Oakville Half Marathon Race Report

Race weekend started the day before on Saturday at kit pick-up. Kit pick up was in the same park where we’d be starting and ending the race the next day. It was my first look of the area, I work in Oakville but I tend to stick North of the highway and in the trail system so I’d never been down by the lake. I don’t know why, it’s quite pretty!

It’s a lovely park and was a beautiful day, the kits we all set-up outside in the field. There wasn’t any lines when I went so I quickly got my bib by telling them my bib number which had been emailed to us the day before. Then got my shirt, the women’s is a nice navy and I like the leaves, logo is kind of huge. The men received the same shirt in burgundy. There was a few venders there but nothing fancy, it is a small race but does well to put in elements of the big-ticket races. I got a free headband from Tatika and chatted with the Nuun (which would be on course!) rep for a couple minutes who I know from working the MEC races.

The race kit in all included the shirt, reusable bag (love when races do this!), usual fliers for other races, Oasis juice box, some other fruit energy drink, snack size Cliff Breaker bar which I ate immediately, those wipes and icey ointment you always get. And some sport tape, hey this one is cool!

Race morning started at 5:30am for me. I got up, put on the outfit I’d laid out the night before and then quickly changed my mind and put on the capris I’d been debating. The weather was calling for a crisp 11 degrees at race start but would quickly climb over the course of the race to about 16. Shorts would have been fine probably but I don’t typically wear shorts for long runs and felt like I’d rather be dressed a little warmer and I knew I’d be totally fine with the capris once temperatures were at their peak and then I could skip the body glide.

Breakfast was 2 slices of toast with light spread of peanut butter and then I was off to the race! Fortunately my parents took me so I was able to relax a bit on the way over, I had a bottle of water I was sipping and a Honey Stinger Waffle I had planned to eat at some point since breakfast was so early, but race nerves had me not wanting it on route.

We headed over to Bronte Go which was the official parking location for the race. We got there at about 6:30 and got in line for the shuttle. There was a big crowd that all showed up at this point so the first bus filled up and we got on the second which came right after. The bus dropped us off at the corner of Lakeshore and Third Line which I was not expecting so we walked over to the park from there.

Then it was just waiting around for the start, I made my bathroom visits with no problem, they had a good amount there so I never waited for one. I did see a line had formed closer to race start so I’m not sure how long they had to wait. This is why I get to races early!

At some point I did feel ready to eat the waffle and did eat it and about 10 minutes to race start I had my first gel.

Into the coral, I decided to place myself behind the 2:05 pacer, I had no idea what to expect of myself for this race but my hope was to come in under 2:05 so I wanted him ahead of me for that. In the coral I ended up beside Katie, one of the runners in the MEC group so that was really great to chat with someone for a minute while we waited for the gun. Race started and I lost track of Katie but was ready to run my race.

I started really well, I was focused on making sure I wasn’t going too fast and keeping a steady pace. I didn’t really have any kind of strategy for this race, I’d decided I was just going to see how it all went. I kept the 2:05 pacers in my sights, it was a run/walk pacer so I passed on their walk and then they got ahead but I’d closed the gap already and was feeling pretty good about that. I knew my pace felt good and if I kept this up I’d quickly loose the 2:05 pacer since I was keeping up with their run pace.

And I quickly did loose them, I passed them again on their second walk break and never saw them again!

I ran this without any water on me so knew I needed to plan my gels ahead of time. With aid stations ever 3k I’d decided my best strategy was to take one at 6k and one at 15k. So just before 6k at aid station 2 I took a gel and had some water.

The course ran along Lakeshore for 6km, right through downtown, and then we turned up heading away from the lake. I’d never run the area before but knew ahead of time there would be some elevation gain here as it is all around Lake Ontario. There was a family out spectating here and the guy said ‘just 100m until the top of the hill!’ I just kind of laughed. It’s not a hill, you’ll feel it but it’s not enough to do much damage to your pace. At around 8k we turn left and start making our way back. Toughest part of the race is done and I’m feeling good. Hit another aid station here and I have my first cup of Nuun. Man was I excited about the Nuun being on course. They were handing out Lemon-Lime flavour as is standard at races.

