Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mississauga Marathon: Race Report

Quick Note: Some of the kilometer markers (especially at 10K) were pretty dodgy over this course, and as I added lap markers manually the sections below will be a little off. I'll post both the split time and my own corrected pace for each (based on the average pace on my Polar, with a correction to offset a minor calibration error).

I got up at 4:45am this morning to get prepared and head out to the Marathon site, leaving at around 5:30am. By 6:00 we got to the start and it was about 5C with a bitter north wind, so I was feeling a little concerned about my choice to run in a singlet and shorts. Fortunately, as the family came with me the car was warm and very near to the start line. I hit the washrooms then headed back and relaxed for a while. At about 6:45 I headed out again to the washrooms, and after a brief period back in the car headed down to the start line at about 7:10. At this point, the temperatures were much better and the wind had shifted to the West, but it was still pretty cold. Yumke was waiting at the 3:20-3:40 marker, so I quickly headed over there to say hello.

On the previous day he was going back and forth about whether to aim for 3:15 (what he needs to qualify for Boston) or 3:30 (to enjoy it), and elected to go for the latter. As such, I would have some company and a reliable pacer to help me along the way. This turned out to be a much bigger benefit than I'd expected, as the 3:30 pace bunny was going way faster than the pace he should have been doing (more on that later). As the start grew near, I passed off my jacket to my family and we prepared to get started. We were marshaled forward, they sang the national anthem and then the (incredibly loud) starter's pistol (canon?) signaled the start of the race.

1K 4:56 4:56/km

We shuffled forward and the 3:30 pacer got well ahead of us so we figured that we'd catch up with him after getting through traffic. Once we crossed the start line, however, it quickly became apparent that he was going much faster than he should have so we let him go and decided to handle things ourselves. We both had pace bands and running computers, so we would be able to manage things decently enough. Regardless, we did a good job of getting the first kilometer at about the right pace - probably the first time that I've ever managed that!

2K 4:54 5:02/km
3K 5:03 5:03/km
4K 4:39 4:48/km
5K 4:49 4:56/km

The next section was pretty much a straight shot down Burnhamthorpe and we were heading into the wind. Fortunately, I had warmed up significantly at this point and was feeling pretty comfortable temperature-wise. The headwind did make things a little more difficult, but this section was downhill so it didn't pose too much of a problem at this juncture. Most of the 4th kilometer was a pretty significant grade (-2%), so we opened up a bit to bank some time for the more difficult sections. Regardless, we still saw nothing of the 3:30 pacer so he must have been way ahead of us.

6K 4:58 4:55/km
7K 4:59 4:51/km
8K 4:32 4:55/km

The next segment of the run took us through the UofT Mississauga campus, and was a small downhill followed by an uphill segment. The legs were still fresh at this point, so the hills were no problem. At the 8K water station, yumke took a pit stop and instructed me to keep going. As such, for most of the eigth kilometer I was on my own but I was careful to maintain my pace so he didn't have to push it too hard to catch up to me (he's a much stronger runner, so it likely wouldn't have been a problem).

9K 4:45 4:46/km
10K 6:38 4:57/km (measured as 1,340m)

Yumke caught up to me a bit before the 9K marker, and we continued on. With the course's largest hill coming up at the 10K mark, we saved our energy a bit in preparation for the hill. Once we hit the 9K marker, we took out our Gels in preparation for the aide station at the 10K mark - taking them in as we climbed the hill.

The 10K marker was significantly out of place, and there were a few other runners who commented about it. My numbers show a distance of a little over 1.3km between the 9 and 10K markers, so this split (and the next) are a little wonky. Fortunately, it was significant enough that it was easily noticable so it wasn't a huge problem. With that said, the sign was just at the top of the hill so it's likely they simply couldn't keep it up on the grade. The spray painted markings on the pavement were more than likely in the right place, but I didn't think to check for that and based my lap marker on the sign itself.

11K 3:15 4:52/km
12K 4:55 4:50/km
13K 4:42 4:51/km
14K 4:55 4:51/km

After the hill we hit a relatively flat region, with a mild net downhill (~1.4%) which allowed us to recover quickly from the uphill segment we just finished. There were some pretty impressive homes along this segment, and a significant ammount of tree cover to keep us in the shade and protected from the wind. Near the end, we exited the residential area and begain to approach the QEW.

