Back in January when I registered for my races. I had NO idea what it took to run the distances i signed up for. After only having run my first ever 5k back in December I mentioned on video that I was hooked and excited to run a distance of 10k. Well, a few weeks ago I did just that. If you remember my post about the Toronto Yonge Street 10k then you know how I did. Running a half marathon is a totally different matter altogether.
My race started in February after I signed up. Training, Training and more Training is how I spent the long cold winter and spring. Running 21.1km is not something you do without some sort of training. If you don’t train for it correctly then you run the risk of injury. I say this as a rookie since the Mississauga Half Marathon will be my first. Below left is my attempt of creating my own plan and then the real professional one on the right I used for the race.
Training for a 10k is one thing but when your running 14, 15, 17 and 19km on Sundays getting up early is a must for me as I normal work Sundays.
You can check out some of my photos during my training.
Friday: Expo and Drive-Through
My good friend and I drove to Port Credit Arena to pick up our kit. We thought it would be a good thing to do on the Friday so that we would miss the crowd. It worked out very well, the parking on the other hand was not so much. Lots of cars but when it’s free you don’t complain.
The line-ups to get the kits were sparse especially for the half marathon, which was really nice because we didn’t have to wait at all. I had to pick up a few kits for some other friends what were running the marathon. Easy, easy, easy but I had to guess on the shirt size since I was the one getting the kits and didn’t know everyones sizes. Yes, I did call and text them but I didn’t get a reply.
The expo itself small and but fun. I made a quick video of what it looked like.
Once we finished up at the Expo, my friend had to go but I decided to drive the course. As we were driving, I paid very close attention to where the inclines and declines were located and I think it was some point around 10 km where I thought, “man, this is a pretty big hill. I can’t believe I have to go up this thing in a couple of days”.
The other thing I noticed was how great the condition of the streets in Mississauga where and the awesome homes along the way. It’s quite a beautiful city and one that’s very different when not driving.
Saturday: Rest & Carbs
I sent Saturday doing three main things: Eating a lot, showing houses to a great family, and thinking about resting. I had been working with a family looking to buy their first home so taking the day off was not an option. Family & Clients come before my running adventures. That is just the right thing to do, so that’s how I ended up getting home around 9pm. Yup I was now is panic mode…..I need to pack, eat dinner, get ready for bed, then think about setting the alarm (it needs to wake me up, no sleeping in).
At the same time, I was stuffing my face silly with carbs and more carbs during the day. Currently, I weigh around 86 kg so I had a goal of eating 860 g of carbs. I never realized how difficult that was until now. I started eating around 5 in the morning and didn’t have my last bite until 10pm and even with that, I managed to eat just a touch over 640g.
Some of the things I consumed on Saturday included: Fresh Pressed Juice (2 litters), sweet potato (3) , a lot of quinoa & brown rice pasta (4 cups), gluten-free pancakes, a few bananas, almond milk, lemon water, avocado and tomato sandwich (gluten-free bread), and almond butter. By 10pm, the act of eating became a task.
By 10pm I had laid out all my gear on the dining room floor, attached the timing chip to my shoe, pinned the bib, packed the one gel and dates, filled my water bottle and loaded my knapsack with all the essentials.
I made my morning sandwich of almond butter and banana on gluten-free bread then washed it down with warm lemon water. I did some of my pre warm up dynamic stretching (15 minutes) then some form rolling.
Left the house at 5:00 picked up my friend and made my way to Square One where the start line was. I thought about going to Cawthra Community Centre, which is one of two parking areas for runners and spectators. But we where both excited so I chose Square One because it is closer us since we where driving south.
We made my way easily down hwy 10 and then the 410 and arrived at Square One in 35 minutes (6:38am). Toronto traffic is quite different at sunrise on Sunday :). When we arrived at Square One we realized VERY fast that we could NOT park at the mall. All the entrances were blocked off so we ended up parking out by the movie theater. It was ok just a bit down the road..
With just under 60 minutes to race time. We hung around the parking lot making small talk while trying not to freeze to death and making the quick superman change into race gear. I did what I usually do while waiting and that is to shoot some video for my blog 🙂
At about 7:10 I make one last run to the porta-potty. I started to get pumped up as we slowly made our way to the start line. One very interesting observation is that the runners seemed shy in getting to the start line. I didn’t see any reason to wait so I told my friend to stick with me and we would get to be as close to the front as possible. Before I could get to nervous the race was underway…Yikes! my first EVER half marathon..
Start to 5km: Burnhamthorpe
I started the race with a 5:03 and spent most of it trying to stay around the 5 minute mark. My goal was to run a very smart and relaxed race and cross the finish with a smile on my face and have a time of 1:45:00. Yup, I thought I could do it.
At one point as we were turning down towards Burnhamthorpe I was looking all around me and saw some may runners with different colours of shirts it was hard to find my friend.He was behind me now and thought that I would jut see him at the finish. As I ran do did everyone else but more and more people were passing me. That’s what you get for starting to close to the front. So here I was running down the road just having fun when I realized that 5 km had just passed. It was really easy so far and I was barely sweating or breathing hard at all. This stretch is pretty even with a steady and gentle decline.
The first water station was at 2km but didn’t partake choosing to stick with my water strategy. No Gatorade (sugar-water) for me. Just my coconut/water mix.
