Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kiki, Me & The Marquis

Whose idea was this anyway?

Those were the first words I uttered to my enthusiastic training partner, Kiki, when I met up with her this morning in High Park.   She had warned me on my way in that the park had been invaded and she wasn't kidding.  The cherry blossoms were out and so were the tourists so getting a parking spot was tricky and it was only 8:00 am.  I couldn't imagine what the park would be like by the time we finished our run.  Total chaos I'm sure.   But the blossoms were definitely a sight to behold.  I had to take a pic, which of course, doesn't do them justice.
Cherry Blossoms
We had a 32km run to do that was supposed to include hills.  So, me being the slightly insane runner that I am, figured that we should tackle the Marquis de Sade running route.  Aptly named as it covers 18 hills in 21 km so if you're big on inflicting pain on yourself then this is the route for you.  I had transcribed the map into written directions and sent a link of the g-maps route to my phone so we were covered direction wise.  Given that the route is only 21km and we had to do 32, we opted to run down to the Lakeshore and head east for 5.5km, turn around and run back to the start of the route. 

Off we went through the park, dodging tourists with cameras and dog walkers out onto Lakeshore Blvd and on to the bike path.  For some strange reason I figured I'd be great in shorts, my calf sleeves, a couple of t-shirts and my arm warmers.  Uh.  No.  The forecast called for a high of 17 and it was 7 degrees and sunny when I left the house.   But it wasn't a warm 7.  Oh no.  There was a bit of a breeze that was just enough to make it chilly.  By the time we hit the Lakeshore my fingers were frozen.  For some reason I opted not to bring my gloves.  D'uh.  I figured once I got going I probably wouldn't notice it but for now I was pretty miserable.  No matter I had crazy Kiki to distract me and keep my mind off the cold.

As usual the conversation flowed well and before I knew it we had turned around and were heading back to the park.  I was still feeling the remnants of my cold.  My pace on the flats was slower than normal but I was happy to be able to get out so it didn't really matter.  This run was not about pace, it was just about getting through it.  I knew going in it wasn't going to be pretty or fast.

We made our way around the bottom end of the park and up Spring Road hill.  No other choice there as the only way to get in to the park from the way we were coming was uphill.  We got to the top and I took out the map to see where we had to go.  Thankfully we were headed out of the park for a bit.  We made our way out to Bloor and went west to Clendennan.  We headed north on Clendennan towards Glenlake where we'd tackle hill number one of the route.  We chugged up Glenlake towards High Park Blvd.  We'd be heading back into the park and hitting the trails.  We got back into the park and I checked the map again.  I realized at that point that all the rights I had typed were actually lefts. Ha ha ha...oh my.  So we took the path to the left as there was no path to the right.  It was now onto the trails.  After 12 km, I can't tell you how nice that felt.  The ground was springy and soft, a welcome break from pounding the pavement.

We meandered our way through the trails and back out to the bottom of Spring Road.  Yup, we had to go up it again.  So, up we went.  Then it was back onto the trails and then back out around to the bottom end of the park.  We followed that along to Centre Road and made our way up that.  That was hill number three.  We were both huffing and puffing at the top.  We both agreed that there was a good chance we'd be walking up the hills by the end.

We spent the next few km running around the park, on and off the trails.  As predicted, the park had become even busier.  I've never seen the park that packed.  We were dodging clueless camera toting pedestrians left right and centre.  The route finally took us off the main path onto a trail and out of the chaos.  Ahhhh.  We motored along the path.  Kiki was running low on water so we figured we'd stop at the Starbucks so she could re-fill her bottles.  We had to get up the Ellis Stairs first.  That was climb number four.  I wish I took a picture.  Those stairs go straight up.  Our quads were burning by the time we got to the top.  I welcomed the breather as Kiki went for water.  I knew the next hill was going to be really ugly.  I've run up it many a time.  Good old gut busting Ellis Park.  It's a long hill that has a slight switchback in it that kicks up to what seems like 90 degrees straight up with about 100m left to the top.  It's awful.  But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

We were at 18.5km in, just past the half way point of our run as we tackled Ellis Park.  This next section was going to be tough.  It was a lot of climbing and descending.  Up Ellis Park, down Morningside, then back up Morningside to the lights at Windermere.  We caught the tail end of a red so we got a wee breather.   Then it was off down hill again to South Kingsway.   A whiff of bacon cooking elicited a groan from both of us as we made our way down Morningside.  Mmm....bacon.  We chit chatted away on the flats along South Kingsway.  We had the big Riverside Drive hill waiting for us.  That whole leg of the route was just plain evil.  More stairs and steep hills.  We dragged our butts up Riverside Drive and then turned onto Riverside Crescent to a very steep downhill that curled around into a rather unpleasant climb to another set of stairs.   There was a lot of bitching and many a swear word.  Sure it may look pretty but I think this was climb number 8 and we were at about 23km in to the run.  I couldn't fathom another 9 km of this.  Had I been on my own there was a good chance I would have wussed out and done the rest of my run on a flatter route.

