This is my race report for the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon on May 6, 2012. I’ll start off with the “executive summary” for those of you who get squirrely reading race reports. If you want to see pictures, you’ll have to scroll down.
Pros: The course is mostly flat and downhill, aside from the Hogg’s Hollow hill which is not nearly as bad as it looks. There were many pace groups and some sometimes two for each time: one continuous and one with run/walk intervals. The bag check was quick and efficient, and there were lots of volunteers at the start helping runners and spectators with directions, etc.
Cons: The water stops weren’t able to keep up with demand. In most races I’ve run, the volunteers were able to stand beside the table and hand cups to runners as they passed by. At each and every station I stopped at from start to finish, there were no cups on the tables: runners had to go up to the tables and take them as they were being poured out. Plus, the stations were inconsistent: some started with Gatorade while others started with water. It was confusing. The finishing area was in serious need of organization: the water and Gatorade was separate from the food tent. Runners need to re-hydrate with water or Gatorade before they want chocolate milk. And where were the shuttle buses? Where was the meet up area? No one knew.
Worth mentioning: The start and finish aren’t in the same location. If you leave your car near the finish – Exhibition Grounds, be prepared to fork over $14 for parking and you’ll still have to get transportation to the start. The finishing chute is narrow and you’re finishing side by side with the full marathoners. The checked bags are left out in an open area and sorted by bib numbers. It was easy to track down my bag but anyone could have walked by, grabbed a bag and left. Finally, I heard the shuttle tickets sold out early at the expo. If you need transportation, buy a ticket when you register or get to the expo early (if possible).
Recommendation: This race might take a bit coordination because of the start and finish locations but I think it’s potentially a course to get a PB on because it’s flat and downhill. Carry your own water and you’ll be fine. Hopefully the race organizers can fix the water stop issues and get better organized for next year.
Still here? Great! Here’s the full race report with more detail and pictures.
Unfortunately, I had caught a sore throat. Not the best way to start the weekend. I decided to head over to the race expo on Friday so I could spend Saturday resting. The expo was located at the Direct Energy Center which wasn’t convenient to get to but the race organizers had shuttle buses running from the downtown core. My complaints here were that they needed more packet pick-up volunteers to get the crowds in and out quickly and they needed to tell people there were no safety pins in the bags. Or just put them into the bags like they do at other races.
On the plus side, the goody bag actually contained “goodies”. There were chocolates, yogurt gummies and popcorn just to name a few of the things. The expo itself wasn’t anything to write home about. For a change, I didn’t spend any money. I did get my knee taped at the KT Tape booth. It was nice to finally see them at a Canadian race expo! They also said they would soon be selling their products at Sport Chek and Shopper’s Drug Mart. Yay!
I spent Saturday relaxing but I have a hard time doing nothing so I also whipped up a jalapeno guacamole and a few other treats to blog about later on this week! I also carb loaded with my recipe for low-fat pasta carbonara. I laid out my gear for the next day, prepped my breakfast and headed off to bed. I had taken a number of cold remedies but I didn’t seem to be getting better.
Sunday morning came and I still had a sore throat. I debated going back to sleep but decided to get dressed and see how I felt. After I ate breakfast, I saw a good luck shout out from Jennifer on WISH, a nice way to start off my day. I’ve never run a race sick before, but I decided to try. I do love a challenge!
I arrived 30 minutes before the start of the half and got there just as the last marathon runner was headed down Yonge Street. He had a police car escorting him and tons of people cheering him on. I headed over to the bag check area to drop off my knapsack. It was quick and easy. I’m glad to see they were organized.
Then I was off to use the porta potties. I think I must have had the worst luck because not only did I get the stall with a broken lock but I got the one where … um … someone missed. How does that even happen? Here’s a thought: sit down next time because no one else was able to afterward. Plus some unfortunate person has to clean that up. Talk about inconsiderate. Yuck. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Next time, I’ll use the bathrooms inside the civic center.
I got in a good 15 minutes of stretching and dynamic warm-ups then headed over to the start line. I checked my phone just before we started and got some more good luck wishes from my teammates – Kimberley, Mike, Susan, Kim and Rick to name a few. Go WISH! Unfortunately, I missed meeting up with my other teammate Rebecca.
At 8:30AM we were off! I started slow and stuck to my 4/1 intervals. I didn’t want to go out too hard because I knew there was a massive hill around the 3K mark. I didn’t even have a chance to think about it because 1K into the race, my throat was already super dry and sore. Where’s that first water station again? This was not going to be a good day. At the foot of the Hogg’s Hollow hill, I had caught up to 2:00 hour pace bunny.
The advice I was given about this hill, was to slow my pace but to keep running. Apparently, no one told the 2:00 hour bunny this because he was moving up the hill, and fast! All I could do was to give it a shot and hope for the best. So I ran. I focused on his 2:00 hour sign and made it up the hill in a 10:26 m/m pace. No sweat! I saw the 2:00 hour group at the water station so I stopped as well.
The water station was chaotic: the first table had no water cups and runners were grabbing them out of the hands of the volunteers as quickly as they were being filled. The tables further down weren’t any better. Not good. I waited, grabbed my water, ate my Clif Blok, looked up and the 2:00 hour bunny was gone. What?! I took off trying to catch up. I didn’t make it far before my throat starting feeling dry and sore again.
I checked my watch at 10K and knew that a 2:00 hour finish was not in the cards. I’m not fast enough to make up that time in the second half. But I did wonder where the 2:00 hour bunny was and how hard it would be to catch up. I decided I’d push myself to see if I could catch him. I got my butt in gear and surprinsingly, I’m running an 8:35 m/m pace and feeling pretty good. At 13K, I spot the 2:00 sign off in the distance and by 14K, I’m caught up!
Unfortunately running a fast pace on a warm day, while sick and in direct sunlight takes a lot of energy. Who knew? It was deceptively hot while running in the sun. And even though I had taken another Blok and more water at 15K, I was feeling the effects of my sore throat and by 16K, I had to let the 2:00 pace group go. I figured better to finish than to stop running altogether.
From 16K onwards, we were in downtown Toronto. I didn’t like this section of the course: there were slippery streetcar tracks, pot holes and tons exhaust from all the cars that were stuck waiting for the runners. Those cars weren’t going anywhere so why not close Front Street entirely? I digress. This was also the part of the race where I was alternately too hot from being in direct sunlight to being too cold from running stretches in the shadows of the office towers. Luckily, the cheering crowds on Lakeshore gave me a nice pick up.
The final meters to the finish line were pretty ridiculous. First, half and full runners were forced to merge and secondly, you needed to make a sharp turn to enter. I wasn’t sprinting but if I had been, I probably would have slammed into someone. I understand why it was set up that way but that doesn’t mean it was a good design. I finished in 2:11:00. Not a PB but not my worst race. Given that I was sick and had knee issues, I’ll take it.
My final thoughts are that the race organizers have some logistical issues (water stops, finish area organization) to address before I would consider returning. Although the course is downhill, runners will lose time waiting at the water stops. Thirty seconds, here. Twenty seconds, there. It all adds up. Did you miss your goal by a minute or two? How many water stops were you held up at?
So that 2:00 goal remains elusive but it’s one that I’ll keep training for. Next up? The Sporting Life 10K!