Tag: Toronto Marathon

Fitness Swellness: Goodlife Toronto Marathon 2015 race report

Toronto Marathon 2015 medal

I posted recently about the anxiety and stress I was feeling about this race and about running marathons in general. And when I posted that, I felt like I was driving myself batty over it. So in the last four or five days before the Goodlife Toronto Marathon, I just tried to push the race out of my mind. It helped that my schedule was busy. I didn’t check the weather forecast several times a day. I pushed out of my mind the pace I’d have to maintain for 42.2k in order to qualify for Boston. And I was mostly successful, but the panic bubbled up as the weather warmed up (running in cool weather is, of course, easier) and again when I printed out my pace band, and then again when I went to pick up my race kit.

Waiting for the race to start

I wasn’t feeling confident about qualifying but reminded myself all I could do is do the best I could on Sunday. Can I say I did my best? I’m not sure.

I knew I was in trouble early on in the race. I remember at 8k I was already feeling tired and I was finding it terribly hot and that  made me feel anxious, and the hill at Hog’s Hollow was rougher than I’d ever remembered it to be! Thankfully, although I found the first 10k or so quite warm, it felt cooler for the rest of the race and conditions were quite ideal. In shorts and my tank top, I wasn’t overheating and there was a wind, which helped to keep me from feeling uncomfortably sweaty.

I knew if I was already tired at only the 8k mark, that didn’t bode well for the next 34 kilometres. I told myself it was just because I hadn’t warmed up and gotten into a rhythm yet. And then I started slowing down. I started out with a pace of 5:05 and eventually it crept to about 5:19, which I kept consistent until the halfway mark (I think, I can’t find my splits online).

“If you can maintain this pace until the end of the race, you can meet your mark,” I told myself, but even as I did, I knew that this was likely not going to happen. From past races, I know I typically tend to slow down a lot sometime after 32k. So if I had already slowed to my goal pace before the half-marathon mark, maintaining it would be very tough. My legs felt exhausted very early on; I wasn’t in pain but I could feel lactic acid building up in my legs. Twice, when I blinked slowly and my eyes were closed a fraction of a second longer, I actually got scared I was going to pass out, so I reminded myself to keep hydrating and to not rest my eyes (as a side note: I am prone to fainting, but have never experienced it when running).

I think my biggest downfall, though, was the mental struggle. As qualifying for Boston quickly slipped away from me around the middle of the race, I had many times when I just thought “I’d like to just stop and sit by the side of the road and not run anymore.” As I was scared of dehydration and wasn’t pushing myself to make my original goal time any longer, I stopped at every water station (in Chicago in the fall, I didn’t stop even for a second, I ran while sipping water from my bottle). At first my water breaks were for just two seconds but then (since I’d long since said bye bye to meeting my goal) I took my time drinking water or Gatorade, taking at least 30 seconds or more. During one brief walk break, I actually toyed with the idea of walking to the finish line, but I was still many, many kilometres from finishing. I managed to snap myself out of it each time I felt like stopping altogether, but I’d lost my drive. When there was 5k left, I managed to convince myself to run straight through to the end and settled into as comfortable a pace as I could, and only pushed in in the final few hundred metres.

Disappointed with myself, I only checked my official time today (Tuesday); I’m normally rushing to check my time immediately after crossing the finish line, but dejected and knowing it was something over four hours and nowhere near the time I’d been hoping for, I haven’t had the heart to until writing this post. With a 4:03:54 finish, that’s my third slowest marathon out of the eight I’ve run. It is 26th out of 93 women in my category, which even I am pretty happy about. This race did confirm what I’ve thought, though: I believe I’m solidly a 4-hour or so marathoner (give or take given all the factors that impact a race such as the weather and the route, etc), and that Chicago Marathon last fall was an exception where somehow, some way, I managed to crank out the race in 3:46.

Next up: I have the Sporting Life 10k in Toronto this Sunday (why did I again think this was a good idea??), the Run for Women in Oakville on May 31, and the Nike Women’s Toronto 15k in Toronto (get your gait analysed at the Nike Toronto Eaton Centre if you haven’t already).

As for my racing in the fall… Another marathon? Take a break? Run a half? I’ve got lots to mull over.

Leave a Comment May 5, 2015

Fitness Swellness: Marathon-training mental meltdown

Actually I can

With six days to go until I run my eight marathon, the Goodlife Toronto Marathon, I’m overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, and I have been for weeks.

It’s more than just pre-race jitters. And it’s more than this having been a brutal winter to train in (although that certainly didn’t help out matters). I think running marathons for three-and-a-half years (two marathons a year, and one year during which I ran three, along with a few 30k races and some halfs and 10ks) combined with my type A personality is swallowing me up whole with stress. Type A personalities tend to be very competitive and self critical, and they get wound up easily. I’m surprised my picture is not next to the definition I just googled. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do better, run faster, and get that PB, but lately, and ironically, the very sport that I’ve been using for stress relief is now perhaps causing me more stress than it is alleviating it.

Don’t get  me wrong. I think some stress when it comes to training is good. It helps keep you disciplined when it comes to your training. But I’ve had a few moments running when I get so overwhelmed with it all that I lose my breath and have to stop running until I stop coughing and can get a handle on my breathing. I had a conversation with a friend who pointed out with concern that when talking about the race, I’m rocking back and forth out of anxiety. And I ruminate on marathon running constantly…”What pace do I have to maintain? How much faster should I adjust for the breaks I’ll need to take to sip water and for fuel? What will I race in the fall if I don’t qualify? If I do qualify, should I still run that race? What’s the weather on race day since the last time I checked? If I don’t qualify this spring or fall, should I try to add another marathon in the fall?” And so on and so on and so on.

