Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mississauga Half Marathon - May 5th, 2013

This will be so full of nitpicky detail and such endless minutiae you'll start to wonder if it's a race report or a government tax practices manual. Yes, moreso than usual. Consider yourself warned.

I pass by this 30' tall sign every Thursday - talk about motivation!

Pre-race: Being Boring with Science

I had already blogged about the incredibly aggressive taper I employed for this race, including the final speed session on Thursday (3 days out) that kicked off the carbo-loading. I tried to stick mostly with low-amylose (high amylopectin) starches like glutinous rice rather than sugary or fibrous carbohydrate sources - I get jittery and feel really gross if I have too much sugar. In order to try to consume 7g of CHO per kilogram of (higher than I'd hoped) bodyweight, I ate very little fat or protein, but continued eating fruit and vegetables in fairly large quantities as I'm accustomed to a pretty high-fibre diet. Pre-race dinner was my standard: a small plate of turkey fried (jasmine) rice with broccoli, fresh sweet peas and green onion, eaten approximately 11 hours before starting time.

Physical activity was kept to a bare minimum after the track workout - I went for a short (1.3km) walk with Tanker on Friday evening, then did a 20min run with a couple of strides and a small hill on Saturday morning, finishing about 23 hours before the race start. We did walk around at the farmers' market after the run on Saturday and I did spend more time on my feet in general than I had meant to (errands, cooking, packing up my race bag), but come afternoon I was on my butt in the La-Z-Boy with my feet up and a movie to watch. Went to bed early - asleep by 10pm.

Occasional flashes of my own ridiculousness. All this just in pursuit of what amounts to a very ho-hum goal of breaking 2 hours for a half marathon. My overzealous attack on athletic mediocrity potentially wasted a beautiful day of riding bikes in favour of troglodytic DVD watching. Meh..

Oh yeah, the basis for my goal? McMillan's running calculator estimated I was capable of a 1:56:22 half marathon when I fed it my time for the Mudpuppy Chase 10k...from almost precisely one year previous to race day.

Sun's out - guns out.

Race Morning: Decisions, decisions.

Up at 04:45, slam 2 Vanilla PC Ultra Shakes, sort out the Braids of Justice and try to crowbar Tanker out of bed. With my darling husband finally upright, we hit up Tim Hortons for a cafe mocha and I attempted to engage my brain sufficiently to make the decisions I left until the last minute:

1) Eschew original plan of drinking the on-course Gatorade. I tried a couple of runs fueled by store-bought Gatorade in the week before the race and I just can't handle that stuff - it's too sweet/acidic, makes me feel thirstier than drinking nothing at all, and doesn't sit well in my stomach. I had made the trek up to Runner's Choice in Waterloo on Saturday to pick up a chocolate raspberry Gu Roctane, as my favoured EFS Liquid Shot doesn't come in single-serve packets and I've raced happily on Roctane in the past.

2) Go with the single pack of Gu Roctane instead of espresso Hammer gel. I'd done a lot of training runs on Hammer gel throughout the preparation for this race, but didn't feel I could trust it at the higher intensity I'd be working while on course, especially as it was shaping up to be a warm day.

3) Reassure myself I'd be fine with just one gel. I'd done a hard 18km training run on water only, and hadn't taken in more than 2 servings of gel (180cal) on any of my long runs, which peaked at over 22km/2.25+hrs. If I got into trouble, the aid stations would only be 2km apart, so I could try a sip or two of Gatorade. Really, I was going to rely on the research that suggests carbohydrate sensors in the mouth can lead to improved performance even when calories are not actually ingested and my extensive pre-race carbo loading to get me through.

4) Go as minimal as possible. No hand bottle, no compression calf sleeves, no heart rate monitor, none of the typical tri-dorkery; just me against the road. I'd have to rely on water from the aid stations and my ability to get said water from the cups into my mouth. Ergh..

