It’s Wednesday – Hump Day of Taper Week. This is always the worst day for me. I’m so close to race day, in fact, I’m so close there is no turning back now. Yet, at the same time it feels like an eternity is looming between me and the starting line. T-minus 3 days!!
My taper week has been shaping up rather nicely & thankfully we’ve finally had some cooler weather so I can actually enjoy my morning runs! I’ve gotten through the first few days of light running without too much of a freak out & I look forward to taking a relaxed approach to running for the next couple of days.
Tuesday: 10 min warm up, 4 by 5 mins at threshold (7:00 min/mile pace) with 60 second recoveries, followed by 10 min cool down.
Wednesday: Easy (8:45/mile) 30 mins, drills, strides, stretches.
Thursday: Easy 5 miles, drills, strides, stretches.
Saturday: Easy 20-30 mins (3ish miles) with strides & stretching.
One step closer to being awesome.
To be honest, I am handling my taper much better than I have in the past. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve finally gotten my anxiety under control; if I don’t care anymore since I’ve already achieved my BQ; or if I’ve simply matured as a marathoner. Of course, it is probably a bit of everything. After my wonderful run in Toronto, I’ve let go a bit & accepted that I really do know how to do this. I don’t have to be afraid – I GOT THIS! I’ve also learned how to make better use of my pre-race jitters. Instead of compulsively checking the weather, I’m focusing on things I can control, like my race strategy. My color coordinated race notes.
I’ve committed the course map to memory & have decided which aid stations I’ll utilize, when I’ll take my gels, and just how conservative of a start I’ll aim for. I’ve broken my race down into 5Ks, but of course we all know that will go out the window once the gun goes off. My main goal will be to keep the mile splits between 7:25 (too fast) and 7:38 (conservative) with a half time under 1:39. Because the elevation profile is pancake flat, I don’t have any hills to work off of. Hills are my forte, so we’ll find out if this course will help or hinder me.
I use FindMyMarathon to find races, but also because they have an awesome tool that calculates course specific split times based on a goal finish. This has worked very well for me in the past in terms of getting to know a foreign course to prepare for hills, splits, aid stations, etc.
In the final quarter of training I sat back a little. I still had some pretty aggressive workouts, but the mileage began to taper off as I approached the final week of training. I’ve had several quality speed sessions, including some great hill work, as well as a five mile race thrown in. I’m primed & tuned & ready to run!
So, here’s a look at the weekly breakdown:
Week 13: 46.4 miles – longest run was an 18 miler with 8 of those at marathon pace.
Week 14: 40.09 miles – including 5 mile road race, and an 11 miler with 6 at m-pace.
Week 15: 37.37 miles – 2 threshold workouts & an easy 10 miler.
Week 16: an anticipated 20ish miles, plus the marathon on Sunday.
So, all in all, I’d have to say that I’m feeling conservatively optimistic about this one. I’ve put in a lot of hard work & there is just nothing left to be done. In the past 15 weeks I’ve improved my fitness, increased my weekly mileage, and gotten faster. In a few more days we’ll put it all to the test.
The 3rd quarter of my training cycle wrapped up this morning with an incredibly sweaty 16 miler. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked as hard as I have these past four weeks! Whew – I am really looking forward to getting this marathon thing over and done with.
With school in session, I’ve been able to ramp up the miles by adding doubles. I take off on my workout as soon as the bus pulls away in the morning, and then do whatever strength training, physical therapy exercises, plyometric drills, stretching, and an easy 3 mile jog about 45 minutes before the bus drops them back at home. Having two workouts planned has also kept me organized and focused during the day to get all of my other work done – work before play! I’ve had a lot more energy, stamina, and strength in the last few weeks which has helped in my non-running life as well as on the road.
