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Dylan Wykes Toronto Waterfront Marathon race

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Dylan Wykes Toronto Waterfront Marathon race
Dylan Wykes Toronto Waterfront Marathon race
Dylan Wykes' portrayal of the race
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Ttr Icon Dylan Wykes Toronto Waterfront Marathon race

Race day - The alarm sounded at 4:30am! Surprisingly I slept pretty well, and was only up a few times during the night to go to the bathroom. I laid in bed for a few minutes and tried to relax, but the adrenaline was already pumping. I got up and had some breakfast, which consisted of a couples bowls of porridge and a banana, and some sports drink. I then went for a little walk to breath some fresh air and try to limber up a little bit. At that point I had a bit of time to enjoy 1/2 a cup of coffee before boarding the 5:50am bus to the start.

The 12 km bus ride from the hotel to city hall (right near the start line) seemed to take forever. I tried to stay relaxed by conversing with some of the other runners on the bus. Once we got to city hall we had a little bit of time to relax in the rooms set-up for us. There were these funny army-style cots/beds set-up in the rooms. A lot of people laid back on them trying to relax and conserve energy before the race.

Having only run one marathon before I don't really have a set pre-marathon warm-up routine. So, I figured it'd be an OK idea to follow the lead of Matt McInnes who has 7-8 marathons under his belt already. We went out for an easy 15 minute jog prior to the race. It was evident about 5 minutes into the warm-up that it was fairly warm and humid out. (I already knew this was going to be the case from my obsessive checking of the weather).

Steve and I had discussed the importance of drinking at all 8 aid stations along the course. I had practiced drinking an electrolyte drink and taking gels during training sessions in the build-up to this marathon. And I was happy that this time around I would be allowed to have bottles with this specific drink at every 5 km along the course. I got a good bit of advice from Matt McInnes to not depend on the bottles too much and to not freak out if my bottle was nowhere to be found when i approached the aid tables. Taking the bottle from the tables at speed is a difficult task and often the guys in front just take a sweep at the bottles and end up knocking over a lot of others. In the Ottawa marathon this spring Matt was only able to get 1 or 2 of his 8 bottles.

Anyways, on to the race.....we were escorted to the start line 15 minutes before the start. This gave all of the elites a chance to do a few strides and stretch a little and try and find somewhere private to empty their bladder in a sea of other runners and spectators. I managed to kneel down and 'tie my shoe' while partially hidden behind one of the lead trucks just before the start.

After an interesting rendition of 'Oh Canada' the gun went off and the race was a go!

Luckily no one really has a sense of urgency in the first few hundred meters of a marathon. The sprint off the line is not like one you would see in a elementary school cross country race!, most of the competitors have the foresight and experience to reserve some energy for the final 42 km of the race!

I went through 1 km in 3:12, all by myself. (In hindsight this was a theme that would persist for pretty much the next 41 km).

My pacemaker was nowhere to be found. I saw him on the start line, so presumed he had just gotten a bit excited and was a few seconds ahead in the lead pack. Ian Ladbrooke came past on a motorcycle at about 2 km and noticed that I was alone. I just shrugged my shoulders and he said to relax and that he would find the pacemaker and tell him to wait up for me!

He did and by 4 km I was 'tucked in' (I put this in quotations because it is somewhat difficult for a 6'2" 150lb person to 'tuck in' behind a 5'5" 120lb guy!) But, regardless, having Stephen there allowed me to take my mind off off the pace a little bit and just try and find a groove.

We past 5 km in 15:40 - about 10 seconds ahead of scheduled pace. But, I had spent from 1-3 km going a bit quick to try and bridge the gap from myself to Stephen). For the next 5 km I just tried to stay relaxed yet conscious to make sure we were still hitting the splits.

10k in 31:35

We hit 10 km in 31:35, just slightly ahead of pace. We were cruising along and I felt good. It seemed a bit windy, but I tried to ignore it and tell myself it wasn't all that bad. I had no problems getting my drink bottles at the first 2 stops. Steve was waiting out at the most western point of the course at 12.2km. I made eye contact with him and figured he could tell from my stride and posture that everything was going smoothly.