In the last mile of the race. Photo by Katie’s husband.

We make a left turn and head down and then shortly make a right to continue on. This is all through residential streets and is really a lovely route. Very shaded so it helped keep the nice cool temperatures we were graced with feeling even fresher. Just before 10k we make a left and start heading back down to Lakeshore. This was so nice. While the up wasn’t really much to notice, the down was great, I was able to pick up some speed here and bank some time which came in handy later on.

This spits us out back downtown, we’re running the same spot we ran already. I do wonder how this was managed as I suspect the lead back would have run in to the back pack here. But when I went through the back pack had already cleared out. I gather the usual route does not have this doubled up section but there were some route changes due to construction. We pass another aid station and I have some water and Nuun again. I’m not drinking very much but I am doing real well in throwing water all over me.

Right after the aid station at around 12.5km we make a right, mini little hill and then a left as we head onto Rebecca. This would be the part where if anyone isn’t feeling their best is going to get slammed. All roads we ran on were opened but given that they were residential, weren’t very busy, and downtown just happened to be pretty quite as well. Rebecca was a lot busier, and it’s close to 9am now so the sun is up diminishing a lot of shade from the first half of the course. Fortunately I was able to keep myself focused. I hadn’t studied the map much but figured we’d be on this stretch for about 5k. Sight lines were poor in this section so it worked out fine that it was a long stretch since you couldn’t tell by looking.

Along here I found Katie again, I came up behind her so at some point she’d passed me but I’m not sure when. I said hi and we chatted for a minute. We were coming up on the next aid station so I took out my gel. This is the first station I stopped at, by this point I knew I needed some more water so I slowed down and took a proper drink and then continued on. I got ahead of Katie here but knew she was just behind me. We continued on this road for awhile before hitting the last aid station just before 18k. More Nuun and water here, again I slowed so I could get some last bit of energy in me. By this point I knew I was on pace for a 2:02 finish but took that extra second to fuel up properly so I could stay on track.

Then we’re making a left turn and making our way back to Lakeshore through a small detour, yay! Katie catches up beside me through here. We’re both getting ready for our final push to the finish. We stay close together as we run by the lake. She shouts off some words of encouragement to me as we’re about to turn on to Old Lakeshore. I’ve got my last bit of energy I’m ready to burn off, she’s just behind me and we end up seeing her husband about 1.5km away from the finish. He joins up with her and I continue to try to pick it up.

The last stretch, I’m gaining on some people through here, as Old Lakeshore hits up with Lakeshore I pass a guy I remember being passed by at the halfway point. I can see the turn into the finish shoot and start heading in to a final sprint. As I turn into the park I see the clock ticking passed 2:02, I throw more into that stretch then I knew I had in me, I don’t know how far behind the gun time my start time was so I’m full out sprinting ugly face and all across the finish to try to nab a sub 2:02.

Official Chip Time: 2:01:58.6

What an amazing race! I’m so proud of how well I ran this. I stayed steady and strong the whole run. My splits were the most even I’ve ever done, for the 19km there’s exactly 2 outliers. 1 was for the ‘uphill,’ I was slightly slower here, the other was for the downhill which I did slightly faster. Every other kilometre was solidly in the 5:40’s. Never ever been this consistent. And the last 2k show my final kick so they were faster.

Post race, got my medal, got my photo. Nuun was the first table we hit. Wohoo! My Nuun rep friend was there with his contgrats. I took a couple of cups. I met up with Katie and her husband here, she’d come in just behind me and we exchanged contrags. My parents found me here as well.

Then went to the next tables. Those stupid gross bread round things of course. I don’t know why I grabed that. Blueberry scones, yes please! Banana, bottle of water and Cliff had samples out.

