On Sunday October 18th 2015, I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon (#STWM) which is an event in the Canada Running Series and will host the Canadian National Championship for the next 4 years. The course feels flat and fast with about 3 short small hills spread out along the route with us starting the race in town on some streets that lead to an out and back on the Lake Shore Boulevard followed by an out and back through some more town streets and finally a slight uphill to the finish line beside Old City Hall. But before I jump into my race day recap, it’s fair that I give a little background on my progress leading up to this race since I’ve been rather quiet on my blog and lots of crazy exciting things have happened from summer till now. Just very briefly my races leading up to STWM are as follows:
In mid-July I did the Blue Mountain Endurance Challenge Half-Marathon near Collingwood which is hands down the toughest race of my life being that it was throughout the ski hills, country roads, gravel paths, rainy muddy slippery trails, through thick forests, ladders, rock climbs, sharp turns, and everything else you can imagine. I don’t do a lot of trail races or even extreme events like this so my only shoe I had that I thought would make sense is my New Balance Trail 00 minimus, which is a paper-thin, lightweight, zero drop shoe, basically feels like I was just wearing socks with laces. Long story short my feet were brutally sore for a week and I gave myself some heel damage that led to a blood vessel blister but luckily I got over that without any effect to my training. However, the pro side to this race was I led for probably over 75% before still securing a podium spot with 3rd OA in a time of 2:01:05 (just looking at that time compared to my 1:13:28 road HM PB gives you an idea of really how hard it is) and got my prize at the award ceremony by the one and only ‘Marathon Man,’ Dean Karnazes.
Next up was my big race of the year in mid-August, the ENDURrun Ultimate 160K ‘Tough Runner Challenge’ which is unique in being 7 different distance races over 8 days, in the Waterloo – Kitchener – Conestogo – Elmira area, comparable to the Tour de France of biking but obviously this is the running version. The layout of the events is Sunday to Sunday with races in this order: half-marathon, 15K time trial, 30K cross-country, 10-mile, rest day, 16-mile, 10K time trial & double loop marathon with a mix of road, trail, grass & paved paths and all races starting at 8:00AM each morning except the 10-miler is at 6:00PM & Marathon 7:30AM. The Ultimate stage winner got to wear the famous golden jersey for the next stage. You can imagine how much excitement I was filled with for 8 straight days of being in an event that all ended with me winning each stage as an Ultimate, getting some PB’s along the way and in the end winning the entire event with a cumulative time of 10:40:18, the 3rd fastest time ever in the history of the event. I can already confirm I will be back in action again in 2016 looking for a much stronger performance now that I have a better idea of how to tackle this challenge.
Then 5 weeks before STWM I raced the Toronto Zoo 10K, also in the Canada Running Series, for my 3rd year at the event after easily winning the 5K three years ago in a non-competitive field, then moved up to the 10K which was the Canadian Championship (now Ottawa 10K for next 3 years) where I went out hard to hold onto a 34-mid which got me top 40 overall. This year on a wet muddy course following rain fall the night before I ran 34:07 for 7th overall in a competitive top 10 elite field with most of the other local elites over at the Yorkville 5K Canadian Championship which was this same morning. The race started out conservative with me tucking in behind the elite pack for a fast first couple kilometers on the streets outside the zoo, but once we entered back into the zoo we were on muddy gravel path for a bit which was difficult to navigate through without getting dirty and soaking wet. The last half of the race was zigzagging all over the place with rolling hills and turns all the time. This made it hard for me to see my competitors ahead but in the end I managed to keep my 7th place which I was ranked as going into the race. It was cool to be 1st in my age group at a CRS event and race along side dudes like Eric Bang, Terence Attema, Dancan Kasia, David Le Porho, Berhanu Degefa & Matt Loiselle who all rounded out the 6 places ahead of me.
Now with no more races until the much-anticipated ‘A-race’ of STWM, I took off with Health & Performance teammates, Adam Hortian & Brendan Hancock, for 2 weeks of high altitude training in Flagstaff, North Arizona. The three of us all came into this trip with different goals, fitness levels, and ideas of how we would make this the most epic adventure ever and in the end I know we all enjoyed it and should be back again in the next few month or years. All of the events we were getting ready for were on the same day with Brendan doing the Waterloo Oktoberfest 5K, Adam at STWM half-marathon and me in the full marathon also at STWM. Highlights of the trip were: climbing through a 1.5 mile dark cold lava cave, hiking/ climbing 1500 meters up Bell Rock mountain, walking part of the Grand Canyon and visiting multiple historical sites, ancient villages, museums, a volcano and a castle. During our trip we had the chance to hang out and run with other Canadian elites: Dylan Wykes (3rd fastest Canadian marathoner in history), Lanni Marchant (almost 10K, but half-marathon & marathon Canadian record holder) and Erin Burrett (debuted and won Victoria Marathon in 2:39:17). Other than that we were fortunate enough to be able to see how elite Americans train by joining some North Arizona Elite club workouts which were an eye opener to see really how hard they push themselves to get results. The team is all sponsored by Hoka, the maximalist shoe company, with big cushioned soles, yet still very light weight, that I’ve thought about trying some day just because they are so unique and clearly work so well on these particular well know elites in Arizona. I should mention that this trip will replace my Kenya trip that I’ve taken the past 4 years so I have no excuse to be here in good old Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, all winter long. I was really starting to like no knowing what real winter was the past few years with just catching the beginning and end of the season. Time to toughen up and battle the snow and ice.
