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Milton, Ontario, Canada

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mississauga Half Marathon Race Report!

Without a doubt, this race was a wonderful experience for me (despite the grey skies, drizzle and high winds). It cemented my love of running, my love of racing and the fact that I will continue to be a runner for a long time to come.

After doing the smart thing and dropping the kids off at my parents to spend the night (the baby is still up at least once per night), we headed home to relax a bit before I headed to bed. I went up around 9pm and was tired but read a bit to ensure I was able to sleep right away. That was AFTER I discovered that the top and sports bra I wanted to wear and all of my socks were in the wash and I had to do laundry! Thank goodness for dry-weave!

I slept okay in about 4 hour spurts which makes sense as the baby usually wakes me up. I was able to get right back to sleep each time. My watch alarm (I had 3 alarms set!) went off right at 5am and I slowly got out of bed to eat (Bagel with peanut butter) and check the weather and twitter get ready. The weather looked bad: 9 degrees, rain and wind gusts up to 54kph. I grabbed a long sleeved top along with a wind coat and my husband and I got on the road.

Luckily for me, a friend from my running group works at the start line and so we met at her office building and were able to avoid the long port-a-potty lines before heading to the start. We saw quite a few of our group at the start, but not Bing (who we did see sprinting toward the start line when we were leaving the office building. I'm sad to say I didn't see him at all after the race).

The entire time I was debating if I should pin my bib on my short sleeved shirt or my long sleeved one. It was cold, but not raining. It seemed like the day of our training course run and so I decided to keep on the long sleeved shirt with my bib attached and my watch on the sleeve. I was also wearing a garbage bag (as were many others) and that worked wonders for keeping warm.

The gun went, the bag came off and we walked to the start, crossing the line about 5 minutes after the gun. The race had begun!!!

The strategy that C and I had set was to run the thing at a 6:23 pace which would allow us to meet the A goal of 2h:15m. We had decided on attempting a negative split so that we would conserve energy for two things: The hill around 9.5km and the last three KMs. So, we started strong and right on pace.

Within the first 2k, I knew I was over dressed. It was so humid and not yet raining. I made a quick decision to strip off my long sleeved top which meant fumbling of: Belt, bib (with four pins), watch, ear buds and pace band. C agreed that I should do it early when we could catch up time if it slowed us down and held a bunch of my stuff while I ran and redressed. The lesson here is to buy a bib belt thing. I had bleeding fingers from re-pinning. The first 5k were easy despite this and I was just waiting for the turn onto Mississauga Road so that we'd be on familiar ground.

KM1: 6:27
KM2: 6:24
KM3: 6:23
KM4: 6:17
KM5: 6:27

5k split: 0:31:58 Pace band: 0:31:59

We were racing smart. We were reeling in if our pace got too fast and watching the pace bands to ensure that we were on target for the overall goal. We both skipped the first two water stations as we had our own water and didn't need any. There are some downhills in this part and it was still early so it was awesome to see the sea of people in front of us running. There were quite a few spectators (for such a crappy day) and their support was great. It started to mist/rain, but I couldn't feel any wind and told C that I'd take pouring rain over wind any day.

These next five KMs are the ones that stick out the most in my mind. I noticed people running in Vibrams, ladies heading behind stores to pee (while men just stood with their backs to the race), people using bus shelters to strip off layers. For a while we were running right with a couple who had shirts printed with "First Marathon 2011" which made me smile. The turn onto Mississauga Road was a boost because from here on out it was familiar ground and I was feeling good. My normally stiff knees felt perfectly fine.

At 6k, I ran through the water stop to chug a cup and took my first of three planned gels. We were now on the route we had ran in practice and I was feeling great! C and I were chatting, ensuring we kept the pace as planned and enjoying the misty rain keeping us cool (I run VERY hot!). We looped through UoTM which has a few small hills and saw people walking already. We kept passing, passing, passing which was a testament to our steady pace and great training. When we came out of campus, we knew that the hill was coming up. We actually thought it was a bit earlier (around 7ish km) and C took a gel sooner than she wanted to I think but no matter, we banked some time on the downhill and got ready to keep running. Around this point I told C that I had a feeling. And that feeling was that, "We've got this in the bag." C was hesitant as we still had the hill and she finds the last three KMs challenging.

At the base of the hill, right at Dundas and Mississauga Road, there was a spectator that I noticed right away. He had a sign with a square cut out of it and on the top it said, "I'm your biggest fan." He was sticking his head through the cut out, making himself part of he sign. I pointed him out to C and he saw me and pointed right at me. I cracked right up and it was the perfect start of the hill for me. (C was a bit confused - she was wondering if this dude was my husband! He was just an random awesome spectator).

So. The hill. We ran it no problem. The 10k marker is right in the middle. We kept running. If you look at the splits, we ran the first half FAST! We spotted a familiar back and low and behold it was C2 from our clinic! She must have gone out FAST as it took us 10k to catch her and she constantly runs at a slower pace than us. We saw her after the race and she was very pleased as her strategy was to positive split. This was her second half marathon and she knew what worked for her.

