May 16, 2011

Mississauga Marathon Race Report

Date Event Goal Time Chip Time Gun Time
2011/05/15 Mississauga Marathon Complete 4:34:44.9 4:38:58.0

This is my first Race Report, so I hope you’ll excuse me for being a bit philosophical.

I ran my first full marathon yesterday, Sunday, May 15, 2011, the Mississauga Marathon. I’ll talk about the general feelings first, step through the race, detail my after-race experience and then have some more general remarks.

I only started running last June, so I have a very limited experience with running. During this this training period over the last 4 months I’ve been pushing new distance almost every week. One of the tools I have been using to judge my race pace has been the McMillian Running Calculator. I used my Chili Half-Marathon from March to extrapolate that my full-marathon should be in about 4:45. The calculator was only 2 minutes off for my Around The Bay 30k. I’ll come back to this prediction later.

In Christoper McDougall‘s “Born To Run” he notes that some cynically think of distance running as a sport somewhere between food eating contests and recreational S&M. I don’t know anything about either, but I imagine I now understand what they’re talking about. There was so much pain that to survive I had to trick myself into enjoying it. I ate so much that I felt like I was in an eating contest.

Before The Race

It was a great feeling to meet up with the folks from my clinic at the starting line. Taking group pictures and re-assuring each other was very helpful. I really enjoyed that I could walk to the starting line of the race from home. That won’t happen again for a while…

It was damp, cold and cloudy at the beginning of the race. As far as I was concerned the weather was perfect. I don’t enjoy running in the heat or the sun.

I’ve started to judge race organizations on how many porta-potties they have. For the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Half-Marathon last fall, they had over 100 porta-potties along Queen street south of City Hall. The Chili Half-Marathon conversely had less than 10. The Mississauga Marathon had at least 30 at the starting line. Respectable.

First 15k

Started out much faster than my pace band recommended: Close to 6:10 min/km pace instead of 6:50. I was following Dilip from my clinic and he had a mind to finish much faster than I did. About 4km in I ran into Charlene, a friend from a previous clinic that was running to finish a half-marathon in 2:15. I stayed with her for a while and let Dilip take off.

I felt good and made sure to stop for a cup of Gatorade at each water station. The stations were excellent, 2-3km apart, always staffed, and if they didn’t have enough volunteers the cups were already on tables so you could help yourself.

I lost Charlene around 13k when she stopped for a break. It wouldn’t have mattered much anyways because the course split between full and half-marathon around 15km. I can’t describe how much emotion I felt when I turned to go down the marathon path while almost everyone else around me kept going on the half-marathon path. They had only about 4k to go. I had much further.

I felt really good up to the split. I had put the Christoper Reeve era Superman Theme on my iPod after watching the Smallville series finale a few nights before. I felt like Superman when it came up on my playlist because I felt like I was flying. I was almost 7 minutes ahead of where my paceband said I should be! No pain or fatigue at all, probably because I’ve trained distances much farther than that. I had also gone through half my gels already. I hit the wall or ‘bonk’ on both my training runs over 30k, so I was going to get as much sugar in me as possible.

15 to 23k

Felt great in this stretch but I’ll admit it felt kinda lonely. Running through the Lorne Park area there was probably only about 5 runners within sight at any given time. The aid stations were very well manned. I kept drinking the Gatorade sometimes two cups per station. No pain and kept a pace close to 6:10 throughout.

I hit the half-marathon mark around 2:15, equaling my current personal best for half-marathon. Perhaps I was going too fast?

23 to 31k

At this point the course turned into an out and back. I saw James, Hong and David from my clinic who were in front of me. It was really fun to cheer for friends while still running.

After the turn-around at 25k, it got really windy. My pace started to suffer a lot. I finally noticed that I was soaked from the rain because I was getting really cold. My voice was getting hoarse and I had started coughing. I was really glad to get away from the lake and to some cover finally.

I noticed at this point I wasn’t tired but really thirsty. I had a couple cups of water at each aid station instead of Gatorade. I also realized I wanted to lose some gear weight. I was carrying two 8oz bottles with Gatorade and I realized that because of the plentiful aid stations, these bottles were just weighting me down. I drank both in quick succession. I probably should have just dumped them or not packed them at all…

I passed the 30k point under 3:20, beating my Around The Bay 30k time and running almost 10 minutes ahead of my paceband.

31k to 42k

Here’s were things get entertaining. This was the longest distance I’ve ever run, in less than idea conditions, and I was going much faster than I expected. My voice was very raspy, probably from the cold and rain. I said I felt like Superman earlier, but at this point I was starting to feel more like Batman because of my voice. I’m pretty sure I grumbled “I’m Batman” in the Batman Begins kind of way a few times.

Around 33k my glutes started to hurt. I was keeping up a great pace close to 6:20 so I didn’t want to slow down. But it was a lot of pain. I had exhausted all the gels I was carrying by that point, so I was getting worried about hitting the wall. To combat that, I had two cups of Gatorade at each station.

