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Tumbling Dice

October 17, 2011

The plan leading into the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was to set off at 3:04/km with a pacemaker, get to halfway in 64:40 and keep on givin ‘er in hopes of breaking Jerome Drayton’s long standing Canadian record of 2:10:09.

In the days leading up to the race weather forecasts were calling for winds around 40 km/h.  In those kind of conditions it would make sense to go with a pack of runners to block the wind instead of just one pacemaker.  There were two packs to choose from, the leaders and the Canadians.  Initially I thought the leaders wanted 64 minutes flat at the halfway mark and the Canadians (Eric Gillis, Dylan Wykes and Kip Kangogo) wanted 65:15.

Two days before the race the leaders decided they were going to aim for 63:45 at the halfway mark and the Canadians for 65:00.  Now my original plan (64:40) was much closer to the Canadians whereas the leaders were planning to be about 1 minute faster through halfway, a big stretch. Logically it was an easy decision to run with the Canadian pack (and the 3-4 pacers) and then pick up the pace a little after 13km when the course starts running East (with the wind).  The course turns back into the wind at 34km but you can’t really plan for any specific help that late into the race.

At 10 PM the night before the race I was thinking about different race scenarios and anytime I thought about going with the leaders it just felt like the right thing to do even though logic was telling me otherwise.  I decided to talk to Dave so he could convince me to stick with the safe plan so I could stop my mind from thinking too much.  We started talking and I told him all the reasons why I wanted to run with the leaders and we decided it wasn’t “that big” of a risk.  Sure it was a risk and we knew that but I was ready to pull back with my pacemaker if the pace seemed too rich.  It was on. I was excited and was able to go back to my room and fall asleep confident I made the right decision.

Sure enough on race morning the winds were as blustery as predicted and I told my pacemaker (Stephen Chelimo of Kenya) my new plan, he was game.

Off the start I quickly established myself in the lead pack conveniently behind the tallest Kenyan, who was probably 6’3″, no joke.  The pack was lead by three pacemakers and there were about 10 of us in total.  The first 5km was run in 15:02 and although it was quick I was comfortable enough.  Thankfully the next two 5km splits were 15:11 and 15:09, much more to my liking.  At the 13km turn-around I felt I could ease off a bit and run my own race because I now had a tailwind.  I fell off the pack a bit but decided I might as well stay with them and caught back up as they weren’t running much faster than myself.

Around 18km

We got to the halfway mark in 63:53 (although it says 63:58 in the results?) and I felt fine even though a gap was forming.  The gap quickly opened up and I was a few seconds in arrear pretty quickly.  At that point I thought I was falling off pace and told myself to keep it together as best as possible.  Even though I got dropped from the pack between 21 and 22km I ran that km in 3:01 and realized I was still moving well, even faster than planned and it was the leaders who surged after the lead pacer dropped out at halfway.  The pace settled down and I caught back up to the leaders by 24km however, something else was not going according to plan, I had to take a #2.

I had toilet paper in my shorts pocket in anticipation of a pre-race port-o-potty stop (they often run out of shit tickets before races) that I never made.  I pulled out the t.p. and started looking for some sort of cover off the side of the course and found an electrical box to hide from any cameras.  I dashed over, took care of business and ran back onto the course where I exited from.  Now I was 15 seconds back of the lead pack, which included my pacer.  Because Cherry street is an out and back no one saw me  stop (I thought) and I figured the coaches were going to think I fell right off pace in the last km and would be worried about my form.  I ran by Dave and Moulton and yelled, “I had to shit!” in which they responded “we know.”  Apparently it was evident from the live coverage and they got a text from Cal Staples who was watching it from home.  Cal has been on the bike crew since marathon numero uno in Ottawa but ran into a car, hard, the day before and wasn’t in any condition to be back out on a bike.

Catching back up to the leaders with help from Stephen Chelimo

My pacer eventually dropped back and helped me claw my way back up to the lead group by 28km.  The 5km split with the pit stop took me 15:35 and then the next 5km was back down to 15:23.  By 30km (1:31:38) guys were dropping from the front pack, both pacers and competitors.  Then it was just 5 of us and I knew my pacer wasn’t going to be around for much longer so I made a solid effort to make sure I was with the leaders at the 34km turn-around when we would start heading back into the wind.

