The Test I Didn’t Know I Was Taking

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This is really a race report for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon but the title will make more sense once you get to the end, I promise! Last Sunday when I lined up with 20,000+ other runners at the start of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I was really hopeful that I was going to have a great race. This was my third road marathon and my first one in over a year. I’ve run farther than that distance 4 times this year so I was hoping this would be better than the last time I had toed the STWM start line for my first marathon in 2013.

Based on my time trial a couple weeks ago, my coach told me that I should be aiming to run 5:15min/km for the race which would put me at a 3:40ish marathon, way faster than my PR. The plan was that I would go out find my goal pace and try to hang on for as long as possible and even if everything went down hill, at least I had already completed my goal race and I would probably finish with a pretty good time.

I was not going into this race 100% healthy. At the end of the Halliburton 50 mile, my hamstring was in severe pain. I went to see my athletic therapist and he said that I’d strained it. Running the 5km time trial made my hamstring worse. I knew that I hadn’t done anything serious but I still didn’t run at all in the week leading up to the marathon to give my hamstring a chance of healing. Going into the race, my hamstring was feeling better but definitely not 100%.

So as I lined up at the start line with temperatures hovering around 0C, I knew that this race could go really well but it could also go downhill fast and 42.2km is a long way to run in a lot of pain.

1-5km – The start of the race is always the easiest with all the energy so I just tried to soak it all in without going way too fast. The first 3km are uphill slight so I was averaging around 5:15min/km, right on schedule. I ran passed Kathleen Wynne and JP around 3km; that was pretty exciting. At 4km, I saw my friends cheering and 5km was over before I knew it.

5-10km – I was running a little too fast and I knew it but I figured that I might as well take the time while I could get it because then if I slowed down later, I would have some time banked. I crossed 10km at 52:35.

10-21km – Things were going really well, I felt good and was consistently running around my goal pace. At 21km, the half and full marathon split and there is a huge crowd, I ran 4:48 for that km, and I didn’t know it then but that was the last time that I would run a kilometre anywhere close to 5:00min/km. I crossed the half mark at 1:51.

22-28km – Everything got really tough here. The crowds were gone and I knew that I still had a lot longer to run. My hamstring and knee were really hurting and my feet had been in pain for a few km. I had a friend waiting at 28km and I focused just making it to her. Sometime in here, I walked for the first time just long enough to drink gatorade without spilling it all over myself but it temporarily helped.

28-31km – It was great to see my friend but I ran by and knew that I wasn’t going to see her again until 38km. I knew that my family was going to be at 31km, I was in a lot of pain and I decided that I would drop as soon as I saw them. I rationalized that I was in a lot of pain and I had never run a marathon without getting injured so if I dropped at least I wouldn’t be injured for the next few months. When I got to them and told them that I was done, they said that I had done great and that they understood, it had only been 4 weeks since I ran 50 miles. Then a man beside us overheard the conversation and offered to run with me. He said that he would run with me as long as I wanted so I decided to go run the loop that would have me back to my family around 35km and then I decide for sure about dropping.

31-35km – It turned out that my new running friend was there with his wife to run parts of the course with friends. We chatted and it helped get me through the kilometres but my knee and hamstring were hurting and I just wanted to stop running. When I got back to Callum, I told him that I was dropping. But then I realized that it was less than 8km to the finish and I should be able to run 8km no matter what. I told Callum that I wasn’t sure what I should do and he asked how the pain I was in compared to the pain that I was in at the end of Haliburton. That comparison really did it. I realized then that I had to keep going, no matter how much it hurt.

35-38km – I walked away from Callum and my family and told myself that I could walk as much as I needed to, I just needed to get to that finish line. But before the finish line, I just had to get back to my friend who was waiting at 38km. I told myself that if I could get to 38km then I could probably finish the race. Most the kilometres here were between 5:50-6:00 min/km so I was moving pretty quickly but definitely a significant slow down for the first half of the race.

38-42.2km – I was SO happy to see my friend and she was enthusiastically waiting to see me. I would find out later that Callum had texted her to say that really needed some cheering and she definitely delivered. It was really fantastic! And then I just kept counting down the kilometres in my head. The rest is a painful, painful blur. When I had 1.5km left, I sped up as much as I could but that last kilometre always seems to take forever and this was no exception. I was so relieved to see the finish line and finally be able to stop running.

When I finished, I was freezing and felt terrible. We got some food and went home where I took a hot shower and put my legs up. I was just so happy to be done! Despite almost 5 minutes spent talking to my family, my time was still almost 2 minutes faster than my previous PR.

The next day I emailed my coach about what had happened and he said that the most important thing that I did that day was finish when it was the last thing that I thought I could do. It took everything I had to decide not to drop out of that race and he said that that mental toughness is what I need to run 100 miles (my goal for 2016). When I told Callum this, he said that he knew as soon as I left him at 35km that this race was no longer about time but it had become all about my ability to keep going when my mind was doing everything it could to get me to stop.

When I signed up for this race, I was just running a marathon because I was in pretty good shape and thought I might get a decent time, it turned out to be a test of my ability to tough it out when things get really hard. It was a test that I had no idea I was taking.

Big race accomplishments –
Only 7km with splits over at or above 6:00 min/km
Keeping ~5:15 min/km for the first half
Finishing the race!

What are your big race accomplishment? How did your fall race go?

Happy running!

 

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