mickey mouse

mickey mouse

Thursday, 11 June 2015

I am Woman, hear me wake up tooooo early

About a million years ago (ok, last Fall), I promised myself I would run more, and get faster.

Fast forward to now. Nope and nope.

This Sunday I am running the inaugural Nike Women's 15k on Toronto Island. 
Have I trained? Nope. Do I have a plan? Nope.

So what ya gonna do?  You get your race kit (what's with the PEACH shirt?), you google a parking spot that isn't more than the rent on your first Toronto apartment, and you pick a running outfit. 

For some crazy reason, in the actual race information they are telling us to WEAR the shirt on race day. Now normally I would not do that (you gotta earn it and all), but heck, maybe they will take more photos of me if I'm in their swag (mental note, run in Nike shoes/socks).
For those of you who collect them, the skirt is called 'Disco' from Sparkle Skirts .  It's got shorts that never ride up, built in pockets AND it's still possible to run in it when it's soaking wet!

Looks likely that I'll be up at 5AM, and on the road to run with a coffee in one hand and a credit card in the other (parking AND swag).  Did I mention that the Molson Indy is in town and there's road closures AND that I have to take a ferry to the Island run, so I can't just lollygag around and arrive at the last minute?

I'm actually looking forward to this event, and trying to keep a very open mind about it, despite the Facebook comments about other Nike events.  I'm going to hope for the best.....and hope that the 'wrinkles' are ironed out. There's been races held on the Island before, and I've heard horrible things about them (overcrowding, impossible to get on/off the island, tourists ON the course).

 So for now I will pick outfits, load playlists, charge electronics and pack my ferry ticket.

It's a lot of work for a Tiffany necklace, but you can bet I am going to run my ass off to earn one!

more to follow.....

RACE DAY........

I don't know about 'anything', but if you lay your clothes out the night before, you can manage to dress yourself.  I was second guessing my run jacket, and the Stoney Creek Run Club sweater, and the second pair of shoes, but figured what the heck, I'm driving, stuff it in the car, think about it later.

Sometimes I use my OCD for good instead of evil, so I've already picked out a parking lot that isn't $25 (turns out at the end of the day to be $8, which is cheaper than the two coffees I bought).

Since I can't be late even if I try, I'm downtown an HOUR before my ferry departure time.  There's volunteers posted on every block, every corner, approaching anyone who looks confused and directing them.  They even knew where to find the nearest Tim Hortons. 

I wandered around, considered breaking into the Village store to get the finisher's gear (which goes on sale WHILE I'm on the Island and I'm paranoid I'll miss out).

The signage was so clear and easy to follow, I was in the right ferry line 30 min ahead just like they asked, and we departed 10 minutes early too!  (love).
Turns out I need the sweater, it's windy and chilly, especially on the ferry.

Arrived on the Island to even MORE signage, and volunteers pointing us to the staging area. Of course it starts to rain, so off goes the sweater, on goes the running jacket and I find the (covered!!!) gear check and not only do they efficiently stow my gear, they give me a rain poncho!!

My only confusion was finding the start corrals, but instead of asking (easier) I followed the herd (harder) and ended up there.  The downside to a race with 10000 people on an island is that to start on time we all have to arrive early - like for some people three hours early.  Ewwww.  One time that being a back-of-the pack is a win, I'm on Island about an hour before the race start.

I've spent time on Toronto Island but never like we did today. Getting to run on the runway at Billy Bishop Airport was awesome.  The course was so well marked you could not get lost if you tried. Despite being slower than most I never ran alone, there were always people nearby. It was more of a celebration than a flat-out race, with groups pausing to take photos with the Toronto skyline in the background or the planes on the tarmac. 
Even the folks who call the Islands their home came out to cheer us on.  It was great to know that they didn't mind a bunch of wet, sweaty people stomping down their streets, and it was so beautiful to run alongside the amazing homes. Seeing the 'residential' areas really brings home that this is where people live, year round, with the City as their view.

 It rained off and on (more on, sadly) but I was amazed at the fact that there were photographers EVERYWHERE.  In the rain, for the folks at the back of the pack, they were there, and cheerful, and encouraging.  Speaking of which, so was every volunteer whose frozen cold hand I high-fived as I passed.  Normally by the time I run by there's a lonely water station with like 2 cups and a guy packing traffic cones into a van.  Nope, not today.

The only parts I wasn't thrilled with were running on muddy grass and the boardwalk. Both surfaces made me hope I wasn't going to pick that moment to sprain something, or slip right onto my bad knee and end the day right there.
The poncho came in super handy as the rain beat down and my soaking wet hat almost gave up trying to keep me dry.  What's funny is you can tell from the photos if it was raining hard or not, as my outfits keep changing.

I saw a young woman in a wheelchair at several points on the course, she passed me more than once.  She pushed herself through the mud, the mulched up grass, all the uneven terrain and even up a slick, steep wooden bridge TWICE.  I asked if she needed help just before the steepest part of the bridge, as the pouring rain and incline made it really look difficult . She very politley and firmly said 'Don't you DARE'.  I have to say watching her determination made me feel a little less whiny about my soaking wet shoes and blistered feet.

