Race report: Mississauga Half Marathon

Race Date: May 4, 2014

One thing I’ve learned since I started running and participating in races is that there is a lesson learned in every race. Something I learn and take forward into future training cycles and races. This one, was no exception.

I signed up for this race because:

  1. Mike was running the full marathon and I’d be there anyway so I might as well run it
  2. To have a goal to carry me from Around the Bay to the beginning of marathon training
  3. I knew I’d be tired after Around the Bay and didn’t want to train too hard and I had heard it was a nice, downhill course so I figured it would be easy.

After training all winter for the Around the Bay 30k race, and with the Mississauga Half Marathon a mere five weeks later, I was able to ride my ATB training and maintain the long run distances I had been doing for a little longer to prepare for this race. Unfortunately, about a week before the race I developed a cough that was affecting my lung capacity and had to dial back the runs because I was having difficulty breathing. The day before the race I went out for a short 3k run to see how I felt. For a few hours afterwards, I was coughing like crazy. It wasn’t looking good.

Mississauga Marathon is a full weekend of events from a 2k kids run all the way up to the full marathon. The half and full both started together and had a combined total of about 3,000 runners. It was a nice, small event.

The morning of the race we headed out before the sun came up. It was an early 7:30am start and we needed to get to the start, find parking and check our bags before 7:00. We met up with Stacey and Julie, got ourselves organized with last minute preparations and headed into the start corral. It was nice to be in the corral this time with Mike as well as the ladies. Pictures1Just before the gun went off, the city’s mayor, 93 year old (Hurricane) Hazel McCallion said a few words wishing everyone luck and thanking them for participating and stayed to see us off.

After the gun went off, the four of us walked up to the start line together and it wasn’t more than a minute or two before we were each running our races and I was on my own. This was the first time in months that I had my iPod with me. I had broken my music habit and haven’t run with it at all since late last summer but I knew I’d be running this race alone and brought it along for company. It was a crisp spring morning with a fairly strong wind but the sun was nice and bright. At my first walk break I shed my top layer and tossed it to the side of the road and continued in my short sleeves and capris.

The first 6k took us west along Burnhamthorpe Rd W. A wide mostly flat/downhill road that was wide open. I was feeling much better than I thought I would and definitely better than I had all week. I was keeping a pace of between 6:30 – 6:50 min/k which was within my normal pace range for this distance.

The next 10k took us south down beautiful Mississauga Rd. with a short detour through the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus and then back onto Mississauga Rd. This is a beautiful tree lined residential neighbourhood filled with gorgeous homes that most of us can only dream of owning. There was a timing mat at 8k which was at the top of a small hill and as I passed I took a quick check of my Garmin and saw my time was 56:05. I took a mental note of the time and planned to check it again at 16k. Continuing along the wonderful downhill road, I ran through the intersection at Dundas St. and looked up and to the right as I passed my old hills training hill and was happy not to be running up it today. But a few minutes later that feeling slowly dissipated as I approached a hill equal in size. Of course. I’d been going downhill for so long, it was obvious that I’d have to go up again at some point. Why did I not know about this hill? I usually spend hours scouring race routes months in advance. But I hadn’t done more than take a quick glance at this one and unfortunately, I was not mentally prepared for it. I ran it pretty well, walking only the last quarter or so of it. Other than that hill, the rest of this section was lovely. No, I should really say the whole section was lovely. The hilly section included. It really is a beautiful part of the city. My pace through this section was holding at 6:40 – 6:55 min/k.

10291320_786382921379347_4529005889574923954_nAt around 16k the course moves off the street and onto the Waterfront Trail. I took a look at my Garmin and I was at 1:52:23. I had run the second 8k in the same time as the first. I was doing well. It was on this section of the course that the wind picked up and the bugs came out. They were everywhere! Everyone was batting them out of their faces and I’m sure I swallowed more than a few. I looked down and my red shirt was covered in black dots. Things started to fall apart slightly with about 3k to go. Physically I felt fine. My cough had held off for the most part, my legs were fine and I was breathing well. But, running on the trail, through the parks, is not my thing. Add in having to fight the strong wind and those bugs, and, well, I just lost focus. I took a few extra walk breaks and the finish felt like it would never come. My pace for the last section of the race dropped to 7:02 – 7:31 min/k.

My iPod had been a welcome distraction for the last 5km or so, but I took the earbuds out and tucked them into my top as I headed into the final stretch which took me around an inlet of water and up a slight incline and then turned into the finish chute where I was hit by a strong headwind that blew my hat right off with 30m to go! Knowing that I hadn’t broken any records, and the fact that it was my favourite hat, I decided to stop and pick it up. My hat firmly back on my head, I headed to the finish line where I saw Mayor McCallion standing cheering as I crossed the line.

This was one of the best organized races I have ever run. From the amazing race kit, to the free parking, free shuttle buses for participants and spectators before and after the race, and free bag check, to the exceptionally organized water/Gatorade stations every 2k along the course, to the many, many volunteers at every intersection on the course and at the start and finish areas, to the obvious support of the residents of Mississauga and Mayor McCallion who was at the start and finish lines. The race organizers and the city just made it so easy for everyone to enjoy the day. I will definitely run this race again.

What I learned from this race:

  1. Race for the right reasons
  2. Know the course – all of it
  3. You can never be too prepared for a race, but it’s easy to be under prepared
  4. Even an “easy” course can be hard if you’re not ready for it

 

Official time:      2:31:49.5

photo (6)

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