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Milton, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mississauga Marathon Race Report

Likely everyone who will read this already knows how the day went - either via facebook or daily mile, but I will write it up and try to do it justice all the same. The true lesson I learned from running the marathon last year was that you have to, HAVE to have the mental capacity to get over the hurdle that will come at you, likely sometime in the last 12k (7.5mi) of the race. Spoiler alert! This year, I would be prepared.

Pre-Race and Expo

I decided to go to the expo on Friday after work, so I drove to Port Credit Go station and took the train from there into Toronto and back. The kit pick up was basically across the street so that was a very good choice. I didn't really see anything interesting at the expo as I rushed through it. I did buy a pair of socks as proceeds were going to Boston Marathon victim funds. I got back to my car to a text from Wayne saying he couldn't find pace band. Whoops! Back to the expo went I, straight to the Running Room booth to find the pace bands. I had a choice: 4:00 or 3:50. No 3:55. WHAT?!? The girl told me to just go online and print one, but we don't own a printer! Then she tried to convince me just to go for a 3:50 instead (!?!?!). I took a bunch of bands and got home.

Ken's sister, Alison, her husband Joe and their baby Malcolm showed up around 9:30pm and we hung out a bit. Originally Joe was going to run his first full with me at this race, but he'd been sidelined with a shin stress fracture all winter. It still hasn't healed, but we're hoping to run the Army Run half in Ottawa in September, so fingers crossed. We hung out on Saturday and I forewent the shake out run as I didn't want to feel rushed. Dinner was a repeat of what I ate last year (pasta with veggies in a light cream sauce with chicken) and we had cake. I ate so much that I felt sick, but that feeling soon went away. I didn't temp fate with trying to have some pretzels the way I'd normally do though. I did go online and hand print out 3:55 pace bands for Wayne and I. Turns out we could have likely been okay with the 3:50s.

I went to bed after the second period of the hockey game and set two alarms - my clock radio and my phone. Good thing too because while I had a great and restful sleep, I woke up at 3am and turned off my clock radio alarm! My phone alarm wasn't harmed though and I was up at 4:45am. I showered (not something I regularly do pre-run/race), dressed and went down for a bagel with butter and peanut butter, small coffee and apple juice. Brushed my teeth, facebooked and twittered nerves away and left the house with my neighbour Bridgett (who ran the half) by 5:45. 

We parked at the movie theatre, turned around and saw Patty, Emma and Sam. A cheesy song came on the radio while Bridgett and I were putting on our sunscreen so I turned up the volume and did a few running mans. I was more than a little pumped.

Caught Wayne, Chris (with his wife) and Roxanne (another DM friend) in the lot and we headed over to the meet up at the Running Room. We got there in lots of time and I met other friends as well before the inevatable Daily Mile group photo;
This is Patty's photo (beside me, in the pink tank). Alan's (front with no shirt) is not looking at the camera in mine
Okay, my organization work was done. Time for the porta-potty and its wisdom:
Find Wayne and off to the start. We milled around trying to find the 3:50/3:55 pacer, freaked out when we ended up lined up with the 3:30 pacer, have a moment of silence for Boston, sang O Canada, sang Sweet Caroline and then... we were off.

KM 1-10: We should slow down. Why are my legs DEAD?

Boom. Away we went. It felt good to be running. My legs felt dead and I knew they just needed to warm up and finally get going. I didn't bring anything to keep me warm before the start, so I was really quite cold by the time we got going. Between that and adrenalin  my teeth and whole body was quite shaky. I figured it would sort itself out by 3km. As I suspected, my focus was very insular and I wasn't very chatty. I didn't have any music on (Wayne runs with one earbud in most times) and Wayne wasn't saying much either. It didn't matter because in the crowd there is a lot to look at and listen to. At 5k, there were some guys playing drums and bongos which was awesome. Wayne made a joke saying they should go to the end as well. I agreed that they would be a nice pick me up around 35k. As we continued along toward UofT and 10k, my legs were still super sluggish and my calves were crampy. I had NO idea what was going on. I even thought that I'd have to walk, to tell Wayne to go on without me! I basically had to tell myself to stop being so stupidly dramatic and that there was no way I could leave Wayne and NO WAY I'd DNF so early (JEEZE). There was a band at UofT as well and shortly after we took our first planned gel (around 8k). I didn't realize it until later, but this is when my legs sorted themselves out. Thank goodness! Just like last year, my friend De was at Dundas and Mississauga Rd to give me a high five and I spotted her easily! It was great to have the boost before the major hill for the first half. We hit 10k in the middle of that hill and agreed to try to settle into a more regular pace per our targeted 5:34s

5:33-5:25-5:24-5:14-5:16-5:20-5:17-5:20 (GU)-5:06-5:15, Split: 53:10, pace band: 55:40 (okay, we're banking time)

KM11-20: I'm walking on Sunshine! Hey Richard!