While the miles weren’t too crazy, the weekly totals did look more impressive. This was my weekly break down:
Week 9 – 54.61 miles
Week 10 – 48.63 miles
Week 11 – 57.44 miles
Week 12 – 54.64 miles
During this segment of the training cycle I began working on Marathon Pace by running sections of my Long Runs at predicted race pace near the end of my runs. I also got in a half marathon time trial during a 16 mile long run (Week 10, 1:34.37 – a PR by 10 seconds!) and my longest long run of 22 miles (Week 11, 3:05.08) which included 6 miles at marathon pace.
I’ve been a lot more diligent about actually doing my P.T. exercises & drills and have noticed a considerable difference in my hip. Duh! My laziness was a literal pain in the butt! I also spent a good chunk of time each week to focus on strength training; something I’ve been telling myself to get started on, but just using one excuse after another to avoid it. This too has caused an overall improvement. I am excited to forge on as a strong, agile, kick-ass marathoner!!
I have a few more weeks of hard work before my taper begins. While I’m looking forward to seeing this through & racing this marathon, I’m also really looking forward to the finish line. Work, house, family, etc is starting to spread me a little thin and I’m excited to celebrate the holidays and just slow down a little. We have a lot of good things brewing though and the rewards are going to be great!
The month of August has actually been pretty good to New England. We got some rain, but not a washout and the heat was fairly tolerable. I faced the same challenges in the past quarter that I did earlier; time and childcare. My overall weekly mileage did increase, but I’m still under 50 miles a week, which I fear is going to end up being inadequate. I did have an easier time settling into my stride this quarter and was able to kick the pace up with little effort. I also got in several quality track session (with the kiddos in tow) and feel that my overall strength and endurance is well ahead of where I was at this time last year. In short, I am doing well and am pleased with my training.
Weeks 5, 6, 7, & 8 were only 42, 42, 43, and 49 miles respectively, but I got some good, quality work done. Week 5 ended with a 10k (and an awesome PR), and I managed to do interval training the next three weeks. Track workouts left me feeling tired, but strong, and my long runs on weeks 6 & 7 consisted of some pretty spicy hills. Overall I am faster and able to hold faster speeds longer. My cruising pace now is what my race pace was last year and my race pace is now what my intervals pace was. I am pleased with my progress.
The sun shows up later and later these days. My 5am runs were awfully dark, so I adjusted my time to 5:30 am. But this meant that I had a half hour less time to work with. Every morning that I ran I weighed my options of running in the dark vs skimping on warm ups & cool downs and cutting a run short. And then this past week even 5:30 was dark! I know I can’t get away with starting any later and I’m running out of reliable childcare. And I can drag the kids to the track only so many times before they start to rebel…
Thankfully school starts this week which will make training in general a lot easier. But it also looks like we are closing in on a house, which may put a kink in some things. I am putting a lot of planning into September’s training schedule so that I get the most quality out of each run. I am also looking forward to getting in a bit more speed workouts and going further on my long runs. While I am feeling pretty great, I plan on continuing my P.T. stretches and exercises. I also now have a bike! (I haven’t had a bike since I was in middle school.) So I am hoping to add some cross training a few days a week. I am also focusing on hydration, fueling, and meal planning in the next few weeks as I close in and get closer to race day.
On Sunday I finished up the first quarter of my marathon training for my next race. For most folks this would be the Base stage, though I have a lot of foundation under me from my previous marathon, so it’s more like gearing up for the Quality stage. I was a little disappointed with the last four weeks of running. I had hopes of putting in more mileage, but chronic headaches, heat waves, and juggling childcare has put a damper on the miles. I got in 39, 32, 45, and 42 miles in each of the first four weeks. So much for base mileage!
While my runs have been shorter than intended, they have been quality workouts. So far I’m not injured and I am feeling strong. I’ve been a bit ahead of pace on pretty much everything, but, that’s probably okay. Except for Sunday’s long run, I haven’t been tiring or slowing down. The majority of my runs feel like a walk in the park – I’m just pressed on time and cutting them short.
I’ve also slacked on the strength training. I know. I need to do it. And I have no excuses for it not getting done. I promise to do better!!