5) Wear the brand new pair of running shorts I bought at Runner's Choice when picking up the gel. This could have been disastrous as I hadn't had a chance to do any running in them at all - let alone a long run - to see whether they'd suddenly start to chafe, ride up, or possibly spontaneously turn into a pigeon and flap away, leaving me naked, confused, and demanding a refund. They fit so well when I tried them on, though, that I was pretty confident I was onto a winner - they also provided more muscle support than the shorts I'd originally intended to use, which have a tendency to chafe a bit on my lower back.

6) Race in the freakin' awesome NBx Prism Tank that my sweetheart bought me last year. It makes me feel fast just wearing it.

7) Stick with the Brooks Launch trainers I've used for all of my (non-trail) long runs during the build. I considered racing in flats, but frankly haven't really got anything I'd trust at the moment - I've never run more than 10km in my K-Swiss K-ruuz, my Brooks Green Silence have about 1,000km on them, my Zoot Ultra Speeds aren't recommended for more than 10k, and I haven't run in my Zoot Ultra Race 2.0s since last summer. Besides, I was trying not to be a total dork (for once), and knew I'd probably need the extra cushion before the race was done.

With my potentially ruinous risk-taking in place, I left calf sleeves, an espresso Hammer gel, and a whole second tried-and-proven race outfit in my race bag in the car. Hell, if I failed to break two hours, I could just blame the poor decisions...right?

We hit another Tim Hortons as we got into town so I could befoul their washroom, but after parking in the lot of the bank I go to for work every Thursday (about a block away from the starting line) and taking some time to get ready the water I'd been sipping started to build some pressure. We'd seen a huge row of portajohns just off Hurontario St. on our way in, so after pinning on my bib I grabbed my BodyGlide and water bottle and headed off to get down to final race weight. There was hardly even a lineup - practically unheard of at 30mins to gun time. I adjusted fluid levels, greased up my armpits/side boob and damn near everything the new shorts touched - from my nethers all the way up to my lower back and belly button - then finally headed out for a warmup.

I knew I'd need to pay a little more than lipservice to the pre-race shake-out run - the plan was to find the 2-hour pace bunny and just try to hang on, which would require me to run at a 5:41 per kilometer pace (about 9:09 per mile) from the get-go. That wasn't happening on less than a 2km warmup; my chubby butt has a lot of inertia to overcome. At 7:07am I set off at an easy trot, turned around at 6mins, then put in a couple of small accelerations while feeling fat, slow and very warm - the sun was already starting to raise the 10c/50f morning toward the afternoon high of 24c/75f. It was supposed to reach 15c/59f by 9am, which gave me all the more incentive to get this race over with as quickly as possible; I have far too much surface area to run well in heat, especially when our pathetic excuse for a spring has given me virtually zero chance to acclimatize. Oh, and I'd forgotten sunblock. I am a dummypants.

Thirteen and a half minutes was all I could really afford for the warmup, but it would have to do. I was hoping like hell I'd avoid my experience at the Waterloo Marathon in 2011: I warmed up similarly (though on a chillier morning), but running down the first mild descent around 1.5km in both of my legs suddenly felt as though someone had inserted glass rods in my quads and then shattered them. I've never felt the same thing before or since, but it's always at the back of my mind when starting a road race.

With 10mins left until go-time, I discovered I needed one more...go time. Fortunately there was still no line for the portajohns (!), so I was able to adjust my hydration level one final time before heading for the starting corral. Through the whole morning Tanker had been wonderfully supportive while I was completely freaking out and trying to reassure myself I had a hope in hell of pulling this off - I gave him a last kiss, then one more for luck, and he told me he believed in me. I don't know what I'd do without that man.

Into the big chute to try to track down my new best friend - the 2:00 pace bunny. I'd seen the sign go past, heading forward in the crowd, but couldn't see what the person holding it actually looked like. I made my way up through the throngs of runners, dodging swinging elbows and legs as best I could, but got stopped by a solid wall of humanity a good 50 feet back from the pace bunny. I hoped I'd be able to catch the person fairly quickly, because I really have zero pacing awareness and wanted to take advantage of the chance to run a bit mindless. I also decided I'd start my watch when I crossed the start line timing mat and keep track of my 5k splits, just so I'd be able to see how badly I fell apart later on. Sportstats was offering live tracking so I knew I'd get a couple of splits (which would post automatically to my Facebook profile, because I can't completely un-dork), but...well...DATA!

