2015 Toronto Waterfront Marathon Experience
The training for the marathon went very well. We missed only a handful of scheduled training days even though I had to deal with a bit of a foot issue that I self-diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. We trained for a 3:35 marathon and most of our times, at least on the track and tempo, were a bit faster than plan. Leading up to the race we felt really confident we could run between 3:35 and 3:40 and my personal goal was sub-3:38.
The entire week before the race I was at a company offsite in San Diego. I was *extremely* well behaved during the offsite, going to bed between 9 and 10 each day and only had a few drinks the entire week. I got back to Port Washington around 4PM Friday, and because I essentially stayed on NYC time, I was able to get a solid 7 hours of sleep Friday night. Then Saturday morning, I picked up Andy at 5:45 AM for our 9:00 Flight to Toronto.
We grabbed an Uber at the airport and we were off to the Expo. The Expo was pretty much the same as every expo, except you could buy the official race t-shirt so I grabbed one for Ba-Nhi. We also learned they no longer sell Banana flavored PowerBars in Canada. The area around the Expo a bit removed from the center of the city so we had to grab a cab to a better area for lunch. Dan (Andy’s friend, Toronto resident, and fellow race participant) recommended we find lunch near Yonge-Dundas square where there are many restaurants and he would meet up with us after lunch. The restaurants, at least the ones we could see, where primarily of the chain variety. Promising ourselves we would not go to Bare Burger or any other restaurant we could find in Port Washington (and too cheap to use my phone to find someplace and risk a $100 data charge), we wandered around the area like were in the 1990s. Andy noticed a sign for “Thai Salad”. It was on the second floor of an old office building. As we went up the elevator I was expecting a small, empty, tired restaurant but at this point it was 1:00 and I was really hungry and starting to stress about not eating properly. As the doors opened, it turned out to be a huge well-appointed restaurant and it was absolutely packed. I had Siam noodles and iced Thai tea.
Met up with Andy’s friend Dan and his three kids who were on their way to the Spooky Halloween pop-up store. Then to his house where we are staying and took a short nap and watched come college football. Before we knew it was 5:45 and time to go to dinner. We went to Terroni’s on Queen street. Had a very involved Burrata appetizer and a homemade tagliatelle with a light meat sauce and shaved black truffles for my main course. Olive oil was so good I ended up buying a bottle to take home.
Bed by 10 on a pillow-top aerobed in the basement playroom. Slept solid until about 4am and sat in bed listening to podcasts until 6. A typical night before marathon sleep experience. Weather was supposed to be right around 35 degrees at the start so I wore a light long-sleeved tech shirt under the standard short sleeve shirt, with hat and gloves. We then went to Dan’s office at 7 which was a few blocks from the start. We hung out there for about 40 minutes then I headed down to the Equinox on Bay St. which opened at 8 to leave my bag so I could make a quick exit to the airport after the finish. Met up with Dan and Andy at the intersection of Queen and York and then we went right into the starting corral. The corral was not too crazy and had pretty lax bib checking. Someone sang both the Greek and Canadian national anthems and we were off.
Very civilized start and we had no congestion as we got underway. Our goal was to run a 1:48 first half so we tried to keep our pace around 8:10 to 8:15/mile. The first few miles went through a nice part of Toronto and after a very slight uphill in the first mile it was a slight downhill to Lake Ontario. Our first few miles a bit fast at an 8-minute mile pace. Next 6 miles or so were along the water and was essentially an out and back. We kept the pace a bit fast but pretty close to our goal so we were not that concerned. At this stage it was a bit sparse in terms of spectators. Miles 7 to 12 was another out and back in a bit industrial and run down area that was going through some revitalization. The combination of Andy and I chatting quite a bit and the lack of a lot of spectators for long stretches made it feel a lot like a training run. We headed back into the center of the city for the half marathon split and larger crowds. We definitely sped up at this point and had to continually try and keep our pace in our target range. We did a good job whenever we started to speed up to notice it and call it out. We hit the halfway mark at 1:46:22. A bit fast but in our acceptable range. Although going out that fast made it nearly impossible for us to do a negative split. At this point we were on a sort of parkway for a bunch of miles that again had few spectators. The organizers seemed to plan the course where they would not impact traffic patterns too much but I feel like I did not see a lot of the best parts of Toronto. As the miles got into the teens we continually communicated about how we felt surprisingly solid. Definitely felt better at mile 15,16,17 then other marathons. Miles 18 to 21 where through a neighborhood with shops and homes sort of like the part of Philly that goes up the Schuylkill river with tremendous support which helped us keep the pace. At about mile 21 Andy started to drop back and gave me the “don’t worry about me, go for it” wave. For the next couple of miles, I could still see him so I knew he was keeping a strong pace. I was able to keep the pace around 8:10/mile but by mile 23 I was started to feel pretty tired. I was not hitting a wall but did not feel I could run 3 really fast miles to the finish. I could tell I would not do a negative split so was just trying to pick the point where I would try and go faster. Because we were back on the parkway and there were no spectators I decided to wait until we were back near the city center and a ton of people to help spur me on. Miles 23 and 24 were 8:12 and 8:19. With about a mile and a half left we were in a great section that had a couple of areas that filtered into narrow paths with a ton of people cheering. It reminded me of the Tour de France when the bike riders are climbing up steep hills and people are running along. Because all the runners had their name on their bibs I was getting a ton of “Come on John, finish strong John.” So had to stop a few times to say “thanks but actually I go by Jack.” I sped up a bit and did mile 25 at 8:10 and then mile 26 at 7:51. There final 800 meters were great. Right up Bay Street with a ton of people. Reminded me a lot of the New York finish on Central Park south. I when I saw the 400 meters sign I essentially sprinted to the finish at our track pace. I did the last half mile in 3:15. The finish had a quick turn and finished with packed stands on both sides cheering very loud down a narrow finish. Really a tremendous finishing scene. The medals where really nice and weighty.
Andy finished a few minutes later so both of us were really happy with our times. We then got our mylar wraps and walked to get some food. Very organized finish area without having to walk miles after the race like NYC or Berlin. Walked about a half a mile down to Equinox and had a long hot shower then a post workout shake at the Equinox shake bar.
I had a 3:50 flight back to NYC so headed back to the airport around 1:45. I was able to get a cab not far from the gym. Cab driver was a bit loony, trying to get me to eat some Indian seeds and a French pastry, and asking me a ton of questions then assuming I was the best at whatever topic we were talking about. “Oh you ran the marathon, did you get prize money?” “Where do work, what do you do at lunch time, what are your kids like.” I started to get really bad heartburn (I think from drinking the post-workout shake in about 30 seconds) and just wanted quiet. Then near the end he started going into religious proclamations, so was happy when we got to the airport. I made it through clearing customs in Toronto, but not before the customs guy gave me a hard time because I would not wear my medal. I didn’t want to take it out because I still had my bag of cookies and Cadbury eggs in my bag and I just told him I had no food. Uneventful flight and made it home by 6:30. Kids had made pictures congratulating me on the race. Then popped open a Dal Forno Valpolicella and a Quintessa Cabernet and had a nice chicken cutlet dinner.