It has been a few days since the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and I’m ready to reflect and celebrate my fall season. This fall season was short and concise in order to put everything I had into the marathon. My first race was Toronto Island
Longboat 10km as a tune up. We had just returned from altitude training only 3 days before the race and I was was excited to test my fitness gains. I came away with a huge pb of 35:40 in the 10k. I felt so on that day and wished that every race could go that well! Keep in mind that before this year my previous 10k pb was from Longboat 2 years prior a 37:05! It’s great to see such a huge improvement over a year! I also raced Toronto Zoo Run 10k a few weeks later. It was killer hot that day and a great competitive group of women so I came away with a 5th place female finish and I was pretty happy with that. My last tune-up race was Springbank Road Races Half-marathon 3 weeks out from the marathon in London, ON. Another race where I was on! From the start I dialed in to my goal pace of 3:45’s and nailed very consistent 5k splits. That is to date, THE best half I’ve ever put together in my life. What a relief! I was beginning to think that distance was cursed! I was able to come across the line in 1:19:10 on a course that was winding and had a few hills as well. A pb of 1min 16seconds, my first time ever under 1:20!
Unfortunately, as soon as I finished that race my knee really started to hurt on the cooldown. I recognized this pain as I have had “runner’s knee” a few years ago. It
was ITband syndrome, the ITband runs along the outer thigh basically rubs and creates friction at the knee and hip. It’s usually pinned somewhere or overcompensating, likely from my glute/low back problems I had back in July. I was hoping that I could get it to calm down in the following weeks leading into STWM and I did, but needed more time. The following day, I couldn’t even stand on the leg, it was in such pain and obviously took that day off. The next day it was much better but still pulling as I limped through a 8k run. Now this was 3weeks out from the race, too early to taper. But I had to drastically drop my mileage from my ideal 130k to 95k that week. The following days and weeks involved many painful runs where I wanted to cry, both from the pulling and emotional toll of being SO close to my marathon and having this happen. I did everything possible to get my ITband to loosen up from stretching, epsom salt baths every day, a few deep tissue massages, several RSW treatments from Josh, glute activation and strengthening exercises. It was a hell of a lot better the week leading into the race and I was able to run on the Tuesday Oct.17th pain free for the first time since the 1/2. I was super cautious the week of running very little helping it would “heal” my ITband problems. I was hopeful that it would be enough for the marathon.
I’d put SO much into this build – early mornings, 100mile weeks, regular massages, napping, nutrition, strength training, and even an altitude training camp in Flagstaff. But, such is running, injuries are part of the sport and the name of the game is avoiding them at all costs. But this isn’t a post about excuses, this is a post about determination and grit.
I knew as I stood on the start line, flat from my over-taper, today was going to be a battle. I was about to find out just how much. I had three goals: A) 2:45 a tough but
reasonable goal I felt, B) Top 10 CAN, C) Just to pb (3:03). The gun went off and I stayed as relaxed as possible as I knew that early fast k’s would cost you dearly in the end. It was around 15degrees at race start as well as over 90% humidity for some sense of what we were dealing with. I found a few Canadians that I knew were going for a similar goal time as me, which was confirmed when I heard Meggan Franks ask Megan Kuikman what her goal time and they exchanged 2:45 – exactly what I had trained for. I sat with these ladies for the entire beginning of the race and we were nailing off k splits to a T. Through 5k in 19:30 (goal 19:33), 10k 38:58 (goal 39:06) and 15k 58:37.I was super excited through the first few aid stations that I nailed my bottles sucking back that glorious H20 and Endurance Tap mix. I could feel the outside of my knee and fib head pulling from at least 3k on. During my training runs when that started, it eventually radiated into my knee and even hip so I was hoping that wouldn’t happen. As the k’s clicked off it seemed to be staying the same – uncomfortable but manageable.
It was when we hit the lakeshore turn around and headed into the wind that I really started to notice it. At the same time my body started feeling weird, like there was no blood in my face, a strange feeling. The heat/humidity started to hit. I tried to just keep clicking off my pace like I had practiced in training but things were getting increasingly tougher. I felt Meggan fall a few steps back. Shortly after, it was me falling out the back. I couldn’t understand why at only 18k I was already hitting the famous “rough patch.” Feeling this way, my mental state shifted to the pain and my leg was increasingly bothersome. I tried hard not to favour it and cause other problems, but my mental had already shifted negative. I had decided at 18k I was going to drop out at the 21.1k mark at the medical tent. I passed cheering GRE members around 19k and they asked “Feeling good?” I responded by shaking my head no. (video of misery courtesy of Mike Bentley!)
