This past Sunday marked the longest run of my marathon training. A whopping 36km. I figured this would be the ideal time to take a tour of part of the marathon race course. I mean why not? I wouldn't put a quote together without doing a little footwork so why not do the same for a marathon, literally. That way you kinda know what you're getting yourself in to on race day. I'm very familiar with the last 14 or so km of the race course as I've run out that way and back many a time. But the middle bit, not so much. So, I dragged my butt out of bed at 6:00 am on Sunday morning, ate what I think will be my pre-race breakfast (pumpkin pie oatmeal) and got myself ready. The plan was to have Gary drive me up to about the 6km mark and then I'd have to find my way back to where the finishing area in Lakefront Promenade Park. I printed off the course map and tucked that into my vest. I figured there would be a lot of stopping to refer to the map to make sure I didn't take a wrong turn. I was actually really excited. It didn't really phase me that I had 36km to cover, I was more excited by the new running route. I was going off on a big adventure!
It started off relatively well given the fact that as soon as I walked out of the house, I found a loonie on the driveway. Never a bad thing when you start your run with a profit! It was quite chilly out so as soon as I got into the car I turned the seat heater on and tried to warm up. 20 minutes later I was nice and warm but it was time for me to get out of the car. After driving around the U of T Mississauga Campus, Gary deposited me at the top end. Off he went to the pool and off I went to find some bushes. The cold makes me pee so I ran around for a while trying to find optimal shelter to answer natures call. Not much around those parts so I ducked behind a tree and hoped that no one would be wandering around the campus. It was pretty early on Sunday morning so I figured I'd be safe. Business done, I headed off around the back loop of the campus and back out to Mississauga Road. It was very quiet. There were a lot of low laying clouds that made it quite hazy out. For now, the sun seemed content to stay tucked in under it's blanket of haze which made for a cool start to my run.
The marathon course meanders down Mississauga Road, past some of the most beautiful homes outside of the city. Lots of "Oh Wow's" as I ran along. Everyone still seemed to be hanging around inside, enjoying a nice lazy Easter Sunday. I followed the course along to Indian Road just south of the QEW highway. The marathon course turns right onto Indian Road and heads west all the way out to Lorne Park. I knew I'd be passing more monstrous homes along here. The sun had finally started to come out along with some pedestrians and their 4 legged friends. Yup, lots of dog owners in this 'hood. Plenty of friendly Good Mornings! when I went running by. There were a few rollers along here, but nothing too tough. I happened to glance down at my watch and noticed that I had been running for over an hour. Seriously?? I felt like I had just gotten started. Nice. I also noticed that I was just over 12km into my run as well. 1/3 of the way done already! I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was holding between 4:50-5:05's. I figured given Friday's escapades that my legs would be rather disagreeable but they weren't. Guess I really do bounce back like a 5 year old (so says my PT). I was so wrapped up in the scenery that I almost missed the turn off for Lorne Park. Yikes. I crossed the street and figured it was time to shed some clothing. I yanked off my arm warmers. I had already bunched up my gloves and shoved them into the one spare holster on my fuel belt so the arm warmers were shoved on top. Time to refer to the map again as I was heading into very unfamiliar territory.
Ok, down Lorne Park to Truscott Drive. Got it.
The map went back into my pocket and I chugged along. I was starting to get warm and wished that I had not bothered with my vest but alas, it was really the only place I could keep my gels and the marathon course map. I couple of other serious runners/triathletes passed me along here. I could hear the clip clop of their stride as they approached. They were running in time and maintaining a solid pace. They made it look easy. They passed me on the other side of the road without a wave, seemingly in serious conversation. I crossed the street and took up behind them, admiring the view. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing wrong with men in tights.
I came to a set of lights at Clarkson and thought this must be where I turn but something didn't seem right. Time to refer to the map again. Drat. Not Clarkson, Southdown. I had to continue west to Southdown. So I had another large suburban block to go. Off I went. Once I hit Southdown, the landscape changed. The homes became smaller and there was a bit more industry around. I went south on Southdown all the way down to Lakeshore. Talk about desolate. At least this wasn't near the 30km mark of the race. 30km and desolate can really test a runners spirit. I felt like I was in the middle of no man's land.
I ran out to Winston Churchill Blvd which was a little farther than I needed to go but given that I wasn't exactly sure where I started I figured what the heck. I passed a couple of water front parks that I figured I'd have to turn down but I couldn't figure out from the map which one it was. I took the second one which brought me to a lovely park on the water. You'd never know you were in the middle of an industrial wasteland.
I hit Lakeshore and knew that I wasn't too far from home. I was coming to where the start of the 10km race was. This was a section of rollers. Only a couple but I could feel them in my legs. I knew I had another little jog to do in through Jack Darling Park. I got to the park and couldn't quite figure out which way I had to go so I followed the road into the park, along the bottom and back up the bike path. Another small incline. My legs were still feeling pretty good though. I checked my watch again, almost 28km. I saw a cyclist approaching so I started to move over when he started to slow down as I approached. I then realized it was Gary. He had ridden out to keep me company. What a sweetheart. I took the opportunity to shed the vest and all the other extra stuff that I had brought with me and handed it off to my sherpa on wheels. Gary and I chatted for a bit when I looked up to see a woman running across the road with a big grin on her face. It took me a minute to realize it was Linnea. What are the chances? She was out running with her friend Jackie. I stopped and chatted with them for a bit. I was almost at 30km. Only 6 km left. My legs still felt good. The run was supposed to be an easy one but I thought I'd try to pick up the pace for the last 6km. Why not? So the G-man kept me company as I pushed the pace. I was actually feeling really strong till about 34km. Then my legs really started to hurt, especially my left knee. I stopped with about 1.5km left to stretch my IT band. I started up again but my knee was still bugging me. Should I stop, I was almost done....
Nope. No stopping. I did slow down though. That seemed to help. I made my way into Lakefront Promenade Park, the smell of home drawing me in. Gary had taken off bit earlier and ridden back to the car. I ran along the bike path, past the 42km mark, trying to picture myself on race day. Almost there. I could see the parking lot up ahead and I pictured the finish line with my goal time on it. My legs were hurting as I suspect they will when I hit that mark in 4 weeks time but I felt ready. Ready to tackle the 26 mile monster once again.