One week ago

Has it been a week already?
Has it only been a week?

This time last week I was nervous and excited with anticipation.

I was also confident and determined.
I couldn’t believe the day had finally come after 18 weeks of preparation.
I knew what I had to do.
But I also knew that anything could happen over 26.2 miles.
The race could chew me up and spit me out,
or it could turn out to be the race of my dreams.
No matter what I had done or hadn’t done, nothing is certain at the start line of a marathon.
And that’s what makes it even more worthwhile when everything comes together and it happens.
I’m not sure if it has fully sunk in.
I am a 3:37 marathoner? Say what?!

Thank you sooo much for all of your comments and support – you’ve made it all even more meaningful.

One week later…

I am still screaming beaming.

Mississauga Marathon – BQ Race Report

dreary stroll to the start line

When we left off, I had just lined up to wait for the start of the Mississauga Marathon. There were a few others planning to run around the same pace that I was, but I really wanted to run my own race this time. I knew I needed to zone out and focus on myself. I wished everyone well, lined up solo and enjoyed a few minutes of peace. I checked my laces, checked my Garmin, looked down at the writing on my hand.

 The next thing I knew, the starting cannon exploded to my right and we were off.

I displayed only the average pace of my current lap on my Garmin and took it one kilometre at a time from the get-go. We had a good tail wind and quite a bit of downhill in the first half, so I allowed myself to take advantage and cruise slightly faster than goal pace. [5:13]

I was feeling good and settling into the pace comfortably. I thought back on all of those MRP runs I’d completed over the last 18 weeks; now was the time to lock it in and make it count. I often have a hard time being patient and disciplined in the first half of a marathon; there is so much anticipation about what’s to come, but I worked on staying in the moment. Between my gu/salt schedule and the markers where I knew I would be seeing friends, I found that time was flying by.

My pace got away from me a little on one of the steeper downhills (KM 9), but I also knew that our biggest climb was coming up so it felt good to have a few seconds in the “bank”.

KM1 – 5:09 *salt at start
KM2 – 5:10
KM3 – 5:10
KM4 – 5:07
KM5 – 5:10
KM6 – 5:08 *gu
KM7 – 5:06
KM8 – 5:06
KM9 – 4:58
KM10 – 5:12

It was a pleasant surprise to see Ueli and Patricia cheering at KM 8. Not long after, right at the top of the hill, Erin and Ali were waiting for me with cowbell and big smiles. They had a water bottle for me too, which I used to refill my handheld. This was a big help and I didn’t have to deal with the water tables at all.

There was a stretch around 12K when we finally got a good taste of the headwind, which I knew would be waiting for us for the entire last third of the race. It was definitely noticeable, but not unmanageable. The temperature felt pretty good and we had a light drizzle off and on throughout the entire race. I was perfectly comfortable in shorts and a tank and I wasn’t going to let that wind shake me. At least not yet.

I kept on plugging away and knew that the half/full split was coming up. This is always a significant moment for me and it reminds me of my first marathon when I veered right and felt like I was finally becoming a member of a very special club. I love this moment of every race; not only does it suddenly become much less crowded, but it’s a nice feeling to be running amongst marathoners. Nothing against the halfers (I was [am] one myself afterall), but I like to look around and know that we are all in it for the long haul. Shortly after the split, I was really happy to see the 16K (10 mile) mark - a good chunk of the race was under my belt. My mood only improved as I worked my way toward the half way mark.

KM11 – 5:10
KM12 – 5:08 *gu
KM13 – 5:08
KM14 – 5:10 *salt
KM15 – 5:10
KM16 – 5:11
KM17 – 5:12
KM18 – 5:10 *gu
KM19 – 5:10
KM20 – 5:09
KM21 – 5:05

A friend from our clinic was waiting at 21 and I was super excited to see her. She gave me a big cheer and I felt like I was floating across the half way timing mats.

Half Split: 1:48:46

I had a rush of adrenaline and emotion as I started thinking to myself for the first time “I might actually do this.” I got a little choked up, but told myself to cut it out – there was plenty of race left!

Right after this there was a Tim Horton’s handing out bottles of water, so I took advantage and got another refill on my handheld. I didn’t want to slow down and dumped half of it all over my hand in the process, but I did manage to top up my bottle.

Erin and Ali as well as Ueli and Patricia were all cheering at 22K. I felt like a star! It was so good to see everyone, and the girls assured me that Mark was doing great – exactly what I needed to hear. Off I went with even more spring in my step, knowing I would be seeing them all again soon in the same spot after an out-and-back stretch.

