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Milton, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon Race Report!



It was a day of learning and I was the student.

I hope I pass the test on November 3rd.

Pre Race and Expo

Sam and I had been berating suggesting to Kenny that he should likely pace us through our attempt at the 1:45 half marathon. After all, there was no official continuous 1:45 pacer and Kenny is an old pro. I felt really bold for asking him but he's pretty much a SUPER nice guy and I wasn't that surprised when I saw his comment on my blog that he was ready to help us. 

Then I got kinda scared:


Sam drove downtown on Friday, picked me up at work, we got our kits, schmoozed with THE John Stanton (nicest millionaire I've ever met more then once!) and Saturday I did the usual Saturday things. Plus the RV show, plus this:

Meat buffet text photo to Sam results in this wisdom:
"You better not have the meat shits tomorrow!"
My BFF (it was her birthday), won $150 on penny slots in her last spin!
I got home by 10:30, set two alarms (teased Sam about setting her alarm via facebook) and went to bed. 


I had a really bad sleep which was likely because I had enjoyed a REALLY good hour nap during the day between the RV show and Niagara Falls. Plus my cough was back in full force (aside - went to the doctor's today and I have a lung infection!). Anyway, I got up at 0520, showered, dressed and got on my way, stopping at Tim Horton's for a plain bagel with butter and cheddar, an apple juice and a coffee. I got Sam and we were on our way.

We were nervous. 

I had planned to park at the Eaton Centre, then thought it was closed, so we did an extra lap around the block before heading into the parking lot via Shuter. Neither of us even bothered to look at where we parked which resulted in us kinda living this post race, minus the air conditioner or goldfish. 


We made our way to the bathrooms, then to the DailyMile meeting spot. We were inside. Sam noticed Emma outside, so away we went. I didn't recognize anyone at first except for Emma and made some jokes about my awesome throw away gear (um really, maternity track pants and your husbands old, stained sweatshirt are ALWAYS in style) and we mentioned that we had to check our post race bags. Sam asked the nice man at the meet up if he had checked his and no, he needed to as well.


That's Kenny!

"We're going with you. We are not losing you now." So off we went with a wave to Patty who was joining the meet up. Once in our red corral, we used the portapotty's again which was awesome because I ran into my RR coach, Chris who was pacing the 3:35 group and got to wish him luck in his 29th marathon!

Bladders empty and it was time to line up. Kenny kept us at a good spot in the corral, and I sang O Canada while others looked at me like I was crazy patriotic. That's it. Time to go!

The First Half, KM 1-10

Here we go. Start steady and seemingly slow. "Pacers always go out too fast," says Kenny. "We are going to keep the even pace." Yes, yes. I hook on, just behind Kenny's left should, point myself forward and glaze over with the focus which is know to over-take me when I'm racing hard and for myself. I didn't put my earphones in though. I wanted to save them for when I started to struggle.

Up University and things are okay-ish. Then Kenny tells us that we're over the slight up-hill and things will be flat (duh! We're running north, of course its uphill!). It did feel better and before I know it, we're on Bloor (Sam, we did pass the ROM and the Chin Crystal that's depicted on the medal) and its party time from the spectators. This is good. I'm feeling good. Kenny's telling us our paces, exclaiming in glee when we're right on pace and I'm just sticking to his left shoulder. I actually made it easy for myself to not look at my watch  - I only displayed distance.

Turn down Bathurst and this is all good stuff. A shady looking fellow tries to get a fist-bump from Kenny who nearly runs me over in his rush to GET AWAY from the potential contact and we have a good laugh. There are lots of people cheering and I'm actually liking running with the streetcar tracks because it makes me focus on staying in my lane and avoiding them. Kenny's on my right, Sam's right behind me. Things are good. 

I'm on memory lane in this stretch as well. The Bloor Street Theatre where I spent many of Friday nights in High School watching the audience participation Rocky Horror Picture ShowHonest Ed's, the house my old boyfriend lived in on Bathurst, Dad's High School, Central Tech, The Randolph Academy. Past 6k, past Front street and I put in one earphone. Sam ask's Kenny if he's even sweating yet and I peel down my arm warmers. Kenny's not sweating.