I'm the one in the black.

Start to 5k: Cruise (no) control.

Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion gave the final countdown, and we were off! Which is a really impressive way to say "first nothing moved, then we started to walk slowly toward the starting arch". It wasn't until I was less than 20' away from the actual timing mat at the start line that things opened up enough to finally break into a run - I started the stopwatch, then switched back to the time display and saw I was probably about 3 minutes behind gun time. I was also somewhere around a minute behind the 2-hour pace bunny, which was not part of the plan. I was also thirsty already, which wasn't a great sign.

The first kilometer passed quite quickly, and I was feeling pretty good as we turned onto Burnhamthorpe - I was running at an effort level that was higher than a casual trot, but that still felt easy. I was passing a lot of people, but not really making any effort to do so, while still keeping my eyes open for my target; the pace bunny had to be up there somewhere. Fortunately my day was going better than one fellow I saw - he looked very lean and fit, the usual speed machine type, but was stopping to wait for a portajohn on the side of the road to open up. When nutrition goes wrong, it really does suck!

The first aid station came up just after the 2k mark, so I made my way over to the left side to grab a cup of water. It seems rather early in the race, but the rising heat would punish me if I didn't get on hydration from the start, especially since I'd probably get a maximum of about 125mL/4oz of water every two kilometers - at goal race pace that would mean just over 11 minutes between drinks. What I hadn't counted on, though, was the volunteers being completely overwhelmed and having to stop and wait a few seconds in order to get a cup of water!

Knowing I was losing time I probably couldn't afford, I set off at a run immediately after receiving my beverage, then tried to pinch the cup and get the water into me. Middling success ensued; I did get a couple of decent sips, and then almost immediately developed a side stitch. Crapspackle! I was already concerned I wasn't running fast enough to make goal time, and now this.

Nothing else for it - I viciously ignored the discomfort and pressed onward, trying not to think about how ugly it might get once I started trying to take in gel if plain water was giving me this much grief. I passed right on by the aid station at 4k; the stitch was finally coming under control, and I didn't really want to stop again. I bounced along with the sun at my back, trying to calm my mind and simply enjoy the day - I even managed to spot the 2-hour pace bunny and started to make up some ground on her.

The 5k mark of the course coincides with an bridge over the Credit River, and I took a moment while running across to gaze at the forested beauty of the river valley. I've spent more than 20 years of my life calling Mississauga home, but had never crossed this bridge on foot - it soars high above the water giving a lovely view downstream from the South (Eastbound) side, which was closed for the race. The price of the scenery, however, was a gradual climb up to Mississauga Road. I'd read that there were really only two hills on the course - one long and mild plus one shorter and sharper - but I've heard that before about other races and ended up thinking the writer would probably describe the Swiss Alps as "a series of mild rollers".

While my size isn't suited for it, I actually tend to pass the skinny people (at least those who run at a similar pace to me) when running uphill - I quite simply have a lot of strength in my legs, and as long as I can control my breathing I can power up slopes that leave the waifs flagging. Occasionally I have to remind myself of this, but it's a pretty sweet feeling when you can maintain almost the same pace and effort level up a climb as on the flat; essentially making the hill disappear. That's pretty much how this one worked out. There were some people playing bongos by the bridge, too, which was fun to see.

5k split: 27:45 averaging 5:33/km. 00:40 ahead of pace.

Interactive map available here.

5k to 10k: We rolling - nobody hating.

Making the turn onto Mississauga Road and passing the 6k mark, I knew we were hitting the downhill portion of the course - it loses 80m/250' of elevation between its start and finish points, which suits my gravitationally challenged arse perfectly. Unfortunately, the sun was now coming in from the left, making the day feel hotter immediately, and I had to stop again in order to get water from the 3rd aid station. I was right on the heels of the pace bunny when I got to the water table, and since she stopped as well I thought I could hang on, but the volunteers were overwhelmed once more and I was back on the chase. I did a little better getting the water into me, but wasn't hugely thirsty so I chucked the last third of what was in the cup down my back to cool me off. The side stitch came back again, but to a lesser extent, and was largely forgotten as I pursued my prey.

