Ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon as the 1:45 pacer again two weekends ago which is the 7th year in a row I've done it. It's always a fun time and a chance to give back to the running community. I enjoy doing the pace bunny thing, but a part of me thinks that by doing the pacing gig, I give up a good opportunity to do a race in the fall that is close-by. I could have signed up do the full marathon which would have given me a month to recover from my mid-September race. As it is right now, I would have to travel to Niagara Falls or Hamilton in the weeks after Scotiabank to run a full.
I know for a few years, they had backup bunnies for the full at each race time. The backup bunnies would get a free entry to the race, but would only get the pacing gear if the original bunny dropped out and they were called up. Pacing gear consists of a free pair of shoes, a hat, shorts and the pacing T-shirt. I'm not sure if they offered the backup positions this year, but it seems that being a backup full marathon pacer might be a good deal if you want to run the full.
In past years, Brooks was the sponsor and they provided the shoes and gear and the distribution to the runners was done very well. It appears this year that the race couldn't find a shoe sponsor who was willing to pay to be the official sponsor. The race appears to have struck a deal with Asics to provide the official race t-shirts, but there was no other Asics branding anyone else. I guess no one wanted to pony up the cash. As a result, the race itself ended up purchasing the gear for the pacers which consisted of Asics shoes and no-name brand shirts and shorts. I'm sure that they were able to get a discount for the shoes. I don't know if it was a result of the race having to pay for the gear, but the pacing team also appears to have been a tad smaller with 5 fewer than last year. We didn't actually get the gear until the week before the race and didn't get the shoes until the day of the expo. The hat was kinda interesting. It wasn't one of those generic running hat, but a limited edition Ciele that retailed for $45.
I headed down to the expo Friday after work to do a one hour PR thing that all the pacers are required to do during race weekend. It's an opportunity to meet with racers and answer any questions that people might have. In year's past, we had a spot in the official shoe sponsor retail area, but this year they positioned us at the signing wall where people could sign and send good wishes to others.
On race morning headed down fairly early. The race started at 8:45am, but the race was saying that bag check was only open to 8am. This wasn't quite true as it was open much later. I think I dropped off my gear at 8:15am. Another pacer from California wanted to take a pacing group shot at 8am, so I ended up doing that but there was only a handful of us who showed up, maybe 8 or so. Moved into the corrals at 8:30 after downing a gel and drinking about 2/3 a bottle of water. Wore the Polar M400 on one arm, but still not quite trusting the GPS on it, also wore the Garmin 405 on the other arm which I've used successfully in the past.
I wont go through a km by km breakdown since I've done that last year.
A couple of things. Goal pace was about 4:59 min/km and I really had intended on being slow for the first 2 kms and that's what I told people I was going to do since the first two kms are on a bit of an uphill. It's only about 25m so not a heck of a lot but I should have been slightly slow the first two km even though the actual pace was around where I wanted to be overall.
The third km kinda levels out and this was a little too fast on my part (4:50). I think it's because I was running down the centre of the street running west on Bloor and coming to an aid station, I veered to the north side of the street since everyone was running on the south side and sped up a bit so the running north and then running south again wouldn't lose too much time but it looks like I sped up too much. Plus maintaining the effort level after the uphill portion probably caused me to be a tad quick.
Km 4 through 6 are basically downhill and this is where I picked up a bunch of time which was my intent. At 6 km, I was 30 seconds ahead of where I needed to be. Almost half of that was gained in the first 3 km which shouldn't have happened. I'm not sure why km 9 was so slow. It looks to be a fairly flat part of the course. It could have been a tangent issue as this was on lakeshore with the three lanes of traffic or it could have been my subconscious slowing me down knowing that the 10km timing mat was coming up which I crossed at 49:30 which was 15 seconds ahead of where I wanted to be which I think was okay. From this point on I think I figured out the pace properly and with no tall buildings around, I could rely on the garmin for accurate pace feed back. From that point on to 20k, I was hovering between 4:55 and 5:00 min/km. At 20km I was 21 seconds ahead of where I wanted to be which means I had picked up an extra 6 seconds over 10k which I think was acceptable.
Like last year, my HR monitor strap slipped down and eventually became unhooked again. This happened at the 30 minute mark. I had actually tightened the strap in the corrals just before race start and it stilled happened. It never happens during training or during my races. I think it must have something to do with carrying the sign which requires me to hold my arm up. The jostling and the weird arm position, must cause my chest and ab muscles to flex in a different way that allows the strap to slip down. I tried to hike it back up, but could only do it on the one side at a time while carrying the sign and that caused it to come undone. I ended up just carrying the strap the rest of the race.
The last 1.1 km is running up Bay St. which is a slight incline. At this point, I had 21 s in the bank and was facing a bit of a dilemma. Sure I could slow down a bit and eat into that 21 seconds and finish closer to my goal, but I still had a bit of a group with me. This was different then in years past when I would rarely get people that would run with me the whole race. They would either get dropped or take off in the last few kms. Yes there were those types of people this year, but there was a small group including one girl who literally ran beside me the whole race. She refused to stray more then a few feet. I had noticed she was breathing quite heavily at the start and usually that means they'll drop off, but here she was running beside me during the last km still breathing quite hard. So these people had earned that extra 21 seconds as a result of my errors and I think it would have been selfish to take that away from them so I maintained the 5 min/km pace going up Bay and did the last 1.1 km in 5:29 which is exactly 4:59 pace. Yeah! So finished in 1:44:39 which is 21 seconds under my goal, but probably the most satisfying finish as a pacer job as looking through the splits, there were a bunch of people who started with me, crossed the 10k mat with me and then finished just ahead of me. Yes, I did end up yelling at people to pick it up with 400m to go and off they went.
I ended up buying the race pics cause I thought there were a couple that might look okay. I've never really had a good one as a pacer. It's hard to tell with the small thumbnails they give.
|Near the finish|
|Clearly sleeping on the job|
A fellow bunny had forwarded me this comment from someone and it's always nice to see that people take notice of good pacing, though my recollection of the start doesn't quite jive with what he said, but hey I'm not going to take issue if he thinks I did a good job.
"I thought I'd chime in with my pacer experience at SWTM Half Marathon. F rancis N g was the 1:45 pacer and his pace was solid. With all the traffic for the first 1.5 km we were a little behind pace, so to make up for the set back he picked it up, slowly and deliberately, and by 3 km we were back on pace and he never wavered. He paced by effort, not by pace so the uphills were a bit slower and the downhills were a bit faster. I kept him about 10 steps behind me until about the 19 km mark when I picked it up as much as I could. He brought everyone in at 1:44:39. I will look for a pacer again for my next target Spring race."