meat loaf was right – two out of three ain’t bad.
i’d stated my goals for this race earlier this week, and made good on (1) finishing top 3 for my age group and (2) running a negative split.
well, at least i think that i ran a negative split.
at my daughter’s request (so that she could have friends at the house for an overnight without worrying about her dad going to bed at 6pm) i’d booked a hotel room in kitchener (the city adjacent to waterloo), and so headed down the day before to get into the marathon mood.
i had half a mind to try to snag my race kit on saturday, but there was only a four-hour window that they would be available and i missed it. having arrived into town about 30 min. too late, i decided to drive the course route to familiarize myself with what was reported to me as being a very hilly course. as it turned out, there were a number of formidable hills to take note of, and specifically two that appeared within the last 6km or so of the course. it was the first time that i’d driven a marathon route in advance, and in my mind it was well worth it – if for no other reason than to check out the beautiful heritage covered bridge.
the rest of the evening was spent at the motel resting up and finishing the carb load process. that morning i’d performed the ‘western australia carb load’ requisite workout (1 mi. w/u, 150s @ 1 mi. pace, 30s flat-out, 1 mi. c/d) and so was taking in approximately 12g of carbs for every kg of lean body mass for the remainder of the day.
as i watched a little bit of UFC 186 prelims on the tele, i laid out my race kit to be sure that i’d be worry-free in the morning. one of the things that i’d not done before for an ‘away’ race was to bring two pairs of racing flats – and this time i was glad that i did. given that i was so positive going into the competition i didn’t want anything to mess with my headspace – and the one last variable was a niggling doubt about wearing the Skechers GOMeb Speed 3 as my shoe of choice. i’d done some key race pace workouts in them but wasn’t entirely sold on them feeling as solid as the GOMeb Speed 2 – and given that that was the other pair that i’d toted along, i made an almost-gametime decision to wear the Speed 2 for the race.
the remainder evening would have gone off swimmingly except for the fact that the guests in the room adjacent to my bedroom wall decided that this would be a great night to party (loudly), rearrange furniture at random and intermittently get into verbal sparring all the way until 2am.
if they were there for the marathon too then they had some secret to sleep that i certainly knew nothing about.
you know how one of the standard rules of smart running is ‘never try anything new on race day’?
i didn’t listen well in school, either.
i started off the morning with something i’d not practiced in any previous races – an early morning shakeout run. when my 4:30am alarm went off (not that i needed it – i’d been tossing and turning since the neighbours finally passed out or something) i threw on some sweats and headed out for about a 10 min. shuffle down the street, ending up outside the nearby tim horton’s waiting for the staff to open for the morning. i really wanted a toasted bagel for breakfast.
bechtel park in waterloo was the next stop, where the race would begin and end. the park houses an indoor soccer facility where the on-site registration and kit pick-up took place – and showing up about 80 min. before start time meant that (a) i was bibbed and chipped with 75 min. to go and (b) there were no line-ups at all to use a port-a-potty.
there were a few other ‘never-done-befores’ that were part of this race:
- > the day before i’d performed the western australia carbo-load workout – different from my previous pre-marathon day workout of 5 km of easy running
- > i donned my new skechers performance division racing kit for the first time
- in line with a decision that i’d made to really pay more attention to my body during this race, i chose to run naked … no GPS watch or timing device of any kind for me.
given that i had no splits of any kind to really base my race report off of, i thought that i’d break it down in terms of sections of the course …
>> stage 1 – bechtel park to bloomingdale road
i stayed back to start with the ‘second wave’ (of only about 100 runners), and the first 2km or so dropped about 25m – almost boston marathon-like. i quickly settled into a easy-running pace, of what i wasn’t quite sure but it felt like i’d just headed out on a group workout run.
>> stage 2 – bloomingdale/sawmill road to crowsfoot road
this was the first stretch of rolling hills, and lasted about 7km. as we started to head out into the rural areas the wind also became noticeable – not quite a factor yet, but enough so that i found a fellow named jeff (from the london pacers) who was trucking along at my nice easy pace and we took turns drafting off of one another. jeff was a bit taller than me so i found his height of some benefit in slicing through the wind – even though he was a lean running machine. i’d find out that this was his first ever marathon distance, although he was familiar with half-marathons and shorter races. jeff also provided me with my first and only read on pace, as he indicated that our steady 4:45/km pace was fine for him but if i wanted to step it up not to worry about him.
>> stage 3 – crowsfoot road to maryhill road
the turn onto crowsfoot road was almost a hairpin, and introduced the first short & steep hill on the course. thanks to my advance scouting of the route i was prepared for it, and after cresting the hill we were now out in the mennonite countryside. this 7km section was the flattest stretch of the course, but the most travelled … by horse and buggy. there must have been seven or eight families that passed by us presumably on their way to church, wearing their best sunday black and making it feel like we’d stepped through a wormhole back into the early 1940s. but it was all very cool, and they were friendly enough to acknowledge back every wave of thanks for the wide berth as they went by. and having to dodge the occasional horse apples on the road was something distinctly different as well.
my new friend jeff had dropped back during the ascent onto crowsfoot, which left me running with rob, a guy i’d met keeping warm inside the building before the race start. he was a 30-marathon guy with the guelph victors who was tackling this race and then planning for the toronto goodlife marathon the following week. i knew that i was still running easy because rob had planned to come in at just under 4 hours.
