Race Report: 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

Let’s cut to the chase. It was a great day, perfect for running. I ran a strong race and came up seven seconds shy of my half marathon personal best. I’m happy.


I met up with Miguel near the start chute and we walked up to the red corral to get ready to go. I had forgotten my gels in the car, but I grabbed some banana loaf at Starbucks and figured that would be fine since it was the half, and not a full marathon.

In the corral we found Jeffrey, Emily, Sean, Heather and a few other friends from the Downtown Yonge Running Room. We all talked about running a 1:40 and made plans to go out at about 4:40/km pace.

It wasn’t long before the anthem was sung and we were off.

The Route

Start to 3km

The first kilometre or two is uphill, so I planned to take it a bit easy and make back the time down Bathurst St. We ran the first kilometre in 4:51. Not bad, but Miguel decided we should make that up right away and picked up the pace. Emily and I dropped back a little bit and I yelled up that we didn’t need to gain it all back right away.

Kilometre 2 was 4:46. Again, reasonable. We were a bit behind, but there was no panic since the next file kilometres were pretty much all downhill.

Then the pace picked up. 4:38 for kilometre three.

Down Bathurst and past Fort York

Here we go. 4:25, 4:22, 4:20 and we were almost at the Lakeshore in much better shape thanks to some nice downhill running. It felt fast, but not too fast. I did say to Miguel that I didn’t think I could hold that pace to the end. But after seeing that we had been running 4:20/km, I felt better. I didn’t need to. That 4:20 is likely not quite that fast as we ran under the Gardiner here and the Garmin track was a bit off.

Lakeshore heading west

This part of the route is kind of dull. We weren’t passing the runners heading back yet, and there’s not much crowd support. But that let me settle into a groove. Miguel ran away a bit here and I spent some time running with Andrew Young who was running the full, and with another couple of friends.

4:27, 4:42, 4:44 and 10km was done. I felt like I was slipping a bit and made the decision to push the pace a bit and see whether I could make a run at a PB. I took a gel (picked up at the aid station) and immediately regretted it. Yuck…salty and gross. It turned my stomach a bit later on as well.

Lakeshore heading east

After the turn I picked up the pace and time passed quickly as I spent the next three kilometres scanning the throng heading the other way on Lakeshore. I saw a few friends including Laural who was running her first full marathon.

4:35, 4:37, 4:38, 4:44 and 4:45 through 15km. Now we’re moving and making good time. And getting a bit concerned about a little hip thing I’ve got going on.

Heading up the hills, I felt little twinges from my left hip. I made the mistake of hopping on a weird zero impact treadmill machine at the expo and strained things a bit in the few minutes I “ran” on it. Dumb.

As long as I didn’t push too hard up the hills, it was fine. I used my right leg to push forward and everything was fine. But in the back of my mind I kept worrying that when the time came to push to the finish that it would leave me hobbling.

To 20km and the turn north

4:44, 4:47, 4:40 and 4:37. The 4:47 was the uphill by the Rogers Centre. I decided to start pushing at 19km to try and hit the PB time of 1:38:25. I remember the turn at 20km where the marathoners went south and the half marathoners went north. I was happy to be making the left turn.

Finish strong

The tunnel under the tracks on Bay messes everything up on the Garmin and coming out of there, the buildings of downtown does the same. I have no idea what my split was here as a result.

1km to go

When I got to 20km, I knew I really needed to go to get the PB I was after. I saw some friends cheering on Bay and gave a glance and a quick little wave. No time to say hi…there was work to do.

500m to go and I remember looking down at my watch and realizing that I probably couldn’t make it to the finish in time. I hoped maybe I started the watch a few seconds early and pushed harder.

200m to go and I made the left-right turn and saw the finish. Shit…not enough time to get there. But I kept going and ran across the line. 1:38:32.

Seven seconds

Seven seconds off my PB set a couple of years ago in Hamilton. That day I ran well through about 18km, and then held on through the finish. Today, I ran strong from the very first step right through to the last. The course was tougher, and my running was better.

All in all, a great run on a great day.

Streak ends, tomorrow we race

The runstreak ended in favour of pre-race rest. Seeing everyone racing in Chicago had me thinking about doing some race this fall, so when Miguel asked over Twitter if maybe I wanted to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon this weekend, I didn’t have to think very long.

I picked up a bib cheap on Kijiji on Wednesday night and made the transfer into my name on Friday at the Expo. Total investment is $45 which isn’t much for a big city half.

ios-apw6r581l7I was thinking on Friday about ending the streak after the race on Sunday instead of going through to 100 days, but then on Friday evening I figured a couple of days of rest would probably do me good. I haven’t run 21.1km in quite some time, so that extra rest can’t hurt.

