Monday, October 20, 2008

Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon Race Report

After school on Wednesday I logged out my normal 'long' ride of the week knowing there would be no biking for a few days in TO, packed my race gear and picked Kristen up from class. We then drove down to Charlotte and spent the night after watching a very invigorating final political debate (when will the pain stop?). The next morning we woke up, Kristen got her run in while I got my final bike ride in before hoping on the plane and flying the short 1.5hr flight to Toronto. For the next few days, I got the privilege of meeting every member of Kristen's extended family while logging numerous running miles around the CN Tower and Lake Ontario. I have to say I had an absolute blast walking around TO which blew me away by how modern and clean the entire city was!

Well, before I could say 'Eh' it was 5am Sunday morning and I was eating my normal pre-race oats and Tim Hortons (Canadian) coffee. Kristen, Kim (Mrs. Campbell) and I then walked the fifteen minute walk to hte Hilton to board the bus to take us the thirty minutes north to hte race start. After a short delay due a shooting (seriously), the bus arrived at the race start with about 45minutes to spare. By this time the air had warmed up to a balmy 3 degree C (~cold) and I was ready to warm up! I warmed up for about 25-30 minutes with some light drills and pickups to get my heart rate up, then took to the start line before hte rest of hte 5000 competitors that were runnign the half marathon arrived. There was a lot of jockeying around for position on the start line but I staked out my spot right smack dab in the middle on the front line! At three minutes past 8am, the gun went off and we embarked out into the frozen landscape. Instantly, a pack of five guys formed, containing the two Kenyan runners. I was sitting in fifth position through the first k point. I could feel that we were running slow (1k was only 3:43, when I wanted to be running ~3:30) so I went to the front and pushed the pace a little. The moment I went up to the lead, the pack surrounded around me almost daring me to go off the front. With TV cameras in my face, I decided I was out of my league and cowered back behind the front runners, letting them dictate the pace. Since the marathon was to start an hour after us and run the same course there were two sets of km markers out. I got confused as to which was ours and made the call to just run with the leaders. The course was supposed to be flat but leading into the 5k point we went down a short hill and then up a 600m hill. I missed the 5k marker and continued on in about 5th or 6th position. At this moment, I reconized that the two Kenyan runners were exchanging leads. Each time they exchanged leads, the pack would slightly accelerate. This was not clear to me at the time but we were steadly increasing our pace. By the time we hit the 8k point, we were flying along at sub 5:20mi pace! I PRed for the 8k, passing hte marker at ~27:13. Feeling good I went with it. We then seemingly picked up the pace and hit the 10k at ~33:52. I was still in about 6th position as we started up a slight hill and made a left hand turn before descending a long down hill. It was here that the two front runners simply lengthened their strides and gaped the field in about 5seconds putting about 50m on everyone. This splintered the pack up. I tried to make a move with another guy to bridge up to them but as I started to accelerate my quads and hamstrings tightened up. Recognizing that we had barely hit hte halfway point I slowed my pace and gathered myself, hoping to relax my legs. The remainder of the race I could not get my legs to settle adn simply ran at a steady ~5:40-50ish pace to the finish line. I finished 13th overall out of almost 5000 competitors with over 43 countries represented after cramping down severely at 14k point. I had an overall time of 1:16:03 and was either the top or second place American finisher. Not too shabby considering my heart rate never spiked into z4 during the second portion of the race (of course my legs felt like they were barely moving).

In better news, Kristen had an eight minute PR finishing in the top 250 overall with a time 1:37 and change! Awesome!

Lessons learned:

1. Do not piss Kenyans by running off the front
2. Electrolytes are a bitch
3. Screw running down hill
4. Run your own race! Dictate your own pace and do not back down (I know this goes against my 1st point, so I will rephrase: dictate your pace unless you are running against Kenyans and then simply let them run ahead of you then run your own race)
5. Wear socks (maybe two or three pairs) when it is 3 degree C outside!
6. Do not drink too much straight water the day before the race

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