For this fall, I decided that I would use the Run for the Toad 50k, which is also the Canadian 50k trail championships, as my focus race for the fall. I watched the race last year when I was injured, and I saw my former teammate Wyatt win the race. It looked like a great, well organized event, so I considered it as a race for the bucket list. Race directors George and Peggy are extremely passionate about what they do, and have really worked hard to get talented runners to run their 50k. Races longer than the marathon distance typically don't attract the same level of competition as marathons. The big prize money races are typically marathons, and to add to this, the opportunity to make major games teams like the Olympics, World Championships, or Pan-American games don't exist for distances longer than the marathon. The Run for the Toad race is unique among trail races, as it has recently added an impressive prize money structure that makes it more of a lure for talented marathoners and ultra runners.
For my buildup this summer, I did the majority of my training on my own. I spent some time with my family in Smithville for a month or so in July/August before heading down to Windsor for teacher's college. My training was going quite smoothly in July and August. I felt as if I had some solid workouts that indicated I was in similar shape that I was in a few years ago. I alternated my workouts between long tempos between 40 and 70 minutes, Long runs of at least 2 hours, and fartlek workouts where I would do about one hour worth of 2-5 min bursts at half marathon pace or quicker with 1 min recovery in between. I had a decent 10k race at Rock the Road in London, and a solid half marathon race which I treated more as a workout, which was also in London, at the half marathon. A week after that race, I decided to do my last (and longest) long run before Run for the Toad 50km. I ran a 43.5 km run at about the pace I planned to run for the 50km race. At the end of this run, I felt some pain in my lower leg. I was not able to run for several days, and was getting worried. I cross trained on the elliptical, frantically hoping to maintain my fitness and deal with this issue. I went to get physiotherapy and it turns out that my Anterior tendon was strained, a repetitive strain injury. It appears as if my body still needs some getting used to running over 2.5 hours. This was an ill timed injury, because my big 50k was 3 weeks away, and I also hoped to run the 10k road championships at the Oasis Toronto . I was getting excited about how my training was going, and hoped that this 10k would be a good measuring stick type of race to see how I stack up against some of the top runners in the country. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to run for the majority of the week heading into that race. I did a short run on Thursday and Friday, but the rest was all cross training on the elliptical. I decided to still run the race, all though I'm not too sure that was a wise decision. I was in pain before the race started, and all though I was able to tune most of it out during the race, I was in quite a bit of discomfort afterword too. I was only able to manage a 31:40, so it is safe to say that the injury affected my performance. I was on the elliptical for most of the week following this race too, which gave me one week left until the 50k race for me to try to get healthy enough to be able to run 50k. I was having my doubts, but I prayed to God he would let me run this race I had been preparing for. For the entire week prior to the race, I was able to run relatively pain free, but only if I ran on trails. Pavement still aggravated my tendon. All of my runs that week were on Malden Park, the location of many cross country meets in Windsor, and the only place with hills in Windsor. It turns out to be good preparation for Run for the Toad in terms of terrain. Praise God, I would be able to run the race after all! This could have been devastating both for me and the race director George and Peggy , who told me numerous times how much they were looking forward to having an Around the Bay champion at their race.
All though the depth of the field was not anything like a top marathon, I did have the opportunity to race one of the top mountain/trail runners in the U.S. I would be up against Joe Gray, his impressive resume includes a 1:03 half marathon, and on several occasions he represented U.S. at World mountain running championships, as their top runner. My former teammate, , was also supposed to race, but unfortunately could not run due to injury. Leading up to this race, I had my sights set on breaking the old course record (set by last year) and winning the race. When I heard I was up against an experienced runner with legitimate foot speed and a lot of trail racing experience in Joy Gray, I realized that this task would be much more difficult than I thought. To add to this, I was dealing with that tendon strain on my anterior, that forced me to taper a little more than I would be comfortable with. When I'm at the start line, I decided to ignore that as much as possible, and just focus on executing what I am capable of. The race consists of 4 12.5 km laps, and there is also a relay race featuring some club teams including Speed River, Toronto Track Club, and a group from Maryland, where each runner runs 12.5k. In the first lap, I noticed that the top relay runners were going a little slower than I would have expected them to go, so I decided to run with them. I wanted to go about 3:10 pace (not per km! Like 3hr10min for the entire 50k!), which meant 38:00/10km, and the first 10k was not too much under this. I was able to maintain this pace pretty well for about 30k, and I was ahead of Joe Gray. Once I hit 30k, I enter into new territory, as I have never raced longer than this before. I still felt okay, but not strong enough to respond to Joe as he passed me on that 3rd lap. The last lap, obviously, is where it really starts to get tough. I really started to notice some of the hills that didn't bother me so much in the first 3 laps. As I approach the midway through the last lap, I have run further than I have ever run before, even in a training run. at this point, I am struggling to run 4:00/km. Looking at the results, it is fairly common for the last lap to be 3-4 minutes slower than any of the other laps for this race. That is what happened for me. Laps 1 - 3 were in the 46-47 minute range, while the last lap was over 50 minutes. I was still under the old course record by over 3 minutes, but I finished second place by a bit over one minute. Considering the talent level of the runner who beat me, and also considering how much injury trouble I had over the past year or so (and the last few weeks), I was pleased with this result.
