I signed up for the Mississauga Half Marathon just after finishing the Chilly Half Marathon at the beginning of March. I was pretty sure before that point I’d be running the Miss. Half but I’d still been toying with the idea of doing a full marathon this spring. Chilly was awful and I decided during that run I needed redemption. So Mississauga was to be my redemption for a horrible race. I think I succeeded.
The morning of and the weeks leading up to this race I was at a confidence low. I didn’t trust my training, I felt like I hadn’t done enough, and I was doubting myself in what I could achieve. This race was a huge win for me because I proved to myself I could fight passed those doubts coming out of this I know I could have done better than I did, but I had to run this race, to experience that first. Now I’ll be ready for next time.
The race of course starts off with the Kit pick up and expo which was great. I haven’t run a lot of big races to compare but this expo was pretty large (Around the Bay is only one that was larger of races I’ve done) and really well organized and there were a ton of free samples. In the kit itself my personal favourite was the honey stinger chews (yum), there was also a Larabar but I got the coconut flavour in my kit and gross nope. There were also some vender giving out free samples including protinis (I got Chicken Souvlaki, don’t bother sub-par chicken skewers and I don’t even want to think about that ‘taziki’ sauce) power bar, some pet food(I still find this odd) and someone who was giving out bread, I don’t remember who they were all I know is they had cinnamon bread and it was amazing. Running Room was there with a small selection of gear and their usual wheel of discounts and also Sketchers. Most other venders I believe were other races, there was some medic type ones too, one selling injury prevention straps and things and probably a massage/physio/chiropractor or something I don’t fully remember. Very smooth and efficient process. Shirt is okay I suppose, I haven’t worn mine yet but there’s no logos on the back so that is a plus.
The 7:30 start in a different city meant I was up at 5:20 getting dressed and going to the bathroom 500 times. Had a Larabar for breakfast and got to relax in the car as I got a ride to the start. This was a big plus for me as I don’t like having to stress about parking and the shuttle buses if I don’t have to. My parents dropped me off at Square One where the start line was and continued on to the parking lot to wait for me at the end. I got there 40 minutes before gun time and there was zero lines for the porta-potties so I went. And then sat around on the curb for awhile, I was a bit chilly in just my tank top looking at the runners in the throw-away clothes with envy. The idea of buying a sweater to throw away just seems like a waste of money, I’ll be cold, whatever. As we’re getting close to the start, lines never really gather at the porta-potties so huge kudos to the Mississauga Marathon for providing enough. I had visions of my first half marathon and the massive lines and people taking their sweet time in there so much so the marathoners with their earlier start had to ask to cut ahead some only just making it to the start on time. None of that for Mississauga!
My hip had been tight for a couple of weeks so for the first time ever I took a little warm up jog before the race to get it loose and was pleasantly surprised to find it was okay. I got into the start shoot at a loss on where to place myself. Some of the pace bunnies weren’t in yet and there weren’t any signs on the gates to give you a guide. So I awkwardly stood in the middle until the rest of the bunnies came. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to place myself in front of or behind my goal time, in the end I went slightly in front of the bunny. Opening ceremonies included a speech from the old mayor who talked about the beautiful course we were about to run, a shout out to one of the marathon racers who ran to the race from Markham, the finish line would make 100km for him for the day. And an odd rendition of the Canadian Anthem. The race started and they played Uptown Funk, which amused me as the Chilly Half played the same song. I wasn’t complaining, it’s a good song to get you pumped for the run. Nearly 2 minutes later, my race began.
I told myself I wasn’t allowed to go out fast, and I wasn’t allowed to worry about my pace at all. I worried too much during Chilly and I paid the price in a big way. I wouldn’t let myself look at my watch so the first couple km were a lot of be checking with myself to see how I was feeling, was this pace at all fast? Could I maintain this pace for 2 hours? I have a really hard time with pacing, generally if I’m pushing the pace in a training run, I think I’m okay but then 3km in I’m not. So it was a struggle trying to figure this out while not looking at my watch. At the 3k mark my watch beeped and I looked on reflex. My pace was above 6 min/km. Damn. Not where I wanted to be. I was mad at myself for checking but wouldn’t let myself speed up either. I needed to take this slow, I’d catch up later. At some point the 2:05 pacer passed me. I think it might have been before I check my watch. That was hard, it hurt to let her go and not pick up the pace. It took a lot of strength to tell myself not to worry, I’d see her again. But 5k in and I’m doubting myself. My pace was not where it needed to be, I never got to do any negative split training like I had planned, I didn’t think I could do it.
What finally did it was around 6km, when I’m feeling low, feeling like I’d slowed even more and I had no chance to recover, the 2:10 pacer ended up at my back. I thought oh hell no and picked it up. I will PR I will PR became my mantra for the next couple of km. I found my pace, I check my km times a couple times and I was right around where I needed to be. I was feeling good and started to believe in myself more, that I could pick it up in the later half. Around 8 or 9k I had the 4:15 marathon pacer back in my sights (he had passed me just after the 2:05) and I knew the 2:05 wasn’t too far ahead of him. I was feeling great. I got around that group I think as I was heading for the big hill – closing in on the 10k mark. And there was the 2:05 pacer. I’d done it, chased her down. She was till far ahead of me but I knew I could pass her. Slowly but surely over the next few kms I got closer and closer and finally passed her as we were running along the waterfront trail.