As I approached the point where the half and marathon split off I saw more of my friends and family cheering for me and I decided I had to try to go a bit further. “Just get to the next medical tent,” I had decided.
Heading towards 25k I saw Josh pass on the other side of the road not having a good day which made me feel even worse. I was able to see which girls were still running
as well with a few looking super strong as well as a few struggling. At 23-24k I knew in my head that I was going to drop out where the next bottle station was – 25k. I even slowed to basically a stop as I approached it. But something inside of me couldn’t bring myself to stop. Still in a lot of pain, I pushed forward and headed to the next section of the course. I could see the medical station for the way back from the beaches at 30-something and figured “hey I could probably make it to there.” I pushed on.
It was at this point that I received an unexpected gift. A friend from the running community Adam Cole (from Hamilton) came up beside me and said “Don’t worry Tanis your pacer has arrived. I’m here to help you.” I explained my situation to him and how I was probably going to drop out and he in the most positive way told me to just do one K at a time. We passed through the 30k banner together in 2:03:36, an entire 3minutes off my original goal. At this point, pace was irrelevant, I was just trying to finish. Something magical happened over those next few kilometers. As Adam raised my spirits and encouraged the crowd to do the same I stopped feeling the pain altogether. My leg had finally numbed out which I hoped would have happened much earlier. Once I reached the 10k to go mark I remember looking and seeing 2+ hours and thinking, “I can’t waste 2 hours of my life to drop out now. My pb is 3:03 I know I can at least beat that. I can’t have my pb still be over 3 hours for the marathon I have to at least beat that.” I had new focus and determination as I headed back from the beaches turn around. Even when Adam decided to speed up ahead of me I still held strong and picked my pace back up. I took the last turn around as an opportunity to count what position I was in the women’s race. I figured somewhere around 7th.
My middle splits reflected my mental battle [of wanting to drop out] going from my 3:55/k pace from start-almost 20, to 4:08s/4:26/4:26 for my 21.1/25/30k splits. As soon as I decided “I can do this, I can finish” my averages dropped to about 4:15s for the following k’s. To be able to pick it back up in the heat and humidity shows me how strong I truly was and that all that training hadn’t been “wasted” just because I wasn’t hitting my goal 3:55 splits.
I dug deep and as each muscle group took its turn aching including a memorable point where my glutes were aching around 34k. I was able to pass two girls who had passed me earlier during my middle 15k pity party. They were both very gracious and encouraging, luckily deciding not to try to go with me! I don’t know how much I would have been able to “race” someone to the finish. As I passed the few women, I knew for sure I was in the top 10 Canadians, an improvement of 10th place last year.
The last kilometer felt like an eternity putting one foot in front of the other. I thought about what Clif had said the night before at the elite meeting about looking good at the finish line instead of worrying about stopping my watch. So it was all smiles for the cameras. I crossed in 2:55:36, an eight-minute personal best. A personal victory of simply making it to that damn finish line. The second I stopped I was in excrutiating pain especially at my hip joints and lower back. Reid Coolsaet was helping at the finish and he made sure I was okay as I hobbled on. It took an insane amount of time to walk so few steps back to the Sheraton across the street. I found my saviour Cole in the finishing shoot and thanked him immensely. I later figured out that I was 8th CAN Female in the Champs and 15th Female overall.
I, to this day, have no idea how I made it to the finish line, but am thankful that I rallied and fought the demons that wanted me to stop. The marathon truly is a beast that can’t always be tamed. I hope that I can see great success in the near future at this distance. For the time being, I will be focusing on down time and healing my injury. I want to continue to see pb’s in all other distances in order to make my marathon pace feel that much easier in the future. Having a somewhat lackluster result after being in the best shape of my life only helps drive me to keep working hard and fight even harder in the future. I’m the most excited about how far I’ve come this year and the fitness I gained this build will be a great stepping stone to be in fitter in the future!
Congratulations to everyone else who raced! There were some stellar performances on the women’s side especially. I hope I can get fit enough to battle with you amazing women in the future!
Thank you to everyone for all their kind messages of support. Thank you to Alan Brookes and the RunCRS team for having me be a part of such a stellar event! Congrats to my GRE teammates Dave, Mitch, Josh and Tyler who all had their own battles to fight on the day as well! Together we will grow and flourish. As always, huge thanks to Skechers
Performance Canada for their continued support and for taking the worry of apparel and footwear off the list. I enjoyed testing the GoMebRazor’s in my marathon and will likely use this shoe for anything over half distance! Big ups to my dad who woke up early and made it to the start line hours before I even did! He’s always a great supporter and much appreciated. To my partner in crime Josh who had a less than ideal day, fuel for the fire baby!
I will see ya’ll of you after some down time. Until then,