The kids go back to school at the end of the month, so I have about four more weeks of figuring this out. I have a few things to work on: continue P.T. workouts, focus on pacing, add more miles. How’s your training going?!
Tomorrow is the last day of school. Wednesday begins the 10 long weeks of figuring out how to keep my three kids from killing each other. I have all the library events marked on my calendar as well as all their various sports and activities. We have chore charts and behavior charts and Summer reading challenge charts already posted. Unfortunately this Summer we will not be taking a vacation like we did last year, which was a great help at breaking up the monotony as well as giving us all something to look forward to. Instead, we will be packing and (hopefully) closing on a house. *Fingers crossed* But, until we actually know what is happening with the housing situation & when, we will carry on like we have been for the past year and a half; Hubs living two hours away at work during the week and me holding down the fort alone. This also means I need to creatively figure out how I’m going to get through the first 8 weeks of my next training cycle with three kids, again.
Last Summer I trained for the Hartford Marathon and was in the same situation. I ended up cutting my training way back while school was out, and only running a few days a week. I ran Monday mornings before Hubs left for the week, Wednesday while the kids stayed with some friends, and then both Saturday and Sunday. Every other week I brought the kids to the track on Tuesdays. It worked out okay. But I’m at a point with my marathoning where I need to step up my game if I’m going to get faster. This means more repeats and longer long runs. So between highly utilizing the weekends, begging the neighbors and friends to babysit, and dashing off for a quick run around the block while they are engrossed in story time I just might be able to pull it off.
But I also need to plan to take a deep breath and be patient. The Fall race isn’t my target. While I still have goals, the real focus is on Boston next Spring and this Fall race is simply the conditioning to get me that much closer to me real goal down Boylston Street. I focused very hard and trained even harder last Spring and I came through that cycle on cloud nine. Perhaps I should take the Summer as an opportunity to train with a little less intensity and just enjoy it. Or, maybe I’ll break down and invest in a treadmill one of these days…
To say that I was nervous about running the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon would be an understatement. The race was five days ago and my stomach still flip-flops when I think about it! I was a hot mess of nerves leading up to the event. Basically anything that could go wrong, did go wrong, which wasn’t helping my state of mind at all.
But I knew that focusing on the negative (like getting lost in the middle of Toronto and running for two hours instead of twenty minutes the day before a big race) wasn’t going to help me achieve my goal, so I did what I could to turn what I could into positives, even if it meant lying to myself. The weather forecast continued to predict nasty weather: cold, wind, rain, a possibility of snow flurries. I carried on about how great this was. I loved foul weather! The worse the sky was, the better I’d run. I looked forward to getting wet. (NOT!) I was on day 28 of my cycle, but this was really a good thing. I always feel a huge tension release once my period starts, so this was perfect timing. (NOT!) The start line was a full 45 minute drive from where we were staying. That meant I had all that time to sit in a warm cozy van – maybe even more time if there was traffic on the freeway. That had to be better than standing in a starting corral freezing, right?
Deep breaths, Mazy.
On Saturday, my family walked from our rented condo on Hanna Avenue to the Enercare Centre where the Expo was taking place. We were running a full hour behind schedule since I had gotten a bit lost on my run, so we missed meeting up with our friends who had also come from CT and were running the marathon as well. Because we were late, we went through the Expo ourselves. Packet pick-up was a little awkward. Before entering the arena I was halted by a kid with a tablet & required to fill out information like my name, address, phone number. It turned out I was signing up for some sort of raffle for a free gym membership. I tried to explain that we were from the States and it was unnecessary – even if I won I wouldn’t be able to accept it, but the kid just kept taping on the tablet. Fine. I was entered. And now I have to figure out how to unsubscribe from these Emails.
There weren’t a whole lot of people at the Expo, so there wasn’t even a line to get my bib. And I was surprised I didn’t have to identify myself in any way. In previous marathons I’ve always had to present a picture ID when picking up my packet. But, the part I found most strange about the ordeal was that I then had to take my bib, walk to the far end of the expo center and have another set of people “activate” it. Now, perhaps this was to make participants walk through the Expo and see the vendors, or perhaps the coordinators were expecting more of a crowd. Either way, those handing out the bibs could very easily have had the device to activate bibs in the same location and done it all right there, causing less confusion (and fewer personnel). Also, the table handing out T-shirts could have also been located in the same spot for convince sake.