When we made the turn around it became evident that it was just me and the pacemaker. About 1 minute ahead was a large group of 10-15 runners who made up the lead pack. And about 30-45 seconds behind me was the chase pack made up of mostly Canadians and a few Mexican runners.

But, once we made that turn I was inspired by the support from the runners still heading out towards the turnaround point. Some were happy to see the first Canadian and cheered me on by my last name (on my bib - Wykes). But there were a few out there who knew me by first name. So, it was pretty cool to get cheers from them. There were also a few coaches and fans riding bikes along Lakeshore for the first 1/2 of the course. There support kept me calm and focused for much of the first half.

15km in 47:23 - 5k split 15:48

I hit 15 km in 47.23 (15:48). From 10 km to 15 km, I thought a lot about how the effort felt compared to during my previous marathon in Rotterdam. The humidity seemed to already be playing a factor and the small doubts that crept into my mind about whether I would be able to keep going at this pace. I was already feeling a bit of fatigue that I didn't recall feeling at this stage of the race in Rotterdam.

20km in 63:12 - 5k split 15:48

I forged on and managed to split the next 5 km in 15:48 (1:03:12 @ 20k).

At some point around 17 km I pulled alongside Stephen (the pacemaker) and asked him to pick it up a bit, because the last 2 km was 6:30 ( just slightly off pace.) I wasn't panicked about making up the time instantly, but I didn't want to keep slipping. Stephen thought I said to slow down and he ended up slipping in behind me. I looked back and told him 'no, no, speed up'. But, before I knew it he was slowing down even more and it was evident he wasn't going to make it much further, nevertheless to 30 km!

This little incident actually gave me a bit of an adrenaline rush and forced me to focus on working hard at maintaining the pace. I set my sights on a few guys ahead of me who were starting to struggle.

I was able to pass an English runner, who was struggling, and was making up ground quickly on another guy. I felt pretty strong going through 1/2 way in 66:40. But I was definitely feeling some fatigue in my hamstrings, and a little bit of cramping in my calves at random times. I knew at this point, unless I miraculously got a new set of legs, I wasn't going to be able to hold the pace to the finish.

I made a conscious decision to try and relax for the next 2-3 km and not keep charging to catch the next guy, who was about 15-20 seconds ahead. I realized if I forced it too much there was a decent chance I wouldn't make it to the finish. At that point the crowd support starting getting a little sparse and the loneliness of the long distance runner started to settle in. I started to lose a little bit of focus and running 3:10 km's quickly became a tough task.

25km in 79:24 - 5k split 16:11

I saw Steve, Cleo and Arnold cheering for me at just before 25 km and this gave me a little boost. I passed 25 km in 1:19.24 (16:11 for the 5 km from 20-25). I knew at this point that the remainder of the race was going to be a real battle.

I started to question why I had chosen such a long distance to specialize in! It was hard to stay focused from this point on (as it had been from about half-way), because it was evident I was not going to hit my goal time and the next guy was so far ahead and likewise so far behind that really 'competing' to improve or hold my place was a hard thing to focus on.

I was sweating a lot, and despite being able to get my bottle at all 5 aid stations to this point, I knew I was getting really dehydrated. My hamstrings seemed to keep tightening up and I started to get the odd small cramp in my side. At this point the winds also became a big factor. I had been running completely on my own for the past 7-8 km and regaining the focus to try and maintain a decent pace kept getting harder and harder.

When I passed 25 km and made my way down the Leslie spit and ran a 3:07 km, I knew I must have had a strong tail wind, because the effort was the same as the last 5k and I had been running at 3:13/km.

I ran a 3:10 for the next km and started seeing the leaders coming the other way making their way back up the spit. I gingerly made my way round the turn-around at 28 km and was met head on by some tough winds.