A good learning experience

Am I bummed about the streak ending? No. I accomplished what I wanted to. I never had a specific goal in mind when I started. Instead I was just trying to learn about myself by running every day.

How would my body react? How would it be mentally? Would running frequent, shorter runs lead to an increase in speed?

It turned out the getting out everyday wasn’t that hard mentally. It was very much like having a marathon schedule to keep.

Physically, I ended up with shin splints on the right side that I couldn’t shake. Two days off has already done wonders in that department, but 21.1km tomorrow will likely light the shin up again for a few days.

Speed-wise, I’m faster over 5km than before. We’ll see whether that means I can still run a fast half marathon. Maybe?

Some numbers:

  • Consecutive days: 62
  • Total kilometres: 360
  • Longest run: 15km (day 1)
  • Shortest run: 3km (day 62)

Why I’m Supporting Dailymile

The first social fitness site I used back in 2008 when I started running was Dailymile. Six years and 8,609km later, it’s still the place where most of my running community can be found.

dailymile_pattern_logo-1I was a Dailymile user almost from the start and helped spread it through my running group back in 2008. In those days it was a pretty simple service.

After a run, you entered your distance, and the time it took you to run it, plus a note about how the run went. Dailymile figured out the pace for you. Then you chose one of the faces that represented how you felt – from happy to injured and everything in between.

That was it.

There was no Garmin upload, no maps or route maker, no fancy graphs of your cadence or vertical oscillation.

Because of that simplicity, the community aspect was front and centre. Beyond adding your workout, comments and encouragement were key to the experience of using Dailymile.


How dailymile looked when I signed up as a beta tester in 2008

Over the years other services came along. I used MotionBased when I got my first Garmin GPS watch. It was nice for digging into your performance and seeing where you ran well, and where you didn’t. But there was no community at all.

Garmin eventually bought MotionBased and it became Garmin Connect and the lack of community continued. In the meantime, Dailymile added the ability to upload Garmin workout files, along with adding a mapping feature that let you plan out your routes, or measure your distance without one of those fancy and expensive watches.

The Smartphone Era

Fast-forward a bit more and the advent of GPS on the smartphone changed things again. Apps and services like Runmeter, MapMyRun and Strava came along that tapped the power of the smartphone to provide the same run tracking capabilities that used to require a specialty GPS watch.

I dabbled with all of those services, and settled on Strava as my favourite. It was updated frequently, looked good, and had some nice analysis of the Garmin files I was uploaded.

But my community isn’t there. For that reason, for the last two years, I’ve triple posted all my workouts to Garmin Connect, Strava and Dailymile.

Support the Indie Web!

My trip to Portland last month for XOXO Fest was a real eye-opener for me into the world of the indie developer and maker communities.

These days I get my coffee at Louie’s. I use ThinkUp to analyize my social streams. I use WordPress for my blog.

Garmin is a huge company with huge resources and is in the business of selling you more gear while locking you into their proprietary platform. Strava is a VC-funded company that built a great product but seems a bit too willing to sell your data out the back door for profit.

All the while, Dailymile has continued on, bootstrapped by Kelly Korevec and Ben Weiner – just a couple of friends who had an idea for a social fitness site and turned it into reality.

In the same way I choose local and indie for my morning latte, I’m choosing to use Dailymile to track my runs.

Complaints…I’ve Had a Few

I’ve been critical of the lack of updates on Dailymile for the last year or so. But a good email conversation with Kelly yesterday reminded me of similar emails back and forth in 2008 when I first joined a little service that had a lot of promise. Kelly and I had a few email conversations back then about different things I wanted to see in the service. Many times, those things appeared not long later.


Dailymile as it looks today

It’s easy to sit back and complain about the lack of updates. But one thing I’ve learned in my 18 months as Product Manager at Hover is that you can’t do everything you want to do all at once. It takes time.

I’m frustrated daily by the pace of change of my own product. I know that Kelly and Ben feel the same way and after talking to Kelly, I know that they are committed to making Dailymile better for me and all the other runners that use it every day.

I’ll continue to use Garmin Connect as the way I upload my data from my watch and as a backup for that data. Strava will continue to get that same data automatically for the same reasons.

But Dailymile will be my fitness social network of choice again going forward.

  • p.s. As of today, I’ve renewed my Pro membership to put my money where my mouth is. If you use and love Dailymile, consider going pro as a signal that you want Dailymile to continue. It’s $50/year – not a lot in the grand scheme of things.