3 hour run/walk - I passed him and his group as they dropped to a walk and figured that at least if I could keep ahead of them, I'd be in decent shape. Running by the 14k sign I thought to myself that I only have a hilly 10 miler left - just like the one I'd done last Saturday. Another sip of gel from my flask around the 1 hour 20 minute mark, a curve or two in the road, and the bridge loomed ahead.

Virtual route map from Canadian Running Magazine

Push the lap button on my watch as I pass the 15k sign and timing mats - halfway done and I'm feeling ok, though I'm starting to breathe a little harder. Third 5k split shows 28:22 - still running at 5:40/km, and my 15k time of 1:26:14 put me at a 5:45/km pace overall. Still building my cushion to carry me through the hills at the end - score! I really hoped I wasn't headed for disaster by cooking myself too early (after all, I'd run an average of 5:37/km for the Mississauga Half Marathon last year, and that was a net downhill), but tried to just have faith that my training would carry me through. I gazed out at the lake, watching powerful waves breaking against the seawalls on either side of the channel into the harbour, their ragged peaks sending up white spray that floated on the stiff wind. I was glad the sun was shining, as I could feel my black knicks and base layer soaking up its energy and keeping me from getting too chilled.

I wasn't a big fan of the steel deck of the bridge - it didn't feel good on the balls of my feet as I ran, so I ended up altering my stride a bit to land more flat-footed. My left knee was apparently not on board with this idea, and started to twinge a bit. Fortunately I was back on pavement again before long, and the niggle subsided almost immediately. Having passed the second relay exchange, there was a great deal more space to move, and while fresh relay runners would occasionally come by me I was still overtaking most of the people around me. My legs were feeling a little more fatigue as we headed for North Shore Boulevard, but I was still running fairly well. I was really starting to wonder where the hell that 3 hour pace bunny had got to - I'd put in almost 5mins against gun time by the 18k mark and was starting to wonder if I'd ever find him when suddenly I spotted a pair of pink bunny ears up ahead. I don't know why he wasn't holding up his sign, but I locked my sights on him and began to steadily reel him in.


Just before the 19k mark I finally caught and got slightly ahead of the pacer, who said he was bang on 1 hour 53mins at that point - banking 1 minute for the hills in the last 10k had been part of his plan. I mentioned I should be good to go since I'd put in about 5mins catching up to him, at which point he recognized me and gave a "There you are! You said we were going to be friends." I told him I started a few minutes behind and had only just caught him - having done so, I figured I could ease up a little bit and stick with him as we reached the start of the rolling hills. I hit the 20k timing mat at 1:55:04 chip time - a 5:45/km overall average, but a slower 5k split at 28:49 or 5:46/km. I was still running relatively strong, but very happy I no longer felt the need to chase and could take things more cautiously through the ensuing 6km of punishing hills. I felt a bit of a creak from my right achilles tendon as I ran up an incline near the Burlington Country Club and wondered if I'd been wise to forgo wearing calf sleeves; I hadn't worn them for any of my training runs, but I was also working a lot harder than I had in training. Fortunately nothing really came of it.

I found a flat spot for a sip of gel around the 2 hour mark and got my empty bottle filled with 2 tiny cups of water and a wee cup of blue sport drink at an aid station near the 21k mark (which I passed at around 2:01:xx - only 3mins behind my half marathon PR). As I tackled the hill along LaSalle Park I was most pleased to find another friendly face - thanks for coming out to cheer, Dave! Sorry you didn't end up being able to run; your injury is a really crappy way for me to improve 1 place in the overall.