Up the rest of that hill, past the walkers and through the next drinks station where we both dumped our toss away water bottles and agreed that we would walk through each one from then on. We started the run down Mississauga Road through the lovely, massive homes and like last year, there were people with a huge stereo system playing music. Last year was James Brown. This year we were treated to Katrina & The Waves, Walking on Sunshine. I LOVED this! I thought it was so appropriate and so I sang along, "I'm walking on Sunshine! Only 30 K to go!" Now, I'm lucky that Wayne likes me because we have this rule that we're not allowed to talk about distance until we are over half way done and its better if nothing is said until we're in single digits. But! Wayne also knows that I'm pretty much a goofball, so he smiled at my enthusiasm as did other runners around me (I hope). There were some photographers around here as well and I totally beelined over to get my photo did (or maybe they were just random people because I can't find them online). Soon, we were running beside the highway, where I always seem to see a few pissed off cars making the U-Turn to find a different exit and then under the bridge, down the road and boom! There's the turn onto Indian Road. Which I called out as being on the left. Which was the half turn. Whatever, I can't keep pace, be cheerful, look awesome AND read the signs too! Right after the turn, there was a dude with Mickey Mouse gloves on, running barefoot down the street giving out high fives. I've seen him at a few races and he was a support vehicle for a lady when we ran the route as a pre-run a few weeks back so of course Wayne and I got our high-fives. Up, up up Indian road (slight incline the whole way), to the bit along Lorne Park Road and then the turn onto Truscott Dr. It was around here that we picked up my Daily Mile friend Richard who fell into pace with us. We still weren't really chatty, but the company was good all the same.

5:26-5:14-5:21-5:21-5:28-5:38 (GU)-5:27-5:24-5:33-5:40, split: 54:32, total: 1:47:42, pace band: 1:51:20 (okay, bank time, feeling good, no problems).

KM21-30: The dead zone.

We hit the half split at 1:53:39 when our target was 1:57:30. Wayne commented that this beat his half marathon time from last year (his only half to date). It is fun when that happens but can be scary because its all you know and ohmigawd are you running too fast and there-is-still-half-a-race-to-go! We just kinda let the moment pass and continued along with Richard. We chatted a bit and Richard rather formally asked if he could hang with us for a while. Of course, man, of course! Glad to have you. As we headed to the out and back along Southdown, I told Wayne to keep a look out for Chris as we'd likely see him at this point. Sure enough, somewhere around 22-23k, we saw him and he asked how we were, "Awesome," I said, "We're like 8 minutes ahead of schedule!!!" (So I tend magnify things at times). We almost missed our GU at 24k, but I called it out and we got it in. Richard was cool to walk through water stations per our plan and by this time, I was drinking about 1.5 cups and dumping the last half cup down my neck or clevage or both. It was hot. HAWT even. 

We hit the turn around at 25k and I hit what I call the dead zone. If you've run long enough (and enough long distances), you know that there comes a point when you get into the zone. You can space out and it seems that you just keep running along at pace without any effort. My mind was a bit buzzy and I actually had to tell myself to focus a bit more. I think I put my earbud in at this point (just one), to have a different distraction. When we came out of the little park bit, I feel like we saw Patty and Sam, but neither of them have mentioned it so it must have be a mirage I was having. I know for a fact we saw Manish from our clinic who was looking strong. As we headed up to Orr road, we were running with a man who was breathing super heavy. He passed us, and I was glad because I hate to hear that kind of suffering. We passed a group of teenagers who were volunteering and one was running with the heavy breathing man who had stopped to walk. The kid was trying to encourage him along but it wasn't working. When we passed him, he was walking, hands over his face and crying. I had to block him out and get out of there because I couldn't have anything mess up the tenuous hold I had on my own mental game at that point. Finally, the short bit on Orr road and up Meadow Wood Road to 30k.

5:14-5:19-5:29-5:21 (GU)-5:37-5:42-5:14-5:25-5:50-5:17, split: 54:28, total: 2:42:10, pace band: 2:47:00. (I'm freaking proud of this one. 20k in perfect harmony is pretty good in my books. Maybe we weren't going too fast.)

KM31-40: Our legs will keep going. Its all in our heads now.