And then there were three, myself, Kenneth Mungara and Shami Dawit.  I took the lead around 35km and feeling good, thinking that the record was still within reach. We switched up leads a bit and I was once again in front around 36km thinking I could actually win this race.  A short while later I was not in any form to take any leading duties and trying hard to hold on and knew it was going to be really tough to get the record.  By 37km there was a sizeable gap and without the leaders the wind was beating me down both mentally and physically.  When I got to 41km my last 5km had been 16:30 and I thought “there goes any chance at a PB.”  Even though I tracked my splits I had screwed the watch up earlier so my total time was off by 1km.

With the leaders well ahead by this point and no one in sight behind me I thought I was going to run 2:12 and was thrilled to be in 3rd place.  I kept pushing an honest effort but I lost that extra motivation that comes when you’re excited to run a PB.  I turned the corner on Bay street and the crowd was really loud and I acknowledged their support with a couple of waves and looked up at the finish clock, 2:10!!!  WTF!!! Get to the line!

I could not believe I ran a PB and I was congratulated by Peter Butler who I tied for 2nd Canadian all-time at 2:10:55.  Because I had been thinking I was going to run 2:12 it didn’t occur to me that Gillis still had a shot at the Olympic standard (2:11:29) until I heard the crowd erupt and saw him driving for home.  At that point I looked at the clock and realized it was gonna be extremely close.  I was yelling at Gillis to bring it right through the line and I figured 2:11:28 when he crossed the finish. Check out the finish in this CBC clip

The question I keep getting is if I think my pit stop costed me the record seeing as I missed it by 46 seconds.  The simple answer is no but it’s very hard to quantify what happened when I picked up the pace for 3km to catch back up to the leaders.  How much better would I have felt had I just been able to run a constant pace? Who knows.  Missing the record by 15 seconds would have been a different story.

Once again I’d like to thank my whole support crew, training partners, coaches, family, friends, sponsors, competitors, fans and anyone who made noise out there on Sunday morning.  Dave Scott-Thomas once again convinced us we were going to run fast even though we were freaking about the wind forecasts.  I’m going to thank my pacer with a present when I see him in Eldoret, Kenya this Winter.  Things didn’t go as planned for Rob Watson but it’s awesome having him there for workouts and his hard work is going to pay off.  Fun times in the past three months with the Carter/Cooks AM crew, John Mason, Cleve Thorson, Courtney Laurie, Eric, Rob, Moulton and Dave with the occasional Maloney, Staples, Vollmer and, Wild Bill.

CBC had absolutely amazing coverage of the race and a dozen of us watched it in the hotel room afterwards with some pizzas.  In fact if you want to watch the whole thing, check out this link


Thanks for tuning in.  Now it’s time to put the feet up for 10 days and reload.

  1. Derrick permalink
    October 17, 2011 8:04 pm

    Huge congrats on an amazing race in less than ideal conditions. Must have been a tough decision to change plans at that point, but obviously no regrets and the right call.

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      October 18, 2011 7:28 am

      Thanks Derrick. The decision just felt right.

  2. Martin permalink
    October 17, 2011 8:08 pm

    Great job. Definitely the best plan on the day. Probably even best plan without wind.

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      October 18, 2011 7:24 am

      Probably true

  3. Martin permalink
    October 17, 2011 8:10 pm

    Oh and pretty sure you have Butler by one second:

    2:10:09 Jerome Drayton* ON Fukuoka 1975
    2:10:55 Reid Coolsaet ON Toronto 2011
    2:10:56 Peter Butler AB Sacramento 1985
    2:11:03 Dave Edge ON Boston 1983
    2:11:15 Art Boileau BC Boston 1986
    2:11:28 Eric Gillis NS Toronto 2011

    Nice shake up of the top six.

  4. Felix permalink
    October 17, 2011 8:48 pm

    Amazing! congrats! what a great day for you and Eric, and Canadians!

  5. October 17, 2011 9:09 pm

    That was a great feat. Congrats on a great Race!

    How much would you say your training is mindset and how much is physical training?

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      October 18, 2011 7:26 am

      You can’t train mentally until you’ve done the work physically. But once you’re fit there can be huge gains made through mental training.

  6. October 18, 2011 12:04 am

    Very good my friend! You really made my day with your stellar performance.

    Honored to have spent some time with you! Hopefully more in the future yes!

    Huge improvement from 10th last year to 3rd this. Also I really believe that your time this year on a good day was worth 2:09 low. The record will be in your hands very soon!

    Cheers to a truly great Canadian Marathoner!

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      October 18, 2011 7:27 am

      Thanks Francis. Maybe I motivated you to finish editing, only kidding, haha.