I took two days completely off to recover from the race. I was really sore for two days, but on the third day, I went for a short run and felt okay. The tendon issue was noticeable, but manageable. This was good news, because I planned to run Detroit Marathon two weeks after my 50k, as long as I recovered okay. Why? It is probably ill-advised to run a marathon so short after a 50k, and also because of my tendon issue, it is unlikely that I am going to run a time that is equivalent to what I did at Around the Bay. I was completely aware of that, but I was also completely aware that Detroit marathon offers prize structure of $4000, $2000 and $1000 for 1st 2nd and 3rd, and because they don't offer elite runners complimentary entries, hotel, or travel, it Is unlikely that many elite runners from out of town will run this race. Based on the past few years, it is possible for me to win this race without running an amazing time. Low 2:20's will probably win it, and high 2:20's will likely get top 3. I am quite confident I can still do that, despite being so close to a 50k, and having a less than ideal month before the race because of my tendon. It was worth the $150 entry fee to gamble this! Not to mention, it is a pretty neat course, as runners get to go over the Ambassador bridge, in Windsor for a few km, then back under the tunnel into downtown Detroit. And, there is no travel costs for me, since I can use the jog to the tunnel bus as my warm up! I went for the win from the start of the race, and paced myself behind some half marathon guys going around 1:10. I felt decent going through the half way mark, and I think I had over a one minute lead. I started to really struggle around 30k, and by 35k, I could hear footsteps behind me, as I should most definitely expect when I am struggling to crack 6:00 miles. I went from $4000 to $1000 in the last 20 minutes or so of the race, as two runners passed me. I don't really like to think of it that I lost $3000, but more like I gained $1000. Considering what I went through in the last 5 and a half weeks before this race, I am so thankful to God I was able to finish the race in top 3! At one point, it was looking likely that I would not be able to do the 50k or the marathon.
My time of 2:25 is not much to boast about, in fact, it is only a few minutes faster than what our country's top female marathoners, and Krista Duchene ran last year in Toronto! I know I am capable of crushing that time in a marathon that is my focus race, instead of just an afterthought to a 50k, especially if I can get a training block in that is relatively injury free. (And for marathon running, 'relatively injury free' is sometimes the best you can really hope for, as there is always going to be something that is aching and you just have to learn to deal with it) As for right now, I am enjoying some time to recover for the next few weeks. There is certainly no rush to get back into things, because it is long ways away from a spring marathon. It is important for me to take the time I need to eradicate the issues I have been dealing with, so I can get excited about the next build up, rather than just trying to survive through an injury.
I can use the extra time I have to try to get ahead with my teacher's college work during this time. I just finished my first practicum, getting some experience teaching grade 10 math and grade 9 religion in a Catholic school. I'm not Catholic, but when it comes to what they teach in grade 9 religion (the basics of Christianity) we are mostly on the same page. I read up a bit on Catholic doctrine just to be safe that I wasn't going to teach them anything Catholics would consider heretical. They just have some traditions, such as the sign of the cross, that I am not familiar with, but I learn pretty quick. I'm not comfortable praying to Mary though, so when they say that prayer, I just stay silent. I got placed in Catholic school because religious studies is my second teachable, and Catholic schools is really the only opportunity to fulfill my teaching requirements for that subject, since there aren't many private schools of other Christian denominations in the area. I consider it an opportunity to learn about another expression of the Christian faith, even though I disagree with some of their doctrine. Teacher college students hoping to teach high school in Ontario are required to have two teachable subjects. Whether I am in a Catholic school or a private Christian school, a religion class is an opportunity to build into the spiritual lives of students, which is something I don't really have the opportunity to do as a math teacher, so that is the reason why I chose that as my second teachable. Actually that's a lie. Religion is the only subject that I had enough subjects to qualify as a second teachable. I had some difficulty determining what my second teachable would be. It turns out that according to Windsor, I have enough credits to have religion as a second teachable, but Western said I needed more. That's why I had to travel further from home to go to Windsor instead of Western. But anyways, teaching a religion class would be an opportunity I wouldn't mind as a nice change to a math class, as it is a much greater opportunity to foster spiritual growth, or in some cases, lead a student to Christ.
Looking ahead to the future now, some ideas I have for spring races include, Around the Bay (once again) , Montreal half marathon, and Ottawa Marathon. Nothing is for certain, but as for right now, those are the races that I will be using to motivate my training once I am all healed up and ready to get at it again! Lord willing, I will be able to pursue a much more competitive marathon time in the spring!