The last thing I need to talk about before I finally get to the STWM race recap is very important and is that I went straight from my trip that I talked about above to more sun and warm weather in Montego Bay, Jamaica for my dad’s wedding in the Grand Bahia Principe resort for one week. Other than the wedding itself, I hardly slept, I did a bit of swimming, a lot of dancing, even more eating, and a tonne of drinking. This right here is what you do not do for your marathon lead up. Since I now know writing this blog after the fact that thankfully this didn’t hurt my running at all I can still joke about it. I went from running a 205K high mileage week in Arizona to a mere 1 hour total running for this week of two 8K runs in 30 minutes, that’s all. I guess you could say I tapered a lot or if there is a word of less running than a taper that is what I would call it. This is the most rest I’ve giving my body in a very long time. Normally I would go crazy for not running so long but I guess the distractions of the island got the best of me. I got a nice tan, picked up some Usain Bolt swag of course and headed to the plane to head back home after 3 weeks outside of Canada.
Now the STWM race recap experience begins, with the night before. After working a 8 hour shift at my new job as a baker in Costco Bakery, Kitchener, I headed over to my sweet girlfriend Robyn Collins place for her deliciously famous spaghetti with some fresh healthy vegetables covered in a spinach pasta sauce on a plate a mile high. This with some garlic toast and a bunch of water has been my traditional pre-race supper for the past few months and has been a big success. I hit the bed and before I knew it my alarm went off and I was up getting ready for the marathon after a surprisingly peaceful night. I guess I wasn’t nervous and was confident in myself that I would do well and everything would go to plan so no restless sleep for me. For the first time in forever I actually ate food for breakfast before the race which was nothing too exciting other than a whole banana with my usual chai tea and a bottle of water. I still haven’t found a pre-race supplement energizing drink to use so I’ve been simply sipping at Gatorade in the meantime. My dad offered to drive me early to the race to beat any traffic that was expected. When I arrived I noticed there was little to no wind but still a tad chilly making me have to wear a winter hat, gloves, long tights, sweater and jacket. Underneath it all was my race kit of a Health & Performance Canada edition singlet, CEP compression Canada Edition socks and New Balance Zante shoes (since I wasn’t able to get the new 1400v3‘s in time but I now have them in time for my next marathon which I’ll get to later). I almost put a Canada maple leaf tattoo on my arm but decided I didn’t want to get too carried away with Canadian pride at the Canadian National Championship. I was so excited, confident, and ready to roll a fast 42.2K. The washroom line took what left like forever so I missed out on a proper warm up but not to worry too much as marathons allow you to warm up in the first couple kilometers as your finding your pace and getting in a rhythm. I sucked down a vanilla bean GU gel 5-10 minutes before race start and sprinted for the line. It took me at least 5 minutes to squeeze through all the runners in the corral to get up to the front where I belong with few minutes to go till the gun went off. Now the fun begins.
The day before the race I spoke with, Leslie Sexton, a female elite out of London, Ontario that I know through the running community but more from connecting on Strava (activity tracking website), about us having similar goals of paces to target so it was decided we would work together because marathons are a tough thing and to do it out there alone sucks so it’s always better in a pack. It would turn out no one else in the race had our same plan so we were on our own just the two of us from start to finish for the most part. I love marathons to death but they aren’t entirely exciting to break down bit by bit but here is the key points that I remember: Race started and I immediately found Leslie before we noticed 3 Canadian women (Lanni Marchant, Tarah Korir & Natasha LaBeaud) were in packs way ahead of us but we did not stress and stayed to the game plan. At 5K was the first water station where I saw an Elite African female cross paths with an elite Canadian male as she tried getting to the water station last-minute cutting him off. This resulted in them banging into each other and then her twisting her leg in a rail track in the road and breaking a bone in her leg. This male which I am to believe is not in the wrong and was simply running his race in a straight line was in shock and emotional about the misfortune that it caused him to drop out of the marathon. He is a friend to me as we raced each other in the past with similar abilities and I will leave his name unknown out of respect but if your reading this just know I’m sorry for your bad experience and I hope you come back strong to kill your next marathon which I heard you’re doing later this year. Moving forward, Leslie and I went stride for stride with each other saying the odd thing to make sure we were both doing well and keeping to our pace plan. It was a net downhill for the first 8K till we hit the Lakeshore so our pace was a little faster than we wanted but the effort felt right so we stuck with it.