Near the end of the 14th kilometer, we passed under the highway so we had a small downhill and then uphill on the other side. At this point, the course was basically along a service road so the nice scenery of the last bit turned into a more industrial segment. Fortunately, once we got past the highway we were back into a residential segment.

15K 4:46 4:52/km

The next kilometer was again a nice residential area, finishing off with a right turn onto another residential street. It was at this point that the half-marathoners broke off from us, so the traffic got much better and it was easier keep our desired pace. At the same time, we moved to a much narrower segment of the road so we had to place ourselves a little more carefully.

16K 4:55 4:59/km
17K 4:57 4:59/km
18K 4:52 4:56/km
19K 5:01 4:59/km
20K 4:56 4:58/km

The nice residential section continued over the next few kilometers, with a couple of turns as we made our way along the route. We took our second Gels just before the 18K marker, but the aide station wasn't there so we drank a bit of Gatorade to wash it down. Fortunately, the station was about 500m down the road, so when we came to it we took some more water to finish off the process.

21K 4:36 4:46/km

After the 20K marker, we left the residential segment and turned onto an arterial road (Southdown). With the half marathon marker not far ahead, the wider surface to run on and a slight downhill we must have picked up the pace a bit here as we logged in a 4:46 kilometer. The chip recorded a half time of 1:43:19 which was about 1:41 ahead of schedule, but a lot of that was thanks to the hills in the first half of the race (which we wouldn't have in the second).

22K 5:07 4:53/km
23K 4:49 4:50/km
24K 4:56 4:48/km

The next segment took us down Soutdown Rd. and then turned right at the Petro Canada plant toward the turnaround point. The wide-open road had us going a little faster than we should have in retrospect, but it was still quite comfortable so we pushed on.

Near the end of the 24th kilometer, the 3:30 pacer went by us in the opposite direction. We were already going beyond the planned pace, and he was nearly a kilometer ahead of us at this point. Naturally, he didn't have very many people left with him at this point as he was pretty much on track for a 3:25 or faster finish.

25K* 5:59 4:50/km
26K* 3:58 4:56/km
* I was a bit confused as to whether the 25K marker was for the outgoing or incoming direction when we passed it, and selected the wrong option here so the splits are way off (pressed it on the way back when it should have been the way out).

At about the 25.25K mark we hit the turnaround point (an incredibly tight turn, BTW) and started heading back the way that we came. As we were switching from West to East, this changed the wind so that it was at our back and made things significantly easier. As this segment was an industrial area, there wasn't a whole lot of protection from the elements.

27K 4:47 4:50/km

The next kilometer took us off of the road and into a small lakefront park. This gave us a bit of repreive from the hard industrial area to a great view of the lake. There was a small dip as we headed to the lake and came back up to the road, but they were pretty mild so they didn't cause much of a problem.

28K 4:59 5:00/km
29K 5:02 4:58/km

Near the end of the 27th kilometer, my right quads got a little tight. They weren't posing much of a problem, but it got me a bit worried as there was still a long way to go from this point out. On yumke's advice, I changed my stride a little to give the muscles a bit of a break and it worked great - by the end of the 28th kilometer it was feeling much better.

At this point we were leaving the industrial area and re-entering another residential section of the city so the scenery got much better. This was a relatively flat section, but from my drive of the course on Friday I knew that there were some rolling hills coming up in the next bit so we took it a bit easy here.

30K 4:56 4:52/km
31K 4:57 4:57/km
32K 4:51 4:47/km

As mentioned, this section had a number of rolling hills which, while not huge, were a bit of a challenge at this point in the race. We powered through them however, slowing down a bit on the uphills but speeding up on the way down.

Just beyond the 31K marker, we passed by our pace bunny who was walking at this juncture and didn't appear to have anyone left with him. This would be the last that either of us saw of him, but we were definately glad that we didn't attempt to follow him at the start!

Once we got back on a major road (Lakeshore), we picked things up a bit and continued on our way. This was the final segment of the race, and the point where I passed into new territory as I'd never run more than 20 miles before this point. I was a bit tired from the hills in the last section, but overall I still felt pretty good.

33K 4:47 4:47/km
34K 4:58 4:51/km
35K 5:05 5:00/km

At this point, the hills in the last section began to catch up with me a bit. The right quads started acting up again, and while the trick I used earlier did help it would come back shortly afterwards. It wasn't really impacting my speed much at this point, however it was concerning me. By the 35K marker, my left leg started to feel a bit tired as well so I told yumke to take off and slowed down the pace a bit to let it recover.

