Date: 11 July 2010

General description:

10 miler race with a 5k add-on.  (The 10 miler is reviewed here.) Organized by the Canada running series and held in what I’m starting to think of as Toronto’s “racing district”, the area around and north of the Leslie street spit.

Entry: $70

Swag:

* Silver/grey technical shirt, with a tighter than average fit.
* Juice box
* The usual magazine/pamphlet junk* Finisher’s medal and small Acura-branded towel for finishers

Pros:

* Good, clear info ahead of time, updated regularly
* I don’t know of many races taking place in July, so good on ’em for at least trying to fill the gap with a race
* Potentially a nice place for a post race celebration
* Some attempts made to mitigate heat

Cons:

* At $70, a bad cost/benefit ratio for a 10 miler.  The half waterfront marathon costs only slightly more, but is far more luxurious, and doesn’t take place in the middle of a heat wave
* Leslie St. Spit and industrial areas make for poor scenery
* High likelihood of heat debilitation / illness
* Poor discipline encouraged for novice runner corrals

Would I do it again? :

I’d rather do something fun on this date instead.

Time:  1:28:39, (way below my PR to that date of 1:25:10, but my second fastest time up to that date nonetheless)

Chip -1:28:39
Gun – 1:30:14

Place:

Overall – 565 / 1514
Gender – 420 / 803
Age – 59 / 125

I trained up for this race as the peak of the mid season before accelerating towards autumn and the Toronto marathon.  I first did this competition as a newbie last year–my second race ever–and it went very rough for me, with a time just under 2 hours, and at serious physical cost.  This year I sought something much more respectable, bringing with me a “street” PR of 1:25:10.  That PR, however, was tainted with traffic lights, pedestrian obstruction and water fountain stops, something I’d not face on race day.  Sadly, other obstacles would thwart my efforts.

Like last year, the mid season feels a bit blasé, and race-day carries a sort of “ho-hum, just another day at work” feel to it.   Maybe this is because it lacks the fresh release of spring and the culminating excitement of fall.  That feeling doesn’t last, though, as the night before builds excitement and the 4am wake up signals something special.

This year’s race featured a new timing system, with one’s chip embedded in a foam cradled metal strip on the back of the bib.  I was worried briefly when told that metal zippers would interfere with transmission, since the jersey I ALWAYS wear at races has a 3/4 length zipper down the front.  Fortunately, said zipper turned out to be plastic and I had no problems, but your mileage may vary–caveat emptor.

With the race starting at 8:30, I arrived at 6am, since I usually like to take 2 hours beforehand to organize in a leisurely way and enjoy the pre-race atmosphere.  As an alternative to the porta potties I re-purposed a bathroom in one of the area’s buildings that I remembered from last year, and this gave me everything I needed, even a wall plug to charge my ipod with!  With an hour to go I checked my bag and readied for the race.

Arrving in my corral (slowest projected time: 1:25:00), I was rather shocked to find a lot of…..(how to put this delicately?) slow-looking people.  I had to reign in assumptions that slow-looking translated automatically into slow-running, as appearance often contrasts starkly with performance, but when the race began, I quickly returned to my superficial assessment. The first (very aggravating) several kilometres were filled with dodging, weaving and sprinting around people WAY too slow for a 1:25:00 finish.   This demanded considerable extra effort and before I knew it my body had expended itself so much, the effect was as bad as going out too fast.  That would cause serious problems later.

The race can be split into quarters:  The first 4 km goes from the start to the Leslie st. Spit, the next 4km to the halfway turnaround, the 3rd 4km to the end of the park and the final quarter stretches home again.  The course is “mostly flat”, but that also means it has insidious, almost invisible gradients at various points, most of which aren’t clear until they’ve already acted upon your body.  Be aware of where things slope gently uphill or downhill.

Virtually the only picturesque moment in the race comes when  one crosses an iron bridge over the water (CRS loves showing this on their website)–it’s preceded by a sudden and gravel-pathed downhill segment and succeeded by a paved and complimentary uphill grade.  The real challenge in this race is the environment itself, which being mid-July is very hot, even early in the morning.  Despite extra measures taken this year (i.e. run-through water-misting ‘showers’ the organizers set up, as well as the usual aid stations), mitigating the heat and seeking a PR were opposing goals. In the last two kilometres I saw a handful of people looking queasy by the side of the road and being helped by emergency workers, but I never saw any evidence of the ice or cold water.  This seems important because lowering body temperature is key to dealing with heat stress.

At the halfway point I was doing superbly, a full minute ahead of PR pace, according to my pace wristband–but the heat combined with being forced to go out too fast finally culminated at the tenth kilometre where I became dizzy and was forced to walk.  I soon returned to a 5:30 pace (my planned average pace was at least 5:15) after this, but was still forced to walk several more times, so it became a mind-game of managing disappointment and mitigating illness.  Push too hard and you’ll become sick, push too little and, well, why did you even bother showing up to race?

The last 750m starts with the metal framed tunnel along Cherry St. (North); it approaches the final 16km flag, then turns left for the last 100m to the finish line on Front St..  Knowing a PR was no longer possible quelled my efforts slightly but didn’t subdue them, and I finished with a respectable kick, neither a sprint nor a walk.  Like the year previously, announcers called out runner’s names as they passed the finish.  A nice touch, I thought.

After the race I felt deeply tired and it was all I could do to collect my bag, engrave my medal and grab a few freebies before passing out under a tree to nap before trudging home.

This is now officially my least favourite race on the Toronto running calendar.  You can’t reasonably PR, and apparently you can’t even have a good time given the misery of the course.  There’s not a lot to show for your money, and as such I’m going to have to reconsider attending in future years.  I’m not alone, either.  Despite blatantly false claims at the post-race celebration of an attendance around the 4,000 mark, official records show a mere 573 starters for the 5k and 1,514 for the ten miler—half the claimed amount, all told.  This seems to match BS I heard on the radio last year the morning of the Waterfront Marathon when reports–almost certainly just re-writes of a CRS press release–cited something on the order of 40,000 runners, when in fact there were only 15,119 starters over three events.  The Distillery District race had hundreds of fewer runners in 2010 versus 2009 in an otherwise growing industry.  Chances are I’ll be contributing to this trend next year.