I then did a bit of stretching, my hip had tightened up around half way, that worried me as it was the same hip that was so bad during my full last year. But I didn’t end up feeling it for the rest of the race. Now that I was done though I could feel it tightening up again.

All stretched out made my way over to the SportStats tent to check my time. I was dying to know if I’d squeezed in under 2:02. Bib scanned, huge grin, I see the 2:01:58. I had done it, my mega sprint was worth it.

After that made our way over to third line where the buses were waiting to take us back to Bronte Go.

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The Oakville Half Marathon

I’d signed up for this because I’d heard so many good things about it and knew it was the same group that does the Mississauga Half which is my favourite. I was not disappointed. It’s a small race, the half marathon had under 550 participants, there was also a 5k and 10k option which started at 7am for the 5k and 7:30am for the 10k, the half was 7:45 so we were actually able to see the 5k come in which was cool. Its size and the route make this feel like a small town race, it essentially is. But they definitely put the quality you’d expect from a larger race in to it. Aid stations were will run, there were loads of volunteers and there was cops at all intersections keeping traffic in line for us to cross. It really is a scaled down version of the Mississauga Marathon.

It is a small race so there’s not a ton of crowd support but there were people out with their signs and due to the loop course they were able to move around to various locations and were all amazing. Also since there were so many volunteers they were spread out along the course cheering as well.

I think my only real wish is that there was split maps set-up, but I know this is more expensive and I’m mostly interested because I ran such a solid race I’d like to compare my rankings throughout the course haha.

Also if the official photos were a little more reasonable that’d be great! $50 for 13 photos, I’ll be passing on that.

I would definitely recommend this race, the course is great, aid stations were stocked up with Nuun, water and cliff chews and it was pretty well organized.

Race Week: Oakville Half Marathon

Let’s recap this a little bit, I haven’t had the most successful race weeks in the past. There was the last one, Around the Bay where I knew I was screwed and had no business running the 30k. And there was the infamous race week prior to that for my first Marathon. Emotional wreck would put that lightly.

Comparable to that, this race week is going pretty well. I am of course loaded with doubts and feeling like this was a bad idea, is it even a taper without? But I’m also feeling okay, I’m not emotional about this and I know I can do it. My doubts are more on how well.

So now I present to you some of my doubts and the reasons I need to keep reminding myself they’re crap.

Some Irrational Doubts

1. I didn’t do enough speed work. Kind of true, but then again I never do, and actually I did do a lot of speed work, I just didn’t do any tempos, like actually none, not even attempts at tempos. This is what’s getting me, I didn’t attempt race pace at all. I want to, but it never panned out. The weather, my laziness, other speed work coming up, many factors. Bottom line it didn’t happen. But as I said, they never do.

2. My pace has gone to shit. So this is something I decided to investigate last night. I was under the impression the last time I did a half marathon my regular ol pace was faster than it is now. So I went back into my Garmin records and had a look. ‘Oh right, I was even shittier then.’ So with some fresh eyes and appropriate look, we dig down. Truth is I’m running pretty consistently in the low 6’s right now. This is not my fastest. When was my fastest? Fall. FALL JESSICA WHEN THE WEATHER IS NICE. I’m running low 6’s in the worst heat I’ve ever been faced with. So, time to stop fretting. In my speed work I’m hitting new records every time, my speed is there, waiting for the nice weather to come out and play, just like every fall.

Ran a little over 250km last month (couple untracked), pretty good!

