May 20, 2016
The weekend of April 30/May 1, I ran two events during the Mississauga Marathon weekend: The Novo Nordisk® “Hazel” 5km and Half Marathon. Doing both races earned me the distinction of calling myself a “Race Weekend Warrior.”
I’ve been talking about this half-marathon as the target goal for a long time. I talked about my goals in this post.
I didn’t expect much from the expo, but I was pleasantly surprised. From what I was told, there were very few giveaways at the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon Expo this year: In an effort to be eco-friendly they weren’t even giving out bags. It was quite the opposite at the Mississauga Marathon expo: A volunteer handed me a plastic bag as Iwalked in, then I filled it with goodies like pens, flyers, fertilizer, a first aid kit, and I even got a measuring cup from the Egg booth! And after you picked up bibs volunteers handed me another plastic bag full of stuff!
The Mississauga Marathon, and their organizing company Landmark Sports Group, were one of the few companies still using “shoe chips” for timing. And even more than that, in previous years they were using chips that you had to return at the finish line! So, I was surprised when I picked up my bibs that they used the more common “bib chip” where the timing chip is built into the race bib. I think it’s a nice improvement.
I was really looking forward to the 5k because it was the first race that my girlfriend, Sharise, and I would run together. We had a grand plan for her to train a lot leading up to the race, but we only got one or two runs in. She ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront 5k in October, and was hoping to beat her time of 38:22 or at least run without taking any breaks.
We carpooled to the Cawthra Park Community Centre, and we hopped on a Mississauga Transit bus that had been chartered to be a shuttle bus to the start line. I was pleasantly surprised that the buses were so efficient and organized. And free parking at the Community Centre is something you wouldn’t get in Toronto!
Sharise was pretty nervous about the race. I tried my best to distract her by going through a rather rigorous warmup. The starting line announcers also led us through a warmup, and then I suggested some of my own drills that we could to together. And Sharise showed me several yoga poses for stretching and balance. The combination of those seemed to warm me up enough that my usual foot tingling didn’t plague me during the race. I think such a vigorous warmup would be helpful for all future races.
The start of the race was pretty crowded. There were lots of people walking so it was a bit of an obstacle course for the first part of the race. Sharise didn’t talk much during the race but I kept chatting away to try to distract her. I stayed at her pace. The pace was very comfortable for me, but Sharise was focusing hard on keeping going. I was just trying to keep her company and motivated. At one point I noted that our pace was falling and we might not make her goal time, but she didn’t want to stop. Such a trooper.
To my surprise, right towards the end of the race, Sharise started sprinting to the finish line pretty hard and pulled ahead of me. I sped up enough to be beside her and expressed an amused “really?” At which point she flailed a little bit and tried to push me back. I was hoping that the finish line photos would capture that picture.
|Chip Time||Gun Time|
I crossed the finish line slightly before her, but because of the crowd at the start she crossed the starting line slightly before me. Because of that, her chip time shows that she’s faster than me! So, technically she beat me in the race. And she did accomplish one of her goals which was to run the whole distance without stopping!
After the race I was glad I checked two coats to keep us warm for the walk to the shuttle buses. Again, I was impressed by the efficiency of the shuttle bus operations, and the buses were nice and warm.
I headed home not long after and tried to settle into bed early because of the big race the following day.
Here was the race I’ve been gearing up for! And it was the goal race for my half-marathon clinic!
The weather wasn’t exactly ideal, but not unexpected. I often tell other runners that you run in any weather because race day could be any weather. We had some days this winter where it was windy, snowy, icy, or raining. I didn’t actually expect I’d have to run my goal race in chilly rain with strong winds!
Unlike most races where I have to travel around the world and contend with hotels, I got to wake up in my own bed at home and walk to the starting line of this race. I donned a plastic poncho I bought at a dollar store the day before in an attempt to stay warm and dry on the way to the start.
The start area of the Mississauga Marathon and half-marathon is a rather nondescript intersection adjacent to the Square One Shopping Centre. It’s very familiar grounds to me because the Square One Running Room is right there. It’s like any other Sunday morning with my clinic, except that there are a few thousand extra people around.
One thing I like about the pre-race environment, especially for Mississauga, is seeing so many familiar faces: My clinic members met before the race at the Running Room and we took a lot of photos. There were lots of other familiar faces from previous clinics and people I’ve run with over the years. And familiar faces like Sarah and Robin!
