A few months back, a bunch of the Falcons decided we should get a group together to battle it out on the streets of Toronto. Our current president, Colin C, recommended we enter the Sporting Life 10k and within a few days we had several members signed up and ready to chase down some PB's on this super fast course. As usual, some side banter was included in the following days so I knew I had some serious training to do in order to back up my prediction...
As it turned out, many folks could not make it out on race day but a small group of us met early in Brampton to start our journey into the heart of the big city. Peter M kindly offered to chauffeur Colin C, Laura G and myself to the start line as he was still feeling the effects of his solid 3:05 marathon the week before.
We arrived downtown in very good time so I was able to quickly pass through registration to pick up my bib/chip before settling beside the end rails of the long barrier set up to corral all 22,000 expected runners. It was a cool, damp morning so I was not in too much of a rush to gear down to my race clothes.
Eventually, time drew closer to our start so I finally stripped down to my shorts and FMCT tri top and headed over to bag check to drop off my warmer clothing. As I approached the trucks that were hired to carry the bags down to the finish line, I started to see how incredibly long the line of people was stretching. It had to have been 400 to 600 metres long and moving extra slow. I looked at my watch and knew I would be risking a good warm up if I waited in this que. As I was about to head back to see Peter (to place my bag in his van), a man yelled over a loud speaker that a line was starting over on the other side of the road as well. I walked over and saw this was starting to get out of control so as I passed the back of the truck, I tossed my bag to one of the volunteers piling the cargo. Seemed easy enough so I am not sure why the lines were moving so slow.
Getting that out of the way, I jogged down to the start corral for my estimated finish time and started my warm up. Along the way I bumped into Dan H from our club and chatted as I stretched before continuing up to the front of the huge crowd. As I looked around, I was surprised to see very few familiar faces. I was hoping to see a few usual suspects that I could pace with but the only two people I knew were wild cards on this day. John H. mentioned that he was having a hip procedure in a few days so he was going to ease through the run and Evan Mc. mentioned that he had not trained as frequently as desired so he was not sure where he would finish up.
Oh well, with this many people there was bound to be a big group around me for the run, right?
Amazingly, I was in the second row of people by the time the horn sounded so just a couple shuffle steps to get going and then I found a bunch of open room on the left side of Yonge Street. A number of young lads flew out of the gate while I patiently locked into a good, downhill pace that I knew I needed to maintain to create a buffer for the lower flats.
After approximately 500m, the youngsters started to fade and a shockingly small crowd remained just a few metres up ahead of me and a few other people. At this point, a few quick looking guys jogged up beside us. I looked over to see their effortless stride only to notice they both were carrying their backpacks?
They must have sat in the bag check lines when the gun went off and decided to run with their gear. As we passed a police officer guarding a side street, they stopped and tried to unload their stuff with this officer. He would not touch the bags so they picked them up and headed over to a cyclist riding beside our little group. Thankfully, the cyclist found it in his heart to grab the bags and, hopefully, take them down to the finish line. Those guys blasted down the road and got back up with the leaders from that point...
Shortly after this took place we encounter our first, small incline along the route. This was not a difficult uphill in any way but it seemed to break apart out little group and I was no running solo with a tiny pack still ahead with a 50m gap on me. With a slight headwind coming up from the lake I knew I wanted to get in with those 4 or 5 guys but wasn't sure if I could bridge the gap without over cooking my legs too early in the run?
Looking down at my pace, I opted to hang tight and see how things around my played out. Having run this race a few times in my early running days, I knew most of the landmarks and crossing streets and what to look ahead to in order to distract my mind from the burn in the legs. As things leveled out down near Bloor Street, I could see I was going to have to keep pushing in order to break 17:00 for the opening 5k. As I reached the marker I looked down at my Garmin to see I had finally broke that barrier (i know it is downhill...) with less than 10 seconds to spare. This was exciting but the reality was I know needed to run a sub 18:00 second 5k to close out my goal.
Shortly before the Dundas crossing, I had a runner puffing down my neck. As I looked over I could see it was Hugo R, a Saucony runner that I had run against in the 2011 Hamilton Half, and he was moving. I thought I might be able to jump on his heels and get my up the road but he saw my attempt and zig zagged to shake me off. I did not try very hard to hitch on due to his speed so I let him carry on up the road and he came in 21 seconds ahead of me.
By the time the short lived chase was completed, I noticed the small group ahead was starting to string out. Jeff F of Team Running Free was the next runner up the road but still just a little too far to move on. I kept counting down the kilometres to the finish not really worried about placing but just hoping to keep my legs turning over quick enough to avoid any high splits.
When I finally arrived at our first turn, onto Richmond Street, I made the corner with another competitor nipping on my feet. He was a younger runner with a Waterloo jersey (Jordan F) so I wasn't sure what he would have in the tank but I locked in behind him as he pulled up closer to Jeff. By the time we rounded the smooth corner south on Peter Street, Jordan had opened up a gap but dropped me beside Jeff so I ran beside my old Running Free mate along this short stretch and over to Front Street.
On Front Street, I felt a surge of relief and the two of us reeled in Jordan and also another Waterloo racer Darryl B just before another left turn on Bathurst. We only had a short bridge run on Bathurts over the train tracks and then a quick right to our finish sprint on Fort York Blvd. Making the turn, my legs were dead tired but everyone seemed to want to push for position. For some reason, the challenge was too much to resist so I used this spark to make sure I finished up in style as I did not want to leave any seconds on the course.
Our sprint started a little early so it was a long, top speed effort at this stage of 10k. Darryl ended up with the sprint bragging rights with me a second behind and Jordan and Jeff right behind me.
During this final push to the line, I was trying to find the display of the race time (was moving too quick to look at my watch without risking a massive roll over) but the first digital clock I saw made no sense (I think it was counting down the time from the first runner crossing the line...). Finally, just before I hit the timing mat, I noticed the second clock had 34:34 so I had just accomplished what I had set out to achieve and broken 35:00 on Yonge Street.
As it turns out, the chip time was 34:36 (my garmin was 34:34 and 10.04k) and I ended up in 16th place overall of the 17,551 finishers (21,724 entrants, 4,000 people did not start or finish??).
Congrats to all the finishers and PB'ers! I missed so many of you at the park after the run due to the enormous crowds.
Below is a chart that shows my Needed Splits (based on the elevation chart) to get to 35:00 and the Garmin Splits from my watch. Actuals do not add up as the course was 40m long as per Garmin so that took a few seconds to run (within the error range so course may have been perfect and watch off).