Around 35k I caught up with Dilip who had taken off from me early in the race. We ran a lot of training runs together so it was nice to run together again. We had a chat and he reminded me about a discussion from months before where we had laughed that we needed to embrace this pain and seek it to be proper runners. After accepting the pain together, Dilip had to slow down because of some pain in his knees and I kept going.

At this point I was counting down the kilometers. By 37k there was no way I was going to let anything stop me. The course markers got a little bare and there were very few runners, I was worried about getting lost, especially since I was getting kinda loopy.

One or two runners collapsed in front of me on the course around 39k. They were with friends that helped them, but it was really scary.

It was really quiet on the course after 39k. It wasn’t until about 41k that I could hear the ruckus from the finish line. I wanted to sprint that last kilometer, but I was barely keeping on my feet so I just kept going around 6:30 km/min.

As I approached the finish line, I saw almost all my running friends in a cluster to the right cheering for me. In my daze I started running towards them instead of the finish line. Then they pointed me in the right direction and I finished in 4:34:44, over 10 minutes faster than my expected time!

After The Race

Immediately after the finish line reality hit me, really hard. I was staggering left and right, freezing and shivering, and hurting all over. I got a foil blanket but the wind at the finish line made it pretty useless for keeping in heat. I got my medal which I gladly took. Somehow I stumbled around the finish area until I found my running friends. I was in such a daze and was SO cold because I was soaking wet from head to toe in shorts and a t-shirt.

I was really glad my running friends were there because they sat me down and force-fed me some drinks and food. There was a public washroom nearby. I stood by the hand-drier for about 10 minutes trying to get some feeling back in my hands and dry my head.

We waited for the rest of the group to finish the marathon and we cheered them on as best we could. We were REALLY loud for when the last guy Phil made it.

I was glad to get a ride to where my Mom was waiting to pick me up. I was really glad to get home because I really, really needed to pee. Remember all that Gatorade and water I drank on the course, like 2 litres of it?? Well, I think I almost overflowed the toilet when I peed for like 3 minutes straight! I was very glad to have a warm shower because my nails and lips were turning blue.

After some food, I joined the rest of the group at a local Montana’s for food. But I felt really off. Really, really off. Like my IQ had dropped by 60 points or something. Simple concepts like eating a burger where puzzling. There was some joke about something that made my head hurt. Someone said something about desert and I think I started crying. Really, really off.

I somehow managed to drive myself home in that state, slept a little, ate some more, then had a warm Epsom Salt bath to try to relieve some pain.

Going to sleep was really hard. There was no comfortable position and periodically I would just have spasms of pain. At this point, all the adrenalin and dopamine of the run had left and I could feel the individual muscles aching. It was everywhere, but particularly in my glutes, hamstrings, shins, calves, hips and neck. Surprisingly, my abs hurt most of all. After 3 hours of trying to sleep with painful convulsions I took some Tylenol and finally got some sleep.

I wonder if other marathoner’s feel like that?!

Day after, I felt great. Almost tempted to go to the gym or run. My head and heart feel up to it… not the rest of me.

Special Thanks

I’m so thankful to join the elite ranks of marathoner’s. This is something some people only dream of, and I’ve gotten there upright and smiling.

There are SO many people I need to thank. From Andrew Mikhail my first running coach who coached me through my first half-marathon, and Amar Sandhu who coached me through a 10k where I worked on speed. My personal trainer Nathan Lam of Superhero Fitness and Wellness. The team at FlipDog Yoga for your great practices and support. And of course Kathy Katarzyna Kasia Bogatek Zapanta, my running coach for this marathon clinic who gave encouragement, direction and helped me change my form completely. I’m thankful to my whole marathon clinic! You guys really made running feel like a team sport.

Most of all I’m thankful to my Mom who has been really supportive even though she may think I’m crazy.

Of course, I’m not done yet. In less than two weeks I hope to break the 2-hour barrier in Ottawa at the Ottawa half-marathon!


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7 Comments »

  1. Hong says:

    Hey Paul, great report! I went through the same symptoms when I first ran my marathon in Hong Kong. I was so lost crossing the finish line and emotional that people thought I was crazy.
    As for the pain, there is no way of avoiding the 1st time, but the duration of pain gets shorter after you run a few more marathons.
    I still have a few sore and tender spots but at least I don’t have to slide down the stairs via my butt anymore or walk sideways 🙂
    Anyhow, all the best for your up coming half! I’ll be cheering from the plane buddy!

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  7. Prudence says:

    Paul! Wow! This was your first marathon! Amazing recap – very, very proud of you. You totally SMASHED your goal time. Trained well, and prepared mentally well too. People who race well are very well prepared and honest with themselves. About the Abs part – mine hurt so bad the day after! Similar physical pain, except the legs felt like they were clubbed! Here’s to many more marathons and awesome achievements along the way! You are Superman!