KM6: 6:26 GU
KM7: 6:18
KM8: 6:22
KM9: 6:13
KM10: 6:15

10k split: 1:03:32 Pace band: 1:03:59

We finished the hill and talked strategy again. We decided to keep our pace no faster than 6:20 so that we had some legs left for the last three k. I told C that I wanted to wait until we passed the highway portion before going significantly faster as that is my least favorite part of the route and she agreed that it was a good plan. And so we ran. It was still lightly raining. I still felt no wind. My run play list was done by this time so I had shuffle on and I was getting some awesome tunes to motive me (and I'm the type of gal who was motivated on this day by Bust a Move, Delilah and Rock Me Gently). I was chatting, feeling great and most of all I was not thinking. There was no mental game going on. I took another gel at 12k and started to run through all of the water stations. At 14k, there was the "Lucky Shoe" and I tapped it. At 14.5k, the full marathoners turned onto Indian Road and I told C that we'd be making that turn next year. By 15k, I started thinking: 10 mile run, 5k race.

KM11: 6:45 (last of the hill)
KM12: 6:25 GU
KM13: 6:25
KM14: 6:21
KM15: 6:23

15k split: 1:35:51 Pace band: 1:35:58

Just before 16k and the turn parallel to the lake I told C that we were right on time. A man asked us what pace we were running and I told him 6:23/2h15m finish. He was pleased as that was his target. I told him that we were bang on and he smiled. Once we were running parallel to the lake, I did feel some wind, but it didn't phase me. I was having such a great run! I just can't explain how amazing I was feeling. Sometime around here an older man passed us running in bare feet. C wasn't talking but a woman and I remarked about how his feet MUST be leather. He was booking it as well and passed us with speed. I must also admit, that we didn't see a lot of the same people on the race. This means that the people who passed us, passed us and we didn't give chase. It also means that the people we passed, we passed - we never ran too quickly.

I took my last gel at 18k even though I didn't feel like I needed it. I wanted to boost some energy for the last bit and give myself every chance I had. By 19k, race bikes started passing us telling us to keep to the right. At first I didn't understand what was going on. Then I started looking for traffic for the Marathon Elites and cheered with everyone else as Josphat Nzinga floated by us on his way to the win. What a boost! We kept running. I was slightly ahead of C at this point, but knew she was right there. Then we saw A from our clinic who was very happy to see us. She didn't have her best day with foot cramps and was so happy to see someone she knew as she couldn't keep up with her partners. We chatted for a few seconds, but then we ran on.

I had so much in the tank. By the 19k marker I knew I was going to go for it. I turned to C and told her, "We've got it! Its done!" She again, hesitated. I shouted, "We have 14 minutes to run 2k! WE'VE DONE IT!" A woman running near us asked if that was 2h15m and when I said yes, it must have given her something more because she said that the time was her goal as well and then... she was gone!. It gave me something as well. I was going to try for tempo pace in the last two kilometres and had no problem. Sure, my breathing was a bit heavy, but my legs felt great. I can honestly say I did not have one single negative thought in my head. At that point the run became about getting in sub 2:15 by as much as possible.

At 20k I took my ear buds out (note: sticking them into the straps of a sports bra is perfect as they don't flop all over the place) and enjoyed the crowd. I was a bit challenged to pass people, but keep on the right side to allow people to pass me and I stopped looking for C, but I kept running. With 500m to go, I stopped looking at my watch. I knew I was running fast. I knew I would just keep running until I got passed the line. I didn't look for anyone (my husband, Bing), I just ran. There was a MASSIVE puddle around here and I ran right through it as well (my feet were already soaked). I ran and ran and to my surprise, I didn't cry or even get close to it. Like the rest of the race, I was smiling, laughing, enjoying this amazing run, this wonderful accomplishment, exhilarated with my mind and body coming together to meet a goal that was 4 months in the making. At the line, I threw my hands up and celebrated!

KM16: 6:08
KM17: 6:22
KM18: 6:13 GU
KM19: 6:20
KM20: 6:07
KM21: 5:44
0.21KM: 1:04

21.1k split: 2:13:58 Pace band: 2:15:00

Official Stats:
Time: 2:18:37 (6:35 pace)
Chip: 2:13:50 (per Garmin - 6:19 pace)
F30-34: 178/289
F: 1115/1946
Overall: 2300/3430

Crossing the line:

I can't tell you how happy I am. This next photo shows it a bit (Um, Fergus loves cold things right now as he's teething. Don't worry, no baby drank any beer. That was all for me!)

Now the question is: What half marathon do I run this fall?


  1. Good Job Nicole, your amazing race brought tears to my eyes!!! Be Proud! Lee-Ann

  2. Congrats,
    great race and report.
    Not the best racing conditions but you did fantastic.

  3. Yeahhhhh! Isn't it the BEST feeling to be STRONG til the end?? Incredible achievement to run such a smart race and finish strong with your two fastest splits. You sure look happy - as you should be. Congratulations!!!

    I remember my first half marathon (Scotia) - watching those marathoners turn right, and knowing that would be me one day. So happy you are planning on a full next year!

    Congrats again girl! Freaking awesome!

  4. Congratulations! Sounds like a great race for you.

  5. Congrats, great run!
    In the fall run Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront, my favourite half so far!

  6. Congrats!! Running a smart race feels so darn good, you'd think I might try to do it more ;)


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