  7. Europe-runner permalink
    October 18, 2011 1:38 am

    Looooooooooads of respect from Europe ! Keep it going, love to see your motivation.
    Doing cross-country in Europe these winter ?

    • reidcoolsaet permalink*
      October 18, 2011 7:27 am

      Thanks. I’m looking at doing a Euro XC race mid-February.

  8. Martin permalink
    October 18, 2011 7:50 am

    You split 1:31:38 and Artie’s record is 1:31:45. I wonder if the split was certified. Monti is talking about how there was a pending women’s record set.

  9. October 18, 2011 8:15 am

    Reid, I had the pleasure to be following you, Eric, Watson with Mike Hay, DST, et al. on bikes. It was very cool for me as I have never seen a marathon at this pace [usually 1min15sec/k slower]. Many of us appreciate the news and blogs to hear your story. I was on bike since i got my knee scoped yesterday, so watching is second to running it! Rest well. I’ll send pics from my bb to DST. chris duke

  10. Shannon permalink
    October 18, 2011 9:08 am

    EXCELLENT JOB!!!!!!!!!

  11. Adam Snow permalink
    October 18, 2011 9:18 am

    Great entry, Reid. My palms were sweating just reading it.

    While it may not have been the fastest marathon ever run by a Canadian, I believe it was the bravest. Also, the most entertaining.

    Thanks for giving us all something to cheer about.

    And cudos to CBC for the amazing coverage.

  12. Andrew Jones permalink
    October 18, 2011 9:29 am

    Well played sir! That pizza with the crew after must have been a sweet time. Nice to see an athlete give the — invaluable — support gang their due.

    On to the Olympics and all the best, Reid and Eric.

    -Andrew Jones – London ON

  13. October 18, 2011 9:42 am

    Congrats on your amazing performance Reid!! I know it must have been disappointing for you that the conditions were not the greatest but you made the best of it. I am very impressed that you were able to catch up to the lead group again after the bathroom break and still manage to finish in a pb. I watched the entire race and could see the fire in your eyes to try and break that record. You gave it a really good shot.

    How tough was that last piece compared to other races you have run?
    Keep up the great work!

  14. Stephen K permalink
    October 18, 2011 10:11 am

    You ran a terrific and gutsy race, Reid! You looked great as a marathon leader, and I expect we’ll get to see you doing that again and breaking the tape one of these days.

    Did that little bobble at the late aid station throw you off your game a bit? Watching the coverage it looked like you were a bit cautious about tucking in behind Mungara and Dawit after it happened, even though I think you were running into a headwind by then.

  15. Kris C permalink
    October 18, 2011 10:36 am

    I thought you looked smooth, comfortable relaxed and ready to attack until the bump with Dawit at the last aid station. Immediately after the bump it looked like the struggles were beginning. Did that cause you to fall out of the great rhythm you seemed to have going? Without that bump do you think you’d have run faster, or was it a non-factor?

  16. Kris C permalink
    October 18, 2011 10:37 am

    Amazing job, the record will be yours soon enough.

  17. October 18, 2011 10:48 am

    Shit tickets… never heard that one before! LMAO!

    Congratulations on a race well run.

  18. Mark permalink
    October 18, 2011 12:06 pm

    Watching you finish was an amazing sight! I’m glad I could be there to see it. Seeing Eric finish in qualifying time was awesome! Congrats to both of you for making the Olympics.

    Most important things that I learned from your race report:

    1. Always carry TP on long runs, and
    2. You’re very efficient at the deuce! 15 seconds?

  19. Michelle permalink
    October 18, 2011 2:47 pm

    The video of you fist pumping when Eric qualified is one of the best moments of the day – true teamwork at play. I got choked up during the race thinking we’re actually going to have representation now in the London marathon – it doesn’t get much cooler than that. It was a hell of a race to watch – sincere thanks for the inspiration and motivation and for working so hard for the red and white. I think I’m still hoarse from all the yelling I did at my laptop. Awesome job, Reid. Thanks.

  20. Jeff permalink
    October 18, 2011 3:25 pm

    Absolutely amazing performance, Reid. It was inspiring to see you the make the final turn for home. Well done!