During the first 1/2 of the race this may not have felt like much, but at this point it was really tough. There was no one at all out there cheering and seeing the runners behind me making their way out to the end of the spit I had doubts that I would be able to stay ahead of them (in hindsight I was a good 3 minutes ahead of those guys at that point, but it felt like much less).

30km in 1:35.36 - 5k split 16:12

I think I ran my slowest k from 29-30 km, as I past 30k in 1:35:36 (25-30 km in 16:12).

When I again passed Steve, Cleo, and Arnold around 31 km I tried to really focus on keeping a quick turnover and trying to run tall and strong. I would have been encouraged by being able to maintain the pace I ran for 20-25k. but, the wind and the fatigue in my legs was really deteriorating my focus.

Luckily sometime between 30-32 km (I can't really remember when because time seemed to be standing still yet whizzing by all at the same time) a 'race escort' biker started leading me on the course about 10-20m in front of me. Although he was just there to make sure I made my way around the last 10 km safely and not to pace me at all, his presence helped me refocus.

I made a decision after 30 km to stop checking my watch and to just try a get to the finish line. I started to gain a little bit of confidence as I passed the eastern most point of the course at 33 km. I got a little boost from realizing I was now finally heading in the direction of the finish line! My body also seemed to be holding up alright, even though I continued to slow down. I realized I was going to be able to make to the finish without completely falling apart and without anyone passing me.

When I hit 34 km I caught sight of a runner ahead who seemed to be fading. I focused on reeling him in, which I did rather quickly, because he was really struggling at that point.

Once I was past him, the next group of runners seemed to be way off in the distance, but I tried to keep my head up and pick-up the pace a small bit to see if I could make up any ground.

I got confused around 35 km when someone told me I was 4:00 minutes behind. At this late stage of the race my mind was not working properly and I thought the guy was telling me the next runner in front of me was 4:00 minutes in front. This was obviously a blow to the confidence.

I thought it meaningless to charge after them at that point and started trying to calculate the ridiculously slow finishing time I was going to have. if the gap that from me to the guy I could see ahead was 4 minutes, then I couldn't imagine what the gap from me to the leader was! (It finally occurred to me after the race that the 4 minutes was how much time I was behind the leaders at that point). That threw me off for a few minutes and I started to feel a bit sorry for myself.

But when I hit 37 km, I tried to dig really deep and run as hard as I could to the finish. At this point I was pumping my arms like a mad man.

Unfortunately, my legs did not want to follow.

I started to gain confidence that I was going to be able to finish up strong. I looked at my watch (for the first time since 30 km) at 40 km and it was just under 2:09.

Although when I had visualized making it to this point in the race I wanted my watch to say 2:06:??. I was encouraged and tried to run hard thinking I might be able to run the last 2.2 km in under 7 min and sneak in under 2:16:00.

Although that didn't happen I made a decent charge over the last 2k and caught a guy in front of me with about 200m to go. I was extremely relieved to round the final bend and see the finish line. Although I wasn't going to get under 2:16:00, at that point I was happy enough to make it to the line.

So, in the end I came up well short of my time and placing goal for the race. But, I am pleased that I managed to hang-in there and not fall apart completely.

It was such a tough race for me to stay focused and motivated because I had to run so much of the race on my own and the conditions made the effort feel tough very early in the race. It was great to get through another marathon (and another marathon training cycle).

It was a very valuable experience. One that will hopefully help me if I am selected to run in next year's World Cup Marathon in Berlin Germany!

Now, it's time to recover and bury my head in some Epidemiology text books!

The article preceding this - Background Toronto Waterfront Marathon
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By NicoleS on 07-10-2008, 01:17 AM
Dylan W in Toronto

My congrats to Dylan : it was a pleasure reading about his Toronto marathon experience. He should be pleased that he managed to "not fall apart completely" last Sunday -- unlike some of us! Dylan is already proving himself to be a great ambassador of the 42.2km discipline and many fast times are in store for him.

Keep it up!

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