Monday, September 29, 2008

FOOD, FUN, AND FRIENDS: TORONTO SCOTIABANK WATERFRONT HALF MARATHON, SEPT. 28, 2008 Some good dinner pics, for sure. Top: Jan, Anne, Laurel, me, all enjoying our meal and some adult beverages the night before the race. We kept things under control, sticking to just one glass of relaxing wine. Then it was off to bed early and hopefully a good night's sleep.
Below: Jan, race morning, all ready to go. One thing we learned, being outside of our own country, was how metrically challenged we were! Kilometers! Celsius! We had no idea what to wear race day until that morning. Example: it was 15 degrees. Celsius. Fifteen degrees to us means cold and snow. Celsius means about 60 degrees. So we were confused at first (maybe still!).

Post race: Can't tell if you can see the name of the celebratory wine Anne bought. It was called "Girl's Night Out." How appropriate!

And here we were, post race, enjoying more adult beverages (Laurel, Anne, Jan). Danny the Dolphin, at the kiddie pool/hot tub/water slide area. The hotel had made a very bad decision scheduling a cleaning of the adult pool/hot tub the day of the race, so we were forced to hit the kiddie pool. Below: Anne at the hot tub.

Two pics of views from our hotel. We had a balcony room, but the door was jammed, so these were from the inside. Not bad actually.

Its hard to sort out and put into words the wonderful weekend we had! Toronto is a beautiful city. I can see why so many people immigrate here. Not only is it beautiful, but seemed very clean and safe.

Jan and I flew into Toronto, via Grand Rapids and west to Milwaukee, and then back east to Toronto. Not efficiency travel, but that's what you get when you have to look for cheap fares. It was a long day of travel, but we chatted about everything you can imagine, and the time passed fairly quickly. It also proved to be one of the most uneventful air travels I have experienced, so it never seemed exhausting or annoying.

We arrived at the hotel much later than we had anticipated, and I was anxious to call Laurel (Lily on the Road) and have our long awaited meet up. Fortunately, she and Anne, her roommate for the weekend, were still up at 10:30 when we called, and they invited us to their room. We then chatted again until almost midnight! We found we enjoyed each other's company right away, and planned a dinner meet up the next day. I reluctantly decided we needed to say good night so they good get some sleep, and Jan and I headed to the bar for a nightcap.

Jan, with her broken collarbone wearing a sling was an open invitation for conversation and questions everywhere we went. Most people assumed she had a broken arm, so we just went with the flow on that. Basically, we closed the bar down (they closed at 1:30 am) and then went to the room and to sleep, with me waking up at 7:59 am the next day.

I felt like I'd overslept or something! I hardly ever sleep that late. I decided to head to the adult pool for a swim. My back had been bothering me all week, since the 10 mile race the week before, and while it was considerably better, I was still having enough discomfort to be reminded of it constantly. I should have hit the hot tub after but felt like I should get back to the room and get ready for breakfast before we totally missed that. My stomach was growling, and we had not really had a dinner meal the night before, so I didn't want to go too long without food the day before a race.

After showering and dressing, we headed to the Market Square restaurant/buffet in the hotel. Jan wanted pancakes, but we got the impression the chefs didn't know what that was, and it soon became apparent that pancakes are not a continental breakfast food in Toronto. We decided on the "Chelsea Breakfast," which consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast, and juice. All good, except we got enough bacon for 3 breakfasts!

After breakfast, we decided to head to the expo. I stopped at the concierge desk to get a map and we bumped into Laurel and Anne! They were headed out to take Laurel's dad to lunch, so we said our goodbyes and headed to the expo.

Once outside, we found it was drizzling rain. I had my umbrella, so we crammed ourselves under it and started our hike to the convention center. We had a general idea of where to go from Laurel's directions, but we soon forgot where we were supposed to turn and instead started following a couple of guys who "looked like runners," figuring we could find our way from them. However, we lost them when they turned off somewhere. For all we knew, they were headed to a strip club or something! So then we did the smart thing and actually looked at the map. We figured out where we were and where we needed to go and all was good again.

Once we got down to Front Street, which is where the convention center is, we noticed a considerably bigger number of people everywhere, reminding me somewhat of NY City, but not that crowded. By now the drizzle had let up, so we didn't have to fight our way through the throngs of people with that. We finally got to the convention center and made our way to the packet pickup area first, got our shirts, a cool tote bag, and our numbers. Jan needed to get her corral color changed from the speedster corral to the slower moving runner corral. She was now going to be walking most of the race, throwing in a little jogging here and there.