Anyway…like I said, there was certainly an underwhelming crowd in the expo center and very few vendors. It was the same basic stuff seen at all running expos with the same persistent non-runners attempting to hawk their Made-In-China It’s-On-Sale-Only-For-Today crap. There are a few running related things I’ve been on the lookout for (a visor, foamy slip on sandals, a tank with pockets) but either no such things existed or they were fresh out of my size. Ah well. We were about to walk out with nothing but a bunch of promotional postcards when I saw her; Kathrine Switzer!
She was standing behind a table with a blown up copy of her iconic photograph from the 1967 Boston Marathon. She was chatting to a lady as she signed books. Books! My other weakness!! My husband immediately started fishing around in his pocket for the Canadian bills and I excitedly waited my turn. She signed my copy and shook my hand. She gave me advice for the following day. She was just so pleasant! Then she told me to come around the table so she could take a picture with me. She then gave me a hug and told me she knew I’d do well. And suddenly, for the first time in weeks, I knew it too.
So we spent the rest of the day attempting to relax and fighting off the excitement that was building. I continued to guzzle down Gatorade and water. I ate an early supper of pork chops and pasta (the same pre-race meal I’ve been eating for the past 20 years), and went to bed super early. Well, I laid down super early. I didn’t sleep, like at all. I was too excited, too nervous, too pumped.
I gave up trying to sleep at 4:30 am and got up, made the terrible hotel room coffee, mixed up instant oatmeal with a crunchy granola that tasted a bit like car exhaust. I swilled some more water. “A bottle in the belly!” I had to get down as much water before the race as I could since I had decided to forego the hydration pack after all. I was to meet my friends in the street at 6 am and we would drive up to the start together. I put together a pack of warm clothes and dry socks, face wipes, and granola bars for Hubs to bring to the finish line. The skyline was just beginning to illuminate as I stepped outside. I was smacked in the face with a bitter, forceful gust of wind.
Shit. This was really going to suck.
Before long M and her husband had arrived in their rented van. J had already been waiting with me in the shelter of the main lobby. There was next to no traffic this early on a Sunday morning, so we had zero issues getting to the other side of town. Roads were blocked off and it was a little unclear where we needed to go. We got as close as we could to the start area and S pulled over at a Starbucks to let us out. “Good luck!” he called as he merged back into traffic. The three of us stood a little stunned in the wind. We agreed that we would all have to pee several times in the next hour, so we headed into the coffee shop.
We wandered into Mel Lastman Square where a large building with ridiculous toilet lines kept runners shielded from the wind. It was cold, but it looked like there would be breaks in the clouds, and it definitely wasn’t going to rain. My friends were both checking bags, but I hadn’t brought much with me. I’d finish my water then toss the bottle in recycling before we headed to the start. I had on pants that I’d be okay losing, though M insisted I put them in her bag before checking it. I wore a full zip jacket that I planned on wearing until after the gun went off to keep as warm as possible and tossing once we got going. At 7:10 am the gear bags were loaded up on a big truck. We found a bathroom with no lines down a hall and ran to it. Others caught on and like lemmings, a whole crowd of runners flocked down an obscure hall to a single stalled bathroom. At 7:20 am we made our way out to the start where the crowd buzzed. M and I had lost J in the bathroom melee, but he wasn’t seeded in the same corral as us anyway. This was M’s first marathon, so we sought out the pace leaders together. She wanted to keep her eyes on 3:40, 3:50, and 4:00. My strategy didn’t involve a pace leader, simply my watch and breathing.