I knew there was a good chance I would get to see hubs here so I kept a close eye and sure enough, I caught a glimpse of him just before he was turning off the out-and-back portion. The timing couldn’t have been better. We exchanged a wave and a thumbs up. Along I went for a couple kilometres on a gradual downhill. I saw some of my running buddies who were ahead of me and traded high-fives.

We hit a sharp turn-around at 25K. I was now heading back up that slight incline and hello wind! It was no joke and I knew it was going to be pretty much constant from here on out. I remembered many great pep talks, told myself that I am stronger than the wind, and buckled down.

I saw some of my buddies who were just behind and traded more high-fives and cheers. Everyone seemed to be doing so well, which made me really happy.

KM22 – 5:05
KM23 – 5:06
KM24 – 5:03 *gu
KM25 – 5:05
KM26 – 5:08

Coach Don rode up beside me on his bike somewhere along this stretch and we chatted for a few. I told him I was doing great and I meant it. I knew I had a long way to go, but I was on pace and feeling strong.

Before I knew it I was back at the 22/28K mark to see the gang again. I swapped my large handheld for my smaller one that Ueli had for me. It felt great to lose some of the extra weight/bulk in my hand. At this point, Patricia was gone because she jumped in with Mark when he ran by the second time. It was bittersweet to know that the next time I would see everyone would be at the finish!

KM27 – 5:07
KM28 – 5:16 *salt
KM29 – 5:07
KM30 – 5:13 *gu
KM31 – 5:12
KM32 – 5:14

The course was different this year and there were a lot more rollers on the back half than I expected. They just kept coming! I didn’t worry about powering up, but instead held a steady effort and knew I could earn back my pace on the downhills. They proved to be more of a mental obstacle than physical. I caught up to a couple of guys from my group who had been ahead and chatted briefly to see how they were doing before carrying on my way. One of them said, “I knew you’d catch us!”

Coming up on 32K (20 miles) there was a blow up “wall” that we got to run through, and Coach Don was waiting on the other side and took this pic. I called out “No wall for me today!” I had 10K to go. It was time to start counting down.

The headwind was really strong at points and it was somewhat demoralizing to realize that it would remain like this all the way to the finish. I let it get to me a bit and hit a rough patch around 33-34K. I questioned – just for an instant – if I could continue doing this. To my pleasant surprise, Patricia was waiting for me right when I needed her to lift my spirits.





She jumped in with me and I let her know that I was on pace with a couple minutes to spare. I wasn’t talking much at all but I loved having some company. The wind was exhausting and I felt like I had slowed to a crawl, but in reality I had barely slowed down at all. Kilometres 36, 37 and 38 were my slowest, chiming in at about 7 seconds slower than goal pace. From 37 on, we were running along the lake, primarily on the bike paths. It was winding with some minor undulations, and it was tough to keep momentum. I just kept telling myself that I was on my way to the finish line.

Some friends from our group were waiting right around 38 and I nearly cried when I saw them. They cheered like crazy and I cheered right back at them. I felt like I had an epiphany at that moment – I suddenly knew I was going to do it. I was doing it!

KM33 – 5:02
KM34 – 5:14
KM35 – 5:17
KM36 – 5:22
KM37 – 5:20 *half gu
KM38 – 5:20

We just had 4K to go; Patricia said “4K, this is just a little run around the block.” I was able to pick my pace back up and keep it there. I had enough cushion that I could slow down quite a bit and still reach my goal, but I was determined to finish strong.

I kept feeling myself getting choked up and had to shake it off and stay focused. A lot can happen in a few kilometres, but we just kept counting them down. Patricia was telling me that I only had to keep running for a few more minutes. After 3 and a half hours already, and more than 143 hours in training, what was 10 more minutes?

I started to recognize those last winding turns through the park toward the finish line (it was the same as the 2009 course), and I also knew that the finish would be a lot farther away than I thought it should be. We passed the 40K marker, and the next kilometre went by in a blur. 41K. I picked it up a bit. Just one kilometre to go! I saw lots more friends waiting along the path, cheering like crazy. This was my moment. I soaked it in.

KM39 – 5:11
KM40 – 5:17
KM41 – 5:16
KM42 – 4:46

Patricia sent me on my way as the finish line came into sight. I caught a glimpse of the clock reading 3:37:XX. I was scanning the crowds and heard Erin and Ali before I saw them. I threw my arms up and just screamed.

I whooped it up all the way over that line. You would have thought I had won the race or something. ;) I didn’t hear it, but hubs told me later that the announcer even made a comment about how excited I was. I just could not believe it was all over and I had done it.

