As you know, I enlisted the help of Coach Mark (of Loaring Personal Coaching) to help me this year because I wanted to train for both this race and for the Niagara Falls Barrelman half iron triathlon in September.
As a result, training was a lot different from when I trained for Run for Heroes with the Beaches Running Room.
First off, I kept up a lot of swimming and bike sessions throughout this marathon build (usually 2-3 weekly sessions of each). Last summer, after the Toronto Triathlon Festival, I think I road my bike once before the Toronto Island triathlon...and went swimming a couple of times. This meant I didn't need to run as much. I think my biggest week this time around was ~55km of running, compared to ~77 for the build to Run for Heroes. But the week I did 55k of running, I also did 2h15min of biking and 2h30 minutes of swimming, plus 1h20 of strength/core stability work.
So, do I think that was enough running? Well, I did feel much more prepared than for my first marathon. My longest run this time around was 35k, which was several more km than my first marathon training schedule. Also, my runs this time were very focused (and fit to me). I did track work on Tuesdays, some steady/tempo work on Thursdays (with hills at times), and very well thought out long runs (mix of easy, time at MP runs, course simulation runs, etc).
I admit, it felt weird to be running less than the first time...but the swims and bikes took the place of the recovery runs - so I think it made sense. Also, it meant I could do more - and be training for triathlon at the same time, which was the whole point! I didn't want to lose bike/swim fitness (if you can call my biking skills an ability) while training for this race.
I also had a week at the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp during March - just six weeks out from Mississauga. This was actually great since it let me get an almost recovery week from running (my long run was only 20k that week) while also getting a much needed dose of intensive cycling and swimming. I loved it.
In April, I did one prep race - the Yonge St. 10k, where I beat my PB on the same course last year (46:29 compared to 48:40 last year), along with my 5k PB (22:56, compared to 23:17). I did this without looking at my watch after the first 1k, since my coach was trying to teach me how to run on feel.
Yes, the YS10k is a net downhill course - but that's why I only compared it to last year's results. Overall, I cut more than 2 minutes off the same race compared to last year...that made me feel very good about my prospects going into this marathon.
Overall - I'd rate training for this marathon as an A. I was pretty good when it came to getting my sessions done. I believe I only missed a few workouts during the training period - and only 1 long run (very early in the schedule).
Given I picked a race that was out in the middle of nowhere (when you don't drive...Mississauga is the middle of nowhere) - and I was doing the race on my own, I decided to book a night at the race hotel (Novotel Mississauga) to make my life easier. Best decision I ever made.
I took the Go Train out to Port Credit for packet pick-up on the Saturday, and then took the bus directly from Port Credit to Square One (the race start - where the Novotel is) right after. Worked like a charm. I also learned that if you take the Go Train, you can use Mississauga Transit for 75 cents! How awesome is that?
Race kit pick-up was in Port Credit Memorial Arena. I found that very easy - and the race bags were stuffed to the brim with free stuff (some of which I collected at the expo). I even got some free cat food and plant food - but I've used all of those since - which I find speaks to the usefulness of it!
I found it odd that the race shirt was the same whether you did the full, the half marathon, or the 10k (I was spoiled given Run for Heroes had such awesome distance-specific race shirts). But given I did the full - that didn't matter at all. The shirt itself was a simple tech t-shirt in light blue for the women (photo below came from the Mississauga Marathon). I did love that I got a choice of round or V-neck (I took the V-neck) - and it fit well, which is nice. I've worn it to run since - so it'll definitely get well-used!
I felt really good the night before the race and actually slept really well. To be honest, after Run for Heroes - I knew I could run a marathon, so I wasn't really nervous about this one. I felt good, wasn't sick, and felt well trained, so I knew there was nothing more I could do. That probably translated into an excellent night of sleep - even if the "night" was only 5 hours long.
I wanted this race to be the marathon where I could see what I could do. Originally, that was going to be Run for Heroes - but then I got a stomach bug that kept me on the couch the week of the race and had me on the start line having not properly eaten all week. By 10k into that race, I knew my only goal was going to be "Have fun and finish smiling". Which I did! See - here's the proof.
But I still needed a tentative plan...and that started with not going out too fast because Mississauga is a very fast course in the first half.
In particular - my goal was NOT to get to 8k faster than 40 minutes...and to reach the half-way mark around 1:48-1:49. That would, if all went well, put me in a good position to finish in 3:39:59 - 3:49:59.