As the time drew near my fingers were getting stiff with cold. I decided to try carrying my gel flask (filled with maple syrup) in my shorts’ pocket instead of my hand so I could tuck my fingers into my shorts to warm them. I was wearing a pair of cheap thigh high socks with the feet cut off and thumb holes as arm warmers, but had no gloves for fear of losing them once I warmed up. My two side pockets were filled with packets of mashed sweet potato. I wasn’t carrying fluids, but there would be Gatorade and water every two to three kilometers along the course, and I was confident in my pre-race hydration. My nerves melded with excitement as the crowd pushed in. It was almost time to go.
My plan was simple: Run an 8 min/mile pace, be prepared to slow on the hills as much as 24 seconds (miles 4 & 7 with some consideration for miles 15 & 22), start off conservative, take the down hill (miles 11 through 15), but don’t get carried away. Expect a wall somewhere between miles 18 & 20 and just do whatever you have to to get to the finish from there. I would take fluid at every aid station that wasn’t over crowded and only focus on the shoulders of the runner ahead of me. I could do this. I could do this. I could do this.
The gun sounded at 7:30 am and the crowd shuffled to the large, blow up arch over the starting mat. I waited to start my watch until I got to the timing mat, but in hindsight I should have hit the button right away. I started easy, comfortable. I was just behind a 3:30 group, but had already vowed to not be a part of it. Their chatter was already driving me nuts. The crowd of runners was dense, so dense that there was no way to rabbit out and run too fast. This, I conceded, was a good thing. Within a half mile I was quite warm and ditched my jacket by a lamp post. Discarded clothing was being collected for donation, so I’m happy to think that someone somewhere in Toronto is dressed in a sporty bright pink warm up jacket right now. I hope you like it, whoever you are!! I was coming up on the first mile marker when I realized I didn’t feel an annoying bounce in my shorts. I reached back to find that my waist band lacked a particular bulge. I had dropped my flask of maple syrup! I stopped and looked frantically over the street, but there were too many people. I couldn’t find it and I didn’t dare go back against the crowd. Panic washed over me. I had 25 miles ahead of me and no fuel. The sweet potatoes were to ward off hunger in the last 8 miles or so. I’d never used them as actual fuel before. I began calculating how I’d break them up to make them last the rest of the way. I passed through the first mile mark 13 second ahead of schedule.
I pushed the fear of not fueling away and focused on getting through the race in three mile chunks. As mile four approached, the first hill, the pace group I kept behind began talking about how they could distract themselves from it. Sure, you could see the hill coming from a long ways off, but after training in Andover, this was nothing more than a gentle incline. But this group was afraid of it. I had no time for that kind of negativity and pushed past them. I finished up four miles in 31:08. Definitely ahead of schedule.
I got through mile 8 in an hour and a minute and started talking myself down from the pace. I was going too fast! At this rate I’d burn up, especially since I didn’t have any sugar for later on. I did still have my Electrolytes capsules and two more bee pollen tablets, so I popped one of each. I’d take more electrolytes in five more miles, and the other bee pollen when I began to hit a wall. If/when my pace slowed below the target pace I’d eat a packet of sweet potato. This was going to happen!
The down hill section was indeed fast. The miles flew by, even though I attempted to hold back a little to keep from destroying my quads.
I managed to get control of myself again at the half way mark and ticked through miles 13 & 14 at just under 8 min/miles. But then we entered the city. I stopped bothering with my watch because the buildings were throwing off the GPS pacing. It was also a wind tunnel and I was being blown all over the place. On a narrow street a man, who looked like my dad until I actually got up close to him, looked me right in the eye. “The 3:20 pace group just went by. I think you can catch up to them!” I was startled. I had ten more miles to go. I shouldn’t be moving this fast. I couldn’t do this. And yet, I totally was.
