Waterloo Marathon


I ran 2:41:39 at the Waterloo marathon this morning! That’s a 12-minute PB for me which I’ll take gladly. I was hoping for under 2:40 but the course had never-ending rolling hills that really took a toll on my quads.

The first half of the race was into a headwind without cover but I managed to keep pace pretty good. Bounced between 6:00/mile and 6:05/mile.

I was running with a friend from Sarnia for most of the race. I think we were together until shortly after the covered bridge. From then on, it was a battle to keep going.

By mile 18, my quads were screaming and I started to fade from my 6:03/mile pace to 6:11/mile then a couple miles around 6:30 or 6:45.

I was able to hold on for the win which was a bonus and I’ll take the sore quads as a sign that I got in a good workout!

I also had the opportunity to meet Ed Whitlock (a Canadian running icon) and get a picture with him!


The Lead-Up:

In terms of training, the last couple months have been a real struggle for me. The anterior tibialis tenosynovitis I’ve been battling since March just isn’t going away. The weeks leading up to the Waterloo marathon have flown by and the race is just days away. A couple times I’ve thought I’ve had this beaten only for it to flare up unexpectedly and set me back again. Add to that the weather getting nicer everyday and it is really disappointing to be holding back to let things heal right now.

It has been a constant roller coaster of ups and downs while dealing with this injury and my outlook changes daily. Here’s a look at the final week before the Waterloo marathon and how things went.

Saturday: 16 miles hard. My last long run. I had planned 20 miles but shut it down at 16 after the shin flared up around 15 miles. Up until 15 miles, everything felt great and I was pretty optimistic about the race so when things started hurting it was really demotivating.  I had a lot banked on this run since the shin had been good for 10 days and it was my last opportunity to test my fitness before the race and decide on my pacing.  I also was really hoping things would stay pain-free so I’d have some confidence that I’d be able to finish the full marathon without hurting myself.

Sunday, Monday: Rest. I tossed around the idea of switching from the full marathon to the half marathon. It is a possibility for me. I’m not really interested in running a half right now though. Shin was still kind of sore.

Tuesday: 4 miles easy. Started feeling the shin around 2.5 miles and by 3 miles it was pretty sore. Not a good sign. I stopped to stretch it out and that gave me another 1/2 mile of pain-free running. By the time I finished 4 miles, it was pretty sore again. Another really disappointing run. The possibility that I’ll be racing on Sunday seems pretty slim right now. I’m hopeful that physiotherapy on Wednesday will magically fix my leg and that the kinesiology tape will hold me together, but I wouldn’t bet on it. As much as I want to just throw in the towel right now, I’ll try to keep icing 4-5 times/day and try to get on the foam roller each night.

Wednesday: I had a physiotherapy appointment and they did some work to smooth out some bumps on the tendon (from rubbing?) and then did some electric acupuncture to activate the nerves and see if that would help. They also suggested I review my gait to look for areas of improvement and specifically movements that might be irritating the tendon over time. I will look into that after the race.  In the meantime, my ankle is taped up to support the tendon. I’m going to take the rest of the week off running, continue icing, and go for the full marathon. I’m expecting some swelling/pain after the race that I’ll need to deal with but I plan on taking a week or two off after regardless.  For the next three days, I just need to take my mind off running which will be hard to do with all the nice weather and sunshine we’ve been having.

Thursday: No running. Shin is feeling okay. I didn’t ice at all but I guess I didn’t really feel the need. Hoping things just hold together for Sunday.

Friday: No running buts lots of wishing I was running. I managed to restrain myself, knowing that rest was the best chance I had for my shin to heal before the race. Two more days. Fingers crossed for a good race.

Saturday: Fortunately, we had a busy day of travel, visiting friends, and a wedding reception so it was easy not to overthink the race. Shin has been feeling fine but I’ve been avoiding any exertion.

Sunday: Race day! My shin actually didn’t hurt so I guess the rest is just what it needed!

Race Details:

First 10 miles were on track and largely into a strong wind without cover. Managed paces between 6:00-6:05.

5:47, 6:03, 6:03, 6:00, 6:06, 6:00, 6:05, 6:03, 6:07, 5:59.

Miles 11-14 were on a gravel road, not fighting the wind and was the only stretch that wasn’t continuously hilly.

6:06, 6:02, 5:57, 6:04.

Miles 15-18 were the start of the big rollers. There was a quick mile that had a good downhill and then we came through a covered bridge and this is where I thought my buddy was going to drop me. Fortunately, immediately after the bridge was another small steep hill and I caught up and started pulling away. And that was the last mile we ran together.

6:03, 5:59, 6:04, 6:08.

This was where the fade started. Slowly at first, as my legs we’re beat up from the wind and all the previous hills. The sun was shining and the temperature reached 6°C. Had to ditch the gloves and long sleeve. Water stations involved taking a sip and then dumping the rest on my head. This was supposed to be the home stretch with the wind at our back (the section we kept telling ourselves in the early miles would be a breeze). I don’t know if the wind died down or just that the endless rolling hills were too much, but it got pretty brutal on the last 8 miles. My quads were on fire from the constant up- and down-hill running. Miles 19-22 were tough.

6:06, 6:11, 6:11, 6:14.

Somewhere around this point in the race I was thinking 2:39 probably wasn’t happening but I might still be able to crawl in to break 2:40. Then miles 23-26 happened. More of the same brutal rolling hills but bigger. I just wanted the run to be over as my legs were dying on me. The only thing that kept me moving was the hope that I might still be able to pull off the win if my buddy was going through the same troubles.

6:27, 6:35, 6:45, 6:55.

I managed to pick it up for the home stretch and ran 5:38/mile, thinking that the half marathoner sprinting behind me was my buddy catching up to me.

My quads were just destroyed. Thankfully, a post-race massage was available but I’ll be needing to use the foam roller this week for sure.

The shin was fine. Ibuprofen before the race and the KT tape helped. It’s a little sore now so lots of icing etc.

In all, a time of 2:41:39 which wasn’t under my 2:40 goal (a bit of a bummer) but I have to be grateful that I was even able to finish (shin didn’t act up), I got a nice PB, and I got one hell of a leg workout.

I know it doesn’t count to speculate like this, but I feel if it was on a flatter course I would have been able to get that 2:39:xx mark. Garmin says there was 666 ft of elevation change and that might be how much I get in a month or two of training (all flat farmland around me). Anyway, onwards. Looking forward to a bunch of 10Ks this summer, a half in September, and the Hamilton marathon in November!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael says:

    Thanks for the detailed rundown of the course, and congrats on a great run (and the win!) I was supposed to be there but had to defer due to injury. The race director was cool and gave me free registration for 2015. My goal for next year is to get my BQ (sub-3:15 for my age). The plan is to hit that goal at a fall marathon, but the temptation will be strong at Waterloo! I’m 42 now and didn’t start running until 2012. My current marathon PB is 3:42 so I’ll be asking a lot from my body next year!
    It’s helpful to me to see how your splits worked out, along with the description of the terrain and weather conditions (although I’ll be running more than a full minute per mile slower than you did!)
    Keep up the fast running and good luck with your goals!

    1. Aaron Cooper says:

      Hey Michael, thanks for stopping by! Best of luck as you work toward a BQ time. Dropping thirty minutes off your PB would be a remarkable improvement but with consistency over time, I’m sure you can get there! If you can run part of the Waterloo course before the race that would give you some familiarity and confidence on race day!

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