This was a great expo, and I spent way too much money here, something I wasn't going to do! Jan was drooling over all the medals of upcoming races at the booths set up for this. It looked to us like race organizers are finally getting the message that its not the race but the bling that draws more crowds! So many races! So little time.

After hours at the expo, my back was really bothering me, to the point where I knew if I didn't get off my feet soon I was going to have some serious problems later in the day. It had gone from a dull ache to almost numbness and pain, so I was hurting. And we still had, we found out later, 1.5 miles left to get back to the hotel. It was raining again, so we waited for 10 minutes and it cleared up, but it was enough for me to take some pressure off the back.

The plan later in the day had been to meet up back at the expo with Anne and Laurel and three other bloggers, Marlene, Tiggr, and Emily. But once we got back to the hotel, there was no way I was going to be able to walk down there again. That would have been a total of 6 miles of walking for the day. Before a race. So I had to beg off, and I'm sorry I didn't get to meet them, but that's the way things go sometimes. Hopefully they had great races and I'm anxious to read their reports.

We did agree to meet up with Laurel and Anne at a closer restaurant, Little Anthony's, but it still mean another 1.5 mile walk to and from the hotel. So we still probably covered almost 5 miles that day, probably closer to 7 counting the expo. Not smart for me that day.

Dinner (pics above) was great. The restaurant had linens on the tables and real silverware. Its nice to treat yourself whenever you can! We had more good conversation and then headed back to the hotel calling it a fairly early night. I took pain medication, used ice and a heating pad on the back, and fell asleep and slept good.

Morning came early, 5:15. As soon as I got up, I could feel the back was mainly tight, tight enough where it was hard to get in any type of decent stretching, which I desperately needed. And of course we faced the weather dilemma. After getting the correct temperature and going outside briefly, I totally changed what I was going to wear. It was about 60 degrees with 94% humidity, like a Florida morning just like Laurel said.

Our hotel was only about 1/2 mile from the race site, so we headed down around 6:45 and got right in the corrals, since they were no where near full yet. I'm sure everyone was in the porta john lines, but having come straight from the hotel, we didn't have to deal with that. I did feel like I could go, but didn't want the hassle of the long lines.

Standing around waiting for the race, my back was tightening up, so I sat on the curb for a while and stretched until the corrals started filling up and it was getting close to time to start running. I'm not exactly sure of the participant numbers, but I never felt jammed or crowded waiting in the corrals for the race to start. I was concerned about Jan getting knocked around, but she even said it was very civilized, and she never had a moment of panic of getting jostled.

Once the race started, Jan dropped back and to the side. Laurel took off like a canon, and Anne and I hung back. I wasn't feeling 100% with my back, but it didn't really bother me to run. I had hoped to run 2:40 or better and feel I have that in me, so when I came upon the 2:30 pace group, I stuck with them for a while, almost thinking it was too slow. But after 30 minutes, I started slowly dropping back, without being able to do anything about it. We just separated, and I never saw them again.

Here too is where I felt unable to do the math, being used to miles and not kilometers. I know the usuals, 5k, 8k, 10k, but the ones in between were what had me confused so I decided to focus on only the ones I knew and figure my time when I arrived as to maybe what I could do overall. By 10k, however, I was really tight and starting to actually get a pain going up my hip flexor area into the side, almost like a side stitch but not really. So I shortened my stride more than I already had, and that helped ease it. This though meant I started slowing down more and more, and by the time I got to 12k, I knew I was losing time badly. I saw Laurel on the return portion (it was almost an out and back for the half marathoners) and determined she was at least 15 min. ahead of me then. When I got to the same place later, I saw Jan, and realized she was only about 15-20 minute behind me! Way to go Jan!

We had our names on our bibs, so it was encouraging to hear your name called out as you would go through the aid stations. A very nice touch! It surprised me the first time someone called out my name though because I was thinking "Who do I know handing out water??"

But that too meant I was really slowing down. Still, I could only do what I could do and decided to just keep up my 8.5 minute run/1.5 min. walk pacing. The weather was fairly nice, with sun and clouds and wind, and by the time we were at 13k, we were running close to the water, so even though the breezes coming off Lake Ontario helped keep things cool, I was sweating pretty good, and my hair was almost soaked. It was obviously the humidity.