We turned into the University of Toronto campus and hit a long downhill slope as I caught back up to the pacer...then casually ran right by her at what felt like an easy pace. I reasoned that it probably wasn't worth slowing myself down to stay with her when I had a possibility of finishing a couple of minutes faster (per the McMillan calculator above), and if I really started to fade later and saw her come by I could always try to latch on again and have her pull me in to the finish. Knowing I'd started a minute behind her (by chip time) I also knew I had a bit of flexibility, so figured I'd just roll with it. There was a band playing at the University, so the energy level was high!

The kilometers seemed to be ticking past quite quickly - leaving the 7k mark behind we started to climb back out of the University ring road, and I'd heard this was the shorter, sharper of the two hills. The sun beating down on my sunblock-less shoulders had me huffing and puffing as I ascended and made me question my effort level at this early juncture, but I was able to recover fairly well at the top after crossing a timing mat at the 8k mark. Sportstats put my split at 44:34, a 5:34/km pace - now 00:54 ahead of schedule.

I'd figured that I'd start taking in some gel around the 45min mark, so just after passing the 4th aid station I pulled my pack of Gu Roctane out of the back pocket of my shorts and ripped it open, taking a small nibble to see how it would sit. Just my luck - the side stitch was back with a vengeance,  and my mouth felt dry and sticky. Damnit, if I had my hand bottle I could have prevented this - I used it happily for Around the Bay last year!

Approaching the 10k mark I was in familiar childhood territory - my Dad used to take me tobogganing at Mississauga Golf & Country Club in the winter, and we'd always stop at the spring on the side of the road for a drink of icy cold water from an underground lake that fed into the Credit River. I was sad to see that the spring has been blocked up, with its water now seemingly feeding a fountain in the yard of some rich person's mansion. I really, really wanted to go splash around in that fountain to cool off, but it was behind a fence and I had work to do. One of the huge houses had its stereo blasting - went from classical music to some pop song as I passed - and there were a few more spectators out to cheer on and laugh at the crazy people.

5-10k split: 27:47 averaging 5:33/km - 10k in 55:32 averaging 5:33/km. 01:18 ahead of pace.

Down, down, down we go.

10k to 15k: Check thyself ere thou wreckest thyself.

I came through the first 10k feeling good - it hadn't really got tough yet, other than that one bit of a hill coming out of the UofT campus. However, seeing my 10k split on my watch made me pause - up until the Mudpuppy Chase last year, my 10k PR had been 55:00 and I was running just a tiny bit slower than that pace with over 11km left to go. The last thing I needed was to blow myself up and end up having to walk, and I could afford to take things a little slower to try to help my gut digest the fluid and calories I was trying to process. There was also a hill right at the 10k mark that was enough to get my attention, but had awesome spectators doling out heapin' helpings of encouragement.

The aid stations were finally starting to function with some efficiency as the packs of runners thinned out a bit, so I was able to keep moving through the one just after 10k and use the water to help another blob of gel down. I hadn't wanted to chance another nibble without fluid because I didn't want my stomach to lock up on me - it's so hard to settle it down again without dropping all intensity. I was a bit burpy from swallowing air while trying to drink, but other than the bit of stitch my GI tract felt perfectly fine; I wanted it to stay that way.

Right around this time we turned East to run alongside the QEW, leaving the lovely shade of the trees behind as we passed the golf course. I pulled the brim of my hat down a bit so I could keep my head up without having the sun in my eyes, and just focused on trying to keep my stride smooth. I could tell when my form started to fall apart as my left hand would scrape the edge of my bib as it swung - I'd use it as a reminder to try to keep my hands a bit lower and focus on driving them straight forward and back, rather than crossing over my chest.

Another couple of kilometers, another aid station, and another attempt to drink from a cup without drowning - I just end up kind of chucking the water at my face, and some of it almost inevitably ends up in my nose. I also managed to give my gel pack a squish while trying to drink, so it barfed some of its contents all over the outside and on my hands. Mmm...sweaty, smelly AND sticky - I sure know how to run in style! I may have been a bit drippy, too, as I chucked another bit of water down my back to mediate the effects of the relentless sun.