I drafted through the city off a young man who also admitted that he was running faster than what he’d trained for. He was from Ontario. “The wind might change when we get to the water,” he warned. A left and a right and we strode together into the park. My family was up ahead and I was so incredibly happy to see them. Because I was 8 minutes ahead of pace, they weren’t quite ready for me. They scrambled to the edge of the sidewalk and screamed and clanged bells as we passed, but Hubs never got a chance to get the camera ready. Next up was Nick’s family, who was equally as elated to see him and just as unprepared for his early arrival. But the kid was right. As we got closer and closer to the harbor, the wind became more and more unpredictable. He pushed on, but I decided to hold back. I wanted to focus on maintaining effort, not pace. And so far I was feeling like I was flying. This marathon was, at least so far, practically effortless.
I ticked through the next few miles calmly and carefully. Maintain breathing. Maintain form. It’s all about the effort, Mazy. Hold….hold……………HOLD STEADY WOMAN! But when I saw the sign for mile 20 I got excited. I had a 10k left. And I’m good at 10ks. This also meant I had gotten through the rocky part, the part of the race where I usually fell apart. I hadn’t walked. I hadn’t stopped. I was still going! With five miles to go I was back to well under 8 min pace. With a 5k left I was pushing 7:30 pace. I WILL QUALIFY became a mantra on an endless loop in my brain. I was actually going to pull this off.
I felt the pain of the distance and all those miles on pavement when my watched bleeped the 24th mile. My calves began to cramp up and burn. But, unlike every other race, I did not despair. I could handle it for two more miles. Real pain took over at mile 25, but I was now moving even faster. I was down to a 7:20 pace and gaining speed. I passed Nick going up the hill along the freeway. “Hey, there you are!” he cheered as I came up alongside him. “Wow, you’ve got a kick! HOLY SHIT!” I grunted for him to come with me. “Come on!” I started urging all the runners around me. “We are almost done!”
I couldn’t help but smile. In fact, I was almost laughing. I was in pain. Wind was blowing hair in my mouth. I wanted to eat NOW. But I was running. I was doing the thing I love to do most and I was doing it so well. The cheering at the finish chute was like a tunnel of noise. I saw my family out of the corner of my eye, and like a corny movie, everything slowed down. The world stood still a moment as I moved as fast I could. I used up everything I had left in me and kept my eyes glued to the large clock over the finish line.
Overwhelmed and fighting back a lump in my throat, I staggered through the chute. Someone shook my hand. Someone was giving me a hug. Someone put a giant medal around my neck. Someone took my picture. Nick came in shortly behind me and I gave him a high-five. I had done it. I came with a goal, I came with a desire, I came prepared, and I had done it. I had qualified, at last. I was going to Boston.
I began training for the Toronto Marathon shortly after the holidays with the goal of stepping myself closer to a BQ. I wanted to pull five more minutes off my time with the idea I could then, possibly, pull another five minutes off in the fall, hitting the qualifier. I’ve wanted a 3:30 marathon since college, but there was always one excuse after another as to why I wasn’t there yet. But finally, I was running without a looming pregnancy, without nursing, without injury. The only one holding me back was me — and not having excuses turned out to be scary in and of it’s self.
So the goal was a 3:35, but I wanted a 3:30, and I fanaticized (secretly of course) about a 3:28. I envisioned myself doing well, running strong, crossing the finish line with a kick and seeing on the clock that I had indeed done it! I trained with the idea that I would do it. And then I wrestled with the fear of disappointment.
And then, just as my training was winding down, things began to fall apart. I began to fall apart. My new shoes, despite having a hundred break-in miles, were continuing to cause pain and blisters. I didn’t have the money to purchase another pair and my back up had close to 500 miles. I had been convinced in the store to purchase a pair they had in stock rather than what I had gone in for. I was told that the shoes I wanted wouldn’t stand up to a marathon distance and I needed a sturdier shoe. But I’m used to running in light, flexible shoes so these just never ended up working for me. Without a receipt, definitely worn, and past the 15 day return period, my never-take-no-for-an-answer husband was able to get the shoes replaced AND a store credit! But now I had less than a month to get these broken in & race ready. Plus, if these shoes didn’t work out, there was no time to replace them. This started the trickle of anxiety.