Stairway To Hell
But I dragged Kiki out on this adventure and I wasn't going to bail.  At least not yet.  We got up the stairs and meandered through the Riverside 'hood to Bloor Street.  Of course there was one more climb before we hit Bloor.  I checked the route again and we were supposed to head up Traymore to Riverside Drive north and then over to Old Mill.  The Old Mill Hill is notorious in the High Park area.  It is long hill that is fairly steep and has a lovely little switch back at the top of it that really kicks you in the teeth.  Luckily we were only doing the first part and then jogging off to the left to go up Humbercrest.  Which was also another long hill but according to the route, we turned off in a park and followed a trail for a bit.  We found the park and my heart sank as I saw yet another set of freaking stairs.  MutherofgodIamsofuckingtiredofstairs.   At least they weren't very big.  We ended up in a weird little alley and followed it around back onto Humbercrest.  Now it was on to St. Marks.  At least we were going down it at this point.  Even then I had to go it slowly.  It is STEEP.  This was the route that I ran on Tuesday night with my run group.  When we got to the bottom of St. Mark's we figured that there was no way we'd finish the route and be right on the money with our mileage.  We figured there was a good chance we'd be over 32km and at this point both of us just wanted to be done.  We had 6km left and 2 choices.  Turn around and make our way back and add on in the park or keep going and find an alternate route back.  Turning around meant going back up St. Marks.  My legs were feeling it and the thought of going up that hill was not appealing in the least.  So we opted to run up to Dundas and make our way west.

Of course I completely forgot about the lovely hill that takes you up to Dundas.  At 25km and 11 hills in, this one was almost puke inducing.  I had to walk at the top.  I remember saying to Kiki that I almost felt drunk that's how wobbly my legs were.   Whose bright idea was this again...?? Oh right, it was mine.   All I could think about was having a nice hot cup of coffee and some bacon and pancakes.  Kiki suggested we head west along Dundas and the follow the river back to the Old Mill area so that's what we did.  I had to stop a couple of times to stretch out my legs.  They were really sore.  Everything was just starting to ache.  We had just under 5km left and what I thought was only one hill left.  Then Kiki broke the news to me:  we had to climb Old Mill Hill, all of it, to get our mileage in and get back to the park.  Mutherfucker.

We were so close.  It was time to hunker down and git 'er done.  We ran along towards the Old Mill Hill and turned up it.  The second time around didn't seem to hurt as much.  Until I got on to the switchback part.  Oh. My. God.  I was heaving by the time I got to the top.  We slowed our pace down to recover from the effort and made our way towards Jane.  Kiki suggested we run along one of the streets further north so we could avoid the busier areas near Bloor West.  Smart girl that Kiki.  We made our way towards Runnymede and I could smell home.  Only 3km left.  I wanted to head south on Runnymede and go back towards the Running Room but Kiki suggested we go a different route.  I just wanted to stop.  I was really hungry, really tired and really really sore.  But I followed along.  I would have been happy to do 31km but Kiki wouldn't hear of it.  "Nope, you're doing the full mileage."  Ahh bless her.  So we made our way through the neighbourhood towards Clendennan.  We followed Clendennan to Bloor.  Now I could really smell home.  So close.  My watch said we had about 1km left.  I figured there was a good chance we'd be over 32km.  We got to the lights and entered the park.  It was insanely busy.  There were cars everywhere and hundreds of people.  We ran along the top loop, intending to do a partial loop back to the car but I glanced at my watch and noticed that we were almost at 32km.  So we cut across the field with the baseball diamonds and headed towards where I parked.  I ran along looking for the car.  I didn't have to look far.  It was 3 spots in from the end.  I felt like I had been gone forever.

I glanced down at my watch 32.32km in 2:57:27.  I had hoped we'd be under 3 hours.  We just made it.  Even with our altered route, we managed to cover 16 hills.  Now it was time to find coffee, food and a warm place to sit and savour our achievement. 

Route Elevation.  Yeah, it's ugly.

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