36K 5:14 5:14/km

Half way through this kilometer there was a pretty big hill, and given the issues that I was having I elected to take a walking break on the uphill segment to give everything a chance to recover. It worked well, as my legs felt a lot better by the end and it also allowed my heart rate to recover a bit.

37K 4:47 5:07/km
38K 5:43 5:26/km
39K 5:24 5:10/km

This was probably the hardest segment of the race, as the fatigue came back a few times and I needed to take a number of running breaks. I tried to run slower in the running bits, but my body was still programmed for the 5min/km pace so I pretty much had to alternate between fits of running at pace and walking to recover. The legs appeared to still have their full strength, but they were pretty sore at this point. If I had pushed through a bit harder I may have done better, but I didn't want to risk having to hobble to the end so when it got too difficult I took a break.

In this segment, the aide stations were only providing water so I started drawing more on my own supply of Gatorade. The muscles weren't really cramping so I wasn't sure if it would do anything, but I figured that it was better to be safe than sorry as I don't have a lot of experience with that particular ailement.

40K 5:49 5:24/km
41K 4:35 5:03/km

When I hit the 40K marker, I took a longer break than before (a little over a minute) in the hopes that it would do more work. I was getting concerned about whether my target was starting to slip away at this juncture - while we had banked a good deal of time in the first 35km, I was quickly bleeding that away with the walking breaks.

Fortunately, the longer break appeared to do the trick and I managed to run the rest of the kilometer without any further stops. At the 40K marker, however, the third corner of my bib broke off so I had to quickly stop, pull it off and put it in my pocket. Once that was done, I picked it up again and ran pretty much the entire kilometer.

42.2K 6:11 5:07/km

After the 41K marker, however, the fatigue came back so I had to take another break to let everything recover. Learning my leason from the previous stop, I gave myself a full minute to regain my composure and picked it up again. At this point the fatigue was getting worse, however, and I was seriously concerned about my ability to make it to the finish in my desired time.

Wanting to have a strong finish, I took another short break as I was passing into the bay. At this point, however, I could see the finish line and I decided to push through the pain and fight my way to the finish. As I passed around the bend, the legs were getting very sore but I kept fighting and continued to pick up the pace. The last 500m was a hell of a fight, but when I saw the clock counting towards 3:30 I knew that I was safe and opened up to a full sprint to get my gun time under the wire. I blew across the line with 5 seconds to spare at a 3:52 pace with a chip time of 3:29:03, well under my goal.

I brought myself back to a walk and the legs quickly felt a lot better. In retrospect, if I would have fought a little more earlier I likely would have been fine. I've run into the same problem in a number of races, and I tend to be a little too concerned in the final miles about budgeting my energy. Marathons are supposed to be hard, and the pain that I was feeling near the end was likely par for the course.

After getting my chip removed and getting my medal I hit the washroom to take care of a bit of excess hydration. I grabbed some food and met up with my family, then did my stretches while the awards were handed out. I looked around for yumke (who finished in 3:24:12) but as there were so many people in the finishing area I changed my clothes and we headed back to the shuttle busses.

Normally we'd go out to a restaurant to grab lunch after a race like this, but as it was mother's day we figured that they'd all be packed so we elected to simply grab something quick and save the celebration for another day. My legs were (are) pretty sore at this point, so it was probably a good thing anyway as the extra walking around likely would have been quite difficult ;)

Either way, I managed to meet my goals and had an excellent experience today. Hopefully I'll be able to pull more of these off in the future, and if I can avoid the interuptions that I had this training cycle I might be able to avoid the issues that I had this time around. As I was only able to get one of the 20 milers in, that was likely the main culpret for my problems.

Chip time: 3:29:03 (overall results)
Gun time: 3:29:55
Pace: 4:57K
Place overall: 196/1413 (86.1 percentile)
Place in men: 171/804 (78.7 percentile)
Place in age group: 12/47 (74.5 percentile)


  1. great job sticking with it. You're right about the 10k marker. It was located right after the hill, probably meaning they couldn't keep the sign or the clock up anywhere else.

  2. Congrats! Was a pleasure racing with you. we should do that again sometime!

  3. Just popped over from Yumke's blog. Congratulations! Excellent report and a strong race.