Race: Whitby International North Marathon
When: May 23, 2010
I told myself to get in a report about the WIN Marathon right away while the details were still fresh. Yep, that worked! So here we are almost seven months after the race. Now the question is what made it so memorable? If you are considering this event for 2011, read on.
First, the W-I-N races were all double Road Warrior points races. The race is smaller, so there is a very good chance you will finish with a good number of Road Warrior points. My marathon result kick started my ascent to the top of the Road Warrior standings with 48 points, and quite frankly I did not run much better than my rating. But this was, in the end, a difficult marathon.
The original course planned for the half and full never happened. The full, quite frankly, it was to die for. Literally. The original full was to be a hard rolling climb up to Brooklin, turn around and rip it back. The half would have been a great downhill screamer. I had just finished a bucket load of hill training and was looking forward to the challenge. Too bad, the course had to be rearranged to reduce the number of major road closures. Apparently closing down Taunton AND Hwy 2 was just not on the table.
If the original course was a challenge, the revised course appeared to be just too easy. I learned just how wrong I was. The course cycled up and down between Bayley Road at the top and Lake Ontario at the bottom, and it seamed all points between the west and east boundaries of Whitby. Those of you who train along the waterfront trail in Whitby will know the majority of the terrain well. You always seem to be dealing with some type of gradient, which is how it felt: sometimes more, sometimes less, just always something.
Most parts of the route were there and back, with a couple of off-shoot sections (also there and back). I actually didn’t mind this, as I enjoyed high-fiving runners on the return side. Both the half and full started together. This also allowed me to keep track of Anthony Davey (also Team RF) who led the half from start to finish, while I ran from start to finish in second behind Franciszek Stronski. Due to the winding paths, I often lost touch with where Stronski was. But using the returns, it was clear he was never really that far ahead for most of the race.
Portions of the course included trail sections, which added a nice change of scenery. This however put a kink into the wheelchair entrant’s ability to complete the entire half. The narrow trail also made the return trip a bit dicey, with some near misses in the head-on collision department.
From the half mark on, it got damned hot. After training through winter, we were just not ready for this heat. Something to consider, for a late May race. But next year in 2011 we will have Toronto the week before and Ottawa the week after, so pick your poison carefully. The waterfront trail sections also could have used a few more signs, if for no other reason than to give assurance I was going the right way! Having lost touch with Stronski, with no marshalls, no signs, and no other racers, I just had to put faith in following the main trail and hoping I didn’t make that “left turn at Albuquerque”. Bugs Bunny quotation aside, the loneliness made for some strange mental moments!
The heat got to me, so I adjusted my race plan: I walked the water stations to make sure I got lots of water. Part of the problem was the cups were the plastic frat party type and you couldn’t squeeze the top closed, so most of the liquid splashed out. I also figured the leader would be cramping up by the end, and I would simply cruise on by well hydrated. That backfired, as (unknown to me at the time) Stronksi was a seasoned marathoner and that kind of thing was not going down with him. Knowing your competition can’t be underestimated. Also, if marathon day is forecasted to be that hot again, I will carry my belt and bottle. I lost close to two minutes walking through those water stations.
On the last turn back at 40k, Stronski was looking like he had just gone through a bad divorce. If only I hadn’t walked the water stops, he may have been mine! But really, putting a steep hill repeat section (down, turn around, back up) at this point in the marathon was evil. My turn to suck it up that hill came all too soon. Looking at the course for 2011, it appears this nasty bit of misery has been removed, and so I say good riddance!
I came in second overall (first master), behind Stronski. Running Free was a generous sponsor of the race, and I took home $200 in Running Free gift cards and New Balance vouchers. I have just learned that Running Free has again signed up as a sponsor for 2011. I expect many of the small problems will be fixed for 2011, which should make W-I-N 2011 a must do, especially for all the Ajax RF locals.
Perhaps it is only appropriate that an old Polish runner should be the winner. It was “international” after all! I promised Stronski I would get him the next time we met, and so it came to pass at the Acura 10 miler: he and I trading places for top finishers in our age group, on yet another soaking hot race day!