09 May 2013

mississauga marathon 2013 - race report

i simply can't start out this race report without a series of thank-yous.
  • to my family, who have been full of understanding (for this madness called training) and my biggest cheering squad
  • to my intentional motivators and training partners:  trevor morgan, mike st. john and stan ong
  • to the hansons marathon training plan
  • to my friend sarah flemming who got me onto this running thing in the first place (back in 2010)
  • to all my facebook friends who have encouraged and rooted for me throughout this particular leg of the journey.
now to the bottom line - two little letters summarize this race experience:  


perhaps not the two letters that i would like to have headline this report (and for those who would otherwise not know, those preferred letters would be BQ), but i will gladly take them.

now for a quick rundown of the weekend's happenings ...

the expo

kind of a non-report here, as the expo for the mississauga marathon is, well, functional.  it serves its purpose as the point for the race kit pick-up, various sponsor and vendor booths, and opportunities for promo teams from other races to try to pique some interest.

that said, the three times that i've attended it it has been staffed very well (kudos to who knows how many volunteers) and run quite efficiently.  i managed to get in, pick up my kit and trevor's (without any hassle whatsoever), purchase some gels on 'race-special' deal, and clear out in a matter of 12 minutes.  the only negative comment to share was the distinctly vomit-like smell hovering around the end of the directional pathway through the expo. 

race morning
trevor and i were commuting down to the race together (about a 60 min. drive), and it takes about 25 min. to get to his place so i woke up at 4am after a fitful night's sleep (which was to be expected).  after a quick shower, breakfast ensued - peanut butter and chia seed bagel, banana, and water.  i loaded up an extra banana for the ride, as well as the complimentary nutrition bar from the expo goody bag and my powerade-beet juice concoction.  bib was pinned on the singlet - headband, gloves, and throwaway sweatshirt were packed - timing chip affixed to my skechers gobionics.  green light go.

trevor and i made it to the start area close to 6:30am - exactly according to plan, giving us a good hour to make full use of the facilities (at least twice) and settle into the chute before the 7:30am start.  i find that the hour before is perfect for me to get into the right zone - enough but not too much nervous energy, wander around and try to pick out the triathletes, the first-timers, the (obvious this year) boston runners, and the odd person that i would know but not have anticipated seeing at the race.

in the chute, i managed to locate and introduce myself to the 3:15 pacer (peter - or as he happily announced, "peter rabbit") with my usual "i'll try to stick with you as long as i can".  during this time trevor was warming up with strides alongside the chute but on the other side of the barricade, and as all the racers started to cram in shoulder-to-shoulder i feared that we'd become lost to one another and would somehow have to try to relocate during the first kilometre, but he found me just prior to the national anthem.

a quick point here - i'd noted to trevor that one of my favourite moments of the race start was the singing of the national anthem by a local celebrity, actor michael burgess.  he'd starred as jean valjean in the long-running toronto production of les miserables.  having seen him in that performance four times in the 1990s, his voice still sends shivers up and down my spine.  well, this year for reasons unknown to me they had a youth choir sing the national anthem - and while they did an excellent job, it just wasn't michael burgess.  modest letdown.

first half
trevor had mapped out a pacing strategy that accounted for the overall time goal, congestion at the start, and major elevation changes along the course.  trusting his detail-oriented mind, i watched 'peter rabbit' chug on into the distance over the first km wondering if we'd ever make up that ground.  but consistently through the first stretch i heard trevor say "we're right on target", which gave me confidence.

i took nearly the same approach to aid stations as in previous marathons - choosing to walk for a 5-8 second break at each of them. the difference this time was that i decided to grab my drink on the run and then slow down once past the tables to avoid causing any bang ups.  this was my first opportunity to practice this technique for nabbing drink cups on the run, which seemed to work well.

it only took about 6km for trevor and i catch back up to the 3:15 pack, and without any real noticeable increase in effort.  the pace was well within the comfortable range, trevor was consistently telling me "we're 45/60/90 sec. ahead" and regularly reminding when to take a gel.  the plan was working out marvelously.

second half
all the way up to the 31km point trevor and i were consistently ahead of the target 3:15 mark.  i was pleased as punch to have had trevor stick with me through to this distance, as he'd not trained intentionally for a marathon and only surmised being able to pace me through the first half.  but at 31k he knew that it was time to separate, and so he left me with these parting words:  "keep at this pace and you'll have your BQ".

it must have been a curse of sorts.

