Sunday, September 28, 2008

Race Report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon

As noted in previous posts, I headed downtown on Saturday night to pick up my race kit from the expo and check into the hotel. Since I wasn't exactly sure where to go for dinner, I elected to just pick up a ticket to the race's pasta dinner to play it safe. As I was a bit rushed, I forgot to pick up a paceband while I was at the expo, but I didn't worry about it too much as I planned to stick with the 3:20 marathon pacer and, failing that, had my watch to pace me.

After dinner, I headed back to the hotel and finished up some work on my laptop before getting all of my running gear ready. I set the alarm for 5:45 the next morning and went to bed around 10:00 to make sure I got enough sleep prior to the race. In the morning, we got suited up, double checked everything and then headed down to the starting area.

Once we got down to the race site, we walked around a little to familiarize ourselves with the layout. We met a few people from the local running room shop, and also ran into yumke getting ready for his first BQ attempt. After chatting for a little while, we wished each other luck and headed down the start corals to find the rest of our running group. We didn't have much luck at that given the number of people out, and with the start approaching I broke off and headed to the yellow corral (1:36-1:47) to look for the 3:20 marathon pacer that I planned to utilize.

After walking around a bit, there was no sign of him/her so I just got into position in the corral and waited for the start. This was a bit of a disappointment, as I was looking forward to running with a stable pace group rather than continually monitoring things myself. The corral filled in quickly, and after the national anthem the groups were moved forward to fill in the starting queue. In total, more than 14,000 runners were taking part in the races that day so things were packed in pretty tightly.

When the starter's horn was sounded, the ocean of people started moving forward. Thanks to the Corrals, however, most people in my general area were running at about the same pace so the traffic wasn't a huge problem. The planned pace (4:44min/km) felt very comfortable, so I let myself drift a little faster than that to gain a bit of time.

1K: 4:56 158bpm

About 60 meters prior to the 1K mark, however, the auto lap sounded meaning that my watch was measuring a bit short. I had swapped out a new pair of shoes in the previous week for the race, but hadn't had a chance to recalibrate the sensor. I didn't worry too much about it, as they were the same make/model/year as the old ones, and the sensor was last calibrated when they were new. Unfortunately, there obviously was a difference and with the sensor measuring distances short that also meant that the paces shown were going to be a little faster than they actually were.

At that point, I started pushing a little harder to correct for that deficiency, but as I didn't want to fiddle with the watch too much while running I didn't do the exact math. I knew the rough splits to expect at certain milestones, and figured that I'd dial in corrections at those points if necessary. Either way, I was really regretting the fact that I forgot to pick up a paceband from the expo the day before, as it would have come in very handy at this point.

2K: 4:45 167bpm
3K: 4:42 170bpm
4K: 4:49 169bpm

The next three kilometers went pretty well, while they were a bit slower than planned they were close enough for it not to be a problem. I was still running with the same basic group of people, and was still feeling pretty comfortable at this point. My heart rate was a little higher than I would have liked, but it was still within a safe range given prior runs.

5K: 4:45 169bpm

At the 5K point, there was a small overpass that the course traveled over, adding a bit of a challenge. On the way up (+2% grade, 330m), I backed off a little but I accelerated as I crested the hill and went down (-3.6% grade, 160m) a little faster than pace. Looking at the splits, this worked out well as my average speed was about right and my heart rate remained stable over the hump.

6K: 4:48 170bpm
7K: 4:47 170bpm
8K: 4:47 170bpm
9K: 4:51 172bpm

The next section of the race was relatively uneventful, with a bit of an incline but otherwise a straight shot down a major road. I started to find some other runners going at about the right pace, and started using them rather than my watch to keep me at the right speed. Looking back, this was a bit of a mistake as the data shows that I started to fall back at this juncture. Fatigue hadn't really set in yet, and I likely could have pushed a bit harder in this portion (which in retrospect would have helped down the road).

10K: 4:36 173bpm

As I passed the 9K flag, I realized that I was starting to drop back so I broke away from the group that I was running with and tried to catch up. Unfortunately, I pushed a little bit too hard in this segment and that began the process of tiring out my legs a bit.

11K: 4:45 173bpm
12K: 4:46 173bpm

After backing off from the over-enthusiastic pace of the last kilometer, I took the next 2K at roughly the correct pace. By the end of the 12th kilometer (the turnaround point), I was feeling relatively good again.

13K: 4:42 173bpm
14K: 4:47 173bpm
15K: 4:48 175bpm
16K: 4:42 175bpm

For the next little portion, I attempted to carefully step it up a bit to make up for lost ground. As visible above, my pace was a bit unstable here due to this and near the end of the 16th kilometer I was beginning to feel some fatigue in my legs again.

17K: 4:51 175bpm
18K: 4:51 176bpm

With my legs getting sore again, and my heart rate climbing my focus moved from trying to hit my target to simply getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. I slowed down a bit in the next little segment to allow my legs to get better, but they were feeling quite heavy at this juncture so it was a bit of a fight.

19K: 5:21 175bpm (4:58 pace minus walk break)

At the end of the 19th kilometer, we again approached the overpass that I first hit at the 5K mark going out. The combination of the steeper ascent in this direction, and the fatigued legs made this trip over it a lot more difficult. I managed to make it up the hill without loosing much speed, however my legs were quite tired by the time I hit the top so I fell back to a walk for about 50 seconds to rest. Getting started again was hard at this point, but I pushed myself back to a run before I hit the 19K marker.

20K: 5:15 173bpm (4:44 pace minus walk break)

This was a relatively flat portion of road, however the walk break at the end of the last kilometer didn't quite clear out the lactic acid so it was still quite hard. With the final stretch approaching, I figured I'd try another short walking break (1:15) to see if I could freshen the legs up a bit more. As before, however, it didn't really help a lot so I switched back to a running gait as I approached the 20K marker.

21K: 4:52 176bpm
21.1K: 4:13 182bpm

While my legs were still quite sore, my breathing and heart rate were both relatively stable so with only 1,100 meters left I figured I'd just bite the bullet and endure it. I started out a little slowly to see if that would help, and then picked it up as I went along. The soreness didn't go away, however it wasn't getting any worse so I just ignored it and continued accelerating.

When I hit the 600 meters to go sign, I opened up a little more and with my mind focused on the finish line the legs weren't really bothering me much any more. As I hit each of the remaining signs, I stepped it up a little more and finally opened up to a 4:00min/km pace for the final 100 meters. Once I crossed the finish line and broke to a slow walk, the pain faded pretty quickly as my heart rate fell.

In the end, I crossed the finish line a little under two minutes slower than I expected, which is still a pretty good result considering that this is my first race at this distance. The 1:40 goal was a bit aggressive to start with, and the result that I got here actually lines up well with what the predictors suggested from my 15K results. Either way, it gives me something to reach for the next time I attempt this distance ;)

Chip Time: 1:41:46.6 (overall results)
Gun Time: 1:42:20.1
Pace: 4:49min/km
Place Overall: 518/6373 (91.8th percentile)
Place in Men: 428/2838 (84.9th percentile)
Place in Age Group: 55/341 (83.8th percentile)

Average Heart Rate: 172bpm (~84% MHR)
Full Telemetry
Route Map (with notes)

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