I’m  not sure what’s different now that’s allowed this stress to reach this tipping point. Maybe it’s not taking much of a break from marathon-ing. Maybe it’s that I’ve set my sights on qualifying for Boston since I came so close in the fall in Chicago (although I have to constantly remind myself that just because I came within less than two minutes of qualifying doesn’t mean I “just have to take off two minutes.” I have to actually be able to run that entire race faster, it’s not just a matter of two minutes.)

Add to this that I’ve read how being psychological stress will cause your muscles to recover more slowly…which, you guessed it, only made me stress more.

My anxiety hasn’t lead to overtraining. But it has me contemplating what I need to change in my training, and in life. For now, with the Toronto Marathon in less than a week, I thought I’d remind myself of the things I do like about running to try to get into a better mindset for the race:

I’m fitter than ever. Running three (sometimes four) times a week, combined with weekly NTC classes with Nike, means I’m in the best shape of my life.

The friends I’ve made. Through the Running Room and through Nike, I’ve made some incredible friends. Shawna, who I’ve trained with for the past couple of years, well, we’ve laughed and cried through so many runs. I consider her one of my closest friends now (you get to sharing a lot when you’re running for three hours together!), and training is bearable on the days I’m not feeling it because we are training together.

That sense of accomplishment. It’s pretty satisfying to think back to when I could barely run a few minutes for an interval back in 2007 and then last fall running the  Chicago Marathon straight through. Crossing the finish line of any race is more fulfilling than…well, it might be one of the most fulfilling personal achievements I can think of right now, actually. And even more so when it’s a personal best.

The chance to explore. I’ve gotten to discover parts of the city I might have never come across if I weren’t a runner. And not just in Toronto, but when I travel and run in other cities, too. Running in the heat of Bonaire and finding that funny little tree of flip flop sandals, spotting some sea lions in San Francisco as I ran along the waterfront, stumbling into the market full of delicious food running along the Thames in England.

Those are just a handful of reasons. And I have a confession: even in the  midst of all of this anxiety eating me up whole, I registered this weekend to run the Sporting Life 10k race on May 10th…

Maybe it’s a running intervention I need! (gulp)

I’ll return to figuring out my future plans after the marathon. In the meantime, my focus is on this Sunday. “I’m not going to PB,” I told Shawna. “But you can’t go into the race thinking that. You just have to try your best,” she said. And she’s right. After all, as per Coach Taylor (Friday Night Lights forevah!): “I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is: It’s in the trying.”






1 Comment April 27, 2015

Fitness Swellness: Race Report: Sporting Life 10k 2014

Sporting Life 10k medal 2014

I consider my forte to be endurance rather than speed. So I surprised myself yesterday in the Sporting Life 10k.

I hadn’t put too much thought into my race since my main focus this season was Around the Bay 30k at the end of March and the Toronto Marathon last week. This 10k race I added mostly because I decided to take part in the media team Nike Canada had put together to help raise money to send a kid to camp (Haven’t donated yet? You can donate here!)

I don’t think racing so close to completing a marathon is very wise, but I did it two years ago and it went fine. In fact, it was the same two races, the Toronto Marathon in 2012 followed one week later by the Sporting Life 10k and I ran a 10k personal best.

Since I’ve done very little speed training this season, and my recovery from the marathon has been slower than usual (I can still feel tightness in my legs, I’m guessing because I walked less than usual last week), I didn’t think I could PB yesterday. My fastest for 10k is 49:50. I expected to finish in about 52 minutes.

The weather was just about right — a little too warm for my taste during the actual run (I tend to prefer cool temperatures); thankfully my outfit of a tank, shorts and arm sleeves was just the right gear (I took off the sleeves a few kilometres into the race).

Since I didn’t collapse in my experience two years ago (not joking — I fret about how wise it is to run 10k after a marathon and have all sorts of horrible visions of my body just giving out during the race — so I held back a bit in my 10k race in 2012) I just decided to go hard. I was pretty sure I could maintain about a 5 minute pace if I felt good, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, for the entire 10k. I hustled, and it was difficult. Remember, me, the one that is not a fan of speedwork.

The race has been greatly improved since the first time I ran it. The corrals are nicely timed apart, so no more bottleneck at the race finish area. (One complaint — people in the first red corral who have no business being in the red corral–red corral  means you think you can finish in under 45 minutes–saw way too many slow folks sporting a red bib).

As I crossed the finish line, I knew I had run a PB but wasn’t sure by how much. And my iPhone wasn’t having network issues so I was unable to search for my time. Thankfully, my running buddy texted me congrats and looked up my time for me. That’s what good running buddies are for! She understood how important it was to have this info ASAP.


Exactly two minutes faster.

When I ran 49:50 two years ago, I honestly thought, “Well, that’s it, that’s my 10k personal best for the rest of my life.” There once was a day finishing under one hour for 10k was huge for me. So to complete this in 47:50? That blows my mind. My fastest kilometre? A pace of 4:10. I didn’t think I was even able to run a whole kilometre that fast. I finished 77th out of 1, 495 women in my category.

And now, this has got me thinking…”Can I qualify for the sub 45 minute corral next year???”

I think if I focused on speed training, I could. I really could.

And so the running craziness continues!

Sporting Life 10k 2014 in the start chute

Next up? A few weeks of recovery, which’ll include some easy runs. Possibly a short race in three weeks. Then months of training for the Chicago Marathon will begin.

Leave a Comment May 12, 2014

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