This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Wednesday, July 30, 2003


D (hubby) and I went back to visit my fair hometown of Toronto to attend the wedding festivities of one of my dear friends, Gordon (I can blog endlessly about what a great friend he is). The festivities were on July 26th, and wouldn't you know it, thanks to an newsletter I read earlier in the week, I discovered that Nike's 10K RUNTO ("Run To" or "Run Toronto", clever eh?) was going to be held on Centre Island the next day.

A 10K? In Toronto? On Centre Island? And I was going to be there for it?? I had to participate, come hell or high water. It was the perfect opportunity for me to show off this pictoresque park to D.

We each paid CDN$45 in registrations fee for the event, with some of the proceeds going to Toronto Parks and Recreation to provide safe places for kids to play. The entry fee included a race packet, consisting of an (ugly) baby blue Nike dry-fit T-shirt with our bib number, and also a return ferry ticket to Centre Island itself. We had to pick up these packets in person at the Nike store in downtown Toronto and the last day for pickup was the day we were arriving in Toronto. So as soon as we got off the plane at Lester Pearson airport, we headed straight to the Niketown (I'm not sure if it's even called that in Toronto), luggage and all. Of course, being the marketing geniuses they are at Nike, the pick up location was buried in the middle of the store, so you couldn't help but look at all the pretty merchandise and be tempted to buy the latest Nike Air Shox or whatever the latest fad is these days. Fortunately, D was starving and needed to eat something right away so we hustled out of the store ASAP.

On Sunday morning, 7/27/03, we donned our (ugly) race shirts, and drove down to Harbourfront (I miss spelling things with an extra "u"!) As we waited to take the ferry across, we kept glancing anxiously at the dark skies overhead because rain was predicted by the weather people. You guessed it, it rained. Fortunately, it was only a brief shower, and it went away as quickly as it came. However, the gray clouds looked ominous and we crossed our fingers in the hopes that there would be no more that day.

Upon arrival at the island, the first thing we did was go to the bathroom. [Racing Tip #6: run with an empty bladder]. We then went to get our timing chips. I love timing chips. I think they should be provided for all races. It was especially important for this one, because over 7,500 people signed up for the event, and to ensure an orderly start, we were placed into groups and started in "waves".

We had an hour before gun time and wandered around a bit looking for free food (bagels & coffee!). Around 9:15AM, "Running Guy" (the pudgy fellow in the RUNTO ads) welcomed us all to the event, telling us that this was the largest footrace in Toronto (and I was there! Woo hoo!) Running Guy joked that he was grateful to Nike for hiring him as their fattest employee. He only spoke briefly because he had to dash off to an interview. Just before that though, he introduced us to a lady to lead us in a warm up.

As a group ex instructor, I know a thing or two about warmups, and hers was terrible. We warmed up with jumping jacks (yikes) and her stretches were pretty useless for running. After a while, I gave up and did what D was doing - he is impressively well-versed in the Art of Warmup and Stretching for Runners.

At around 9:45AM, we decided that we needed another health break so we scoured the grounds looking for bathrooms. There were porto-potties scattered around, but there were at least 20 people waiting in line behind each. Shame on Nike. They must have organized races before and should have known to provide dozens of these things. Fortunately, the race start was delayed until 10:15AM, but we were cutting it very close. At around 10:05AM, I was seriously wishing I had male plumbing, as D scampered off to duck behind some bushes before heading to the starting line. Some ladies in the porto-potty line in front of me made a last-minute decision to relieve themselves al fresco (despite inadequate bush coverage) but I prevailed. Finally, at 10:15AM, after a lightening fast porto-potty encounter, I booked over to the starting area.

There were 5 "waves" or starting groups, in which people were placed themselves through self-seeding at registration. D, aka Speedy Gonzales, was in Wave 1. I joined the other midpackers in Wave 3. Even though a 10:15AM start time was announced, the gun went off at 10:25AM which is when Wave 1 folks started.

Once again, I forced myself to start slowly, and ran at a steady rhythmic pace. There were so many people in my wave, that I had no choice but to do that without expending a lot of energy weaving in and out of the crowds.