The hill past LaSalle - from Dave's Instagram

Dave and a course marker, all of which have some silly text.
Also from his Instagram

The next few kilometers were a lot of hard work. I stayed ahead of the 3 hour pacer, but could hear him chatting with another runner just behind me as we climbed and descended. There was one dicey hill where we were warned to watch for black ice on the road - they had put down salt, but it was a shady spot and the overnight snow hadn't melted completely. My quads were starting to whine about the downhills already, and my right hamstring briefly tried to cramp on one of the climbs. I was thinking that the uphills didn't seem quite as bad as they had in my one prior attempt, but then we hit that long, curving one at around 23k that runs through a residential neighbourhood and I started to wheeze a bit. By the time we reached the aid station around 24k, I was almost out of water again so got a lovely lady to fill my bottle about 2/3 of the way from a jug she was using to fill cups. I figured that ought to do me for the rest of the way, as I was working hard enough now that breathing was starting to get hectic.

Past the cemetery and down the long, quad-wrecking descent of Spring Gardens Road, I'm trying to get a couple of sips of fluid into me, control my respiration and mentally prepare for the giant hill up to York Road.  Oh, and I got my high five to the tune of "We Will Rock You" from Stan Wakeman for luck! I remember that the big hill goes up, turns a corner under the bridge, then goes up again - you can't burn all your matches on the part you can see from the bottom. Through the 25k mark in 2:25:03, I still have almost 5mins in the bank, though my 5k split through North Shore has been a rather more dismal 29:59 - almost exactly on 6:00/km, or 3:00:00 pace. Still, overall I'm holding 5:48/km with just this one horrible climb to go before the long, gentle descent to the finish line. As I cross the footbridge to the base of the hill I start to look for a local Hamilton friend who found me here 2 years ago, while concentrating on driving with my knees as I push. I seemed to have lost the 3 hour pacer as well - hadn't heard him talking in a little while, anyway.

By a third of the way up, I'm death whistling and totally ready to be done with this business. Shorten stride, push with my glutes (that ass has got to be good for something!), keep my head up and keep going. The only thing I've really got going for me at this point is the wind at my back, since my legs are aching and my lungs feel ready to burst. No sign of my Hamiltonian friend this time - guess he didn't come out this year. Under the bridge into blissful, shady coolness, then emerge into sunlight again and realise I still can't see the top. CRAP! Gasping for air, I make it through the second turn and finally sight on York Road. It takes every last ounce of strength not to drop to a walk (or just go and have a nice little lay down somewhere), but at last I make the left turn and see the road unroll toward the finish, somewhat surprised that my heart hasn't actually leapt out of my chest and rolled away howling. A spectator calls out "3.8 kilometers to go" - I can do that! Right..?

Seen on twitter.

I'm past the point of being able to bring my breathing down now, just death whistling away as I take in the incredible view of the bay from the high vantage point of York Road. I had to drag my chubby arse up here, so I was bloody well going to enjoy it! The kilometers stretched out past any reasonable length, time slowing to allow every twinge of sore feet and jagged breath to fill my mind with agony as I strained my tired muscles to carry me on toward the finish. My watch told me at 27k that I still stood an outside chance at going 2:55:xx, but it felt like 20mins before I spotted another kilometer sign. Eventually I achieved the 28k mark and saw the Grim Reaper, but declined a high five.

From Sportzone via Canadian Running Magazine.

I kept telling myself that it was all downhill (which it isn't, really - there's a very mild rise, but it's almost insignificant), but also tried to prepare myself for the illusion that haunts this race - as you approach downtown, Copps Coliseum seems to hang in the air in front of you like a mirage, seeming to be just a couple of hundred meters away for an unreasonable amount of time. I was starting to see runners with medals out doing cool down work and many more spectators, so knew I had to be getting close as I drained my bottle to the dregs. Much as I'm whining about it, I was in a whole order of magnitude better shape than I had been in 2012 - I really did get the work done this time, and actually had some strength left to push toward the end.

