Race Report – Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon May 6, 2012
Pre-race: We got into town around 3:00-3:30 pm on Saturday and the expo was to close at 5:00. Unfortunately, the signage around the CNE was not very good and DBF ended up dropping me off on the other side of BMO Field and its parking lot from the building inside which the expo was to take place (since we didn’t want him to pay the 14$ parking fee for 10 minutes worth of parking). Having no clue where to go, I asked the parking attendant and proceeded to cross the huge parking lot to the Direct Energy Centre (where the expo was). Of course, it was in the last hall in the building.
The line-ups were pretty long for the bib pick up, and the only size shirts they had left were women’s XS and men’s M. I went with XS since I figured it’d be the closest to fitting of the two. I hadn’t planned to need the race shuttle to the start line when I registered and you weren’t able to order tickets after the fact. Instructions were to buy them for 8$ at the expo if you needed one. So I asked about the shuttle tickets, and was promptly told they were sold out.
Not taking that for an answer, I got into another long line for registration changes and solutions. I got to the front and asked again. I was told they were sold out. I was really tired and worked up by this point, and I was about to start crying because I was now in a city I didn’t know anything about being told to find my own way to a start line that ended up being over 30 minutes from the host hotel (which I had booked for the sole reason of using the shuttle). The lady at the registration desk looked like she didn’t want a hysterical girl on her hands and stuck her head in the back. She came back, asked me if I was with anyone, and when I said no, she took my bib, turned around and when I got it back, it had a sticker for the shuttle from my hotel on it. I almost cried again (I was really, really tired) out of happiness.
I activated my bib and signed up for the Midsummer Night’s Run 30K at the expo since they were giving out free hats. Keep in mind, DBF is circling the CNE waiting for me, so I rushed out, through the building, across the sea of parking lots and almost bowled over the Avengers. I guess they were going to the game at BMO Field but it was hilarious to see them in costume.
I found DBF and we left to check into our hotel. I got my late check-out time granted to 1:00 pm (only an hour but it proved vital!) and we were on the 28th floor with an amazing view of the CN tower.
In laying out my goody bag loot, I noticed there were no pins. I checked with Vicky (of menubyvicky), and sure enough, she hadn’t got any either. Sold out shuttle and no pins to attach my bib to me… 2-0 so far expo organizers!
I checked with a volunteer at the lobby about what time the buses start and was told 6:00 am. The race instructions I found later said 6:30 and another racer had been told 5:30, so I opted to get up at 5:00, aim for shortly after 5:30 and pray there wasn’t a line like there is a Disney.
Race Day: 2 alarms, 1 snooze button, and a wake-up call later, I was up by 5:10, dressed and in the lobby by 5:35. There was no one there at all. Another racer joined me, commenting that there is usually a line up that extends two blocks around the hotel for the buses.
That wasn’t the case this year as my bus took off with 7-10 people on it at 5:45am (note: not 5:30 or 6:00, lol). We got dropped off at the start line around 6:30, so it was a decent distance from the hotel that I’m glad I didn’t have to cab. I was annoyed they were ‘sold out’ and yet buses were running not even half full.
We were allowed to wait inside the civic building so I made use of the wall heaters and passed the time until the 8:30 start. The race itself wasn’t too bad or too good. The first half was hard for me since there were some substantial hills, which I’m not used to. I’m also used to running in miles, so the kilometres were messing me up in terms of knowing where my pace was.
I took a couple pictures as we got near the last portion of it and entered the main part of the city. There was a lot of crowds and the city was much more fun to run through than Anaheim. This was the first time I’d listened to music while running but I was glad I had it. I had only 5 songs to choose from but that was better than nothing.
My calf seized up around KM 12 or so and I ran out of water around KM 14-15. I didn’t want to rely on city water since they were using the fire hydrants to get it and usually water from other places makes me not well (and this was no exception later on in the day). I managed to lose a GU on the way too, somehow but I had 4 extra so I was glad I over-prepared.
The water stations were terribly executed where often they had run out at 1-2 of the first tables, regardless of whether it was water or gatorade. They couldn’t stock it fast enough it seems and the order kept switching even though all pre-race info said water would always be first at the stations.
I ended up running the last bit just to offset the excess walking I did in the first part over the hills and I pulled into the finish in 2:28:12 (chip). Then came the even more disorganized finish area.
Post-Race:The medal holders had one hand for full and one hand for half finishers and there was a crowd around them as the physio tent was right behind them with a line going out the door. It was a chaotic mess in a cramped space.
Post-race water and gatorade was only available in cups (as you would get it on the race course), not in bottles, and on tables so that they were obscured by the crowd around them. They were also in the middle of the area, so people had to move around the crowd to get anywhere else.
There was a pen for family with 1 five foot wide opening but no info on what it was so a lot of racers went in there thinking it was the exit, myself included, only to have to try and squeeze your way back out. It took me almost 15 minutes to find anyone who even knew where the shuttles were and all they knew was the general direction.
No one seemed to know where the engraving plaques we had to prepay for were to be found, either, so I saw a few other runners also meandering around looking for the plaque pick up. Chaos doesn’t begin to describe it. Bag check was stupid, in my opinion, but since I didn’t use it, I can’t really comment on it.
Off I marched across another parking lot, up a hill, over the bridge I was sent to, only to find no signs, no volunteers, and no shuttles. I was back in the parking lot I got lost in trying to get to the expo. I wandered around there until I teamed up with a few others looking for the shuttles and we followed the road hoping for buses. When we found them, they weren’t labelled and so we went from bus to bus until we found one going to our hotel.
We had to wait about 20 minutes for it to ‘fill up’ (15 people is not filling!) and we were on our way. We were on the bus about 20 minutes when we encountered a road closure and were detoured. 2 blocks into the detour, the road was closed again and our bus was told to make a U-turn (back towards the first detour). I finished the race around 11:00 am. By 12:20, I was back at the intersection of the first detour where three lanes were trying to merge into 1 and my bus driver trying to get instructions on where to go to get us to the hotel. Keep in mind, my original check out time was 12:00 and I have 40 minutes to check out with my ‘late’ check out.
I hopped out of the bus in the middle of the road with pretty much everyone else and decided to hoof it the 3-4 blocks to the hotel. This only added to what turned out to be a very brutal set of sunburns. I made it to the hotel room by 12:35 with just enough time for a quick cool shower and to pack. Checked out by 1:06 and was on the road.
Summary: In the end, the race was less than great for me. I wouldn’t run it again, I don’t think. It was like this was the first time it was ever run, and I expected a lot more than the result. Too many things were mishandled, and I think they forgot that people from outside Toronto would be running it too as support/signage was minimal at the best of times and non-existent everywhere else.
I ran the race to hang out with my team mates, mostly, but circumstances sunk that, unfortunately. I think that’s the only thing that could have saved this race from being a complete bust. I hope my other upcoming non-Disney races restore my faith, otherwise I might have to stick to just Disney in the future.