Posted by: Kennedy | September 28, 2010

STWM race recap

Yesterday, I earned my very first race medal. And I can now officially call myself a half-marathoner.

I’ve spent the last 16 weeks training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon with the Running Room. It’s been a hot, sweaty, hilly, achy, sometimes monsoon-y ride. And I’m quite sad it’s over.

I was in pretty good shape as I tucked myself into bed Saturday night at Joanna’s. My nerves were under control, I’d had a great sleep the night before, I’d eaten pasta for lunch AND dinner (photos and recipe to be posted very soon), drank lots of water and absolutely no wine (pretty big deal for me, especially with all the pasta-consuming), and had everything I needed for race day laid out neatly. And, of course, I had Jo – which likely had a lot to do with my level of calm.

But I didn’t have the best sleep, and when I woke up Sunday morning at 5:50, I was a bag of nerves. I had to force myself to eat my breakfast (Dorset muesli with dates and blueberries brought from home – I really took the ‘don’t do anything different’ rule to heart).

Pre-race breakfast

We pinned on our bibs, tied our time chips onto our shoes, and we were out the door at 6:30 sharp. As we walked through the darkness with hundreds of other runners, my nervousness did not subside. We met up with our Running Room group for a quick warm-up jog and a pep talk from Sam and Marie, which made me get all teary. Here I was, crying before we’d even reached the starting line! What a mess.

We also met up with friends Pat and Michelle – Pat was running as well. We snapped a quick photo and then headed to our corral.

All smiles (and nerves) before the race!

As we stood in line trying to stay warm without our jackets, I suddenly and inexplicably felt relaxed. It was the weirdest thing. It was like I was just out for my long Sunday run with 22,000 other people – no big deal. At that moment, I must have been so nervous that my rational side cut in and said “Look, you need to stop. You ran 20k two weeks ago and you were fine. Just get over yourself already.”

My brain is pretty en pointe sometimes.

We were so far back we couldn’t even hear the national anthem or anything the announcer was saying.

View from the green corral

Pre-race Joanna!

Pre-race me... looking a bit tentative...

But before we knew it, we were moving.

Race debris at the start line

I was busy snapping photos when suddenly we were approaching the start! Mild panic set in as I got my watch and RunKeeper app ready. And we were off.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a race: clear and cool. The race route was also very flat – there were only a couple of hills and they weren’t severe. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions for my first half.

Jo and I stuck together for the first 3 km or so – not exactly sure when I lost her. I just turned my head one time and couldn’t see her in my peripheral. So I buckled down, turned on my music, and repeated two words in my head: “Pace yourself.” It must have worked because I felt strong through about three quarters of the race.

Lovely view westbound on Lakeshore

I tried taking shots of the kilometre markers but it took me until the 10k point before I actually caught one.

Almost half way!

I probably should have been a little less concerned with taking photos on my iPhone and more concerned with running – but I didn’t trip or bump into anyone else. I’m getting pretty good at making them less blurry too 🙂

I saw one guy fall early on in the race and it put the fear into me enough that I stepped lightly the rest of the way. So sad when that happens! But he was up and going right away. Best part was that a bunch of people around him turned back and asked if he was okay.

The crowd was amazing – they made the atmosphere so great.

The crowd at 7k

There was music and live bands at various points throughout the race, and that combined with cheering groups of people holding signs and calling the runners by name (from our bibs) was enough to carry me through the more difficult points in the race. A few of my favourite signs of the day:

“Your feet hurt because they are kicking so much ass!”

“Runners have balls; other sports just play with them”


Because the route was out-and-back, I got to see a few of mine and Jo’s cheering section twice! Thank you Jennifer & Alex for going all the way out to Ontario Place so we could have some words of encouragement at 8k AND 16k. It really meant a lot!

Another favourite moment of mine was somewhere between 8 and 9k when all of a sudden I heard cheering and clapping from the runners around me – I looked to my left and saw the guys in the lead for the marathon passing us, already at the 15k point. They were FLYING – it was amazing to watch. And again, I got emotional. It just felt so great to be a part of such a positive, supportive community that truly is about encouragement to achieve a personal best. It didn’t feel competitive or hostile in the slightest.