Finally through the 29k mark, I think my pace increased involuntarily as I entered the barricaded section before the Coliseum. Someone in the crowd went absolutely wild over my Vanderkitten top and I spotted a clock just ticking over the 3-hour mark (gun time) before making the sharp right onto the horrible ramp down to the arena floor. Giving it everything I had, I ripped along the carpeted pathway through the arches just as the big clock at the top passed 3:01:00. I didn't hear my name called as I crossed the line - I almost never do. I think it's because I spend too much time within my own head during the race, and it's hard to switch focus to external things instantaneously. Well, I also know I become incredibly stupid after running for more than a couple of hours, so that's probably a contributing factor, too. I raised my arms as I ran through the finish, only stopping my watch afterward ('cause noone wants a finish photo staring at their wrist) see 2:54:02.

The best sight of the whole course.
Seen on twitter.

Official time: 2:53:59.7 averaging 5:48/km
10:24 PR over 2012 & 03:36 PR at 30k
166/412 F30-34 - 1120/3305 Women - 3121/6762 overall
Ho. Lee. Crap. I'd managed to speed up again after the hills to throw down a 28:58 final 5k split, at a 5:48/km pace - exactly the same as my overall average. I had only lost 01:31 through the entire second half (or 6 seconds per kilometer), and my final 10k split of 58:56 means my first 10k was only 01:04 faster than my last 10k (the middle was fastest at 57:11; still only a 01:45 difference from the slowest) - not bad at all considering the impact of the hills. I was consistently passing people for the entire race, right up to the finish - it was particularly noticeable on the uphills, where I was able to use my strength to advantage despite being heavier built than is optimal for distance running. I was really pleased with how I'd run overall, and happy I hadn't had a single GI tract issue - not so much as a fart or stomach gurgle, let alone a portajohn stop. Now, this may have been helped by the fact I only took in about 180cal the entire race - my 3 sips of gel turned out to be about a half-ounce (or 50 calories) each, plus let's call it 30cal of sport drink between 21 and 24k. The highly watered down sport drink had been the only nutrition intake past the 2-hour mark, which was probably why the last 3km felt so tough - one little sip of EFS Liquid Shot might not have been out of place on the descent on Spring Gardens Road, but since I didn't actually feel myself fading (let alone bonk) I'm not going to beat myself up about it. I had considered taking a nibble of my caffeinated gel while running along North Shore, but it just seemed like unnecessary effort.

Started out filled to my thumbnail.

So, the post-race analysis (emphasis on the "anal"): according to the McMillan Running calculator, my half marathon PR of 1:58:13 extrapolates to a 2:52:43 time for 30 kilometers, meaning I under-performed by 01:16. However, since the Mississauga Half is a net downhill while Around the Bay has such a sting in the tail, I think I'll call it pretty even. The new route is definitely more challenging based on average times - when I ran in 2012 the average finish was 2:56:57, whereas this year the average time was 3:03:12.

My hat afterward - perhaps a good thing EFS Liquid Shot contains electrolytes!

I am really happy with my effort level throughout the course - I didn't have that long stretch of lollygagging through the middle section that happened at Midsummer, but also didn't cook myself too badly while I was still fresh. I did have nightmarish visions in the last couple of kilometers about bonking and having to walk it in, but 2014 seems to be about proving that I can run outside my comfort zone at longer distances. Everything from my feet & legs through my ribcage and even the back of my shoulders was sore afterwards, but despite being even more achy and my feet swelling today (Tuesday) I'm pretty sure I'll be able to bounce back from this fairly quickly. I got a little emotional after crossing the finish, as this really has been the culmination of a bloody great lot of hard work and determination. Starting back in November with my injured hamstring casting doubts on making the starting line healthy, then a truly awful winter for training - it's a really huge deal for all those times I had to kick my own ass out the door in conditions no sane human would choose to endure to result in a payoff that comes as close as I ever have to race perfection. I paid for my PRs this day in months worth of hard coin.

Mission accomplished.

Ophelia powered!

Now it's time to take recovery really seriously, as I've got less than 4 weeks until the Waterloo MarathonMcMillan says that a  2:53:59 Around the Bay extrapolates out to a 4:10:37 marathon, which means I've got to be ready to run for almost another hour and twenty minutes after I'd finished Around the Bay.