Monday, May 7, 2012

It's all in your head: Mississauga Marathon Race Report

Wait... whaaat? Another one? Um... yeah. In case you didn't follow, I have been training for this marathon since the beginning of the year and the Paris Marathon was just an accident, albeit a happy one. So happy that I knew I had fulfilled my mission of becoming a marathoner and finishing the Mississauga Marathon, well, it would have been just icing on the cake. That didn't prevent me from stressing about it, of course, especially with that pesky counter on my Runkeeper page that was reminding me of the minutes, hours and days that were passing head-spinning fast towards the moment where I'd be meeting my fate for the second time in a 3 weeks interval.

But you know what, life is short enough not to take risks. Of course, I don't recommend to run marathons back-to-back like this on a regular basis, but if your body and mind feel capable of doing it, why not, go for it! That's what I did, I had my doubts too, but coach said I shouldn't be afraid of trying if I'm feeling recovered and so a week after running Paris I set my mind on the goal of finishing Mississauga as well.

I didn't sleep much in the night leading to the marathon, preoccupied with what I was going to wear and other details that could have turned my world upside down during the 42.2km. First, the weather gods had predicted sunny and 10 degrees Celsius at the start of the day, raising to 15 degrees by noon. The perfect day, right? Not so perfect in my mind. I chose to pin my bib on a short sleeves t-shirt and to wear my Nike capris, with the socks still being an unknown. At the runners' expo I won a pair of double layer socks from the Running Room and I already had a few of those and I knew they were giving me blisters on a 10km run, what I didn't know was how much bigger those blisters would have been over 40km. FOUR times bigger? On the other hand, I had my super-technical Falke thin socks that I wore in Paris that also gave me blisters, but the size and placement of those would have been no surprise. Last but not least, I had my Nike compression socks that never gave me blisters on 10km runs, but were throwing out of whack my capris-short sleeve combination. What if I was going to be too HOT in those? To also avoid a fashion faux pas, was I going to need long pants or tights? Oh, the questions that went round and round in my head the whole night... In the end I must have slept 2-3h and totally threw out of the window all the options that tortured me during the night and went for a 2 bucks pair of thin running socks from Wal-Mart. I stuck with the same t-shirt and capris and it was the perfect choice... not as much for the bra that went underneath, but I'll leave that one for a separate post dedicated to the "scary" aftermaths. Chaffing is no fun, that is all.

I don't think he worried about socks. At all.

Hubbs drove me to the race with only 15 min to spare because of an emergency potty break that I had to take at a Tim Hortons nearby, just to avoid the uncertainty of neverending portapotty lines at the start. The plan was for him and the boys to wait for me around km 30 and give me a love boost towards the finish line. Little I knew, there were going to be lots more to be thankful for... But let's move on, literally. The race started right on time, 7:30am and was rather uneventful for the first 10k or so (aren't they all?). I had one problem though : pacing. I was so good telling everyone else how to pace themselves and start slow, but there I was not being able to do so myself. Started with a 5:45 min/km pace, about 30sec faster than in Paris and it felt just impossible to bring it so much lower. I settled on a 6min/km eventually and told myself "que sera sera". However, when I reached the 15km mark where I split from the half-marathoners, I was already tired of it and all I wanted was to keep going straight for the 21.1 and NOT so much-whatever-longer.

Leaving the town centre
Heading for the hills
One of the problems in this marathon was that there was NO solid food. I think I was really spoiled in Paris with the regular spreads of bananas, oranges, raisins and sugar cubes and for reading this infographic about the costs of the Goodlife Toronto Marathon happening at the other end of the city, I was really hopeful that we'd get at least bananas. But by the 15km mark, even though I met water and Gatorade stations every 2km, the food was nowhere in sight, so I KNEW I was going to have a problem as my GU Chomps were only going to last me 2h. They were giving out gels after 22k, which I cannot stomach, so of course, I started to panic. Thankfully, there was Carol, right after the 15km split and I felt that I was going to cry, such a happy surprise that was. It was exactly what I needed, a friend to push me through this battle as I was ready to be done with it. And indeed, a battle that was, lots of rolling hills, long and boring industrial splits leading up to the 25km mark and back and more rolling hills until we reached the waterfront at Port Credit. At km 20 I get a text from hubbs to tell me that he'll meet me at km 30 and all I said was BRING BANANA. I was starving!!

At km 31, happy to see Carol.
The kilometres leading to this point and on were really tough. I drank my little bottle of brine between km 25 and 30 as I felt I needed the extra electrolytes. Did I mention I was really hot and sweating like crazy too? Every other 2km water station I was drinking one cup and pouring one on my back. If this was running in 15 degrees Celsius, I wonder how people finish marathons in 25-30 degrees! Ok, enough complaining, back to the banana. Oh yes, THE BANANA. Waiting for me at km 30, just before another one of those long and lonely hills, along with my 3 loves, hubbs and my boys. Secretly I was wishing they'd bring me an iced cappucino at km 35, but I didn't ask for it, I wasn't going to push the marathon rules too far after all. Gave all of them a hug and off I went with my little one running along me up the hill, then continuing the race against  myself, most than anything.