Three weeks before the race I began to slack on my workouts. I was tired and sore after every run and it was all I could do to get up in the mornings. With only two weeks left I was completely exhausted, only getting out of bed to put the kids on the bus, feed the animals, and then crawl back in to sleep. I was quickly losing weight and I had almost no appetite. I feared that I was suffering from over-training. I began to panic. If I was really this tired, HOW could I ever get through the race? Suddenly a marathon seemed like the most daunting task in the world and I was sure I wouldn’t be able to make it, let alone come anywhere close to my 3:35 time. I could rest, but not training didn’t seem like an option either. I altered the remainder of my training so that threshold runs and intervals were to be run at race pace (8:00 min/mile) and everything else was to be run at 9:00 min miles. I cut nearly every workout in half and took it incredibly easy. If I nipped it in the bud, perhaps full on fatigue could be kept at bay and I could pull this thing off anyway.
I carbo-loaded. I hydrated. I worked on gaining weight and sleeping. I cleaned my house like a mad woman to keep my mind off running. My darling children brought home a stomach bug that kept me confined to the bathroom for far too long. I was now terrified of running. I so badly wanted to do well, but I just wasn’t catching a break. Finally, with just a few days to go, I began to feel like a normal person again. But my nerves were already frayed.
On the long drive from Connecticut to Toronto I couldn’t help but think of the things I did wrong. I had greatly slacked on strength training. I’d lost a lot of weight and feared what that could mean for the distance. I ran a lot of workouts much too fast. I ran a lot of workouts much too slow. My longest training run was only 22 miles and I had only done it once in the whole training cycle. In fact, all of my weekly mileage was fairly low. Then I started second guessing myself. Maybe I should wear a different singlet. Maybe I should just wear long sleeves. Maybe I don’t really need my hydration pack. Maybe I’ll fall apart without it. Then something terrible happened.
The day before the marathon I went out for an easy 20-30 minute jog before meeting up with my friends and family at the Expo Center for packet pick up. We had walked around the city a great deal the two days before, so I felt confident leaving my phone at the condo. I ran loops around the convention centers and up and down the streets until I ran into a gate. I needed to get through the gate to head back to where we were staying, but a highway and lack of sidewalks was on the other side. How exactly had I gotten here? I had crossed a narrow bridge, so all I had to do was get back to it, keeping the CN Tower on my left and a billboard advertising a beer on my right. Unfortunately, every time I looked up, I either couldn’t see the billboard or the CN Tower was on my right. It got truly terrifying once the Tower ended up directly behind me.
I kept getting stuck on the wrong streets. I stopped and asked directions several times and people either had no idea where Liberty Street was, or they sent me in the opposite direction. Everyone was very nice to me, but also very wrong. As time clicked by and my watch continued to beep mile markers at me, I became more and more afraid. It was very cold, very damp, and very windy. I knew that being exposed to these elements for this long wasn’t going to me any good. Plus, running this far on pavement the day before a marathon was probably not ideal.
When I made it to the harbor I was nearly in tears. I knew this wasn’t where I should be, and I had no idea how far I had to go and whether I needed to head east or west. I found a streetcar map, but it only showed the train’s route, not all the streets and where I needed to go was not on any route. I was cold, wet, and very hungry. I was frustrated and scared. A woman approached and with a thick Scottish brogue asked if I was all right. I explained that I wasn’t from Toronto and that I needed to get back to Liberty Street. And no, I didn’t have a phone with me, and yes, my husband was probably freaking out by now (and I had his keys so he couldn’t even come looking for me). She held an umbrella over me as she carefully and patiently explained where I needed to go. And man, once I saw familiar streets again I was beyond elated. I got back to the condo having run more than ten and a half miles!
Now my fear from being lost dissolved into anger at myself. I knew I had screwed up my race. I was stupid to have run in a new place without a phone or a predetermined route. With everything else I had messed up along the way, this was the final excuse to ensure I wouldn’t be able to do it. I still wanted that 3:35, but I was very disappointed that I was going to have to work that much harder for it in the morning.