I’d done it I thought, sub 2:05 in the bag.
I ran the rest of the race swiping dead bugs off of me (and eating one, gak). The last 3km felt really long to me. I felt like I was repeating just 3 more to go for an hour. i did my best to hold on to my pace though knew I could have held on more. It was like I’d won something after getting around that pacer and now I was done. I kept going though, To get to the finish you have to go around a bay and then there’s a small climb. I didn’t even notice how close the finish line was until I had less than 100m to go. But then I took off and flew across the finish, that felt amazing, it as a great sprint. My watch has my best pace at 3:50.
In the end I did not have a sub 2:05, I thought being far ahead of the 2:05 pacer meant I was okay, should have check my watch I ended up with a 2:05:22 😦 if only I’d looked I definitely could have motivated myself to push harder on those last couple km and probably shaved nearly a minute off my time. In the last 2k my pace slipped back up to the 6min area. I definitely could have made up those 20 seconds. This fact haunts me and I’m so angry with myself for not checking my watch. It didn’t even occur to me. Oh well. Next time.
So Mississauga Marathon bills this as a fast net downhill course. Erm… yeah.. net downhill. That’s not exactly a lie. They have the elevation graph to prove it. But I’m sure most runners know by now, elevation graphs don’t always mean much. below is the elevation graph my Garmin recorded. And this is far more accurate looking than the one on the website. But even this doesn’t paint the whole picture. Like I said, the course ended with an uphill, that’s not see there. We also had to go up a ramp to get over the road. And the last downhill we did, was followed by and uphill, also not seen as we went under a road. This was all in the last bit where it looks pancake flat. Now, these are nothing major, you’re not going to loose your breath over these hills. They’re just babies.
The fact I just want to make clear here is, this is not a downhill race. For every downhill, there was an uphill. And that one around 10k, not the worst hill in the world, but it’s long and on a bend so you don’t quite know when it will end and is significant enough to leave you breathless and to definitely impact your race if you’re not use to hills. For me, this wasn’t such a big deal. I’d just come off Around the Bay training after all and run some very hilly trails weekly. And no road can ever complete with some of those hills found on trails. But enough about that.
I went into this race expecting a downhill. I thought, I just need to get passed that hill, then the rest of this course will be easy with the downhill helping push me a little faster. Except that never happened. So I just want to be clear, don’t expect any help from this course in landing you a good time and most of the good downhills you will face will be in the beginning half of the course. Despite the deceptive wording I did love this course. It’s a pretty scenic route once you make the turn onto Mississauga road and has the perfect amount of hills to keep things interesting without effecting your time.
And while I cannot guarantee this, it really was an amazing day for a race. The weather that morning could not have been more perfect so the 7:30 start was totally worth it in the end. The temperature was perfect I wore heat gear capris and a tank top and felt completely comfortable. The sun stayed behind light clouds for most of the race. As we neared the lake on Mississauga Rd there was the gentlest of breezes that felt lovely. On a windy day, this would have been an awful stretch as the wind would have been pounding you right in the face. But Sunday, it was perfect. The last 5km of the race were gorgeous as we weaved in and off the waterfront trail and finished in a park. I honestly had no idea there was such pretty parts of Mississauga.
The race route definitely tops my list of favourite courses so far, pretty, scenic, not a single out and back section and just the right amount of hills. There also wasn’t really a boring stretch. Going down that first street might have been if it were not at the beginning but you get that out of the way and the scenery is interesting the whole rest of the way. There’s a nice little detour around UofTM (where you’ll find some hills) as well. Really is a fabulous course. Also the aid stations were top notch. The organisers do a good job of reaching out to high school students to fill the aid stations and they must prepare them well as I didn’t have any issues trying to get water.
Race medal is nice, nothing fancy but still pretty nice.
And the post race food, fabulous. Okay not really, it was mostly normal stuff, they did have cinnamon bagels though! Hell yes! And chocolate milk! The best part! It was great to see a race sponsor that was actually present at the race giving out their product. There was also a vendor giving out an entire box of cereal, hey why not!
The course had a split map at the 8k mark, online it said there would also be on at 16.5 but it wasn’t there, not a big deal though. They also had timers at 5, 10, 5 and 18k which was kind of nice. Especially for me who mostly ignored their watch, it was fun seeing how much time I’d banked.
One of the thing I’m really proud of here is seeing how much time I made up, and also. for the first time ever I finished in the top 50%. While I’m still annoyed with those 20 seconds, and wished I’d believed in myself more during training, this was still a 4 minute PR for me, after only 2 months and a much more successful race. I learned a ton about myself during this race, and I proved I’m far more capable than I give myself credit for.
Overall, this race was a massive win and I’m ready to get out there and go crush those times. I’m feeling way more confident in my abilities now and know I can make some big gains in increasing my pace.