Jumping ahead to the half-marathon point after a big chunk of the race being that out and back on the Lakeshore, we crossed 21.1K in 1:16:34 at 3:37/K pace which we religiously held through the checkpoints before. It was faster than what we talked about but once again it just felt right, we weren’t pushing hard yet or exhausting ourselves. The next 5K still going strong we spotted and passed easily without a battle, two Canadian women to now put Leslie comfortably in 2nd overall for Canada. Everything was going so well, almost too perfectly, I was expecting at least a hiccup or two at some point by now. Well that moment came at the 32K pylon turn around point where I think Leslie surged a bit or I fell off the pace by a few seconds and before I knew it she had a gap so I let her go. My 30K & 35K splits both say 3:39/K so I was consistent but 2 seconds per kilometer slower than what we were doing for the past just over 2 hours of the race. At 35K I could no longer see Leslie or no one else for that matter, it was me versus the streets of Toronto. From 35K-40K is when I really started to struggle by just keeping my pace under 4:00/K nowhere close to 3:40’s anymore, it just kind of click in and I knew I was in for a struggle. Thankfully some guys caught up to me one by one so it gave me someone to work towards running with but unlikely they all flew by me, watching my overall placing drop by the kilometer.
Finally I was in the last 2.2K stretch, fighting to keep my eyes open, not sway side to side too much and attempting to make my leg turnover not a shuffle which I’m known for with my lack of a big kick. My pace was now 4:25/K and I couldn’t even care anymore, I just wanted to get to the finish line knowing I have secured a PB no matter how big or small that may be. The last kilometer I was running slightly uphill on the last street on one side of the street alone and with hundreds of half-marathon runners crowding the other side. I gritted my teeth, maybe yelled a little at myself to get my butt moving, and swing my arms as I chased down the finish line in the distance. With maybe 400 meters left I was caught by 2 pacers with their athletes and I happened to know all four of them. I actually found some strength and sprinted away from them all to hit the finish line easily before them (hours after the race I learned from the results that they started the race further back then I did so their chip time was ever so slightly faster meaning they were given a better placing then me, oh well). Finish line numbers were 2:37:04, 43rd overall, 15th Canadian male, 4th in my age group and with a new personal best time of just over 4 minutes faster than my last two marathons (ENDURrun & Ottawa were both 2:41). However, I just learned while researching info for this blog that I was awarded 2nd in my category so I got the silver medal since some of the other guys got overall medals instead which bumps me up so I better go pick that up before it’s too late. Another interesting surprise I once again just discovered is that I was awarded the bronze medal for 3rd overall at the “Ed Whitlock Award” which I have no idea what that is but I’ll be happy to receive it as well next time I stop at the CRS building in Toronto. I would have noticed this stuff at the post-race award ceremony but Sportstats systems were down for awhile so no one could get their category award medals.
After the race I found my dad on the sidelines, we took some cool pictures of me with my medal, I struggled to walk on the stairs before finally making it to the post-race party/ award ceremony. I was having some minor stomach issues as my nutrition plan didn’t go perfectly during the race as I missed the vanilla PowerBar gel and wasn’t going to take a caffeinated gel at the first station and never ever saw the second gel station for some reason whether it was not very obviously, I mistook it for a fluid station or what I really believe was I was ‘in the zone.’ I still had a few sips of water and Gatorade here and there but for the most part my only carbs came from that single gel before the race started. Anyways, back at the award ceremony I watched Lanni Marchant (2:28:09), Leslie Sexton (2:33:20) and Natasha LaBeaud (2:37:11) who were top Canadian women with Lanni just 9 seconds off here Canadian marathon record and Leslie having a huge 6 minute PB as well as probably having the best pacing/ splits of the day. It was kind of exciting for me personally to know I was there to assist with pacing and help with my company for those first 32K which are so important to really make the last 10K count. Then we have Eric Gillis (2:11:31), Kip Kangogo (2:15:26) and John Mason (2:22:35) who were top Canadian men with Eric winning for his 2nd or 3rd time here and racing this event 5 times, Kip recently becoming Canadian from Kenyan in the past year and John having a strong race for his 2nd marathon this year. The biggest excitement of the day was Lanni and Eric both qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics this coming summer (sub-2:29:50 for women & sub-2:12:50 for men) with Reid Coolsaet (2:10:29 in Berlin & 2:11:24 in Rotterdam) and Krista DuChene (2:29:37 in Rotterdam) already qualified earlier this year. Lanni Marchant not only has the marathon qualifying time but also the track 10K so it will be exciting to see what she decided to do. I’m all for her doing both but that’s my crazy opinion of course, it would be wicked to see her double but realistically focusing on one will give her the better result she wants.