Official Chip Time: 3:37:18
First Half Split: 1:48:46
Second Half Split: 1:48:32
Avg. Pace: 5:09/KM (8:17/mi)
Overall: 240/1094
Women: 39/463
F25-29: 12/56

*****
“The crew” – I can’t thank you all enough!

*******
And finally, the hubs!
Official Chip Time: 3:09:18
Average pace: 4:29/KM (7:13/mi)
Overall: 42/1094
Men: 36/631
M25-29: 6/41
By far the best moment of the day was when I finally made my way through the finisher’s area and saw hubs coming toward me. Of course he was beaming ear to ear for me, but all I wanted to know was “DID YOU DO IT?” Yes he had! Sharing this achievement on the same day at the same race on the first attempt for both of us is a joy beyond my wildest hopes and expectations. Just a few months ago I would have laughed in the face of anyone who suggested that this was even a possibility. And look at us now. :) 

Race Week Recap + Race Morning

After 18 weeks of training, it all came down to this. I felt strong, (mostly) calm and ready going into race week. I was starting to get anxious and I was just ready to get the show on the road.

But I still had a few runs to complete…

Mondayrest

Tuesday16K (2 runs) with 4K MRP

I got up early on Tuesday to complete my last real “workout”. I had a bit of a hard time finding and keeping the pace, which is normal for my early morning runs. I didn’t let it shake me – I just zoned out and got it done.

10.3KM (6.4mi) - 58:06 – 5:38/KM (9:03/mi)
4 MRP at 5:14, 5:13, 5:13, 5:12

And then I got a speeding ticket on my way to work. :( Oops!

Hubs and I headed out together after work for a short, easy run to finish off the day. 

5.8KM (3.6mi) - 34:33 – 5:57/KM (9:34/mi)

Wednesday – 12K recovery

I split the distance over two runs again, just to keep it easier on my body. I had the day off work and started with an easy run around the ‘hood before physio. It was a gorgeous morning, but felt very warm – luckily things were expected to cool off before the weekend.

6.0KM (3.7mi) - 35:04 – 5:50/KM (9:23/mi)

I waited for hubs to get home from work for run # 2 and we went for another easy 6K spin, chatting away about race day. We couldn’t believe the day was almost here.

6.0KM (3.7mi) - 35:33 – 5:55/KM (9:31/mi)

Thursday – 8K easy with strides

Thursday night was our final pre-marathon clinic night and it was great to get one last pep talk from Coach Don and join the group for an easy run. We threw in a few sets of strides just to get the legs turning over quickly.

Just a bit excited!!

7.5KM (4.7mi) - 44:59 – 5:58/KM (9:36/mi)

Fridayoff

After running 6 days per week for so long, it definitely felt a little bit strange to take a Friday off!

Saturdayshake-out run

There was no set distance for this run, it just had to be enough to move the legs a bit and it had to be s-l-o-w. After trying to sleep in a bit and enjoying a leisurely start to the morning, hubs and I ran together. I decided to have some fun with the distance and run exactly 3.39KM (i.e. 3:39!)

3.39KM (2.1mi) - 21:10 – 6:14/KM (10:01/mi)

Race Week Mileage (pre-26.2): 40 KM (24.2mi) 
Total Time: 3:49:25
Average Pace: 5:53/KM (9:28/mi)

After the run, we got ready and headed to the race expo. Some friends had offered to pick up our kits, but going ourselves is all part of the fun. Then we made our obligatory trip to the Value Village kids’ section for our throw-aways.

We then spent the afternoon/evening getting everything organized, watching inspirational movies (such as Run Fatboy Run), checking and re-checking the weather and decorating my essentials with gold stars from Bethany.

We were in bed nice and early and both had a pretty good sleep in our separate beds. Race morning we were raring to go, even though the weather was exactly as horrible as expected: lots of rain and wind.

Not to worry, I was more than prepared to keep myself dry at least until the start…

Our good friends Patricia and Ueli were kind enough to chauffeur us race morning and we met them at 5:30 to make the trek to Mississauga. We arrived in plenty of time and made our first trip to the port-o-potties before meeting up with our whole gang. Luckily it was only drizzling at that point, but the wind did not feel nice at all! I had a few second thoughts about my wardrobe choice (shorts & tank), but there was no turning back now. It was still on the mild side and I assured myself that I would be comfortable as soon as we got started.

I also nearly face planted when I tripped over my make-shift plastic bag booties. Close call!

After chatting a little more and exchanging lots of good luck hugs, it was time to line up.

And you know what happened next! Race report coming soon, I promise!!