Where did the marathoners go?

It was a lonely one as only 842 participants (347 women) took the start and the majority of them were ahead of me, judging by the masses that I crossed paths with between km 23 and 28. Many times only a person or two would be in front of me or we'd take turns passing each other, then slowing down. This was a race of the brains, of the will to push through when nobody is cheering for you, aside from the kids that volunteered to clap unenthusiastically for hours on end.

My salvation came from Carol at km 27, 31, 36, 41 and my boys at km 30 and 40. I HAD to run for them. I didn't always know when I'd meet them, but just in case, I tried to keep my walking to a minimum. I think I walked 5-6 times maybe in the last 10k, I was just extremely tired... I don't think I hit the wall because I could still run without pain, but I kept telling myself that I had an occasion to enjoy the race and I should just leave my pride on the curb and accept that it was not the day for a PR. So when I reached the parks along the waterfront, I tried to take all the beauty of the day in, to breathe the warm air, to look at the beautiful and calm lake Ontario and just go on with the day, good or bad, I was going to finish this marathon and it was time to relax my mind. I even had this idea sprouting in my brain that I was going to take my ice bath in the lake and shocking everyone nearby, so the reward of that thought kept me refreshed until the end.

I can see the lake!! Can't I just go straight?
I think the banana and the brine kicked in around km 38 when I got a second wind and picked up some speed. I stopped seeing the km markers after km 40, it was rather a blur in my head, but with the end in sight, I accelerated and finished strong and not crawling as I feared. It was a GREAT day and my final time was 4:43:12, placing 74th out of 101 in my age category, 664th overall.

At km 40, happy to see hubbs.

For the full GPS experience, see Runkeeper here.

I didn't end up in the lake as I had hoped, there were lots of police officers around and a big sign about increased bacteria after the rainfall that we had this week, so I changed my mind. But I didn't miss the ice bath in my own bathtub later in the day after a pizza with gooey cheese and an ice cream. Well deserved, me thinks! Next challenge, the Ride for Heart on June 3rd, 50km bike ride on the Toronto highways for a good cause. Speaking of which, I need your help!! I have pledged to raise $500 to fight heart disease, but I received no donations so far. If you can spare 10-20 bucks, it goes a long way, plus you get a tax receipt.

Here is the link where you can contribute to this campaign.

Thank you and see you next time!

PS: The legs in the first picture belong to Alan, barefoot runner from Mississauga who I met for the first time last year during the Mississauga Half Marathon when he zoomed by me between km 14 and 15. You should go read his blog, he's such an inspiration. I never knew he had a blog until today when I looked him up thanks to a comment by Nicole. Here are more pictures of Alan running this year's half, that he finished in 1:58:35. Congrats Alan and I hope you don't mind I posted your legs here. I hope others will take notice and follow in his footsteps, literally.


  1. A great report! And you met Alan
    (barefoot runner)! Did you talk to him? He blew by me at the half last year and is my "Friend" on Daily Mile. A super guy.

    Did you take any of banana or orange in the later part? I did and could barely CHEW the banana. I don't know how you ate a whole one. That is amazing that you had so much support along the way! It WAS lonely at the back of the pack.

    Second one in the books and within three weeks!

    Well done!

    Also, think you need to sort out socks that don't give you blisters so quickly!

    1. Nicole, I didn't get to talk to Alan, but he does seem to be a nice guy indeed. I also did the half last year and he passed me around km 14 when we went under the bridge... I remember telling myself, what did just happen? :-) Very impressed with his barefoot running and the shape he's in. His tattoos are also interesting, I'd love to hear their story. Too bad I'm not on Daily Mile.

      I didn't take any bananas or oranges, I didn't see any!! Actually, there were just 2 girls handing out bananas literally a minute after I finished mine at the top of the hill, but I didn't think it was done as part of the marathon organization, but rather the neighbourhood's. I was already full, so I kindly declined. I was so desperate for food that I gobbed my banana, I don't remember any chewing! I was hoping to see more bananas later, but no such luck.

      I need to keep experimenting with socks, there is something going on in the universe with those... But I also need long enough runs to see which ones make the difference... that is going to be a challenge. Funny though when I went to the RR to buy socks for my husband, someone told me, if you've had your socks for more than a year, they are done. What do you mean done?? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, don't you wear socks for years and years as long as they look and feel new? What the heck?

      Anyhow, you're already so much faster than me, that I don't think we'll ever get to run side by side, but CONGRATS on your super time, right on target!! I can imagine how happy you feel right now. My first marathon high lasted for 2 weeks! Well done.

  2. Good for you Riri. You have worked hard and are now enjoying the fruits of all those miles. I hope you keep on running marathons. It is a great excuse for mini vacations.

    1. I don't plan on stopping any time soon, John. Maybe after I torture myself doing an Ironman... but we're not there, just yet. ;-) Wait for it...