Race morning dawned cold and very windy - but it wasn't raining, which was a bit of a miracle given they'd been predicting rain for days beforehand. Mind you, the wind was strong: 30-40km/h, with gusts up around 60km/h or something crazy.
I felt amazing though. In fact, I felt so good - it made me realize just how wrong I felt the morning of Run for Heroes. At Run for Heroes, I was excited, but I didn't have the same energy or pep in my step I had in Mississauga. In hindsight, I now know just how sick I was for that race...because now I know what I should have felt like after tapering for a few weeks.
Seriously - I felt incredibly ready and raring to go the morning of Mississauga. I couldn't have felt any better.
I wore track pants and a ski jacket out to the start because it was a good mile or so walk from the hotel. When I realized the truck accepting gear bags wasn't too busy, I kept my warm clothes on as long as I possibly could. After that, I stripped down to my running shorts, tank top and arm warmers. I also brought fuzzy socks to wear over my hands. I'd debated wearing a long-sleeved shirt - but knew I'd probably get too warm for that and didn't want to have to take off a shirt mid-race.
I was going to meet up with some friends from Daily Mile...but didn't realize the Running Room had two entrances until I went to use the portos (Which had a perfect view of the main entrance to the RR) before the race started (d'oh) - so missed out on that.
Made it to the actual start with 10 minutes to spare (too windy to get there much earlier). There wasn't a 3:40 pacer, so I just tried to find a spot somewhere in the middle third of the crowd. I have no idea what was said at the beginning of the race - but I did catch when the race started! :)
First off...if you want a fast half marathon...Mississauga is the place for you! Oh my goodness, the first half of this race was speedy. I knew this going in and had to reign myself in from not going to fast.
The first third was mostly flat, with some nice long easy downhill stretches. The roads were well paved and I had lots of opportunities to run behind other runners to cut some of the wind. I was blasted at times by gusts, but it didn't feel so bad in the beginning.
Around the 4k mark, I tossed off my socks (the ones on my hands) at an aid station. Good-bye fuzzy socks!
I ate a shot block around 5k, then had a gel at around 10k. Was running perfectly at this point. I reached the half-way mark a few seconds under my target - 1:47:48, ( a new PB by over 2 minutes) and still felt awesome.
And then, the really weird stuff started. This is the point where I was running into a headwind (and the half marathoners had turned off 7-8km previously making it less easy to shelter behind other people). I was quite excited about the turnaround because the wind should have been at my back for the last part of the race.
Ya, right. I reached the turnaround, turned and ran about 10 more steps before I realized I was headed.into an even fiercer headwind! Seriously.
Here is a picture just after I turned. I was smiling (like usual), but if I'm honest, my expression was also saying, "What the heck? This wind should be behind me now!"
Of course, my attitude was still great. After all, can't do anything about the wind. I just put my head down (figuratively) and kept running (and smiling!). I started to bleed time, but I made it to 30-still on an excellent pace (I crossed the 30k mark around 2:36:30).
Around 30 or 32k, there was an inflatable wall at the top of a crazy hill. Kind of hilarious, but it was fun to run under. Not long after the wall (if I remember correctly), my friend Ken shouted out from the side of the road. He lived nearby and mentioned that he'd keep an eye out and try and cheer! So great to see a familiar face. It made a difference right when I needed it.
Then came the challenging part of the course: beautiful waterfront trail, yet very rolling with a million turns, not to mention insane wind. Thank goodness for the view, because I was not going fast at all by this point. I felt like I was running with someone pulling me backwards (like the resistance running I've done in my sessions with Trainer Chris). No matter how fast I thought I was going...I wasn't! ::laugh::
Fortunately, this is when the photographers were out in force. So despite my speed - I had lots of evidence that I was still smiling.
See, here I am going over a bridge...
And here I am running on the waterfront path...
And here I am getting closer to the end...
Around 41k, my friend Pranada was on the sidelines cheering really loudly. She'd trekked out from Toronto just to be there to cheer a bunch of us on at the end. And boy, did we all need it. Thanks Pranada!!!
Then, I was just a hundred meters from the end!
I crossed the finish line in 3:50:56, just under 25 minutes faster than Run for Heroes. I was over the moon. I was utterly exhausted. But, most importantly, I was still smiling!