By the 13k mark I was starting to get a twinge out of my left calf; it had been the troublemaker in the couple of weeks prior to race day, pulling my knee in ways that made it sore (possibly as a result of my horizontal track stand at Paris to Ancaster). Foam rolling and lots of rest had seemed to sort it out, but I knew there was the potential for it to start complaining again during the race. I wondered if wearing calf sleeves might have helped with it at all, but I hadn't actually worn them for any of my long training runs leading up to the half - I've been training very "au naturale" this year for whatever reason. In any case, it never progressed any further than a minor grump.

Coming through the 14k mark and grabbing another cup of water, I was starting to notice a different problem: my feet were developing some serious hot spots, which would likely only worsen in the final third of the race. I was surprised they'd come up at all - I was wearing socks and shoes specifically chosen for their comfort and blisterless properties on long runs. Was this an effect of running early in the day, before my feet had a chance to swell to their usual proportions (as I generally run in the afternoon or evening)? Was I just not used to laying down mileage at this fast a pace? Or possibly, was it because of all the pounding down hills? Whatever the cause, it sure wasn't comfortable. One more thing to ignore as I passed the turn-off point where the half and full marathon courses diverge, just before the 15k marker.

10-15k split: 28:21 averaging 5:40/km - 15k in 1:23:52 averaging 5:35/km. 01:23 ahead of pace.


15k to 20k: Suck it up.

Having done a spectacular job of slowing myself down from my initial turn of (what in my mind passes for) speed, I entered a period of damage control. It would appear that I'm quite fit enough to go hard for about 10 miles, but after that the combination of downhills, hard pavement and a failure to get down to a reasonable race weight take a harsh toll on my legs. My quads were starting to complain loudly, and were getting harder to tune out. Looking at my watch, I tried to reassure myself that even if I could only manage to run a 30min final 5k, I'd still be able to break 2 hours.

This section of the race held two cruel turns of fate: after tearing my legs apart on the descent to the lake shore I was faced with five kilometers of mostly flat trail (with a few tiny rises) to push through, and the 16km aid station was WAY late - more like 16.5km. Not a huge difference, unless you're already dehydrated, panting and have just emerged into full, merciless sun! I was also getting desperate to get one last shot of gel into me, then get rid of the sticky packet once and for all. The only relief came in the form of a fresh breeze off the lake - just enough to provide a bit of cooling.

I finally got my cup of direly needed water, washed down one last glob of Roctane, then ditched the whole business just before crossing the Credit River again by Port Credit Marina. I'd spent a ton of my childhood around this area, being the former location of the Port Credit Yacht Club, where my parents have been members since 1972 - the Club moved to its current location at Lakefront Promenade (right by the finish line) in 1991. It was fascinating to see the changes, and to finally check out the Waterfront Trail; I had moved away to KW around the time it was being built and had never traveled it before.

Waterfront Trail - the smile is totally fake, as I'm a mess.
Each kilometer was seeming to take an eternity now - I laughed to hear someone spectating around the 18k mark say "remember: you're doing this for fun!" It sure didn't seem like much fun anymore, especially since I was starting to death whistle; there were a few little elevation changes that not only seemed to take an inordinate amount of effort to climb, but also hurt like hell! My legs were completely torn apart by this point, and the hot spots on my feet were far past the point where I could ignore them.

The 18k aid station was late as well, and I was really suffering. I made a conscious effort to slow my pace as I got my final cup of water in an attempt to get some good hydration and try to settle down my breathing - I was sure I was going to blow myself up and end up having to walk it in! Passing the 19k marker at last on tree-lined streets, I shambled along wondering whether or not the pace bunny I'd left behind so long ago was hot on my heels.

The nice part about this section is that there were a lot more spectators appearing along the course, and even some entertainment - there was a fellow singing and playing "Folsom Prison Blues" on guitar in Tall Oaks Park, plus a group of drummers in the tree-shaded neighbourhood near the Hiawatha Park. I even got a high-five from a guy on a bike wearing Mickey Mouse gloves!