  21. BBB permalink
    October 18, 2011 6:07 pm

    entertaining race to watch, what a ballsy way to run a thon`. I was near yellin at the computer when you took the lead, holy shit! Crazy just last year you were further from the winner and this year you were up there competing an finishing within a minute, really exciting stuff

  22. Kim Maser permalink
    October 18, 2011 7:02 pm

    G’day Reid. That was a fanstatic run had. Had a couple of emails with DST and he said both
    you and Eric were ready to go. Really gutsy run I watched the coverage. Really proud of both of you guys. Given the conditions ie wind that was an amazing run. DST and you guys have brought distance running back to Canada. I hope the younger kids out there are inspired to get out there and stick with it.



  23. Ted Spencer permalink
    October 18, 2011 8:10 pm

    Amazing race Reid.

    I’m a former UofT runner close to hitting 40 – and honestly just tuning back in to running. I never write on peoples blogs.

    Never seen an inspirational performance like this by a Canadian in a marathon – I’ve seen it with Sully and Hood in the 15. You truly duked it out with the Kenyans. You ‘strapped on the balls’ and didn’t just trail along and hope to hang on.

    You da man. All the best – I’ll be watching and cheering you on.


  24. October 18, 2011 8:59 pm

    Amazing run I was pumped as you passed us on Lakeshore. As the lead group approached us going the other way all I saw was green shirts. Just as they passed I see you tucked in back. Gutsy and smart it pumped me up.

    I blew up at 30 and had a less than stellar day. Regardless all I wanted to do was watch the race and see how you ended up. I watched the entire race before I would look at the online stats. It was like pvring the hockey game!!

    Amazing day for you and Eric, amazing day for Canadian running! Looking forward to see if there will be a third in London with you guys.

    All the best from the crew and can’t wait to see you guys in London!!!

    Mike Shanks

  25. October 18, 2011 9:30 pm

    Reid man…huge congrats to you and Eric on the stellar race and making the Olympics! It was great to see you pass by with the lead pack on Lakeshore. You elite Canadian marathon dudes are truly an inspiration to all us runners to get our asses in gear and train hard!

  26. Jason permalink
    October 18, 2011 11:37 pm

    Outstanding race Reid. I think you set a world record time for a deuce!

  27. October 19, 2011 8:14 am

    I ran the marathon as well and was thrilled to see you in the lead pack when you passed on Lakeshore (in the opposite direction of course). Then I went home and watched you race on TV (I PVR’d it)…it was so exciting. You all did amazing and it was truly an honour to run in the same race. Well done. The record is within reach for sure. Congratulations!

  28. Amanda permalink
    October 19, 2011 8:39 am

    Hi there –

    I have been reading your blog since about March this year…and I watched you “whip” by on Sunday while I was running the half myself. It really was incredible seeing you race – in fact the first thing I said when I crossed the line myself was to a volunteer “Did Reid reach his goal?”

    Congratulations on a fantastic race. I look forward to reading more and watching you and Eric prepare for London.


  29. Dave B. permalink
    October 19, 2011 8:54 am

    Great race Reid and thanks for the insight. I have to disagree with your praise of the CBC coverage – the commentators tried to overwhelm us speaking only of performance versus the Canadian record and Canadian Olympic standard. They missed that you were in the mix to win the race.

  30. October 19, 2011 9:30 am

    Just watched the video, that was beautiful to see!!! Loved the teamwork talk and how excited you were for Gillis. Congratulations to both of you and your entire crew.

  31. iAN lADBROOKE permalink
    October 19, 2011 10:05 am

    Congrats again great job by you and Eric

    Ian L

  32. October 19, 2011 3:09 pm

    Well you punched your shit ticket all the way to a PB and the Olympics. Way to dig deep to pull one out of the chamber…

  33. Johnny permalink
    October 19, 2011 6:25 pm

    When I saw you up with the lead group @ 5K, I knew you were going for it. Go big or go home. 🙂

    Your race in four scenes (similar locations as last year, except for the start and finish)

  34. Matt Jurysta permalink
    October 20, 2011 11:05 am

    Hey Reid long time reader of the blogs and first time poster but just had to say congrats on the run! Your running is inspirational and your blogs are insightful so i hope you keep both up. I’m glad Canada will have you representing us at the Olympics since your running speaks for all of us.

  35. Fred Urie permalink
    October 20, 2011 2:36 pm

    15 seconds has to be a record with TV. coverage.

    Great gutsy race. I think you surged twice on uphills when you thought you might take it.

  36. January 2, 2012 8:33 am

    One day, I can honestly tell my son that I ran in the same race as Reid Coolsaet (I’ll leave out the part that I only saw you for about 5 seconds as you ran by us on Lakeshore as we were heading out). Good luck in London. We’ll be with you in spirit!


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