3. I am not as well trained as I was before. This relates to the previous 2 as well. All my doubts relate somehow back to my speed. This is only natural, I have proved I can run a half marathon distance on minimal training. That’s not what I’m after with this race. I’m after a PB. So I’m focusing on how hard it is to maintain that pace I need to get that. But let’s look back to last May, my last half marathon. I was averaging about 45k a week. I was doing speed work but no proper successful tempos. My average pace was 30s slower than it is now and training was in the Spring before heat and after cold when everything should have been prime. And let’s get back to the 45k a week average. Do you know the last time I had a week under 45k this cycle? July. I have been consistently averaging 60km weeks for the past month and a half. I didn’t even average that during marathon training. The marathon, the marathon I ran last year I felt confident that if I had been running the half I would have gotten or come very close to a sub 2:00. I am running the most I have ever run ever, I’ve tackled some of my greatest training accomplishments to date during this cycle. And I’ve done it well, I’ve never had a cycle as well as this one. I don’t feel burnt out, I don’t feel tired. So, let’s all laugh really hard at doubt number 3 for being complete bologna.

Some legitimate concerns:

1. My knee is acting up. This is a very real concern and one I need to work hard on this week. Generally this happens before every race, my knee knows what’s coming and decides to make an appearance. I’ve gotten pretty good at rehabbing it by now so I’m just hoping it behaves until then.

Icing the knee

2. My calf/Achilles is also acting up. This is also a very real concern, and slightly more concerning than the knee because road makes this hurt more. If I’m on the trails I’m good but it starts making itself known on the road. Again, I’ll be working on it this week and think I can probably get through the race, I’m more concerned about after the race what it will feel like then. It’s after my last road long run it started bothering me more.

3. I haven’t been training on the road enough. I had plans to do more of my long runs on the road but it was so dang hot I couldn’t bring myself to pound some pavement for 2+ hours. As a result, I only did 2 long runs on the road. The concern here is more that I’ve been gentle to my muscles and they’re going to be in a lot of pain after doing 21.1k on road and at pace.

Hiding away in the trails

The good:

1. So far (*cross all fingers*) the weather is looking near perfect for Sunday. I think the thing that will play the biggest role in whether or not this is a PB is the weather. I don’t do well in the heat at all so if forecasts change and we’re slammed with hot sunny humidity this is real bad news for me. BUT if it stays as predicted now (or gets even cooler!) we’re in good hopes.

2. There will be Nuun on course. I only found this out last night and boy am I ECSTATIC. I’ve never been in a race with Nuun on course, it’s always Gatorade. I don’t drink Gatorade, it’s too sweet and I try to limit my sugar intake which is why Nuun is perfect for me. No sugar and it’s a mild not at all sweet taste. Perfect. I mostly only drink Nuun after my run is done unless I’m going on a very hot long run. Reason? I don’t want to become dependant on it because I know I won’t have electrolytes during the race since it’s only ever Gatorade. But not this time! I only wish I’d known sooner so I could have had it with me on some runs I debated brining some but didn’t.

3. I’m in my best shape yet. I mentioned this while dissolving my doubts but it needs to be said again. I fought my way back from a set-back in the spring and I arrive better than ever. I have trained more than I’ve every train before and feel better than I ever have. I’m about as ready for this half as I could be.

August Recap

What a great month!

Ran a little over 250km in total for the month, which is pretty close to what I ran last August while training for a Marathon. I’m actually doing higher milage right now than I did last year, just different long run schedules skewed the totals between this year and last.

So lots of running, lots of running 6-days a week. I’ve adapted really well to it I’m actually really impressed with how well it’s been going. I had a recovery week in there too, which I did not run 6-days for. And it went super well in that I actually felt really recovered (and quickly) after it which I don’t often feel. By Thursday I was ready to run all the miles again but forced myself to cool it remembering I needed to be taking it easy and not do silly things like add another 3k on to the 9 I’d just run to make it 12 (which I super wanted to do).

Steep crazy climbs often found on The Bruce! From Saturday’s MEC run

In August I also went to a free local track series. It was 4 weeks of track works which got progressively tougher which worked really well in to my training. The first week we did 200 and 400m repeats and a bonus 800m. Then it was 400 and 800m with bonus 1200. Then we did 1200m repeats with 2 bonus 1600m. And the final week was a 5k. All of these were on some pretty tired legs and I still put in some solid efforts so I’m pretty happy with that.

