On Sunday I completed my sixth half marathon and it was an interesting one! I had hoped to have a fairly large PB, but *spoiler alert*, that did not happen. The weather and a sinus cold meant that a PB was just not going to happen and I had to shift my goal to just finish the darn thing.
Before I get into the race details – let us talk about the expo. I arrived in Toronto on Friday and planned on being at the expo for around 10am. I arrived at 10:30 and was able to pick up my race kit in less than 2 minutes. The STWM organizers moved the expo to another hall and for whatever reason made a very large space for kit pickup, but squished the actual expo into a fairly small space. Even at 10:30 it seemed really busy.
I picked up a number of items including a Saucony Run Strong Toronto shirt and Mark Sutcliffe’s latest book. I finally was able to meet Mark in person – Ben from iRun magazine joked that we were “Running Royalty”.
After doing a bit of shopping, I listened to Lanni Marchant’s talk and took a photo with her.
The race kit this year was great. I know some people don’t like the off-white shirt for the half marathon, but I wore mine on Monday and it isn’t see through. I might actually keep this race shirt!
After the expo, I went to the aquarium with Max and then out for pizza with my parents. On Thursday, I came down with a nasty cold. My sinuses were plugged and I completely lost my voice on Friday. I was popping Advil Cold and Sinus on Saturday and hoped I would be able to manage on Sunday. I did tweet that I probably would have to re-think my goals and just treat STWM as a long run. I didn’t sleep much on Friday night due to the cold meds and Saturday I basically didn’t sleep at all. Not because I wasn’t tired but because the hotel we were staying at had the thinnest walls I have ever experience. We had those adjoining doors and I could hear everything in the other room. Luckily it was just two women who were chatting (at 2am….) but still, I should be able to hear someone getting their things together for bed in the next room. It was probably one of the worst sleeps I’ve ever had at a hotel and I will probably not stay there again.
I was up by 6am on Sunday and walked to the local Starbucks for some oatmeal. As soon as I got outside I realized that it was pretty warm out. Not Good. There was a bit of a wind, but nothing that was too concerning. I ate my breakfast, got ready and went to meet some running friends at 8am. We did our usual photos and chats. All of us were a little concerned about the weather and our colds. But, most of us were in good spirits.
At 8:15, I went to the washroom and then started to head towards my corral. Funny enough, I was able to wait in the corral with Ann-Marie and Ashley, two Ottawa running friends. I figured my legs felt good but in the corrals I could feel my bladder already getting full again. Great. Soon enough we started the race and at that exact moment it started to rain.
The first KM of the course is up a low-grade, long hill. It helps slow you down and not go out too fast. If you have seen my stats on Strava – ignore the first and last KM as the buildings makes the GPS not accurate. Trust me, I did NOT run a 5:16 first KM. The first few KM felt good. I wanted to maintain a 5:50-6:00/km pace for the first 16KM – which I thought was do-able. For KM 1-4, I was able to do that and felt great. At 3K in, I felt my GI system going and figure the moment I saw a short line at the portapotties I would hop in so I could be done in less than 3 minutes, not last year’s 6 minutes. I got to the portapotties at 5K and those of us in line realized that someone didn’t cut the zip ties on the doors. Luckily one runner had keys and we were able to open the doors. TMI, but apparently I did have to pee. My stomach was off (I think the advil was to blame – but that kept me upright) and I knew I would be struggling with it the whole race.
I got through 5K fairly slow but figured I could make up some time. I ran the 6th KM in 5:22 and the 7th in 5:50. Then the rain stopped and the humidity arrived. At 8KM in, I felt awful. My legs felt heavy and my mind started to get tired. If you have been following along in my training, you know I have run 6-10KM at 5:50ish pace with zero problems. I should not be “hitting the wall” at 8K. I usually save that pain for KM 17-21. Actually, as I type this, I know I have even PACED a race at 5:50. I ran slightly slower through KM 8-9 and then at KM 10, I just figured that it was time to go into long-run mode and finish the darn race.
One bright moment was seeing the elites run by me on the Lakeshore. I missed Eric, but I managed to see all the female elites. I cheered on Krista Duchene and even got a smile and thumbs up from her! I also saw an Ottawa runner, Kyle who was running his first marathon, and cheered him on. A bit further I saw Ashley again and gave her a cheer. After that, I just put my head down and concentrated on getting the job done.
At this point – my race recap can be basically summed up into the following description: I ran, walked the water stations, dumped ice cold water on my head and kept running. At KM 16, I took another washroom break, which was located near a water station and took my last gel. From that point on, I basically ran to the next KM marking and then walked for a little bit. While running, my pace wasn’t terrible but I just couldn’t get momentum. I also noticed that I had a blister forming on my left big toe. The last few KM were not too terrible. In all honestly, the “hills” of the course were not bad at all. I ran up each hill effortlessly. Eventually, I finally arrived at my last KM and finished strong. I finished the half marathon in 2:19. Not my best time, but not my worst time either.
I was not the only person who had difficulties on Sunday. I believe that every person I know that had some sort of cold had a really bad day. Looking at Strava stats from other STWM runners – I would say most had a difficulty with the last stages of their races. One runner seemed to have exactly the same race as me – ok until KM 10 and then struggle fest. Even the elites were not spared, as a number actually dropped out. I believe that once the rain stopped, the humidity increased and had more of an effect on us than we thought. When I run in humid conditions, my pace does drop. Running with little sleep and a cold also took its toll. Although it is disappointing to see all those great training runs result in a not great race, at least I found out that even on my worst day, I can finish a half marathon. I was surprised that each KM was ticking away so fast. Half Marathons do not seem like such a distance to run anymore.