15k-20k split: 28:14 averaging 5:39/km - 20k in 1:52:06 averaging 5:36/km. 01:34 ahead of pace.

20k to finish: Last push pays for all.

Utterly destroyed and just wanting to be done, I struggled over the hump of a pretty little footbridge into the final section of park before hitting Lakefront Promenade. This part of the race is practically soul destroying in its teasing of runners - you can nearly see the finish line, but have to run around a small bay and up a bit of a rise in order to reach it! While it's only a couple of hundred metres long, it feels like it takes an absolute eternity.

As much as I felt like I was completely falling apart, I was still passing people left and right as I scanned the spectators lining both sides of the trail for the face of my wonderful husband and sherpa. As a matter of fact, I spent the entire race passing people, and was passed very seldom - I guess the studs all started up at the front. In any case, it felt really good to have the strength left to outrun some people...even if I was gasping for air and really wanted to just lay down in the shade and die!

200m never seemed so long.

Seriously. Bloody. Hurtbagged.

I finally caught sight of both the finish line and Tanker, just after passing a timing mat that didn't seem to make sense - maybe the 40km mark of the marathon? I tried to push as much as I could, but there was no kick left there - I'm not sure I could have moved any faster with a ravenous predator threatening certain death on my heels.

At long last, I finally crossed under the arch and hit stop on both my watch and my legs. 

20-21.1k split: 6:07 averaging 5:34/km.

Official time: 1:58:13 averaging 5:36/km. 01:41 ahead of goal pace.

135/366 in F30-39 age group - 368/1,297 Women - 979/2,360 O/A.

I got my medal, grabbed a space blanket, then buggered off to find some hydration and Tanker. This was one of the hardest races I have done, and I'm super pleased with the results - also very happy with how much better shape I was in at the end than after my first, when I was reduced to hobbling around like an arthritic 90-year-old! My quads were absolutely shredded and I certainly wasn't going anywhere quickly, but I was able to walk fairly normally; the strength work I have done on my stabilizer musculature has really paid off.

Post-race: You can't spell "analysis" without "anal".

Despite going out too fast in the beginning, I was able to hold on and my pace didn't actually degrade nearly as significantly as I thought. Not a negative split, but far from a blowout as well - if we assume I completed the first half in 58:39 averaging 5:34/km (based on the 55:32 split for 10k and a 5:40/km pace for the 10-15k section), the second half at 59:34 was only 55 seconds slower than the first, or approximately 5.2 seconds per kilometer (5:39/km pace). For comparison, my first half marathon was run at a 6:08/km pace with a final time of 2:09:23 - it's hard to be finicky about a PR of over 11 minutes.

The taper seemed to do the trick - while I was kind of losing my mind during the latter portion, the final track workout 3 days out combined with the savagely reduced activity through the rest of race week allowed me to heal some niggles and have zippy legs when it was time to lay the smack down. Consider that my build for this race was almost exclusively easy mileage, with some mild tempo and hill work thrown in from time to time; perhaps 2% of the ~820km I'd done from January 1st to May 4th had been at a pace under 6:00/km. I think the only time I actually ran at anywhere near the average speed I held through the race was during some hill repeats (back in early April) and the Thursday before the half itself. The sheer mileage and frequency of running (6 days per week) was what prepared me to execute.

I can't honestly say if I would have been faster if I'd had my hand bottle or not - the extra weight might have slowed me down more than stopping to get water at the aid stations, or it's possible that the stops gave me a bit of rest that allowed me to keep up the faster pace I was running near the start. I will be using a bottle for the Midsummer Night's Run 30k in August regardless - I don't think I can fake my way through 3 hours on the minimal nutrition and hydration that was just barely adequate for 2 hours. I never had the negative thoughts or chills come up that typically signify the need for more calories, but I wouldn't have wanted to try it on any less.

All told, I took in approximately 75 calories from the 3/4 gel pack I consumed, and a maximum of about 24oz of water (based on 7 x 4oz cups, with some poured down my back). Certainly no way to accuse me of overdoing it! I'm pretty sure my carbo-loading had a fairly significant impact on my nutritional needs for this race - I wouldn't like to try a run of that distance and intensity in regular training on such austere amounts. I showed no similar restraint after the race, though - it was off to the Yacht Club for a quick shower and massive brunch with Tanker and my Mum!