The 5k wasn’t actually that great but I did what I could. The route we did had a slight uphill out which my calves haaate and so they were screaming the whole time so I had to stop and stretch them out for a minute. But then the back was downhill and they cleared up.

Still squeezing in some SUP when I can!

I also maybe missed a long run. Last Sunday, I ended up sleeping in way late and then struggled the remainder of the day to get myself to do anything but continue to lay in bed, eventually managed to get myself out in time to squeeze in 12k but definitely not the 22k I had planned and in the main reason I didn’t surpass last year’s August milage. All and all not a too bad! There was another Sunday the long run didn’t happen but that was because it was so hot my run buddy and I decided to push it to Monday night because we’re crazy like that.

Fun times with the Burly Trail Runners on our most recent run to Dundas Peak

So now I’m in my final peak week of training for the Oakville half and I’m honestly so relieved, I just want this half over with at this point as I’m not excited about it all anymore. I want it over with so I can do my long runs on trail again, pretty sure I’ll be doing that 6h run I mentioned in my previous post (Batawa Fat Ass) and as long as I’m home from a work conference in time I think I’ll do the 25k at Vulture Bait in October!

August Mileage:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday  Total
Week 12 8 6 7 8 10 20 59
Aug 1 +SUP track +swim Aug 7
Week 13 8.5 8 9 8 7.5 6 47
 Aug 8 track +swim Aug 14
Week 14 20 8.5 swim 9 11 6 54.5
 Aug 15 track  +SUP Aug 21
Week 15 10 6 11.5 10.5 SUP 11 12 61
 Aug 22 Aug 28
Week 16 6.5 13 10 10 11.5 24 75
 Aug 29  1ks  +stairs Sep 4

So Far So Good

So I wrote this about a week ago and set it to drafts so I could add pictures. I then forgot. I don’t really feel like editing to update it so ha here it is:

Well I’ve had a couple of pretty successful training weeks now! I even had a week when I ran 6 days in a row, never done that before!

I had the Moraine Adventure Race on Saturday and my performance was predictably sub-par but I feel very motivated now after completing it! I know I could have done better and am sorry I let my team down. It was an incredibly hot day though and my body was done for, I’d woken up that morning with sore legs all over and it was hard to get moving through my running legs. So I kind of didn’t have high hopes for my leg which started around 4:30pm in the blazing sun I just wanted to get through it as best as I could given the circumstances, I ended up finishing a whooping 15 minutes past my goal time. But it was all I could manage in the state I was in. I wish I could have done better for my team but there’s always next year.

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I’ll give a full recap of the day (if I remember…) at a later time.

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Last weeks training was pretty spot on doing exactly what I needed to. My speed work didn’t exactly go to plan, actually it was kind of a mess but this early in a training cycle it’s not so bad. The main issue I had was my legs wanted to go a whole lot faster than the rest of me could support. Kind of weird but I’ll have to focus more on control. I still haven’t worked out exactly how I’d like to structure my weeks and this plan. I’d like to do some hilly runs/hill repeats, also some short speed work now and start on some longer interval tempos. These tempos will be important to help get me into controlling my pace and finding comfort in my target HMP. I’m going to attempt to start these short and build up as I go, hopefully this approach will get me more comfortable with tempo runs. I want to keep them in the 5:30-5:40 range as my first half marathon goal is a sub 2 hour with is a 5:40 pace.

My goal for this week is to keep on with the runs and try to get in a semi-long run this weekend, bit of a busy schedule though so we’ll see how it goes, might try to get it in on Friday night. Technically I did long runs the past 2 Saturdays but they were both done as double runs so I would like to get out a solid continuous long run, the longest I’ve done in ages all at once has only been 12k.

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Looking Ahead

This post is a long time coming because I didn’t know where to begin.