We head down Lakeshore and Lose Yourself by Eminem comes on and I say to Kenny, "If Eminem can get out of 8 Mile, I can run a damn 1:45 half marathon." It was my only light moment in the whole race. Too bad Kenny didn't get the real me. Good thing he got to see the awesome pre-race throwaways.

We hit a headwind, but it's good. I'm good. I feel fine. I'm good. Yup. Gonna put in that other earphone. Run straight ahead. Look at the elites coming back. I'm good. Yup. Feeling good. I see Kenny taking a gel. Right. Gel. I'm going to do that. Maybe I'm feeling a bit tired. Gel. That's good. Like me.

So I dig into my skirt (yes, I RAN IN A SKIRT!) gel pocket and get the gel out and take it with no problems. I have my handheld so I don't need to wait for a water station which is good. 

Like me.


And then I'm not.

At all.

I fight it for a probably a minute while. But I decide to let Kenny and Sam go. 

"Go," I tell them. And that's all I have to say about that.

4:53-5:03-4:49-4:54-4:55-4:53-4:53-4:58-5:03-5:26, I went over the mat with a time of 50:22, so let's just say the Garmin was off.

The Middle Bit; The Lesson. KM 11-17

I walked. I have no idea what was what. My breathing felt fine. I coughed a bit but it wasn't that bad. I was feeling fine. Legs? Check. Stomach? Check. Mind? 



I don't even know what to say, even today. I had no fight at all in my head. While I had written on both my hands ("Yes You Can" and "4:30 AM!"), neither worked. I didn't get angry, I didn't get determined. I was just.


So I kept running along. I looked ahead for Sam and Kenny, but... do you know how many damn people wear hot pink in a massive race? LOTS! I couldn't find them at all. So I ran by feel and looked around at other runners. I had no thoughts. It was so freaking odd! I mean my thoughts were: Oh, there's a guy with a shirt that says Mexico. He must be from Mexico. I bet Sam would love those hot pink tights. Water station. Squeeze the cup. Oh, look my 11k split is 4:59. That's good. La, la, la. Run, run, run. Meh, Meh, MEH!!!!

God, it pisses me off right now to think about it!

12k and we turn around. And thank God. We have a back wind now which is nice. Richard comes up to me with his usual delight and any other day I'd jump at the chance to run with him, but I basically tell him I'm having a bad day and he should move on. He does and I feel all... Meh.

I remember that my friend Dave is going to be on course to bike along to support his cousin who was running her first marathon so I look for him. I try to look at my watch which was auto lapping from time to time to see my splits but I keep missing them. Oh well. I see Dave before he see's me and its a HUGE boost! Finally I get a smile on my face to return his! Hey man... I'm running! Remember how I like this?

Okay. This is getting a bit better now. I stop walking the water stations and fill up my handheld on the run (I gots mad skillz, yo!). I am still fighting the Meh but its getting better. I take an unheard of second gel. MMMM Mandarin Orange! After ignoring photographers for the past while, I make sure this guy gets me:
People do expect the happy photos!
I move the display on my watch to the second screen to give me a sense of total time and average pace. HEY! 5:04/km!!! That's good! GOOD! I run a bit more and look again. Hmmm, I can see the 17k marker but my watch says 16.39. Somehow I've stopped the damn thing. So I start it and hit lap with the marker. Screw it all anyway, time to run.

The lesson? I need to fight in a race. When its hard, I need to have my head on straight which for me means getting angry and getting in control. The Meh Mind should never be in control. It is not like me to give into it (anyone who knows me will say I'm passionate to a fault). Mostly though? I think the true thing I learned is that I can't be afraid. If I need to push, I've got to try a little harder. I can't give up. I've got to fight. I've got to ROAR

I'm a survivor (what), I'm not going to give up (what), I'm not going to stop (what)....

Sorry...  little digression there.

4:59-5:16-5:04-5:19-5:22-5:21-2:44  for 0.53k at 17 (5:20 pace). Whatever! Next time I run in Toronto I'm wearing a damn stopwatch.