Before the race I led my clinic through a set of warm-ups: Simple movements to warm up joints, a slow jog, and a few strides. Considering the uncomfortable foot tingling that plagued me for the early parts of the most recent Chilly Half-Marathon and other races, I wanted to do a thorough warm-up. I was doing the same jump squats that I did the night before to warm up, and Patty asked if I was crazy!
I planned to run with my friend Dawn who was the 2:00 run/walk pacer. The start corral was really, really packed, so Dawn couldn’t get up near the 2:00 continuous pacer. When we crossed the starting line we were quite a bit back of the other 2:10 pacer. In fact, for the first couple of kilometers we were behind Patty, the 2:10 pacer! After the pack thinned around 2km Dawn and I got on pace and started to gain on the 2:00 continuous guy. Around that time a little group started to form around Dawn and started doing walk breaks with her. One guy commented that I looked like I wasn’t even trying too hard. I wasn’t. I actually felt pretty good. Being in just a singlet was the right temperature for me. But I warned the other runner that I may not look this strong around 17km.
As I passed someone from one of my old clinics, he remarked that I was breathing pretty hard. That was true, but I felt like I was at a pace I could hold with a little effort.
Dawn and I were diligent on pace and we crossed the 8km mark prettymuch on pace for 2 hours. Up until that point, I felt I was just on the edge of threshold, but still aerobic. I was starting to believe that I could hold that pace for the whole race. Alas, it was not to be.
During the little detour through UTM, there was an uphill that slowed me down. I think I was running prettymuch at the edge of aerobic, so pushing uphill I had to go slower, anaerobic, or both. And I think it was both because I slowed down and had a hard time catching my breath. I lost Dawn on that little uphill, but caught up with her after the big downhill before Dundas Street. Regrettably, at the LARGE hill around 10km I couldn’t keep up anymore and waved at Dawn to keep going.
This long stretch down Mississauga Road was largely uneventful, but I could see the 2:00 continuous pacer disappearing into the distance. The wind and rain were rough. I tried ducking behind people to draft, but because I was doing 10-and-1’s most of the people around me we doing a slower steadier pace, and if I continued drafting I’d fall even further behind. At least I wasn’t overheating!
As we entered Port Credit I was really starting to struggle. I’ve been having pain in my left knee, but surprisingly it was my right knee that was struggling. I was also really gasping for air and begging for those walk breaks. Turning east onto the waterfront trail I got hit with a HUGE headwind. Drafting people wasn’t working, so I would just have to grind through. It was a little discouraging looking down at my Garmin and realizing that I was losing a lot of speed even though I was putting in a huge effort. That was the story of the last 4km: Huge effort but seeing the goal times slip away.
There were lots of familiar faces cheering people on in the last stretch. Big hats off to the volunteers and spectators who were out in such lousy weather.
Knowing I was losing my goal times, I decided to stop looking at my watch. I was going as hard as I could and looking at the time and my pace would have just been discouraging. I tried to focus on motivational mantras:
- I exercise so much, I deserve to do well
- I’m the coach, the sensei, I should set a good strong example
- I sacrificed a lot to be here, I should make the most of it
- Despite this rain and howling wind, where else would I rather be right now?
- When will I be this close again?
- I can rest later
It was kinda hard to keep my composure with so many emotions and such a huge outpouring of willpower to keep going. I pushed with everything I had left for the last 500 meters or so, already aware that I missed setting a new PB.
|Date||Event||Goal Time||Chip Time||Gun Time|
I couldn’t walk straight after crossing the finish line. My trainer often says I get “workout drunk” after a hard bout of circuit training, and that’s how I felt. I was seeing stars and staggering around as I tried to catch my breath. I wonder how close I was to passing out.
I knew the routine. Grab the medal, grab some food. Then found my check bag to get some warm clothes on. I didn’t feel cold during the run but I knew I would start freezing once I cooled down.
The finish area was a nice part of the whole experience. I got to see many people from my current and former groups right after the race and we celebrated together. I’m so proud of my clinic members: For many of them it was the first ever half-marathon, and they earned this finish in particularly challenging conditions!
The shuttle buses were again very organized, and thankfully warm! I had a nice debref with a couple of people from my clinic and we talked about future race plans. I thought the medal for the half was the same size as the 5k, but upon inspection the half marathon medal is slightly larger
So, I missed my “A Goal” of being under 2 hours, and I missed setting a new personal best by about a minute. Am I disappointed? Of course. But, I pushed as absolutely hard as I could and I didn’t hold anything back, and I’m thankful about that. It’s a strangely satisfying feeling to completely empty the tank physically and emotionally, and to completely deplete all of your willpower.