The Toronto Yonge Street 10K holds a special place in my list of races as it was the first one I had ever run two years ago. Last year I was thrilled to run this race as I was able to cross a bucket list item off by running the 10K in 40:19 which meant my time in minutes was less than my age of almost 41. However, being the obsessive runner that I am, I wanted to set a goal this year of running sub 40 as I was so tantalizingly close last year.
Winter Running Wimpery
One of the differences for me this year, however, was the winter running weather. Last year’s winter in Toronto was quite mild and made running outside much more tolerable and thus I was able to keep my running mileage up. This winter, however, sucked. It was cold, it was icy, and I turned into a winter running wimp. I resorted to running on my treadmill and watched contestants on the Biggest Loser get yelled as a means of motivating me to keep running. Given that I can only tolerate treadmill running for so long, I simply did not have the same amount of mileage and conditioning as I did last year.
Fast forward to just ten days before the race, I was playing volleyball and I felt a tweak in my back. I stood on the court stiff as a board as my back did not want me to make any sudden movements. I quickly sought some physiotherapy and was wisely advised to stretch and rest. I did as I was told and eased back into running to test the waters as to how my back was doing. Leading up to the day before the 10K I was feeling quite fine – I even worked up to running a 21K training run the day before the race and felt great.
But on that evening before the race, something happened. I sneezed. And when I sneezed that sneeze, I felt a tweak. Not as bad as the original tweak, but a tweak nonetheless. Oh the sweet joys of getting older. I rested, stretched, took muscle relaxants, wore heat pads and did whatever I could to help my back be stable for the next day, but I knew that a new PR wasn’t going to be in the cards.
The Best Medicine
Despite my unforgiving back, I was still excited as I awoke to race day. I enjoy the methodical process of pinning my bib on just right, to labeling my gear bag, and eating just enough breakfast to fuel me up for the run. I arrived an hour and fifteen minutes before race start and easily found some convenient (read: free) parking nearby and was psyched to get started.
Given the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon, there was a moment of silence to remember those impacted by the terror attack. There was a pre-race speech by race director, Alan Brookes, who reminded us that taking back the streets for a run really is “the best medicine.”
My Nagging Back
And then we were off! I was determined to run as hard as I could tolerate to see what my body could do. I knew that I wanted to stay at 4:00 km splits as much as possible to stay as near to a 40 minute finish time as I could. The first couple of kilometers felt fine and I was enjoying the gradual downhill. As I ran through the third kilometer, the downward grade increased and instead of running faster, my back was starting to nag at me to slow down. Not wanting to end up in a stretcher, I opted to run a bit more conservatively.
1 km: 4:06
2 km: 4:07
3 km: 4:19
The Agonized Terminator
I remember myself feeling quite stiff and probably looking like I was the Terminator but with a look of agony plastered across my face. Although the course is mostly downhill, there are a few uphill parts which slowed me down a touch after the halfway mark.
4 km: 4:08
5 km: 4:18
6 km: 4:12
From Fast to Flat
I still felt good as I turned off of Yonge Street onto Richmond. It still felt like I was on a good pace and I was primarily running by feel at this point. But this was the point where desire was hitting the limits of my conditioning. My winter running legs were showing and my pace slowed down as I was no longer running downhill but across a flat grade.
7 km: 4:26
8 km: 4:32
9 km: 4:27
The Final Stretch
As I turned down Bathurst Street towards Fort York, I knew I was in the final stretch and I got my focus back on. I was going to run hard for the finish and have my usually ridiculous face of agony as I pushed towards the end. I was rewarded with a slightly faster split for the final kilometer and a sub 43 finish time which I was quite happy with considering the circumstances.
10 km: 4:17
Thank you Canada Running Series for another fabulous race – you really do know how to execute a world class race which leads to fast times for runners with both good backs and bad ones.
I’ll be back,