Name of the race: Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon
Where: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: May 6, 2018
Time: 8:30 am
Distance: 13.1 miles
Terrain: Net downhill with rolling hills (massive hill at Mile 2.2)
Entry fee: $70-90; $110 at the expo
Post-race Food: Banana, HoneyWater, and fruit and nut morning round muesli
Swag: Technical t shirt
Performance: Overall: 760/2956; Gender: 200/1392; Age (40-44): 29/171
Weather: 59 degrees, 39% humidity
To understand my relationship with Alice, you need to be Korean, or at least come from a culture that values hierarchy and internalized its values. Which is a roundabout way of saying I (mis)treat Alice like she’s my (bratty) younger sister. We met years ago when I was newly minted Ph.D. and completing a post-doc in Toronto. Alice was a young undergrad. I wasted no time in torturing her. Once after a loud session of publicly annoying Alice in a hallway, as I walked away I overhead one person asking another person what was up with my treatment of Alice.
“Oh, that’s just Elle. I think abusing people is her way of showing love.”
That statement nicely sums up who I am and our relationship to each other.
Alice and I are currently working on a project together and we do most of our discussions over email, chat, and occasional phone calls. It functions. Some months ago, Alice mentioned that she started running and signed up for the Toronto Half Marathon. She asked me to join her at the Toronto Half. After taking a look at my schedule and having the ease of also being able to work with her in person, I signed up with the intent of treating the race as a hard workout.
I was looking forward to this race because of being able to spend time with Alice and because I used to live in Toronto, so this race would be in a sense a “hometown” race for me. The route went straight down Yonge St, where I spend so much of my time traveling to and from work, friends’ homes, and my old home. It went through my old neighborhood of Yonge-Eglington and I would be able to see my old apartment building. I was relishing the idea of reliving old memories as I ran through the streets of Hogtown. Years ago, I thought about running the Toronto Marathon as my first marathon. I more or less gave up running when I moved to Toronto and I regretted that I never ran the Toronto Half while I lived there. I did go out and spectate when I lived in Toronto because I could just step out of my building, walk a few meters and see the runners. Back then, this marathon was held in October; it was moved to May so that there wouldn’t be too many street closures in October because the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is also held in October.
Alice’s friend very kindly picked up our bibs at the expo for us, so I never went. This was nice because Alice lives waaaaayyyyyyyy north of Toronto, like we’re practically in Barrie. And Barrie, for you non-Torontonians, is the town that’s just south of the North Pole. This saves us a lot of time and allowed us to get work done Saturday afternoon. Along with working, I also went over Alice’s race plans in terms of pacing, fueling, clothing, and post-race meet-up. I reviewed her training and her goal and determined that she could do a 2:30 half.
As for my own goal, I wanted to do a hard workout, so my time goal was 1:45. I couldn’t believe that my fall A goal was now a workout goal. This is what training does to you. After getting Alice settled with her plans, I worked on figuring out logistics. My attitude and pre-race behavior before goal races and races as workouts are widely different. I’m terribly anal and detail-oriented for the former and absurdly lackadaisical for the latter. At the last minute, I asked my best friend in Toronto if I could park at her building, which was conveniently located near the start line and if I could go to her place after the race to shower before I leave for the airport. She was amused by my fly-by-night appearance and agreed as I knew she would. Someone on Twitter wished Alice and me good luck at our races and warned us about some big hill near the beginning of the race. I wondered what she meant because everyone knows that Toronto is a net downhill course. . .
We woke up early and drove down to Mel Lastman Square in North York. We got there earlier than we had to because I was worried about road closures, but they closed roads so late that I really had nothing to worry about. We used the additional time to hang out at Tim Horton’s and use their indoor bathrooms (better than port-o-potties) and to warm up.
My first sign that this was not going to be a good race was that warm-up. The warm-up didn’t feel good and not in a I’m-stiff-now-but-I’ll-loosen-up-soon kind of way. It was a hmmm-the-race-hasn’t-even-started-and-this-will-be-interesting-in-a-Chinese-curse-kind-of-way. It was humid. Far more humid than 39% given by the weather report. I jogged and I was already dripping with sweat. I used the port-o-potty two more times before going to my “corral.” I lined up between the 1:50 and 1:55 pacers because I wanted to start conservatively and negative split this sucker.
Sign number 2 that the race wasn’t going to go well was the fact that right after I crossed the start line, I really had to go use the facilities again. Despite the fact that I had just used it minutes before. Since there was no line, I figured it was better to run in and use it, even it was literally seconds after I crossed the start line then to wait a bit and risk having a line at a later port-o-potty. I wasn’t happy, but figured it was no big deal because this was just a workout.
The first two miles I was close to my intended target pace of 8:00 min/mile only because we had nice massive declines. Starting at Mile 2.2 there was a HUGE hill. Now that tweet made sense. You know, I drove up and down Yonge St a million times during the three years that I lived in TO and I never once noticed the undulations of the street. Yonge St. is far more rolling hilly than I remembered and the hill at beginning is a proper BIG hill. I slowed to a crawl. I knew I was in a rough day.
Even when the hill was finally over, I never felt better. My stomach seriously hurt for no good reason. I stuck to my usual pre-race routine, but every once in a while, your body rebels. I decided to slow down and run at a pace that felt “comfortable.” I tried to relax and take the scene, especially when I ran through my old neighborhood. Despite wanting to have a good time, I was miserable. If it hadn’t been for needing to meet up with Alice at the end of the finish line, I would have DNF’ed and gone straight to my best friend’s place to hang out with her instead of miserably running. I kinda hated running, but I gritted my teeth and told myself to make the best of a bad situation.
It was a pity that I felt this way because after the large hill, the Toronto half marathon course is a real joy to run. My favorite section was when we were running on Rosedale Valley Road. Not only was there a lovely decline, but we go through a lush and verdant ravine, which makes you feel as if you escaped to the countryside, despite the fact that this is very much an urban race.
For the last three miles, I sucked up the pain and picked up the pace. I wondered if it would be possible to get a sub-1:50. Answer no. Despite the pain and disappointment, I enjoyed running through downtown and the people who came out to cheer. There was a girl with her dog. She had a sign that told us to make the same signal that children give to truckers to make them blow their horn and she would make her dog howl. I had to see/hear this, so I made the signal. She commanded her dog, “Speak!” and he loudly bayed. It was delightful. Several runners behind me caught on because I could hear him howling as I ran toward the never-approaching finish line.
Finally, finally, finally I made it to the finish line. I ran 1:51:39. It was far removed from my goal time and for me, not a particularly good time. I didn’t care. I was just relieved I was done.
I had some time to kill before expecting Alice to arrive, so I took my time in getting food and hydration. I adored the HoneyWater, lightly honey-sweetened water, that was made available to us. It tasted like manna. I guzzled several bottles of it.
Alice ran an amazing first race. She came in at 2:27 and change with the biggest smile on her face. I hugged her something fierce because she ran her perfect race. She told me that for her first race, she wanted to run well, run with a smile, and have a good time. She did all three. I was soooo thrilled for her. After she recovered, we stumbled around until we could find our way out.
The finish area is at the Exhibition Center which is a ways away from downtown Toronto. You have a pretty long walk to the streetcar that would take you to a subway stop. We decided to take a bus that would take us to a different subway stop because the bus was right there and the last thing we wanted to do was be on our feet longer than we had to. The inconvenience of the finish area is probably my least favorite about this race. If I had been racing, the hill would be first and the finish area second.
Alice is now hooked on running/racing. She signed up for another half. Mwahahahaha. . . my plan to turn everyone into a runner is working. 🙂