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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Toronto Marathon

The Race

Toronto Goodlife Marathon.

I love this race... it's a fantastic showcase for the city. It starts on Yonge Street, heads over to Casa Loma, then down the Rosedale Valley, through St. Lawrence Market, the financial district, down to the waterfront for a long stretch along Lake Ontario, and then finally up University Avenue to finish at Queen's Park! Whew!

42.2km is Hard

Really, it is. I've done a lot of endurance events now, some taking much longer than the 3.5-4 hours a marathon takes, but running a full marathon beats you up and saps your energy in ways you can't believe.

My Race

I started on my pace, which was planned to be slower than my goal pace. For some reason my heart rate was higher at this pace than it had been in training, right from the start. I felt good, it felt easy, but my heart rate was high. I have no explanation for this, and I don't know for certain if this played a role in the wheels coming off later.

At about 5km, the weirdest thing happened. John Tory ran across the street directly in front of me, in a suit. OK maybe that isn't the weirdest thing, but it was pretty bloody unexpected! If it was any later in the race, I'd have chalked it up to hallucination.

I felt pretty good up to 10km, and then the downhill started. It still felt easy and fun, everything was clicking, legs moving well.

The Second Half (aka "Where it gets hard")

We hit halfway and the work began. I started feeling a bit sluggish, and keeping my target pace got a bit tougher.

From 22km to about 31km we ran into this strong headwind. I'm no marathon expert, but it seems to me this is probably the worst point in the race for this... it's when you really want to be settled into a maintainable pace, not fighting a soul-destroying wind!

The Last 10K (aka "Where it gets excruciating")

When we turned around at 31km, I knew 3:35 was gone. I felt tired. Not just tired, but like my legs weren't fluid anymore, they were stiff and took more energy to move. I think this is what separates shorter distances from the marathon, that crushing fatigue. I can get away with less running and making it up with lots of biking on short stuff, but for the marathon you really need those running miles, and I didn't have them this year.

I tried to find a pace I could hold to the end... settled on 5:30/km (vs the 5:08/km I had been planning to target), and for awhile I kept this up. But at 36km even this became too difficult... I stopped looking at my pace and just focused on giving whatever I could to keeping going, fighting the urge to walk. At 39km the course is slightly uphill to the finish... although it didn't feel very slight! I kept it going as best as I could, now hitting 6:00/km, and finished.


Final time: 3:44:06 (540/1991 overall, 64/205 of M35-39)

The finisher's medal is HUGE! After running 42.2km, it felt like 100 pounds around my neck, yikes!

Post-Race Navel Gazing

It's a personal best for me by over 13 minutes, which is satisfying. But that was two years ago, and I've been crushing my times in other distances from that era... I really expected more. Perhaps foolishly.

Timing (adjusted to chip):
  • First 21.1km - 1:46:59 (5:04/km)
  • Last 21.1km - 1:57:07 (5:33/km)
  • First 32km - 2:43:52 (5:07/km)
  • Last 10km - 1:00:13 (6:01/km)

So yeah... big drop off at the end.

It seems to come down to this: up to the half marathon, I can get away with 2-3 runs a week (one long, one tempo, one other) and enough of the cycling fitness carries over to still be able to improve and do well. But for the full marathon, there is a wall you can't get over without the big running mileage. All the cycling in the world won't make your legs efficient when that fatigue sets in.

I'm still not sure why my heart rate was so high early in this race, it could also be a factor. I felt OK, though, so not sure why that was or what role it played.

Done! Next marathon is likely the New York Marathon in November of 2011. That will be more of an "enjoying the scenery" marathon for me, a tourist activity rather than being out there to set a personal best. But we'll see!


Boris T said...

too bad the Toronto lost to the Waterfront. This is a much better way to showcase the city. And lol at the John Tory sighting.

The marathon distance seems to have that effect on many, regradless congrats on beating your previous best.

Sean said...

I did Portland on Thanksgiving (CDN) and had the same problem in the last 10km although my overall pace was slower.

Triathlon training, even up to Ironman doesn't give you the distance runs that straight marathon training does.

Like you I've been killing my shorter distance times setting PBs in literally every distance this year.

Don't beat yourself up about it, you went out, you hit a PB. Solid work!


Jon P said...

Thanks Sean - interesting that we have similar experience like that, makes sense though. One of these years I'll have to really dedicate to running and reach my potential over the longer distance... but sounds a lot like work! :)