After a whirlwind (and rainy) weekend in Toronto with Nike Women, I’m back in the U.S. with another Tiffany’s necklace to add to the collection. Since moving to New York, I occasionally visit new cities and find myself comparing them to my city. However, I absolutely loved visiting San Francisco in the fall and had the same excited feeling about Toronto. The city has such a distinct culture and is definitely on the rise. That’s partially thanks to Drake. I was running through The 6 with my woes.
I flew into Toronto on Friday morning and met my friend/co-worker Uyen at our Airbnb. Uyen was actually having tea with our fantastic host and making a list of restaurants and attractions for us to visit. We settled in, grabbed lunch, then headed to the expo on Lake Ontario. The expo at Nike races is always fantastically decorated and staffed. We quickly picked up our packets, including a race tech tee, and headed to get our stride analysis updated before doing some shopping. I responsibly limited myself to one sweatshirt. After shopping, Uyen and I met up with our friend Chloe (who just moved from SF to NYC) to grab dinner and fro-yo.
On Saturday morning, the three of us headed back to the expo to take a yoga class at the Crystal Coliseum, a barge that Nike transformed into a fitness studio. Taking a yoga class with Traci Copeland on Lake Ontario was incredible. It was the perfect meditation and stretch that I needed the day before the race. After class, we grabbed lunch and set off for some tourist time. My favorite neighborhood that we visited was Kensington Market, which has a Willamsburg sort of vibe. That night, we ate an early dinner and spent time organizing ourselves for the race on Sunday morning.
Uyen and I woke up around 5:30am on Sunday morning to be at the ferry by 6:30am. Since the race was on Toronto Island, Nike organized runners into groups to take the ferry across Lake Ontario early in the morning. We boarded a ferry on time at 7:00am and had fun taking pictures on the water. Once we arrived and met up with Chloe, we spent the next 1.5 hours checking our bags, using the bathroom, and exploring the island. At this point, the weather was partly cloudy and perfect for racing. At 9:15am, we made our way to the corrals. Then it started to drizzle. No big deal. Once we got into the corral, it started to pour. Uh oh. We stood in the cold rain for about 15 minutes while the first few corrals started. I went from mildly panicking to just accepting it and putting in my headphones to start dancing around. As we moved toward the starting line, the rain magically stopped!
1K-5K — Uyen, Chloe, and I were in the same corral but all prefer to run on our own. We started together and slowly spread out. This was trickier than anticipated, even with fewer runners than at other Nike races (only 10,000). The pathways were narrow and became even tighter when covered in puddles. Thankfully, I decided to run the race for fun rather than to set a PR. We were moving slowly along the beautiful wooded paths, when I realized I needed to hit the bathrooms again. It’s so frustrating when this happens at the start of the race. Thankfully, the second group of bathrooms were mostly empty, so I darted off the course to make a quick stop. At 3K, we broke through the trees and on to the runway of the Billy Bishop Airport. As a pilot’s daughter, it was special for me to run down a runway with planes parked at the side. This portion of the course also had fantastic views of the Toronto skyline. I was moving at about a Level 6 pace by 5K.
6K-10K — After the runway, we moved back onto the wooded paths. At some points, we were running on the grass. I was afraid the grass would be slippery after the rain, but it was actually fun and made the race feel like a trail run. I took my Honey Stingers around 6K-7K before we looped back near the starting line, where tons of fans lined the course. I was shocked at how quick the race felt. While I’m used to running half marathons rather than 15Ks, I think the course markers also made the race feel quick. The course was marked in both kilometer signs and mile signs. While there were more kilometer signs, it was encouraging to see a new marker come up every .6 mile. It made me feel as though I was progressing much quicker. By 10K, I felt myself losing some steam.
11K-15K — The last portion of the race was gorgeous, which helped me pick up my pace. We ran over a footbridge to Algonquin Island to run a 1K loop. This island looked like a quaint beach town. We passed families with small children and older women tending their gardens. The northern portion of the little island faces the skyline, which was a beautiful surprise. After crossing back over to the main island, there was only 3K left. While I knew the last portion of the course was on a boardwalk, there was 1K between the smaller island and that boardwalk. It also started to rain again. I was ready to be done. Once the boardwalk appeared, I picked up my pace and took out my headphones to listen to the silence along the water before the finish line. During the last kilometer of the race, run crews and fans lined the course. I sprinted around a quick turn and through the Tiffany blue arch. Sprinting across the finish line of a race is an emotional experience that I wish I could put into words. Exhaustion, pride, thrill, hunger. Before I could catch my breath, I was being handed my little blue box and rushing to get out of the rain.
After the race, we took a ferry back across Lake Ontario, packed our bags, grabbed lunch, and headed to the airport. I experienced some frustrating flight delays but did make it home on Sunday night. I’m not sure that this was my favorite Nike race (that would be San Francisco), but I had a blast. Nike really knows how to celebrate women. I’m excited to race in Canada again in August (Seawheeze in Vancouver) but am still searching for fall half marathon options. Speaking of, Nike just opened the San Francisco lottery again. Anyone registering? Other fall half marathon recommendations?