I ran 10:1s for pretty much the entire time, except the boardwalk and the super muddy grass, and noticed signs along the route that told runners if they reached that area at/after a certain time their race would be cut short.  I remember reading that the hard cut off was 1:10 pm, but wondered if the people who were 'short turned' would get the finishers pendant and a time?  There were timing mats all over the place, recording our splits, so I bet that keep cheating at a minimum.

The finish line was around a corner, which was funny. because it felt like it kept moving into the distance like a mirage.  When I finally crossed it (screaming of course), there were a half dozen photographers ready for me.

Full disclosure, from the day before I raced until about 1pm Sunday I was obsessed with making it back to the Village in time to purchase some Finisher's gear.  Beats me why...I'd already shelled out for the race, the parking, the gas...did I 'need' more stuff? YES YES of course.

So down the finish chute it went, grabbing water, snacks, and (finally!) my Tiffany necklace in its adorable blue box.  I realized afterward why they don't put them around your neck as other races do with their medals.

I would have taken time to stop and snap photos in the cool 'frames' set up, but it was raining, I was beyond wet, and I had a date with a Ferry to the mainland to shop.  Collecting my gear was a snap, and the line to board the ferry practically reached the gear check when I joined it.  There were signs (like at Disneyworld - saying 'wait is 160 minutes from this point').  I was too tired to calculate, luckily all the wet people around me were doing the math aloud, worried about missing hotel check out times and flights home.  

Stiff, sore and unable to stretch in the crowd, I figured I'd make the best of it and mowed down the entire bag of post-race snack (even the coconut Kind bar), and an entire bottle of water.

Like many things about this race, the ferry was super efficient and we were on WAY faster than the wait time indicated. I have to say that seeing the president of the ferry line on the news talking about the crowds from this weekend I give them huge kudos for the way they handled it.  They aren't magic carpets, if everyone tried to leave at the same time, there's no way we'd ever fit.  Nike gave priority boarding to racers coming over, which was brilliant, no offence to the tourists, but they had all day to get over to the Island :-). Sadly we had to return with the racers, THEIR spectators, the tourists and anyone else headed back. 

I got off the ferry as fast as my blistered feet would take me, and hobbled to the Village to shop, dodging people like a game of Frogger, a sore woman on a mission.  

Entering the pavilion I was met with a gauntlet of cheering, high-fiving staff, who acted like I was the first (and most awesome) person to come through the door all day...it was so neat.

Finding the Finishers gear was easy....luckily I think I arrived right before a huge wave of runners. First rule of shopping is 'grab it and hold onto it and THEN ponder buying it'.  Failed that because I neglected to pick a bright pink 1/4 zip that said FINISHER on the back, and grabbed a black one that didn't instead.  AAAAAAA. Must.buy.all.the.things.  

A little 'retail' voice said 'check the change room for people's discarded sweaters.  BINGO, it's a XXL but heck, I'll survive.  And all the staff are great too, you'd think they'd been trained to treat each sweaty, soaking wet one of us like we were special :-).

Did I mention you have to show your race bib to by finisher's merch? LOVE LOVE LOVE that.....

So I got a shirt ('cause that peach one is history), the nifty zip sweater, (which was SO much nicer and warmer than my soaking wet running jacket) and headed out to the car to drive home.  Could not resist opening the Tiffany box once I was safely in the car.  The necklace is so delicate my pruny fingers could hardly fasten it. No wonder they don't put them ON ever single finisher then and there....we'd be on the Island all night :-).

Normally I have a thing about not running races twice....I'm a 'one and done' kind of girl.  I've made exceptions for the Around the Bay because it's in my home town, and the Midsummer Night's Run because I like the course and the medal rocks.

I have to say that the Nike Women's 15K is now on that rare list of races I'd do again.  For an Inagural year I was expecting issues, things that didn't work, crowds, disorganization and being stuck on the Island for hours.  Nope....in true Nike form it ran like a machine, you can tell this isn't the first race they've organized.

The positives:
* Organized
* Great volunteers
* Beauiful venue to run
* Great system to transport runners to Island
* Had to show race bib to by Finisher merch.
* Awesome photo ops
* The Tiffany necklace (would have put that FIRST, but didn't want to act like I was in this JUST for the bling.....yeah, I was!
* Prompt, well infomred communication (e-mail, Facebook and Twitter)
* Ferry tickets were included and TIMED with priority for runners
* Lots of aid stations
* Photographers were on course the entire time
* 15K is a great distance...long enough for a challenge, short enough to muscle through

* Running on wet (or dry) grass and boardwalk is difficult and dangerous
* Not having finisher merch ON the Island to buy (I would have stayed longer)
* Having to smoosh onto the ferry with everyone to come back (no way to avoid that)
* Never been a fan of Nuun, so carried my own fuel
* the 'short turn' parts of the course seem to allow people who didn't run 15 to 'finish'
* LOTS of walkers who moved several abreast in congested areas -rather than staying to one side to allow people to pass.