Do I talk about the lack of training the lead to a predictable disappointing (though not all together terrible) Around the Bay 30k? Do I talk about not doing much to get back at it since then?

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I found out you can run 20k untrained but not so much 30k

I fell into a hole after the winter cough from hell and have been struggling to find my way out since, I never really gave up but I did miss some opportunities. I think (and really, really hope) I’ve finally found some footings and am almost out. So I’m not going to dwell on where I’ve been, but focus on where I’m going. I don’t like where I am right now so I’ve set some goals, and with that some deadlines. I have the month of June to get myself back to where I was back in the fall, feeling good and treating myself right.

What’s ahead?

2 half marathons!

I am so excited about this. When I decided to run a marathon last fall I was disappointed it would mean no fall half and no chance to get the sub 2 hour I was chasing in the spring. Then over the fall I found out I’d be going on a 2 week vacation (chance a lifetime not complaining at all but no one can train seriously while on vacation, I did run there though!!) I also had 2 major weddings I was involved in. What this all meant, no spring half either.

 

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Happened upon this while in Bergen, Norway. I did not run the event but kind of wished I had, looked like an amazing course! It did inspire me to go out and run around town later that evening though.

 

I could have done a late spring half I technically had the time for it, but I’m such a baby about heat and I’m super sensitive to it so I didn’t really want to risk it after a crazy busy training season.

Part of looking ahead is making these goals. It was one of the first major steps I made to get myself back up right, deciding on a plan and what I wanted to achieve. So that’s what I did.

So in September I’ll be running the Oakville Half Marathon where I hope to completely smash my PB (2:05:21) and finally earn my sub 2. And then 6 weeks later (oh what a beautiful amount of time to have between races, sure beats 4 weeks!) I’ll be running the Hamilton Road2Hope Half Marathon and setting a new PB (tentative is a 5:30 average pace 🙈). This is a super special race to me, not only was it my first half marathon but it was also the event that got me interested in running in the first place. PLUS I live super close to the start line which is a huge bonus! They’ve also made some slight changes to the course this year and I approve! It’s a great change.

Oakville will be a new one for me but I’ve heard great things about the course and it’s done by the same people who do the Mississauga Marathon which is a fabulously run event so it should be a great race season!

What else is happening?

Next weekend I’ll be in the Moraine Adventure Relay! I’m so excited about this! I’ll be with a bunch of my Burly Trail Runners as we canoe/run/bike across 160km! I’ll be support for my teammate on her 6km run leg and then I’ll be doing my own 11.5k run leg later in the day.

If you’ve read my bio you’ll know the thing I loved most about getting into running was feeling like I belonged to something so getting to do this event with a team of 7 other runners is really exciting!

I am also debating a 5k at the end of the month, originally I planned to do a 5 and a 10k this month but I’m just not in racing shape at the moment and didn’t want to risk bringing my fragile state down. I’m going to see how the next couple weeks go, if I feel a good enough bounce back in my endurance and speed I might sign up. 5k is pretty safe distance for me since I’ve never raced it (my first race ever and the deathly hot thing I did last summer don’t count) I have no PB to miss achieving.

Also it’s summer! So I’ve been taking out my SUP a lot! Taken my bike out a little bit but not much yet. In July I will likely be leading the MEC Burlington Learn to Run Clinic so I’m stoked about that!

 

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Picture from this evening at Valens Conservation!

 

Post-half Recovery Week 1

The Mississauga Half Marathon marked the end of a 4-month intense training cycle.   By the end I was counting down the days until taper and recovery. I was wiped, and sore. Very sore. The last couple of weeks my hip was so tight I couldn’t even walk properly I ended up doing a much more significant taper than I’d originally planned just to give my body more healing time before I went to go beat it up again in the half.

I actually wasn’t very sore coming out of this half. I guess my training this spring paid off in that sense. I still wanted to take it easy and give my body a break to ease slowly back into maintenance.

Monday, the day after the half. I took to the pool. I’m a regular swimmer and it’s my main mode of cross training. Swimming is great for recovery and cross training as it lengthens muscles and is zero impact. You will always come out of the pool feeling better than you did when you entered. I only swam for about half an hour, maybe a bit longer and focused more on pulling with my arms and just let my legs move gently. I do this most of the time when I swim to give my legs a break and to give my upper body much needed work out. I often use paddles in the pool to help keep my arm strength up since I gave up weight training.

Tuesday I went out for a short 5.5km recovery run. I’m not sure if I was pushing the pace or if I’ve just gotten faster. But my average pace by the end was 6:20 which was about 30-40 seconds faster per km than what I was expecting. So we’ll see what my next solo runs bring.

Wednesday finally took a rest day and went for a wonderful 90 minute massage. I went to a new rmt who is a certified sports massage therapist and it was awesome. At the end she stretched out my legs, focusing on the IT Band which was great as it’s hard to get a good stretch there myself.

Thursday feeling pretty great, minor lingering stiffness and my knee was feeling bit weak still but mostly I was better than I’d been in weeks. I met up with the MEC Burlington trail group and we went out for a nice and slow 8km run with minimal hills for the trail. Felt great the whole run.

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Fridays I always take a rest day. I’m generally too tired and lazy to do anything Fridays so seems like the best day for one. And leaves the evening free for me to socialize and have a life if I choose without messing with my training. The past couple months I’ve been going to a Sweat Relax Restore yoga class most weeks which is great. You mostly just lay in the hot room and do some mild stretching. Always come out feeling better. This was my last class for this though as I had a 2 month groupon that is now over and I won’t continue with this studio as it’s just not in a convenient location. I will be joining a new studio though, just haven’t picked where yet.

Saturday was meet-up trail group again. I don’t always go on Thursdays but Saturdays I do unless I’m racing that weekend. I really love this group and the people there, I’ve been running with them since the end of February and joined as a way to meet other runners since none of my local friends do. This week we were on flatter more groomed trails so it was a pretty easy run which was great because it was crazy hot. I was not a happy runner. My water went warm almost immediately so I didn’t want to drink it. Still, I struggled through to run 10.5km we somehow managed a pace much faster than normal. Probably due to the lack of hills. Generally we walk alot of the steep long hills and the group will stop at the top of them to let everyone catch up and take a breather.

Sunday my plan was to take my bike out for the first proper ride of the season. I was out in the morning though so it was later afternoon and horribly hot by the time I was ready, and I was feeling pretty lazy. So I didn’t end up going out. I could have gone out in the evening but I wanted to go to yoga too and came down to figuring yoga would benefit me more as I need to get more serious about strength training, especially now that I’m in maintenance I have no excuse of tired legs. I ended up being the only one at yoga so I got a private class and she focused a lot on hip openers and such for me since I said I was a runner. Good choice there.

So in the end I ran 3 times this week, for 24km total. Not too bad for an end of cycle recovery week. This week I’ll be bringing back some speed work but still taking is pretty easy, keeping my mileage low. I have a 10k race on Saturday I want to PR. Next week I’ll start adding mileage back in and slowly build back up to whatever I want to be around for the next couple of months before marathon training kicks into high gear.

Mississauga Half Marathon Recap & Review

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.

My dad, deciding when I'm busy refuelling is the perfect time to take a picture
My dad, deciding the perfect time to take a picture is when I’m trying to chug milk and eat bread without puking.

Race Kit

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.

Race Day

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.

The Course

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.

Elevation Graph my Garmin recoded of the race.
Elevation Graph my Garmin recoded of the race.
Elevation Graph of the Half from the Mississauga Marathon website - bit different eh?
Elevation Graph of the Half from the Mississauga Marathon website – bit different eh? You do see the slight up in the end here though which mine didn’t really show

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.

Official chip times
Official chip time results (age category – 20-29)

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.