Other notable mentions for the marathon are: Sami Jibril (2:24:39) debut where he started out strong shooting for a super fast time but faded in the later stages of the race and still holding onto that 5th Canadian male spot. Matt Leduc (2:29:25) to sneak under that sub-2:30 mark even though I know her wanted something faster around 2:25 but still an impressive performance. Tarah Korir (2:49:57) debut in what started out as a strong effort for her to try to stay in the top 3 female Canadian spots but staying strong to herself and the charity she represented to make sure she made it to the finish line so good on her for that. Notable mentions for the half-marathon are: Jeff Costen (1:08:03) who won overall and raced almost the same time as last time he race this event. Adam Hortian (1:08:14) who is my Health & Performance teammate, does personal coaching through FastIsFun and trained with me in Arizona, made podium at a 10K tune-up race before this event and came 2nd overall just behind first. David Freake (1:08:48) who has had an amazing year, this dude is super cool at supporting me so ‘freaking’ much and I’m sure lots of others feel the same too, he’s a Saucony sponsored athlete out of St. John’s and came 4th overall just 1 second behind podium 3rd but regardless a killer race after he struggled with still a respectable time last year I know he’s pumped for how this one went. Josh Bolton (1:09:12) is a Skechers sponsored athlete representing Grand River Endurance club and has run around 1:10 for I believe his last three half-marathons so mister consistent he is. Ryan Noel-Hodge (1:10:22) was a University athlete at Western and runs for McGill Olympic club but I could be wrong and is one of the other few Canadians that has trained in Kenya like myself. Rachel Hannah (1:12:25) who is one of the brightest upcoming female runners for Canada, actually I take that back because she’s no longer upcoming and has already made it, big time, representing and placing very well many times over the year including her 1st place here. Adrian Del Monte (1:18:41) is a competitive runner that I met last year at a Guelph 5K race that we finished 1-2 together in and we spoke before the race about trying to coordinate pacing together if all made sense and in the end he raced the time he wanted even though I wasn’t able to be of any help. Mike Thornton (1:20:23) is guy who keeps excelling at the sport, race after race and has come along way since I first met him so I’m happy for his PB.
Moving forward I will not take the recommended 10 days to 2 weeks off after a marathon because I’m gearing back up again in 2 weeks for the Road2Hope Marathon on Sunday November 1st at Canada’s fastest marathon. I made this decision myself and stand by it. I’m super happy with my result here in Toronto, don’t get me wrong, but something inside me is saying I can handle one more marathon. I have nothing to prove as my 2:37 PB is something exciting to talk about so Hamilton will just be another exciting experience for me to see what I got. I have plans to pace better, nail my nutrition this time, and have some fun out there while having a shot at podium overall. Other than that I’ll settle back into my running club at Health & Performance in Waterloo, work my 25+ hours in the Kitchener Costco Bakery to keep my running dream alive by giving me the finances needed to support my passion of running. A reminder that sadly I have no plans of going back to Kenya for what would be my 5th year in a row as I need to get comfortable in this coming Canadian winter and see what it’s all about.
Last but certainly not least, I need to thank my friends and family that have been with me since the start and even to those who recently met me and have found an interest in following my running. All of you help make me the runner I am today. Also, special thanks to my one and only product sponsor at this time, CEP compression Canada, for selecting me onto your team and following my journey this year. I’ve proudly represented you all year-long and look forward to keeping our connection in years to come. As well as my teammates and coaches at Health & Performance for setting me up for success, believing in me, cheering for me and making me feel like a special part of the club. If anyone out there, business or person, would like to help give a gear sponsorship to this passionate dedicated runner to reach his full potential please feel free to message on any of his social media links below and you can support #TeamRunnerRob to do what he knows how to do best. You all mean the world to me. Until next time, thanks for reading one of my biggest, most informative, action packed blogs yet with more to come as I hit the roads & trails for yet another crazy race in the near future. Runner Rob out! 🙂
Location | Toronto, Ontario
Race | Waterfront (Canada Championship)
Distance | Marathon (42.2K)
Time | 2:37:04 PB
Pace | 3:43/k
Overall Place | 43rd/3822
Age Place (18-24) | 4th/149
National Place | 15th Canadian Male
Race Results | Live Webcast | Photos & Videos | Health & Performance Club Recap | Canadian Running Magazine Article #1 | Canadian Running Magazine Article #2 | Canada Running Series Article | Running Series Website | Event Website | Strava Activity | Facebook | Twitter | Email: email@example.com
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Robert Brouillette 😀