I wasn't having a great race anymore, less so than when I started. When I started, at least I was still positive it would be a good enough day. Now, I wasn't so sure. Those stupid little doubts start creeping in and now I knew I was going to have to go kilometer by kilometer to keep myself focused. I also was able to do the math, figuring once I hit 16k I only had a 5k to go and I knew I could do that regardless of how things were going.

About 14k, I suddenly came up behind the 2:45 pace team, and here is when I really got disappointed. I knew I was behind, so decided to just stick with them, even though my watch really didn't indicate a 2:45 finish, but faster for me. But here again, by the time we got to the 15k mark, I was starting to lose them and drop back some, not intentionally, just because I couldn't hold their 10/1 run/walk ratio.

Between 15 and 16k, mentally I was losing control. I was disappointed I wasn't going to make my goal, my back was extremely tight and sore, and I was again having trouble doing the math. This went on until about 18k, when I regrouped and pulled myself somewhat together. I never stopped moving, just had started taking more walk breaks and trying to stretch out the back. But by 19k, I was almost beside myself again, and decided once I got to 20k I was not stopping again no matter what. And that's how I finished the race, taking shorter steps, going slower to avoid needing to stop.

Once we turned back onto Bay Street, where the race was to finish, they had divided the street into two sections, one for the half marathoners, and one for the marathoners, and they also had big signs indicating you were 500 meters, 400 meters, 300 meters, etc. right up to the finish. And running up Bay Street, you had the old clock tower ahead of you to guide you to the finish. It was a great finish area, and I heard my name called at the finish line for once, and not because I was last either! Finish time: 2:47:47. A PW so far this year but a great race otherwise.

I had planned to meet up with Jan, Laurel and Anne after the race, but not knowing what anyone had done, and only guesstimating what Jan would do, I finally left the finish area, got rid of my chip, sat down to recover my back, and the next thing I knew here comes Jan! She had done 2:55! That was almost 30 minutes faster than she thought possible. I might have done better walking/running with her!

We met up with the other ladies then, got some food, and attempted to work our way back from the race to the hotel. We all decided a bottle of wine and the hot tub were necessary to recover from the race, so Anne and Jan walked to a liquor store, with their race gear and mylar blankets, and bought us some wine. We went to their room, tipped a few, headed to the hot tubs, and then back to the rooms to shower and change for dinner. We all decided a good steak dinner was in order, so made a reservation at Hys, a very elegant restaurant (and very expensive, but what the heck, you only live once!). We had a wonderful dinner, and my back was feeling much better that evening after that hot tub soak.

After dinner, we ended up back in the bar, chatting with marathoners, and all too soon it was time to part company again, with promises of another meet up in the future. Great weekend!


Marcy said...

Sounds like a FABULOUS time!! CONGRATS!! I'm certain that you girls probably have your fair share of secrets on this trip :P LOL

Lily on the Road said...

what went on in Toronto, stays in Toronto! *LOL*

Great report Vickie, can I copy it? Just kidding, hope your back is doing okay, you & Jan are AWESOME!!!

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...

Looks like you had fun. Love the wine. hehehe.

I think I'd be confused with metric distance markers in a long race too.

Toronto is a nice city and it sounds like you had good weather. We experienced that problem a few years ago in Australia. What temp is it going to be today? 18deg? What do I wear for 18deg? LOL

Good job with the race!!

WADDLER26.2 said...

Great report and it sounds like you had agreat weekend.

Nat said...

Congrats on getting it done. Sounds like such a wonderful time in spite of injuries and a hard run. :)

Sorry about the metric thing. All the cool countries are doing it. ;)

Marci said...

Sorry I didn't get to meet you. It looks like you had a blast. Great race report too! Congratulations!

cindy said...

What a fun girl's weekend!! I'm glad you got to meet more blog buddies :-)

Very neat that your name was on your bib. Way to push through even with your back pain.

Hot tub, wine and steak dinner with great friends = perfect race recovery!

jahowie said...

It sounds like a great time!! Nice job on the run too!!

Fe-lady said...

Sounded FUN...I would definitely NOT be able to keep up with your 1:30 a.m. bed times!
Congrats on another 1/2 even tho it wasn't your best...and running with a broken collar bone? Ouch!

Fe-lady said...

OH! And THANKS SO MUCH for the cute birthday card!
You are a sweetie!

Running Knitter said...

Love the pics and looks like everyone had a great time!

Marlene said...

Looks and sounds like a perfect ladies' weekend! Sorry we didn't get a chance to meet... you'll just have to come back. :)

I hope your back is alright! Take it easy.