The rest of my race-day decisions panned out perfectly well. I don't think I would have been any better off with the espresso Hammer gel than with the chocolate raspberry Gu Roctane, despite not having used it since last summer - my history with Hammer Nutrition isn't great, and I was running much more intensely than I had been at any point when I'd taken in gel this year. Other than the minor twinge from my calf (which sort of self-resolved, or at least other things got painful enough to overshadow it), I never regretted going without compression, though I did hop into my quad sleeves and full compression socks directly after the race. The new shorts and the top I chose performed brilliantly; no sign of any chafing, and so comfortable I never gave them a thought. Think I may have a new favourite outfit for road races! It's a pity about the hot spots on my feet - I ended up with one really good blister on my right foot, just back of my big toe. Still not sure why, as it's the exact same sock/shoe combo that gave me no issues on multiple 20+km training runs.

As for the Mississauga Half Marathon itself, I have mostly positive things to say. The plentiful portajohns and well-orchestrated start were greatly appreciated; the route does take you through some of the loveliest parts of the city; the use of the Waterfront Trail and Lakefront Promenade for the end of the race provides a really scenic finish (along with that fantastic lake breeze); the volunteers were enthusiastic and police support along the course was excellent. There could be more spectators along the route, but that's out of the organizers' hands - I would suggest more volunteers for the first few aid stations, though. The quad-destroying downhill in the middle before the flattish, slightly lumpy section at the end is hard to deal with, but that's the challenge of racing and the net downhill definitely makes for a fast finish - there truly are only two climbs on the whole course, both done before the halfway point (or less than 1/4 way through the full marathon). I did not use the start line shuttle service or baggage check, as I had Tanker the wonder sherpa with me - parking was not hard to find near the starting area, but I am so familiar with the Square One Shopping Centre environs I had an easier time than someone whose knowledge of Mississauga is less detailed. Racers' checked bags were easily found at the finish line (I passed by the area where they were waiting for pickup), but did not seem to be attended by any security so I would not recommend checking valuables. I have heard complaints about the long walk from the finish area to the shuttle buses back to the designated parking at Cawthra Arena (about 5km away from Lakefront Promenade), and it certainly seemed as though runners were expected to walk quite a long way - perhaps 750m. There is no parking permitted at the finish line, but I "cheated" by having my Mum get an access pass during race week that would allow her and Tanker to park at Port Credit Yacht Club (where Mum is still a member), which is next to the finish line. I still had to walk about half a kilometer, but did not have to ride a Mississauga Transit bus to get back to my car! I'm also quite happy we'd arranged to have brunch at the Yacht Club, as post-race food was a bit weak; there were cups of Gatorade on offer once you got past the finish chute, bottles of water, half-bananas, granola bars and cinnamon rolls from Panera Bread cut in half. The Recharge With Milk folks (title sponsors for the half marathon) were there handing out cartons of chocolate milk as well, but I guess I've been spoiled by Hero Burgers at Multisport Canada races and the amazing spreads put on by trail races like Vulture Bait, Horror Hill and Run for the Toad.

Mission accomplished.

Things to work on for subsequent half-marathon attempts would be more than just 1 over-distance run in training and more discipline in getting down to a decent racing weight. With a few less pounds on me, a little more resilience in the last few kilometers and a bit of luck on race day, I might be able to pull off a 1:55:xx half in the future...but for now, sub-2 hours and achieving my stretch goal feels pretty damn sweet.

..and tastes like my first beer since New Years!

Now to work on a speedy recovery, since tri season is less than 3 weeks away!


  1. Good job on the sub 2:00 half :) It was definitely a nice race but aid stations in the beginning were poorly done :( At 6km I had to wait for quite a while to get some water -.- But the awesome cheery crowd made up for it :D

    1. Thanks for reading, and congrats on your first half!

  2. Great execution. Sounds like a great race and way to go on sub-2!


Go on, have at me!