Since mid-June, I have had my eye on the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box: the Chicago Marathon. I’ve run hundreds of miles, added more morning runs to my routine (to get ready for the early rise on Marathon Sunday), stretched out the aches and pains at yoga, and made an effort to eat better and sleep more. Today, I put all of that training to the test at the Toronto Ten Miler, a race that is part of the Excel Running Series races.
I was a bit apprehensive about running this distance just two weeks before the marathon, but after missing the winter and spring racing seasons and only shorter races (5k and 10K’s) to pick from through the summer, I mentally needed to run a longer race. The Ten Miler was the obvious choice. It was close to home, the date worked well in my training plan, and the distance was a better choice so close to the marathon than one of the many half-marathons that were held today. The solid reputation of the race director, Michael Brennan, also meant that there would be many strong runners on the course, and a bit of competition is always a good thing.
Dave and I left headed to Cherry Beach in Toronto before sunrise as he had volunteered to help with the race (and was assigned to be the bike escort for the lead runner). I picked up my bib, Dave left for his volunteer duties and I enjoyed watching the sun rise over the Leslie Street Spit. By 7:30, I was on the road to do a slow 4K warm-up for the race.
I was glad that I warmed up as far as I did. Cherry Beach and The Spit are very scenic, which draws many runners and cyclists to the area, but they are also closed to traffic and that means the roads are beat up; there were lots of pot-holes and cracks. The mix of shade and the sunrise made for poor lighting and that made me nervous. By the end of my warm-up, I had added a second goal to my morning: to not fall down.
My primary goal today, though, was to put the past 16 weeks of running to the test. I had on the shoes and skirt that I plan to wear in Chicago to make sure that both were comfortable and my skirt could indeed hold a few gels, my puffer and an ipod shuffle. I wanted to run slightly faster than my marathon pace but my competitive edge quickly threw that plan out the window. I ran my first kilometre at 4:42 and, despite common sense to bring it down to a 5:00 kilometre, I held onto it and ran the entire race “comfortably fast.” I only used one of the two GU’s, at 55 minutes into the race, just as I will at the marathon, and I took in fluids (water and Gatorade) at the same points I am likely to on Marathon Sunday. The best part of the morning: I didn’t need to poop while running (and I think that is from changing my diet a bit)!
The only problem I had was with my shoes. With about 5 kilometres left to go, the ball of my left foot started to hurt. I am fairly certain that this is from landing on some large stones on a few rockier parts of the course and it is something to keep an eye on over the next few days.
As soon as I saw 15K, I changed gears and started to push myself home. I remember thinking that I should hold my pace but I also knew that I was heading to a finish time around 75 minutes. Since I was already off-pace from an 80 minute finish anyway, I figured a few seconds faster at that point wouldn’t hurt. I was really glad that I had picked it up as I heard people cheering in “Judie” who was obviously right behind me; I turned it up another notch and finished ahead of her by 6 seconds, resulting in a second place age group finish.
As I headed back to the car, I realized that pushing harder than I needed to was not the best idea as my legs were starting to tighten. I did a slow cool-down, Kenyan style, to loosen them up and finished the day with a total of 25 kilometres.
And now I have just two weeks of easy running left. I have no races, no speed work and no more high mileage. All I need now is to focus on staying relaxed and healthy. Let Taper Week 2 begin….