I spent the week before the race with the map on my desk. I focused on km 30-33. This is where I broke down last year between the rolling hills on Meadow Wood and the big hill on Lakeshore at 32k. When we ran past the 30k marker I said (loudly), "This is all mental now. Our legs will keep going now matter what. The next 12k is all in our heads." I actually heard a guy say to his buddy, "That's the truth." So, we headed up Meadow Wood and I started looking for those oranges that they had near the end of the street like last year. God bless that woman and her orange slices because like an angel from heaven, there she was. I thanked her and ate my slice. Turn onto Lakeshore. Okay, we know what's coming and we'll be fine. Richard is spending a lot of this time reeling himself in with us. I wondered why he stayed with us as he's a faster/better runner than me, but I learned later that he was so fearful of going too fast and blowing up. Good thing I didn't know it, but Richard was leaning on my pacing to keep him in check. Between looking good for Patty and Sam, fulfilling my role as the photo-hog, being the veteran (for Wayne) and keeping us on non-blow up pace, I had my work cut out for me in this race! Good thing lulu took care of the outfit, my personality took care of the photos and my watch kept reminding me of pace.

 We also caught up with our Running Room friend Yan at this point. He said he was so happy to see us. I don't think he had the best day. We did have a fun laugh as the joke with his wife is that all he wants to do is beat Sarah Palin's marathon time and at that point, we were on track for sub-4hours for sure! We lost Yan shortly after though. We saw him after his finish and he was cramping badly. The heat this year was sudden and strong. I'm betting a lot of people had salt levels all out of whack.

We got up that hill at 32k, took our drinks. Punched the wall and I told Wayne that we had over an hour to run 10k and still hit 3:55. That felt amazing, but I also knew that if we let ourselves go too much it would be the point of no return. We kept kicking and hit the next water station, where they were BBQing burgers! Which is AWESOME! But MAN! I didn't dare look at Wayne. I think we may have started a runner-hunger-haze riot over some charred ground chuck. Not much talking still at this point. In fact, we all finished our cups (Gatorade joined my party around 28k) and our water dumps over our heads and looked at each other. "Good?" I said, "Let's go." And into Jack Darling Park we went. This is where the race REALLY fell apart for me last year. This year, I started to haze over again. Then I started to get worried about being hazy (was I hitting the actual carb-depletion wall!?!?). 

OMG, I'm hitting the WALL! I can't breath! I'm going to have to walk. I'm not even going to make 6 minute kilometers. I'm going to fail! I can't breath either anymore. I just swallowed a bug! I'M GOING TO DIE!!!! 

Thank goodness the calm voice of Andrew, the pacer from the Chilly Half Marathon came back to me, telling me to breath deep, control my racing heart and enjoy the run. This is what I focused on and I don't think Wayne or Richard ever knew the trauma I was going through.

Funny about this bit. I knew we'd get the time of sub 4 hours. I didn't know how close we'd get to 3:55. I was still so, so, so worried about blowing up. But I wasn't really looking at my watch as seeing the numbers was freaking me out. I told myself that we'd been running about a 5:25 pace naturally all race and to let the natural feel be my guide. Richard surged ahead of us in the park, but waited for us to catch up. My music stopped so I had to dig it out of the SPI belt to turn it back on, dropping my gum in the process. Wayne tried to stop to pick it up and I snapped at him, "Leave it. Its only gum! Nothing important!" Then I felt my ass pocket to make sure I still had my car key. Ha. Through another water station and I lost Wayne!!!! I looked around madly and started to freak out when a gentle hand on my arm let me know that he was there, on the right. PHEW.

You get photos in this section!

Then we're at the Port Credit lighthouse and I'm telling the guys to get ready for the photographer and to smile away. I think they both did good, right?

And we are away to the longest 2.2k ever

5:41-5:21 (GU)-5:38-5:21-6:17-5:21-5:44-5:22-5:52-5:24, split: 56:01, total: 3:38:11, pace band: 3:41:40 (You can tell where the water stations are by our splits. The guys were walking as soon as they came into view but I forced myself to run to the first cup. KM 35 (6:17 split) was when we walked for me to get my music going again).

KM41-42.2: Pure Joy.

We are in the park now and running toward the end. Nothing is getting in our way and I'm never looking at my watch again. I hear a lady screaming at us, "41 kilometers! Your body will keep going. Tell your mind to shut up and KEEP GOING!" I love that lady. That's my kind of motivation. I'm running in a tunnel and I know Wayne's there and I know Richard is there, but I'm not paying attention at all. I'm just running. I'm trying not to think because if I think, I'll cry and if I cry I may have to walk. Instead I think of the armpit/arm-fat chafe I've gotten badly on my left arm. I feel blisters between my big and second toes and focus on that pain to keep from realizing that we are not only getting the "A" goal, but getting it and then some. 