The course itself was beautiful. Centre Island is a big park floating in a lake, and is filled with luscious grass and tall trees. The first part of the race was on a paved footpath, but very soon, we started running on all sorts of terrain. It had the best features of both a road race and a trail run: it had the speed of a road race (flat!) but the gorgeous scenery and path conditions of a trail run.

I steadily passed people throughout the race, and was in turn passed by others. Since Canada is metric (like all civilized country should be!), there were kilometer (km) markers along the route, instead of mile (mi) markers. They weren't in obvious locations, and I made no effort to time myself. And even if I did, I didn't know how a km pace would translate into mi.

There were three water stations along the way, and I'm proud to say that I'm much better at grabbing cups and drinking the contents without choking or spilling it all over myself. I used the stations to roughly determined how far I was into the race. Based on the course map I had viewed earlier, it looked like they were spaced at 3 km intervals.

I paced myself by trying to keep up/pass others, and listening to my body. Unfortunately, my body is darn lazy, so I ran slower than I should have. I was aiming for a "tempo" pace, let's say 75-80% maximum heart rate, but was more like the 65-70%. Upon reflection, I was a little too comfortable throughout the race. Maybe I should purchase a heart rate monitor...?

As I ran, I marveled at the number of participants at the event. There were runners, joggers and walkers everywhere. There were even spectators at various points on the side of the path waiting for their loved ones to come by as they took photographs and filmed videos. That's when it struck me that this event was a BIG DEAL. It was encouraging to see that so many people were interested in improving their health and were celebrating movement, activity and life with thousands of other friendly folk. I was overwhelmed by the sense of community and spirit that each and every person exuded.

Towards the end of the race, we turned a sharp corner, where there was a race volunteer waving us through exclaiming "1.9 km to go!" I tried to speed up and hustle along the wooden boardwalk. I had an unobstructed view of the water and was thankful for the cool breeze. I couldn't quite see the sun in the sky, but was grateful that there was no rain in sight.

With 200m to go, I saw D on the sidelines cheering me on and he dashed onto the path to run with me for the last part. That's when I sprinted and flew past a bunch of people for a strong finish. There was a bit of a bottleneck as runners stopped to have their timing chips removed by volunteers, and we all grabbed a medal on our way out. It's a nice medal too, attached to some dark blue ribbon (not baby blue, thank goodness).

We had to hurry home to shower, change and CATCH OUR FLIGHT, so we didn't spend much time investigating the post-race activities. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I saw volunteers hand out KRISPY KREME DONUTS! Oh yeah, baby! After hearing D gloat about all the races he's done where participants chow down on free Krispy Kremes, I finally had the opportunity to do the same. [Health warning: Krispy Kreme is cooked in 100% vegetable shortening and contains artery-clogging trans fat.]

The results are in (they were posted the next day - gotta love those timing chips): I came in 3204 out of 6613 overall, and 232 out of 694 in my division, for a gun time of 1:03:49, which translates into an "actual" time of 57:02 minutes. D came in 380 out of 6613 overall and 69 out of 697 (wow!) in his age group for a gun time of 44:06, and an amazing chip time of 43:33 minutes!!

This was a personal best for D, and he was beaming with pride at having run so fast. That translates into a 6.9-minute mile. Fantastic. He usually runs anywhere from 7.30-8.00 minute/mile, so this was a huge breakthrough. I think all his marathon training has really paid off. He told me that when he heard the race volunteer scream, "1.9 km to go!" he sprinted the rest of the way to the finish line. D is a big believer in reverse splits (running the second half the race faster than the first half).

I, on the other hand, was crushed at my slow time. It's my personal worst! But D was very encouraging, and reminded me that I had started running only recently and to be patient. I definitely need to train more effectively. I remember when D first started running, each time he trained, he would set a goal for himself, e.g., "I'm going to reduce my finish time by 12 minutes". I, on the other hand, just go out and run. It's time to take a page from the Dave Liu book of discipline and motivation!

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