let me just reiterate what a great job of prep trevor did for me.  from scoping out all the details to gel intake intervals to printing off a paceband, he'd set me up to win.

did you read that?

printing off a paceband.

the one that i left in my sweatshirt pocket.

the sweatshirt that i took off and left in the starting chute.

so from 31k onward, i tried to 'go by feel' at keeping the pace that i'd so comfortably held up to that point.  except that i didn't have the benefit of trevor's consistent reassurance that we were on track.  and what's worse is that when i checked my watch at 35k and saw 2:42, i figured that i could still run 5 min. kilometres and finish well within my 3:15 goal.

math was never my strong suit.  but here, it was made worse by a form of mental bonking.

panic set in when i checked my watch again at 41k and read 3:12.  clearly my calculations originated in the nether realms and now i had to somehow try to bust out 1200m in 3 min. - which was plainly not going to happen.  still, i tried to channel my inner yuki kawauchi and just turned on whatever afterburners i had, grit my teeth and went for it.

i knew that i'd stepped up my output because all the blood was rushing away from my brain and toward the larger muscle groups.  my face was all tingly and a lightheadedness seeped in, but my stride was stretching out and my leg turnover increasing.  it was a good way to finish.

final result:  3:18:30 (gun), 3:18:05 (chip)

post race

i felt quite good crossing the finish line - physically i was spent but upright with no muscles seizing.  while still missing my BQ by about 3 min., i'd posted a personal best by 10 seconds and improved over the same race last year by 6 min.

trevor crossed the line at 3:34:35 - a great job considering he really hadn't trained for the marathon, and had blisters at 5k and muscle spasms for the final 10k.  we spent a good half hour at the medical tent making sure that he got patched up to walk to the shuttle buses back to the car.

when i got home, there was a congratulatory banner waiting for me (although the wind had taken it off of its original location on the garage door):

final thoughts

  • i think that i had it in me to hit the 3:15, and i almost ran to my potential at this race.   i was modestly impressed with the results of the hansons marathon training plan, but am considering going back to a modified 'ryan hall' plan for the erie marathon in september.
  • jury's out as to whether or not the beet juice had any real impact - but it certainly didn't hurt me none!
  • very pleased with the skechers gobionic as a race day shoe!  they did exactly what they should have done - i never had to think about my feet once, and i did not notice them the entire race long.  i will say though that i feel like i enjoyed wearing the merrell road gloves (v1) more during the hamilton road2hope marathon, and probably still hold them up as my favourite shoe in which to train.
so it's recovery time - no running this week until saturday, and then easing back into things before firing it up in two weeks' time to start getting ready for the next race.  as much as i need the time off, this not running thing is driving me crazy.



  1. terrific RR Patrick. Best of luck in Erie and I really hope that you get the other two letters.

    Thanks by the way for the GObionic shoe review. I have to say that it has become my go-to shoe for now (until we get our Skora's in a week or two, I suppose).

    Much respect to Trevor...incredible time for a first FM.

    Lastly, I am going with a modified Pfitzinger 18/70 for Berlin to see if I can a PR of my own. BTW, there are two letters that I would like to add on my bucket list...MM. See if you figure that one out :)

    Congrats again on a fantastic race.

    1. thanks a ton stan! tracking with your achievements has definitely kept me pushing harder, and will continue to do so!

      definitely looking forward to donning the skora phase ... even after reading coach caleb's mixed review!

      as for the pfitz 18/70 - have downloaded the plan to look at it. i managed to top out at 70mi. last training cycle so i know that those distances are manageable - i'd just be shortening the plan to a 16/70 if i were to adopt it.

      as for MM ... surely you don't mean the mountain man, do you???

    2. :) Moose Mug - 2 hours plus my age so…2:28, i mean 2:41 for this year but I suspect this is one of those that I'll get when I am 44-45ish if I continue setting my mind on training and improving.

      Yes I did read Coach Caleb's review…not very encouraging but to each his own!

      I have Pfitz's book so if you have questions, feel free. His training plans rely a lot on HR zones, which is proving to be an effective tool for improvement. I've been experimenting with HR for a few days now and I have to say that I am liking the results. 16/70 shouldnt be a problem for you because the first two weeks are fairly easy but he does pile up the mileage right away (82 and 88 km for the first two weeks I think)…he calls it his endurance mesocycle. Lots of running but at fairly mid to low efforts so it doesn't really tax the body that much but does take a lot of time. I'm going t have to do the early morning running for this training cycle…uggghhh