I SMASH the 41k sign.

And we're off. By some miracle, we stay together and pound our way toward the finish. I'm looking for Ken, I'm looking for Chris, I'm looking for Wayne to see his family and I see none of that. I see Bridgett and her family as her husband jumps out to take a photo and then I see the end:

Remember my ultimate goal? Above is what it looks like when you hit it.

And because I paid for them, here are some more:

I did the horns all race long. No idea why.
I have no idea who I'm seeing here. Wayne is on my right, so maybe I'm giving him the thumbs up!
In the video you can hear my screaming and the announcer saying, "Wayne and Nicole. Now THEY'RE happy to be done."

5:56-5:16-2:12 (last 446m per garmin) Total: 3:51:35, pace band 3:55:00 

Gun time: 3:52:13
Chip Time: 3:51:31 (13m41s PB)
284/850 (33%)
F: 72/353 (20%)
F30-39: 27/99 (27%)


We crossed the line and in a daze I shut off my watch and looked at Wayne. He was chatting with a woman. What? Oh, she's medical. He's doing a bit of a drunk walk and trying to tell her that he's fine, but I'm telling her, Nope, help him. We just walk it off and we are good. I see Richard who sprinted ahead to finish before us and hug him. Wayne and I hug. MAN, this feels excellent. I tell Wayne, "We've got to keep moving." We get our medal, get the chip removed from the shoes and Wayne grabs me a space blanket. We down Gatorade and get our photo taken. "You want to take it with me?" Wayne asks "Of course." Of course man, we did this TOGETHER 
They didn't tag me on this so it didn't come with my purchase.

We head slowly over to the food table and start to get stuff and Bridgett finds us. I think this is where Wayne's family finds him, but all of a sudden I can't move, but I can't stop walking and my legs are cramping and I am crying because everything just hurts so much. I stumble along and Ken's there and I see the Chocolate Milk booth so I grab one. We all reach Chris and he exchanges some words with Wayne, but I don't think we spoke. I hurt so badly through my whole lower body, I'm in and out of zones here. I chug the milk and it makes me feel better. I start to cry at the thought of driving home, but Bridgett quickly offers to do so. So I say goodbye to Wayne's family and Chris and other friends and head out. 

Final thoughts

This day exceeded all expectations. I never allowed myself to get ahead of myself in terms of goals. I honestly thought that 3:55 was an aggressive goal and I really thought I wouldn't make it in those first 8k. What helped me run this race to the best of my ability was two things:

1) Mentally, I was on. I never let my mind take over. I stayed positive (or pissed off) and ensured success

2) Running the whole thing with Wayne. I leaned on having him there and staying with him more than he knows. I knew it would have to be a very bad day for him or I to say anything about stopping or for us to leave each other. When he was with me, I had to keep going on. I couldn't have run so well without him. 

So now what? Well, summer and fall plans are coming together. But this week? This week looks like this:



  1. Fantastic race report for a fantastic race. You are right, at the end of the day it comes down to mental strength to get through those last miles. You did that for sure! What an amazing day! Well done. Congratulations.

  2. Great job Nicole! Glad that you & Wayne had each other to lean on. I'm scared to think of ever running this distance by myself. It would be to easy to give up. Congrats!

  3. You totally rocked that!! I am so proud of you. I learned yesterday how helpful it can be running with a friend and it's awesome that Wayne and you were able to support each other. I'm sending positive vibes to Joe so that he can run the Army run with you. Great report and it was awesome to finally meet all of you.

  4. You're hitting the wall freak-out was awesome. I think we need to put microphones on you, Sam and maybe Ali for good soundbites.

    You did amazing! Congratulations!!

  5. nice writeup kiddo, and congrats on smashing your goal!

  6. So Proud of you! You stuck to it, no matter what - how tough or 'easy' it was. Never gave up - and look at the results! WOW! I think running with Wayne helps a lot. Yay! To team work! Thanks for your honest recap about your entire race. I admire and am inspired even more by you and Wayne! :)

  7. You always have the best race photos.
    Congrats on an amazing race!

  8. Great race report! Did such a fantastic job, all the work you put in the race pays off. Sometimes you have to just race to get that pb. It takes you to the next level!

  9. Amazing job, Nicole!! I loved reading your race recap! I'm so happy that you crushed your goal!

    Also, loved the lighthouse photos :)

  10. Wow!!! Love those finish-stretch photos and the joy on your face! Congrats on your race and absolutely rocking the run!


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