Let me start by saying that my feelings in this post are pretty negative but this has nothing to do with the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as a RACE. It has everything to do with my performance and my mentality. The race is well organized, the energy out there is surreal, the course is pretty flat, the volunteers are amazing, and the support is incredible. Canada Running Series puts on one heck of a race and I consider myself pretty lucky to have been a Digital Champion for STWM this year.
I was really nervous in the weeks leading up to the marathon. I know I’ve talked about it already but my tendonitis was worrying me and I wasn’t sure how it would affect me on race day. My last few training runs were incredibly slow, which is normal during taper but still hard to shake. I have also been quite lucky to have Emily as a pacer in Phoenix two years in a row so the thought of not having someone to run with from start to finish made me nervous. I know it sounds silly because 99% of the people there were racing solo but I guess when you’ve been spoiled (like me), it can be enough to make you doubt your ability to make it to the end alone. I was able to recruit some people but I’ll talk about that as we go along.
Race morning: I woke up at 6am, got dressed, ate my Love Grown Hot Oats, did the whole bathroom thing, took my Imodium, and headed over to my cousin’s place for 7:30am (she was running her first half marathon). This is late for me. The race started at 8:45am and I like to be parked at least an hour before the start time. By the time we made it downtown and parked, it was after 8am so we missed bag check which wasn’t a huge deal because the car was just a short walk away. I was more concerned with finding Jess because she was pacing me for the first 20km/12.5 miles. She was waiting for me in the Sheraton hotel and the streets and sidewalks were a bit of a shit show with runners e v e r y w h e r e so I started to panic that I wouldn’t get to her in time. I had to leave my cousin, didn’t even wish her good luck (#fail), dropped the towel I had wrapped around my legs that was shielding me from the cold, and sprinted to the hotel to find Jess. As soon as I saw her I burst into tears and started to hyperventilate. So dramatic, I know. My stress levels were through the roof. I had to pee so bad and the women’s bathroom lineup was so long so I casually walked into the men’s bathroom, tried not to make eye contact with anyone in there, did my thing and walked out. Sorry boys. I calmed myself down and headed to the race start with Jess (and two more friends – Clare and Mark) with a few minutes to spare.
The race: Jess is a super talented runner so I trusted her with everything during the first half of the race (sadly, she is in ZERO of my 31 race photos). She was telling me when to fuel, handing me water every 10 minutes, telling me when we needed to slow down and speed up. I barely even looked at my watch while we were running together but looking back at my splits, they were pretty consistent (with the exception of the first two miles that we spent weaving through people). I hit 13.1 miles at 1:47:29, a tiny bit behind (the plan was 1:45) but I wasn’t worried. I felt good…until I no longer felt good.
It was like everything went wrong as soon as Jess left me. I got extremely cold, was running into a headwind, had a weird pain in my chest, and my legs suddenly felt like they weighed 500 pounds. My pace slowed immediately and I kept dropping as the race went on – 8:26, 8:42, 8:57, 9:12…you get the point. Quitting and getting a big, fat DNF seriously crossed my mind (more than once). The only thing keeping me going was knowing I had people expecting me at different spots on the course. I had Dean waiting for me at mile 17 and I was so relieved when I saw him. I told him I didn’t need a pacer at this point. I just needed company to get me through and keep me from throwing in the towel.
We shuffled along and then one of my coworkers, Andrew, hopped in around mile 19 and joined us for 5k (also no race pictures of him…boo). I was so happy to have these two. Once Andrew left I knew it was just a few more miles until the finish line. I could still get a sub-4:00 even if I ran the last few miles at 11:00. That was until mile 24 when we reached a slight uphill and my legs started to cease. Dean had to hold me upright as I tried to limp up the hill and a very kind volunteer on a bike refilled our water bottle. I took two salt stick caps at this point in hopes that they would help with some of the cramping. I knew Phaedra was just a mile away so we kept moving and she jumped in at mile 25 to take me to the finish.
Danielle also joined in for a bit while carrying ALL THE THINGS (she makes THE best race signs) and my friend Quinton was there to snap this shot. Thanks Q!
P.S. This is the only marathon I’ve run where I didn’t get blisters or have any foot issues. I wore my Brooks Glycerin 13s and Pro Compression Marathon Elite socks. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure my feet were the only part of my body not hurting (which is surprising for me).
The cheer squads and randoms strangers lining the streets at the end are what got me to that finish line. I swear having your name on your bib is the best. Everyone screams your name and makes you feel like a complete rockstar even though you know you’re going to be crossing that finish line coming short of every single one of your goals.
I didn’t BQ, I didn’t PR, I didn’t run happy. But I ran…and I finished. I didn’t give up when my legs and mind told me to. I persevered on a day that was not mine. I finished in 4:00:52 – not my worst but definitely far from my best.
Post-race: I was just happy to be done and happy I didn’t have any stomach issues (guys, Imodium is a life saver). My family was at the finish line and I had another breakdown. It was a mix of happiness that they were there and pain/defeat/disappointment that I failed at what I set out to do. I know it’s just a race and there will be many more opportunities ahead of me. I’m trying to hold my head up and be proud of accomplishing something that a lot of people don’t/can’t do. Marathons are tricky and often don’t go the way we expect them to. We learn from our experiences and we try again. And we celebrate, usually with food. We met up with my cousin who completed her first half (woohoo!), got out of our frozen/sweaty clothes, and headed out to eat at Fresh. We shared cornbread with hummus as well as more bread with dipping oil/spices and olives for our appetizer. I went with butternut squash tacos and fries with miso gravy for my main. My eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach though because I had to leave one taco behind. So sad.
Once I got home I laid in bed for a few hours, showered, had a Vega smoothie and a few slices of bread (weird combo, I know), and went back to bed.
Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and supported me through my training. This wasn’t the race I wanted but that doesn’t take away from my gratitude and the love I have for those of you follow my journey. Boston will be mine. I just need a bit of a break (mentally and physically) before I even think about marathon training again!
Hope your week has been nothing short of amazing! Thanks for reading this super long post!