>> stage 4 – maryhill road to katherine street north
wind and dirt sums it up.
maryhill road was almost an entirely unpaved section of the route, pitted in the tire-track lanes and loose gravel towards the shoulder. it runs through some wooded stretches, but for the most part was flanked by open fields – and this was where we could start to feel the effect of the wind coming in from the northwest. the weather network predicted that they would be about 19-22 kph winds, and coming across your body it felt somewhat refreshing as the sun was now high in the sky and the temps had to be around 7°C.
this was the section that i started to find myself catching up to and picking off runners. i hadn’t sensed an increase in effort – instead i focused on keeping my cadence quick and footsteps light, breathing deeply from my diaphragm and enjoying the sunshine and fresh (well, occasionally fertilizer-laced) air. i think that i passed four runners on this stretch of road.
one more quick note here – as you might gather, the cheering sections were fairly sparse out in the back roads in particular, but there was one couple that provided support at the intersections, then got into their vehicle and drove ahead to the next intersection to root everyone on again. they must have done this at least five different times (that’s how frequently i saw them), and they even picked up my hat when i ditched it and returned it to me after the race. i would find out later that they are not volunteers but just fans – the husband having been a 2:25 marathoner in his younger years but not being able to run anymore due to two blown out knees. i just gotta say that these folks were fantastic.
>> stage 5 – katherine street north to river’s edge dr to line 86
a short 3.5km where a lot happened. the first thing was the turn into the headwind – there was no mistaking that this would be a challenging length of road, however short, due to the resistance and placement in the race (wrapping up at around the 26km mark). the second notable marker was that it was along this stretch that we ran through the famous covered bridge and took on the second short & steep hill climb. and the third thing that sticks in my memory about this section is that i passed another four runners, and could only make out about four more runners ahead of me as we turned each corner. could i have climbed towards the front of the pack …?
>> stage 6 – line 86 to northfield drive east to university avenue east
in short, the most amazing 11km of my racing life.
i picked off the other four runners that i’d spotted in front of me – which was a huge boost every time that i passed one, but it also gave me the (false) impression that i might actually be at the head of the race since there were no other marathoners in sight.
i clicked through to 33km without experiencing any kind of runner’s wall. this may have been in part due to fat-loading, proper carb-loading, or having made the choice to (again, first time ever) take in five gels over the course of the race instead of my normal four gels.
and at 33km i knew that i still had a racing gear, and i kicked into it. i wanted to keep everyone that i’d passed in the rear-view mirror.
>> final stage – university avenue east to bridge street west to bechtel park
these final 5km were roly-poly, and held the last steep & short hill climb. we also were joined by the half-marathoners whose gun time started 30 min. after the full marathon, and so there were more people to use as ‘targets’ to chase down.
with about 3km to go i spied someone clipping along at a good pace about 300m ahead of me – too fast to be within the half-marathon crowd that i’d caught up to, and so my pipe dream of leading the marathon was over but i also had someone that i could try to catch. however, try as i might i could only get to within about 150m of him even with a hard-effort sprint finish down the bechtel park straightaway. it was a huge boost however to spot 3:11:xx on the official race clock and to know that i would set a new marathon PB by about three minutes.
crossing the finish line i did feel a bit of the burn, but afterwards had not ever felt as strong finishing any marathon distance run. even my stomach cooperated, allowing me to take in some decent calories from the generously provided ‘finshers food bag’.
wanting to stick around to find out just where i’d finished, i headed back into the soccer dome to find ed whitlock there. ed had served as the honorary race ambassador wishing us all well at the start, and stuck around to award prizes. if you don’t know who ed is, you’re missing out – he is currently the holder of 33 world age-group record times in both indoor and outdoor racing events, including a 2:54:48 marathon while 73 years of age (!), which when age-graded works out to a 2:03:57. ed was incredibly personable albeit on the reserved side … it was interesting that during the course of our conversation i mentioned tackling a 50km trail race next (sulphur springs) and he responded by saying “you’d never find me doing that!” apparently ed deliberately sticks to pavement and would never (and he distinctly said “never”) be out on the trails.
i managed to find the posted results, and was pleasantly surprised with an eighth place finish overall, and a second place finish in my age category (meeting my ‘A’ race goal – and possibly my ‘C’ race goal of a negative split, but i don’t know for sure). sadly, i was the last place finisher of entrants from the city of barrie (2/2) thanks to my new friend, ‘fast’ bill steinburg.
my age-group podium standing landed me with a sport first-aid kit courtesy of st. john ambulance – a nice (and extremely useful) prize to go along with the hand-made clay race medallion.
in all the waterloo marathon was a fabulous race. it was a gorgeous day, i managed a PB (and another clear BQ time), and really very well run. definitely a hilly course, but nothing that should scare anyone off. my hat’s off to tony lea and his team for organizing a great event.
my thanks also goes to jim willett, the barrie running ninjas, the barrie roadrunners, Skechers Performance Division Canada, team running free, stan ong and the Hansons Marathon Method for helping me pull this off. for now, it’s time to get into the ultra part of the competition season … see you on the trails (except for ed)!
>> race gear for the 2015 waterloo marathon: