Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon: How to Have the Time of Your Life When Running A Marathon

It has been over a week since I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as my first ever marathon. It has taken me this long because how do you even start to put down thoughts to something so epic?

Crossing that finishes line was quiet possibly happiest moment of my life. I had a big stupid grin on my face that lasted for days.

The run however, went the complete opposite of how I’d planned. In my mind I broke the race in to 14k thirds. The first third I was going to keep it cool with a steady-easy pace, the second third either hold that or pick it up slightly. The last third, just do everything I could to hold on to my pace. The first third went really well. I kept my pace under control and was enjoying the massive crowds STWM brings both on the course and on the sidelines. This portion was all done with the Half Marathon group as we traveled out to the Lakeshore and then back.

I was still feeling just fine at the beginning of the second third, I had kind of forgotten about my thirds strategy and was just keeping on with how I was doing. But not long later at around 16k everything came crashing around me. My body started to tire bringing my mind with it. I couldn’t push passed it so I ended up pulling my ipod out to turn on some music. A massively upbeat song comes on and I carry on. Tired, but okay.

20x30-TWBM3291
This is actually near the end but I have no photos from the first half of the race

As we approach Bay Street on Lakeshore they start dividing the crowd. The half to the left, marathon to the right. Knowing that alot of people were almost done and I wasn’t even at halfway yet didn’t bother me, but seeing the few people running the marathon did worry me. I’d explicitly picked this race for the number of runners and it was looking like I’d be running with very few for the rest of it. But once we passed Bay and things opened up I saw it was false alarm and though significantly less, there were still plenty of runners on course. I’m hurting quite a bit by this point but knowing the halfway point is approaching and that I’d be seeing my parents soon helped a lot. And at 20k I see my parents standing waiting for me, arms out stretched to give me high fives which was a huge boost and I also begin to see the halfway arch ahead of me.

When things really start to test me is when we get to the Don Valley section. Something about seeing all the runners come back from it and the bit of a ‘hill’ involved going to it and coming back just hit me hard. I was miserable that entire trip up and back. It was in here I first started to succumb to the pain I was in as in and took a walk break,  probably around 25k. Everything was tired and my hip was incredibly tight.

But happy Jessica returned once I was out of there. There was a photographer and I smiled and waved and all was good mentally.

20x30-TWBJ3004

This is it now, the last out and back section. To get me through I counted down how many kilometres it would be until the turn around, I’d looked ahead of time and knew it was around the 33km mark. This stretch towards the Beaches was a bit quiet but being out and back there were plenty of people around as many were making their return to the finish as well. And even here there were still spectators scattered about, more about these amazing people later.

There were also still some cheer sites along here, some so loud I couldn’t even hear my music anymore. Not a problem with me! Loved the amount of noise they amazing people were making. These sections helped keep that smile on my face even through all the pain I was in.

In to the Beaches section brought tones of spectators and cheers and finally that final turn around well positioned as it meant only a straight back 8.5k to go. Also a man giving out pieces of banana, awesome man if I was more with it I probably would have hugged him.

image

I’m in terrible pain this whole time, taking walk breaks frequently and doing everything I can to try to keep going. My nutrition was good, I didn’t feel drained in that way but I started occasionally grabbing Gatorade (yes a complete no-no as I never drink it but I was desperate for something to help!) to see if that would help. But by this point I’m not finding sugar of any use. And I find Gatorade a poor sports drink because it is so sweet. Nuun probably would have helped me a lot more at this point. My muscles just don’t want to move me forward but I persist.

Going in to this race I’d wondered if the CN Tower would become a Beacon of torture. But I actually found it pretty comforting on the way back because I knew I got to turn before it. It was like, look where that is, it’s not as far as I have to go. Also seriously well placed turn with having 8k left to go. After 33km you know you’ve got this thing done.

Obviously the pain and tiredness I’m feeling is only escalating but my mind is happy. I’m having a lot of fun even though I just can’t wait for it to be over and I’m thinking a lot about how I didn’t know it was going to be this hard and hurt this much, especially so early. I did not expect the pain to start setting in at 16k. I didn’t expect it until the mid-late 20s so I’ve pushed through much more than I thought I’d have to.

20x30-TWBM4927
I kind of love this picture because I’m unaware of the camera and I just looked focused. Not exhausted or with my head in an unflattering angle like most are.

Coming back into the city at 39k we face our last ‘hill’ a road overpass we’d already come over once just after the Don Valley. Something on a normal day you wouldn’t even think about, it’s not even a bad one. But let me tell you, and excuse the language but at 39k you don’t care, that felt like one big giant fuck you. I even took out my headphones to tell a girl walking (yes of course I walked it, I made it 1/3 up and only because I forced myself to run until the 39k sign) beside me that. At least we got to go down it though. But trying to get my legs to run again took a great deal of work.

20x30-TWAZ9487
I love this one so much because it so accurately depicts my thoughts. Who the HELL thought a camera at 40k was a good idea? I’m in terrible shape right now and just want this to be over. But fine, I’ll smile with what little I have left. ps behind me is the last little hill we’d just gone over, it is a BIT worse the other side but still, nothing.

I’m listening to one last song and then we’re back into the downtown and I take my headphones out to enjoy the last 1km. The spectator crowds have filled right up and people are cheering all over the place. As I head to make my way onto Bay Street. Run Dem Crew/Parkdale Roadrunners is there welcoming one of their own home and they’re going crazy and since I’m right behind them I get a piece of their insanity too. They formed a tunnel for us to run through and it was one of the highlights of the race for me. Cheers on both sides of me and high fives all around. Then I turn the corner and see the distance countdown. 500m to go. It’s uphill and it’s a struggle but I’m doing the best I can at a sprint. And then my friend are there on the sidelines going absolutely crazy.

20x30-TWAD10590
Welcome back full smiles!

I’m rounding the last little bend before I see the finish arches and Taylor Swift starts playing. Could this moment be any better? No it cannot. My name is called and I cross that finish line happier than I’ve ever been.

image
Best. Moment. Ever.

Immediately upon finishing I can barely walk my hip is such a mess. But I’m still so amazingly happy. And I felt that high for days. And over a week later I’m still so happy and emotional reflecting back on this experience

The Event

The race was everything. Going in to this you hear everyone talking about how great it’s, best race ever. Participating in it you see why.

Starting right with the expo, super well organized and a ton of vendors. And I mean actual vendors selling things, not just booths and booths of other races. Though they were there, they took up an insignificant amount of the booths.

Race kit was okay, nothing significant but the shirt is Asics, mesh and the women’s has a bit of a v-neck so should be more comfortable but truthfully I haven’t even tried it on yet.

Race morning was smooth I got there early enough that I had no issues getting a Porta Potty though the line did pile up quite a bit. I saw after they did have another row set up on the street by the corrals but many probably didn’t know about them. But, more Porta potties could definitely have been added (and a replacement of toilet paper at the end I went in to a couple that were out). I dropped a bag so my parents wouldn’t have to carry it around the bag drop was also well done, split up by distance and then by bib number with large labeled signage so you knew which booth was yours.

I got in to my corral around 8:30 as you needed to be in before the 8:45 start. The time flew by even though my corral didn’t head off until 9:00 with the constant heading up after each wave it felt quick.

Now the big event, why everyone loves this race so much. The spectators and volunteers. These people were phenomenal and I cannot thank them enough. They were the most encouraging people I’ve ever experience on a race. Calling you out by name and looking directly at you as they give you their little pep talk. I was fully grateful for each and everyone of them and know I probably would have laid down to cry at some point if they were not there. To give up hours of your Sunday to cheer on a bunch of strangers who lost their mind, and to do it with such passion. You’re all heroes.

I’m so glad I picked the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as my first marathon. The amount of runners, the spectators and volunteers really help keep you going when you’re slammed hard in the face with just how much a marathon will take. You know it’s going to be hard, but you really don’t know what to expect, so do yourself a favour when you finally take that plunge for a full and go for the big one. And if you’ve already run a full go for this one too because the experience is insane and you should live it.

I would absolutely consider running in this event again, though probably just the half next time. I liked that I didn’t study the course map too well going in to my first full so I’d like to repeat that ignorance and not know what’s coming for me when I decide to do another full.

My one thing was with 2 water stations. One of them in the first half was a bit spread out for me. I’d wanted to take a gel at 7k but then had to wait until 9k to take it. Not huge and if I’d paid attention to the map better I could have planned for this, but 6-8k is a common area for people to take a gel I believe so seemed odd, they were giving them out a 9k though so maybe I’m wrong? Anyways all others were well placed. I didn’t have any water with me (and I usually do) and never found any too far expect that one and only because of my gel not because I wanted water. And then I found it weird they had the last water station within the last kilometer. Seemed a bit unnecessary and should have been placed a bit farther from the finish. At that point there’s so much adrenaline no one cares about water (though for some reason I stopped anyways), and we’re about to be handed a full bottle anyways.

Other than that, perfection.

My finish time was much slower than I expected it to be, but I didn’t even care, I was having too much fun enjoying the whole experience and crows to be concerned that I’d missed every single one of my time goals. And now, I am official, a marathoner. That is an identity I can take with me for life.

image

Beamsville Bench 5k

I don’t like 5ks, I don’t like 5k training runs, I don’t like 5k races.

So obviously I signed up for a 5k race.

In July.

With a 10:30am start time.

Clearly this was going to go well.

The Beamsville Bench 5k is part of the Niagara Running Series, and the only reason I signed up. However after doing 3 10k races this season I had a new appreciation for 5ks. I am a distance runner and this has been confirmed by the fact that I do not do as well in 10ks as I should be, based on my half times. I just don’t like the whole laboured breathing aspect of the 5 and 10k. I realise the irony in this as a swimmer but let’s move on. Having done all these 10ks, the 5k was sounding more appealing, the torture of laboured breathing would be over much shorter. So I was feeling a bit better about facing this 5k. In the days before I was mentally preparing myself for torture, telling myself just to completely suffer the entire time. I was keen to find out what my 5k time could be if I just went for it. A few weeks previously I’d run a 27:34 5k during a training run. I wanted to beat this.

I was worried about the heat, and the website describe this as a ‘tough course’ but provided no map or elevation graph so I didn’t know what to expect.

The race took place at a winery and like the rest of the series kit pick up took place right before the race. So at 9am me and a couple friends I dragged along to join me headed out for the short drive in to Beamsville. We parked within the vineyard in a very organised system, they had marshals directing cars on exactly where to park in order to maximise parking. It took some time but was worth it as it was very easy to get out. After we were parked we made the short walk over to the start and I got my kit. Nothing eventful, aside from a different coloured shirt (burgundy this time) it was identical to the one from the Peach Bud.

With time to kill we wandered around the little shop from the winery and looked out at the view of the vineyard it over looked.

image

With 15 minutes to race time I left my friends and headed over to the start line for a warm up jog.

The start line was on a steady steep hill. A hill we were going to have to go up. Twice. Due to the double loop course. The sun was already blazing hot. I was in trouble.

Despite this I tried to keep my optimism, less than 30 minutes of suffering. That was all I had to do. The race started and I was actually doing well with this. I ended up running my fastest mile ever according to my garmin. But then things went downhill… as I went uphill. Leading up to the hill was a stretch of direct sunlight. I’ve mentioned before I’m sensitive to the sun, I had a hat and sunglasses on but they only do me so well. So I’m feeling bad from the sun, and then I get to the uphill. I’m trying really hard to get myself to keep running, even if it’s slow. But I had to stop and walk or I would have been sick. I walk the uphill then start running again as I cross the start line where the cheer section is. I pass my smiling waving friends and I try to smile back but I’m miserable and feel awful.

image

I end up walking a lot of the second lap, I’m pulling out as many positive thoughts as I can but it’s not doing me much good. There’s a downhill shaded section of the course that feels amazing, and just after there’s the water station. But after that it’s all sun until the hill for the last km. I’m prepping myself to just power through 5-6 minutes and I’ll be done.A man who lives on the street has set up a sprinkler to spray us and has water out. This man is the greatest man. But the hilly course and the sun are doing quite the number on me, I’m less than 500m from the end and I’m walking. I feel better about this though because everyone around me is walking too.  Misery loves company so this gives me just enough strength to finally power up and finish as strong as a possibly could in that moment. Crossing the finish line after just a minute of running I was seriously ready to be sick or pass out. I wasn’t sure which so I just headed for shade immediately and then went in to the building and headed for the bathroom to splash some water on my face. Not even caring about my friends, figuring I’d find them later.

image

The Beamsville Bench 5k is awful. There’s only a very small section of flat (where the sun is shining bright) the rest is all rolling hills plus the climb up to the finish. The late start time at the end of July just makes this even worse. It is the perfect setting if you want to torture yourself to the point of near puking and/or passing out.

The redeeming quality? The post race festivities. What’s a race at a winery without a free glass of wine? Bonus, my friends who came with me also got a free glass of wine and did not have to pay the $5 admission for this wine and – wait for it – food truck fest! The age group winners also received a bottle of wine (I so did not win my age group, I came 6) There was also free food for the runners, the standard Niagara running series food, pizza from Boston Pizza, some granola bars and a banana. We sat in some shade in the grass while I ate and we waited for the food truck fest to open.

image

About quarter to 12 they announced the fest opened. We were given our free souvenir plastic wine glass, our fest bracelet and then got in line for our wine (I got red). We then explored the food truck offerings. They had quite a few trucks there, I can’t remember exactly how many but probably around 10. As I had already eaten I only had 1 truck in my sights. Ice cream. While I was feeling much better and pretty well recovered from the race, I was definitely feeling ice cream. It was create your own ice cream sandwich and it alone was worth the horrible 30 minutes and 47 seconds it took my to run (and walk) 5k. This is actually technically a PR for me as it is my fastest timed 5k as it’s been nearly a year since I did one and my last was part of a 13k event (and I also felt awful during that one). But 3 minutes off what I had completed and where I was expecting the race to go.

image

We all got our desired food and then sat under a large tent they’d set up with chairs for people to sit and escape the sun. They also had water cooler out for everyone to get some water which was possibly the nicest touch for the whole event. When do you ever go to an event that has free water for people?

Other good things? They had timers at all the km markers on the route with the race time, it was nice having that without have to check your watch. And the course was actually really great, if it wasn’t so hot I would have enjoyed it as I do love my hilly road runs.

The Peach Bud has a start mat for chip time so i was sad to see they did not have one for this race so results are based on gun time which is unfortunate because people were every slow to get moving so it took some time to get to start line even though I was pretty close to the front.

I would not recommend this race, unless you super love torturous 5ks. The late start time in late July heat just make this race too awful to consider. If it had a more appropriate start time I’d reconsider, but 10:30 is just ridiculous and I do not understand why they didn’t start it early. Anything later than 9 for a summer race is not worth it. Skip the race and just save your money for the wine and food truck admission and awesome food there.

But hey, least I got some extra points for my series championship total and had a great time hanging with some friends at the festival after.

Peach Bud 10k

Last race of the season complete!

A big motivation for me signing up for this was when I couldn’t perform as well as I’d hoped at the MEC Race 2 10k back in May. I needed a do over.

This local race is part of the Niagara Running Series, I ran one other of the races this year, the Grimsby 10k where due to the small number of participants (it was February and -30C that day) I was able to easily place in my age group. This race I knew would be harder to place but I’ve improved so much in the last month I was up for the challenge.

This race was held on Tuesday night (night before Canada Day) with the 10k starting at 7:30. Worked well for me as it gave me plenty of time to get there after work. What did not give me plenty of time was same-day race kit pick up, you had from 5pm-7pm to get your kit. I left work at 6pm which is about 30 minutes away without traffic. Schools out now so traffic wasn’t bad. But every time is slowed I started freaking out. I ended getting there at 6:35 so I really didn’t need to worry, but still it was a stressful situation. I big improvement for this race would be to offer kit pick-up somewhere the day before.

By the time I had arrived the kids 1k was underway so access to the parking lot was blocked and I had to park on a nearby side street, not too far away. I jogged over to the arena the kit pick-up was in because I was still in high anxiety mode. Got my bib, my t-shirt and my kit. Which was actually just a bag of fliers…

Quick stopped at the bathroom (yay short line!) and I went back to my car to drop the bag off and get my ipod since I forgot it on the way in.

And then it was waiting game. I mostly just wandered around inside and outside. The 5k started at 7:00 so we started seeing them come in before the 10k which was nice. 10 minutes to start and I did a light warm-up jog again to get warm since it was a bit cool out, perfect temperature for a race though! This is when I know I might have a problem, my legs were feeling heavy and not up for speed. I didn’t let that bother me then and just shook them out trying to get loose.

At 7:30 we’re off. There was a last minute change to the course and instead of the usual loop we were to do 2 loops of the 5k course. I was worried about this, I didn’t know how the loop would affect my head, it didn’t bother me during MEC Race 3 so I was hopeful but still concerned.

The race actually went really really well for me. My legs stuck in their stubborn way to not move as fast as they could, so my speed wasn’t where it could have been. But I pushed myself the entire time, I remained positive, any doubts in myself I was able to quickly brush away. I hadn’t had a race go so well mentally all season. And I finally ran a race where every single split was below 6:00 min/km! My slowest km was at 8k with a pace of 5:58 but that was during a hilly section and Strava actually put my GAP at 5:41 for that and aside from it every other km was actually below 5:48!

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 2.13.06 PM

I’m really proud of that last km, my lungs were not having a good time by this point as I’d been solidly pushing myself though 9km which included 2, 2k sections of rolling hills. I didn’t even slow down for the water stations aside from the amount necessary to get water into my mouth, and I still just mostly got the water all over me. I really tried to put everything I had into that last 1-2km and I think I succeeded pretty well, my final sprint was far slower than it has been in recent races (peaked at 4:35, about 30s slower than other sprints) which means I didn’t have too much left in the tank by the end, and my lungs were definitely feeling the burn.

Official chip time: 56:59

Squeezing in to nab that sub 57! So glad I picked it up even more when I saw the gun time clock cross 57 minutes. I was pretty close to the start line at gun time so I thought I’d missed the sub 57 so I was pleasantly surprised when I checked my time to see 56.

On another day my time would have been a lot faster (figured I’d be able to do a sub 56 and possibly push for a sub 55), but my legs were just not up for speed that day. I still pushed them through to a PB by over a minute and a half so I think that says a lot more than if I my legs were feeling fast. I couldn’t get them to move as fast as they’re capable of, but I didn’t let that stop me and still managed a significant PR. If I can manage a performance like this on a sluggish day, imagine what I can do when the cards line up perfectly on race day?

Post race was alright. Nuun was there! Loved that! Food was pizza from Boston Pizza, banana and a granola bar, not the best but hey, pizza!

I didn’t stay for the award ceremony since it didn’t start until 9 and I’d already confirmed I had not placed. So I made an uncomfortable walk back to my car as I’d apparently developed a blister on my foot (stupid shoes!!!). And then grabbed my phone so I could show off my adorable medal!

image

Peach Bud Review

Overall the race experience was well put together, great aid stations, there was 5 for the 10k, 1 with Gatorade, as well as a fire hose to run through and a sponge station. It was a cool night so these weren’t necessary (though I did run through the hose on my second lap just for kicks), but could have been a life savour on another night. T-shirt is pretty nice, by the same company that made the Mississauga shirts actually, but this is a much smoother fabric and I may actually wear this one. The women’s shirt is blue with nice capped sleeves and features my favourite little peach buddy!

image

The series could do with some better communication with the runners, they don’t send out any emails before the race and the website is not well maintained, they had the old 10k course map up until just a few days before so I’m sure most people did not know of the course change until they got there. But once you’re there everything is well done and they added chip time results which is great! The last race I did with them was gun time only so having the start line mat was great since it was a much bigger crowd at this race.

MEC Burlington Race 3 Recap & Review

Flashback to one year ago, Race 3, my first race ever when I did the 5k. I said then I’d be back next year to do the 15. And so I stuck to that promise.

Now that I’ve completed each of the MEC Burlington Race courses I can honestly say the course for Race 3 is my favourite of the series and one of my favourite course all round. Using LaSalle Park in Burlington as the start and end point, this course hits all the Northshore hills, and if you’re doing the 15, hits the big ones twice.

I had a less than ideal race morning. I’d forgotten to reset my alarm and slept in. Luckily a well timed notification set my phone off and woke me up within time. Still a bit stressed and rushing to leave I headed for the race and made a pit stop at a Tim Hortons near the park to use the bathroom. Opting to stop there instead of getting in line at the LaSalle Park bathrooms. As I’m ready to turn on to Northshore I see a line of cars waiting to get in to the park, the parking lot looks pretty filled up and I quickly learn one of the staff members is directly cars to turn around and park at a nearby school or marina. Luckily I knew this area well by now after Around the Bay training and knew where to find the school he mentioned, not too far from the park at all, probably under 800m, so not bad.

I was bummed though I wouldn’t have my car near the start, as that’s a handy thing but knew it was my fault for not getting there earlier.

I completely forgot to pick up my race Bib the night before so after parking my car and jogging back to the start I got my Bib and lined up for my chip timer. I made good timing there, soon after the line for the chips exploded. Soon Ryan is announcing that due to the unexpected amount of runners (100 more or so than any race they’ve held before) things were taking longer and they were going to delay the start 15 minutes to make sure everyone was ready.

I thought this was super nice but I was getting worried, it was getting warm and only going to get warmer. And the sun was already beating down on us and I remembered during my rush to get there I forgot my sunscreen. Also I was getting a bit thirsty.

Just after 9 the 15k runners are called to line up on the road at the start line(the 10k and 5k started 15 minutes after us). There Ryan gives us the route instructions and wants to make them very clear so we stay on route as there were some mishaps at race 1 and 2. For the 15k we run the 5k loop, then keep going to complete the 10k loop. This process required us to make a turn on the first go, and to keep going on the second.

18801196868_a0ff97f1b7_o
I’m right in front of the stop sign, white hat, red shirt, purple shorts!

9:15 and we’re off. We head south/west down Northshore which means we’re doing the bowl first. For a beginner runner who doesn’t know the course, this will kill you, trust me I know it was me last year. I’d never even run downhill at that point. It was strange and then going uphill immediately after, my poor past self didn’t know what was happening. This year I knew it was coming, I was prepared and have run these hills countless times. I was good. 1k in we hit the first water station. This course is filled with water stations and it turned out to be the greatest thing ever… But we’ll get to that. 1k may seem like odd placement for a water station but remember the 15k passes by this twice so it’s also the 6k water station and very necessary. I grabbed a cup here to take a sip since I was already thirsty and kept going. The next few km I’m doing good, there’s another hill around 2k, all good. At 3k another water station, take a little sip. Still good. As were heading downhill back to Northshore things begin their turn for the worse for me.

I start wishing I’d taken more than a sip at that last station. Also while a pretty shady course, and I have a hat, the sun is starting to get to me. I kept telling myself just make it through the LaSalle hills then the water station is right there.

Well I made it up those 2 hills, but I was really feeling it then. I could feel a headache starting to come on. This is not what you want 5k in to a 15k. I knew I needed to stop or I would develop a migraine. I tried to make it until I had the water station in my sights but I didn’t. I started walking, I walked for awhile. Saw the water station then jogged to it then hung there drinking water for a moment. Back to the race. I start to jog, but I’m not feeling good, the migraine is still threatening to come in and I seriously contemplate turning around and calling it quits. So I start walking again. And I don’t start running again until I feel a bit better and have decided I’m crossing that finish line even if I’m delirious.

The next 9k I spent taking it easy to avoid a headache and counted down how much longer until the next water station. Thankfully there were 6 total on course, every 2-3km. Best ever. If it weren’t for the amount of water and the fairly shaded route this race would have definitely gone even worse for me. One of my friends was also volunteering at the race so it was great seeing her on the course since the rest of our friends couldn’t make it out for this one.

Finally back on Northshore and the final water station, the man at this one was my favourite as he started walking towards me with water stretched out and told me to feel free to have another as I slowed to a walk. This was my plan anyways but it was just such a pleasant moment during an awful race. Sweetest man.

Last station meant 2k left of solid hills. Don’t mind the hill’s though! The course ends with the slow climb back to LaSalle which I’ve now fully learned is a very hard thing to try to sprint up even when you’re ready to just gun it to the finish to get this misery over with.

18992054801_80abac6576_o
On the left there, climb climb climbing. This is the first climb up the hill to LaSalle park when I’m still all nice and optimistic about this race.

This race they added an extra mat near the finish and were announcing the runners as they came through which was a great addition to see added. I got a little extra shout out from Ryan as I came through being a regular of the MEC meet ups and my twitter habits promoting them, made me smile.

While an almost complete disaster for me I still love the race it’s really an amazing course loaded with water stations!

And as always for this year we got not only a banana but also Nuun and Cliff Bars. ‘There’s Nuun at the finish’ was a mantra for me during the race.

In the end I finished just under 1:35, on a better day I wouldn’t have had a problem coming in under 1:30 but that was not the case, and my time is still pretty damn decent considering the amount I walked and how slow I took the last 10k.

Overall the race was the smoothest of the 3 this year, just the minor hiccup with the chip pick up due to the massive influx in runners. The water stations were fabulous they also had buckets with sponges for people to cool off to help eliminate the cup waste. Great idea! And I loved that they added the extra mat to announce runners as they came though. Given the small size of the race and that it attracts so many speedsters, the announcing really help keep things going for the back of the packers.

MEC Burlington Race 2 10k Recap

I like the MEC Races, they’re bare bones kind of races, the whole event is really just about why we’re there, there’s no t-shirt, race kit or medal when you’re done, there’s just a bib, your chip and a banana. A group of a few hundred runners out there doing what they love to do. Very fast. It can be intimidating but also inspiring.

MEC Burlington Race 2 was the first of their road races of the season and my 4th MEC race so far. MEC Race 1 this year had some congestion in the morning at bib pick-up and they apologised and said they would work on correcting the issue but also asked runners to pick-up their bibs at the store the day or two before to help. Since the store is pretty much on my route home, I stopped in Friday night to get my bib.

Friday was not a good day for my legs and I was a bit worried for Saturday. I’m still coming out of recovery from my Half and while I don’t feel sore from it, I can tell on my runs my legs are still getting tired faster than they should. Add that with the bit of yoga and strength training I added back in this week, as well as a hilly run on Thursday. My legs were not at their best, my calf was really tight as well. I also haven’t been sleeping so great lately, reduced milage is really having an effect on me in that sense. So all things combined, not the best race situation. But I was still ready to go.

race gear
Gear on set out. 3 shirts there, I hadn’t decided what I wanted to wear. Also I laid out shorts but ended up wearing capris when I checked the temp in the morning and saw it was going to be bit cooler.

Saturday I woke up had some breakfast and headed to Confederation Park where the race was. I picked-up my shoe chip timer and got it on and waited for some friends to arrive, all people I’ve met through the MEC Meet-up Runs. At 9 we watched the Half Marathoners take off, a couple people from the group were using it as a training run. At 9:10 we were up, we started with the 5k group as well so when the gun went off it was a bit crazy try to make sure you didn’t run over a little kid.

pre-race photo
Pre race photo-op! Bit chilly in the morning so had a sweater on. Great thing about small races is your parked right at the start.

The race started in the parking lot and we did a little bit of a loop in there before heading out to the road, where we took it all the way down past the campsite and then got on the waterfront trail. From there we stayed on the trail at 4k the 5k split off to had back to the lot so it was just the 10k group left on the path. The half marathoners were spending extra time near the park so they were all behind us. I was feeling pretty good for most the run. The temperature was great, that had been a concern as the humidity was going to kick in at some point that day. But the breeze coming from the lake kept everything fresh and cool. I’d brought my water with me anyways just in case. I knew from past race experiences that when I start to suffer in any way, water is what I want most and I wanted to PR this race. I did end up taking a couple sips from it but I didn’t actually need it, the water stations were well placed. On a hotter day though I would have wanted more water.

So I was feeling pretty good, my calf wasn’t an issue for the run since the course was flat, I checked my pace a few times to make sure I was where I needed to be. My initial strategy was to start off slow, get in to my pace in the second km, and then pick it up towards the end. It sort of worked. My first km was 5:41, bit fast for me bit slightly slower than what I needed on average and I held back which is the most important thing. My next few km were in the 5:30’s right where I wanted to be. I would check my pace, make sure I was where I needed to be but still with the feeling that I could push faster to be sure I was holding back. This went well for the first 5k, I did the first 5k in 28:15, right on pace for a 56 minute 10k though I did not know it at the time as I did not check total time at all on my run. And then things got hard, as I’m approaching 6k all I could think about was the turn around, I knew from the 5k turn around point we’d be turning at 6.5 k, so I knew it wasn’t terribly close. But still, I was starting to suffer. I wanted that turn around, my plan was to pick it up after the turn around and finish strong. So allowed myself to slip just slightly in my pace into the 5:40’s so I could gather the energy to finish strong. Turn around point finally in my sights. I tried to force my mind full of positive energy to finish strong. But I’ve turned around and my legs are feeling heavy. I try to pick it up a bit but I can’t get my legs to move I see my pace slip into the 6’s but I think, it’s okay. I’ve had a strong race so far I can pick it up again close to the end. I thought in the last 2k I’ll pick it up, well km 9 ended up being my slowest one during the race at 6:09 but I did manage to pick it up a bit on the last km. but no very much. Like all races when you’re tired, the last km felt very long. We’d headed off the water front path for this and were on the road, I kept thinking the turn into the parking lot wasn’t much farther… but it felt so far. When I finally saw the runners ahead of me make a turn I was so relieved and only then was I able to find the energy and power in my legs to pick it up. As I’m within 25-50m from the finish I can see the clock. 58 minutes. I was gutted, I though how much better and faster I ran this race than my last 10k, even with the slow down near the end, I’d had that too in my last 10k but so much worse. I couldn’t understand how I didn’t manage to beat 58 minutes. But I took that all made a strong sprint across the finish.

After the race I hung with a couple friends who finished before me, got my banana and they also had cliff bar samples and Nuun as well. Major score. I thought about waiting for our other friends doing the half to finish but I was feeling chilly now that the race was over in my tank top with the wind still coming off the lake so I headed home.

Post-race photo
Only couple minutes after I finished. Post-race fuel in hand.

While disappointed in my time, I still ran a great race and got to hang with some friends, well worth the $15!

 

Garmin discrepancies – not sure what to make of this. After feeling so confused with my time on this 10k since I ran is so much better than my last. I check my Garmin. My last 10k my Garmin only recored 9.75KM. That’s a BIG difference for being only 10. Even for half marathons my watch is usually only off by 100m, and generally longer rather than shorter. At the time, and even more so now; this makes me wonder if the course was actually short on that race. It was a small race as well. According to my Garmin I did this 10k with a 5:48 average pace (10.11km) and my last at a 5:59 average pace (9.75km). My gut says the course was short on the first, I mapped it on gmap and only got 9.64. On the website the half and 3k course for that race have their certification numbers but there’s nothing for the 10k course. So I’m putting this down at a win anyways, even though I feel I should have been able to do it faster, it just wasn’t going to happen yesterday, legs were not up for it.

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.