The end. The Joy. KM 18-21.1

Right at this time, I hear talking. Lots and lots of chatting. More talking. God, this guy loves his own voice. Geeze, he sounds like someone I know. Blah, blah, blah! I glance back and I should have known! Its Chris the marathon leader from my RR (and someone I consider a coach and mentor). "Hey Chris!" "Nicole! How's it going?!?!" "Not good," I almost start to cry, "I don't know what's wrong today! Its all in my head!!! I'm like 5 minutes off!!!" Oh My God. The look he gives me (as we continue to run along at his group's pace, which is a 5:06/km, no problem - TALKING!). That look conveys more sympathy and more understanding than I can explain. I'm slowing down and Chris has to leave me, but he reaches out and gives me a kinda one armed hug and I breath in the love there. He heads on and I stick with his pace group for a while, but he eventually pulls ahead.

I'm at the hill at 18k now. I know this hill. I walked over it last year when I was cheering at this race. This hill is fine. I'm fine. I'm okay. I'm so. Freaking. Tired. I walked a bit. I couldn't help it. Then I ran again. 

Remember this? This is running. 


Then I'm at 19k and OMG there's Paul! WooHoo! I had no idea he would be there and he's got his "Smile, it will make you run faster" sign and its so good! Hey man. This is good! I start anticipating the 20k sign. Woo! I'm going to hit that 20k sign for this, my tenth half marathon and I'm not looking back. Time to bring it home!

Turns out, bringing it home going up Bay Street through the construction is a bit of work, but whatever! I slow down (I figure I don't have the sub 1:50 anyway) and push though. Not walking again! I get myself over to the 20k sign and manage to hit the bottom edge. Some calls out that they LOVE my socks. A man beside me comments on it and I tell him this is my 10th half marathon.

And I'm smiling. 

And I've found my joy.

My god, my gams look great in that skirt!
5:14-5:43-5:47-5:26-3:30. I don't know, man. Garmin + Toronto buildings = fail.

I cross the finish line and I'm happy. I collect all the stuff, find Richard (who got a PB) and take the official photo.

This photo says it all. I have no idea what my time is and I'm fairly certain I'm about 1:50:XX but I'm happy to be done and proud to have completed #10.

I find Sam and Kenny at bag check and the first thing I ask is what happened! Sam did AWESOME! a 1 minute, 1 second PB at 1:46:16. Kenny's too busy with his phone. All of a sudden: 

"You got a 1:49:31"

Well well. PBs all around. I'm happy! But mostly I'm happy with the lesson learned. Fight, Nicole. Be who you are and it will serve you well. But mostly - when it goes south? Find the joy to focus on. Its a whole lot better then running for meh.

Chip: 1:49:31
Place: 2120/10,094
F35-39: 89/775
F: 565/5371

Next up? Road 2 Hope Half Marathon on November 3rd. 

Sam and I will go for the 1:45 again. 


  1. Man, I wish I'd given you a hug after the race. Tough one for sure, but you still PBd, with a lung infection, which is AMAZING!!! I have a good feeling about Road2Hope!

  2. I'm glad that you found your running joy by the end. I've run my fair share of races that didn't go as planned and it's tough to dig out from that and find peace with it. Take care of yourself so we can go kick some Hammer behind.

  3. Sounds like a tough haul kiddo. You've got the R2H 's number, nail it to the wall!

  4. I'm sorry that you've developed a lung infection, Nicole! I hope you recuperate soon! Garmin tends to fail me too in cities... Congrats on your PB!

  5. I think you did great!! The mental game is tough for sure, I wish I had held up a better mental game the last few miles of the marathon last weekend, but that's alright.

  6. Thanks for being brutally honest here. It's hard to look deep inside at what went wrong, to bare your soul and air your grievances to the world. It is what it is and trust me, I know it's hard to swallow when your day doesn't go how it is "supposed" to. But it's another medal earned! And it's running! And running is awesome! And there will always be another day. Way to rally and turn this thing into another very positive race day experience!

  7. Very detailed race report Nicole! Thank you

    You ran a personal best with a lung infection??

    And maybe I should advertise better where I'm going to be cheering. Or maybe not so that it's a surprise like this was... ;)

    You really showed true grit escaping from the "Meh"

    Good luck in Hamilton!!

  8. You look adorable in that skirt and socks!! Also, what Marlene said. I've met the Meh a few times already and I know how hard is to fight it, a bit like The Oatmeal's Blerch. But you learn, and you move on. You heal, and you run some more. And eventually it happens, the magic number is yours. Watch out, Hamilton!


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