I took my gel just after the 10k marker. Blehh.. but I was ready for it. I needed a little energy boost by that point. I kept waiting for the turn-around but it didn’t happen until after 12k. Eventually, I made the turn and headed back into the sun.

Getting there...

Between 13 and 15k, I had caught up to a few runners from my clinic – loved seeing some familiar faces. Made me feel like I wasn’t alone out there with a group of strangers. But by 17k, I had started to hit the wall. My legs were sore, and the adrenaline that had made me feel so good and strong for the first three-quarters of the race was starting to give way to fatigue.

I had known this was inevitable, so I pulled a few mind tricks out of my hat. I had been repeating a mantra of sorts to myself, some combination of “Run tall” and “Be strong.” But when that was no longer doing it for me, I switched to the barter technique: “Just do 6 more minutes, then you can walk.” Man, those walk breaks really saved me mentally.

Distracting myself with the beautiful view of Lake Ontario

At 19k, a blister that was happily flying under my radar suddenly burst and brought on instant searing pain. It stung, and it stung bad. Again, I bargained with myself: “It’s just 2.1k, suck it up, you’re almost there.” It worked. A minute later, I barely felt it. I think I was more concerned with not dying.

I decided to forego my last walk break around that point and just run through to the end. As I made the turn up to Bay Street, I saw Michelle. It was exactly what I needed to keep me going through that last stretch, which of course was uphill.

Even though there were tons of spectators on the sidelines, cheering enthusiastically, I could feel myself fading fast. Soon, the metre markers started. All I wanted to do was walk but couldn’t let myself – I mean, I was almost there. But that last 500 metres was the toughest part of the entire race. The end was so close yet so far.

The saddest thing I saw along the race was a runner lying on a stretcher on the sidewalk surrounded by paramedics – 400 metres from the finish line. I can’t imagine the disappointment they must have felt. Hopefully they are okay…

As I made the final turn with 100 metres to go, I felt a bit nauseous but pushed myself to keep going. When I saw the finish line, I started to sprint – and passed three or four people in the process. I finished strong – even if I did have to fight the urge not to puke. And at 2:11:11, I was almost a full four minutes under my goal time. Not too shabby right?!

Almost immediately after crossing the finish, I saw Pat. He did phenomenally and finished under two hours!!

At the end, they have everything set up to keep you moving – SO important. As soon as I stopped to hug Pat, I felt my legs start to seize up. NOT GOOD. We walked for a good 10 minutes as we picked up our medals, got aluminum foil ‘coats’ and eventually made our way to the water/Gatorade and food lines.

I grabbed an apple, banana, bagel and cookie. But the last thing I wanted to do was eat. It took me a good 20 minutes to eat one little cookie. And I didn’t touch the rest of it.

Our post-race plan was to all meet up at Nathan Phillips Square and head to Joanna’s for celebratory mimosas and snacks. Once we arrived, I had the most appreciated shower I’ve ever had in my life.

Afterwards, I felt like a new girl.

Pat, me and Michelle at Joanna's post-race

Snacks included:


Heirloom tomatoes topped with boccocini cheese, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar and olive oil…

And oysters (I was all prepared to try one of these babies for the first time, but my tummy was not feeling it.)

We snapped some photos:

The runners!

Then headed out for brunch at Milestone’s in Dundas Square.

On the patio for brunch

Our view overlooking Dundas Square

It was 2 p.m. by this point – over four hours since I’d crossed the finish line – and I was finally getting my appetite back. And it came back with a vengeance.

I ordered a raspberry mimosa (amazingness) and Eggs Milestones (eggs Benny with avocado salsa, tomato and goat’s cheese). It doesn’t get much better than that.

My friends started talking about the Marble Slab Creamery about half way through our meal. I wasn’t really feeling ice cream but I knew I’d give in to peer pressure if it came down to it. And so it did. I got a small scoop of Birthday Cake with Skor pieces and Reese Peanut Butter Cups mixed in. I could barely finish it – the nausea had reared its ugly head.

Went home happy and exhausted.

All said and done, running the half was one of the most invigorating experiences of my life.

Two very happy, well-fed girls!

Time to start planning my next big race.


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