I did it!!
On Sunday, October 19 I ran my first Half Marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you probably saw all of my pics – the ups, downs, and in betweens of training on my own for this huge challenge. Now, I know for some runners that a Half is not a huge challenge anymore, but since I actually used to hate running, this was quite the goal for me to take on. Honestly, my original plan in the spring was to run an 8K race this month, but something changed in me and I really stretched this goal. And I am glad I did!
I won’t lie, it took a lot to push myself some days. I trained on my own following a basic training plan I found online that had a schedule based on my goal time of 2:15-2:30. As my training went on, I eventually updated my goal to 2:15 and I was completely set on it. Yes, there were days I didn’t want to run and there were other days I was injured and couldn’t wait to get back to running… it was all a part of the journey. I am happy to say that I didn’t skip one run throughout the whole plan, but some runs did get cut short depending on pain/migraine/etc. At least I got out there every time and did my best on that day.
So, now here we are. The Half Marathon is done and I am still cruising on a bit of a runner’s high, even though my body feels like hell. ;) I’m completely proud of myself and I still stare at the awesome medal that I got. (It’s sooo pretty!) Hoping this feeling lasts for a little while, but my mind is already “racing” thinking about a plan for 2015!
Before the race
For days before the race I was obsessed with checking the weather and trying to plan my racing outfit. Apparently this is normal. I was glad that the forecast steadily did NOT predict rain, but the temperature was predicted around a -3C to 3C during the time of the race. That’s cold! Well, for me it is. :) I’m a bit of a wuss in the cold, so I really debated on what I should wear… also because I am a classic over-dresser. I already had my bottom half picked out (my racing capris of the season) but it took till almost the last minute to decide on a long sleeve for up top. A lot of people suggested tanks and short sleeves, but I went with my gut and wore a long sleeve that I could roll up if I needed to. (Turned out to be the right choice for me) I also spent a little bit of time being nervous about the race, but mostly I was excited. Sure, I wanted to get the race done, but I also wanted to experience the whole big race atmosphere and have some fun.
So, yeah, it was cold! I almost did not want to turn in my sweater and stuff at bag check, it was so cold. I managed to find a Starbucks/hotel to hide in (with many other runners) before the start time that was near my corral. Thank goodness for that, because it was still pretty cold while we were waiting to take off. The crowds were a bit overwhelming for this introvert, but also exciting. So many runners! Some people looked happy and ready for fun, but I also saw the serious faces around too. Hanging out in the corrals was hilarious as everyone was either amped up or nervous. I heard one guy yell to his friend “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?” I had to laugh and I wondered if he was doing the Half or the Full.
Once my corral was up, we all ran off cheering, clapping, and completely ready to go. The crowd really helped my energy throughout the entire race – spectators and runners. As for the course, I loved it! Running through downtown Toronto was really fun and I like that we passed some cool landmarks like the ROM, Honest Ed’s, Fort York, and Lake Ontario. It was also great that there were so many spots for spectators to gather up and cheer us on, so much fun and excitement! There were bands, cheerleaders, and lots of people to high five, which I totally took advantage of.
I found the amount of water stations to be appropriate, even if they looked like war zones. Hats off to the volunteers in charge of those areas, that was no small mess for them to clean up. Guides were also helpful along the way, never felt like I was going the make the wrong turn or get lost.
As for my race, I started off pretty strong and kept a good pace for about 10K. It was around that point that my bad ankle started to hurt a little bit, so I joined up with a 10:1 – 2:15 finish pace bunny group. It was my goal time, so I figured I would run with them for a little bit so that I could get my ankle in check. I’m not totally sure how long I ran with them for… maybe about 6K… but then I started to feel strong again and I took off on my own. The rest of the race I felt pretty good… ya know, until that last little climb up Bay Street to the finish. ;) I was a bit tired at that point and I just pushed myself mentally to pick it up and fight to the finish. The crowds at the end probably helped a little too. As I crossed the finish line I raised my hands in the air and I’m pretty sure I yelled ‘yeah’ out loud to myself. But I didn’t collapse and I call that a win! :) I was a little woozy as I walked to get my medal hung around my neck (so awesome!) and my warming blanket. But, I was also filled with so much pride and joy – I had finished a Half Marathon! And, I beat my goal time by 7 minutes! My final chip time was 2:08:01 and I couldn’t be happier. My hard work and training really paid off and I felt great!
I will mention that there was a bit of a bottleneck of people in the area after the medals/blankets when we were trying to get food. Just the way the gates were set up, there was a bit of wait to get through. Not a huge deal most of the time, but I couldn’t meet up with my boyfriend through there and I wanted to get to snacks on the other side (that he had with him). Also, race snacks are not made for people who are gluten and lactose intolerant. Sure, the banana is fine, but the pita and yogurt were no good to me. I know this going in, so I always have stuff with me… but I need to get to back bag check (or my boyfriend) to get to my stuff. Once I got my own fuel into me, I was good to go and not race delirious anymore.
After the race we grabbed some delicious breakfast and that helped my head get back in the game, but my body was still slow moving. Heck, it still is right now. For some reason, I didn’t plan my weekend well and we had a bunch of errands to run and I had the week’s food prep to do. Not next time. After my next half (yes, I’ll run another one!) I am going to make it a lazy day. I believe I’m extra tired today because I didn’t take enough time to relax after the race. Lessons learned!
Speaking of lessons learned, I’m not sure there is too much I would change for my next half marathon. In my opinion, training went well and I got the result I wanted. Next time I run a colder race, I may do the throw away clothing option to keep warm before the race starts. And as I start to run distances longer than the half, I may need to re-assess my fueling option. Clif Bars and plain water seem to help right now, but I’m sure I’ll need to replenish more as I go farther. Oh, and I would probably stretch more after… ouch. Definitely lots to learn as I go along, so I am thankful for the awesome runner’s community that I have on Twitter and Instagram. Everyone is so helpful and supportive, I’m glad that I found them (you!).
I bet you might be wondering if I’ll run another Half or maybe even a Full next time… well, I can certainly say that I’ll run another Half, but I am undecided about a Full right now. I think I’ll get there, just not right away. When I finished the Half, one man beside me plainly said “I can’t imagine running another one of those right now”, referring to the Full runners still going. I laughed and completely agreed with him in that moment, but who knows what’s to come. I’ll probably try to tackle the 30K distance first and see how it goes. Seriously, anyone planning 2015 yet? ;)
Lastly, I want to say thank you to the Canada Running Series, their volunteers, and the Toronto Police for putting on such an amazing race. I can’t imagine all the hard work that goes into such a huge event.
And thank you again to my one man cheering squad – my boyfriend. Thank you for the support, drives to races, pics, and extra pushes when I need them. I appreciate it more than you know. :)