2 km – 5:02
3 km – 5:04
4 km – 4:56
5 km – 4:59
6km to 8km: University of Toronto Mississauga Campus
We turned south on Mississauga at 6km and into U of T at 6.5. Here we ran on the school’s public service roads that went up, down and around their buildings. around this time I was a bit emotional. I starting to cry. It came from nowhere. I was crying and running trying to get a grip on things. I was thinking about my Mom and Dad who had both passed on. My mom died of double pneumonia back in 2005 and my dad in 2012 of organ failure. He was 84 and mom was just 74. My dad had been worried about me gaining so much weight and said the amount of cheese I ate was not a good thing. He was just being honest and showed it in his own way that he loved me. What did I do about?? Not a thing I just ate what I wanted and never listened. I had also been a slow learner in school and my mom tried everything to help me during my early years. When I was having a hard time reading or with my spelling, I would say “when I’m ready to learn mom it will happen”. Well after 42 years, I’m READY! I said THANK YOU to the sky and said I’m running this for you GUYS!! Just before rejoining Mississauga Road at 8 km, we had to deal with the first hill of the race: a short but steep one that lasted less than 300 meters so no problems here. I started to feel relaxed and zoned out. This is just a nice stroll in the park.
6 km – 5:06
7 km – 5:00
8 km – 4:54
9km to 15km: Mississauga Road
After exiting U of T campus the run to 9 was even and easy. I looked at my watch and was pleasantly surprised at my progress, I was right on goal pace. I also saw one of my running friends Steve Hunter waiting on the sideline. He joined me for a quick run and shoot some video
At 10 km, the big hill appeared and it started after hitting Dundas St. It was a winding incline that I thought I would surprise my friend. I didn’t mention it to him hoping to keep him upbeat. The hill sucked and I say that smilingly.. I went from having fun to “You have to be kidding me” That went on for about 3/4 of km.
At the top decided to forge ahead mainly due to one reason: my strength is in the downhill. I’ve noticed over the last few months of my training that I am most comfortable when I let my legs go without trying to apply some type of braking force with each step. I call it free speed. My lungs can deal with this kind of running better than any other form. Having said that, I also know that my biggest weakness is on the incline. Note to self..I need to train more one hills.
So here I was at the top thinking I can fly down the hill and make up for the time I lost. Yeah that didn’t happen. My LEGS would not go any faster. The hill have zapped me of most of what I had. I plodded on and watched my time decrease. The rest of Mississauga road flattened out but it kept me occupied with its gorgeous homes. n my opinion, the nicest stretch of the course. I am partial to clean and wide roads with really nice houses and this part of the run is awesome. I find real estate a lot of fun and I’ve sold HUGE houses in the past and I’ve been in a few of them along this stretch.. My mind drifted back to those days and zoned out again, lost in the memories.
It was also here that I struck up a conversation with a couple other runners. Some wearing Vibram 5 fingers and other running their 20 half marathon. I definitely noticed that it’s much easier when running with other people. I’m more of a soloist when it comes to running. I don’t listen to music, just the beat of my feet hitting the ground and my breathing. I find it easier to keep proper form and pay attention to when was the last time I had something to drink or eat.
I had my fourth sip of water at 12 km. I took a mouthful and kept running, my time was slowing down.
9 km – 5:05
10 km – 5:00 (Down Hill)
11 km – 5:36 (Big Hill)
12 km – 5:11
13 km – 5:22
14 km – 5:23
15km To The Finish
At around the 14.5km mark the marathoners split and go right along Indian road. We half pints continue down Mississauga road to lake Ontario where the route leads us right next to the water with an awesome view of downtown Toronto. So it’s debatable which portion is “nicer”. I guess it’s personal..LOL
I’m now running on a trail next to the water. All sorts of up and down emotions along with a really nice view of Toronto and the CN Tower at one point. The Last 2km went better than I thought 5:18 (15km) 5:18 (16km) but that was the last of the down hills. The flats are here to stay so it was all me now and no free speed 😦
I’m really starting to struggle now as 2 more seconds ticked off my pace avg. It is now down to 5:09/km. 18 km took me 5:37, my slowest km through the race so far. I was all lone right now. no other runner was close. I had no dates, and was really starting to bonk. I ran past the 17km marker as volunteers were having out gels. I really wish I had picked one up. Why hadn’t I? Just then I noticed something in my pocket, not my regular pocket but one I hadn’t noticed before. You have to remember I’m new to all this running stuff 🙂
In my pocket was a Honey Stinger Gel “Pomegranate”. I think there was an angel looking out for me. How did it get in there? was it my wife? daughter? I pushed the thoughts aside and downed the gel. I had never trained with one before, never bought one but here I was in the later part of the race having my first hit of sugar. Down it went. I had no idea if it was too late or if I could keep it down..I ran on.
I really wanted to gain some time back but the legs would not go any faster, I felt myself continue to slow down. As I ran though St Lawrence park I checked my watch 5:27km. So this is what it feels like to hit the wall. I felt so down at this point I thought about walking.
I was pushing, and pushing doing everything I could just to move a bit faster, around 19km, a group of screaming guys and girls and a DJ were set up and playing “Sweet Child O’mine” by the Guns and Roses. I was so energized by the party atmosphere going on Wanita Street, I kept saying to myself, “keep running, keep running”. Then I made the turn down to Cumberland drive and at that point I heard the finish line.. but I couldn’t see it and that was the hard part. Watch check 20km 5:41km Slowest yet but I was still running.
I’m now on the trail and it’s now the final km. I felt an unexpected outburst of emotion as I slowly realized I was almost at the finish. I felt like I was running in quick sand and with every step I was sinking and sinking deeper into the pit! Dig deep Dave…dig deep….
The trail narrowed considerably leading to the finish as I made my way around the bay. Crowds lined the barricade and were shouting so load at every runner who passed by. “YOUR ALMOST THERE” “YOU CAN DO THIS!!!
Finally, I look up and see the finish line. 1:52:03 and ticking away. I knew I had an extra few seconds between gun time and chip but didn’t care so I sprinted it home raised my hands up and celebrated my FIRST EVER HALF MARATHON and the longest I have ever run in my life.