This winter was an interesting one. I'd hoped to really work on my run speed in addition to my bike power, but a calf sprain in January (let's be honest...more likely the sprain happened in December since I spent a good month thinking the calf pain would go away on its own) meant I spent a good part of the winter running easy while my calf recovered.
Yes, I was very glad I was able to run at all. For example, I didn't have to give up my long runs - just keep them relatively easy. Coach Mark was extremely level headed about the whole thing. He kept saying I wouldn't lose speed if I took it easy for a few weeks - not that I really believed him. After a set-back, he suggested sticking to easy runs entirely until I went away to the LPC Triathlon Camp in Florida. That turned out to be a wise move. I had a great time at camp and came back able to finally pick up where I had left off.
Of course then I ended up getting sick...and had a few terrible long runs. It wasn't until the week before the race that I had a good long run with well-executed pace work. The fact the run was only 13km was my big worry. I just wasn't sure I had it in me to run a strong race. But at least I had the chance to.
Given my lack of consistent and focused race prep, I had no idea what the Mississauga Half Marathon was going to bring. Earlier in the year, I said I wanted to break 1:45, but I gave up that thought early on and only made the goal to get a personal best (PB). My best half marathon time was 1:47 and change during the full Mississauga Marathon last year, so I figured beating that time would be doable if nothing went wrong.
I went out to Port Credit the day before the race to get my race kit. It was very easy to catch the Go Train out there as the Port Credit Memorial Arena is only a couple of blocks from the station. From there it was a direct bus up to the race hotel (Novotel Mississauga) right by Square One Mall. As someone who doesn't drive - this was essential for making the race accessible - and I loved it. So easy!
The race hotel is only a few blocks from the race start - so I highly recommend it for anyone coming from out of town. I admit I got a better price direct on the hotel website (pre-paid) than if I'd booked through the race.
One benefit of the race hotel is that they had coffee and breakfast items available for purchase very early in the morning...alas, not at 5am when I went down to find it. But it was there at 5:30 (I'd just mis-read the opening time). I was happy to get a coffee and a couple of pieces of toast with butter for breakfast.
I wasn't as wired as I was last year for the full marathon...so I took my time making it to the race start, getting there around 6:30am so I could meet up with some friends from Daily Mile. So neat to be able to catch up with folks I don't see very often.
I admit I was very happy it wasn't as cold before the start as last year. The conditions were actually very pleasant for a race. I think it might have gotten warm for the full marathoners - but for the half, the weather was pretty good.
Got to the starting corral with 10 minutes to spare (plenty for a race start). They don't split the corral into seeded groups, so I had to wend my way around a bunch of eager runners to get closer to the front. In hindsight, I could've started even closer to the front, but the fact I was a little farther back probably kept me from going out too hard. Given I wasn't sure what I was capable of that day - I was okay with not going out too fast. I should try and do that more often, to be honest!
I was feeling decent at the start, but not fabulous. I didn't have the same snap I had in my legs compared to last year. But the weather was nice and the wind was mild, so I figured I'd have a nice run no matter what.
Started off at a good pace and managed to keep that pace in line for the first 8km. When I reached the first hill, I remembered that I hadn't done any hill work all winter (would have been way too much force on my calves) - but luckily I remembered the advice Coach Mark has given me before...maintain effort on the hills, not speed. So that's what I tried to do. I think I did pretty well at it.
I held a very good pace into 18km (Around the time we hit the waterfront)...but around 19km I felt a wave of tiredness. The problem with this is the waterfront is where all the technical parts of the course are. It's about 3-4km of annoying twists and turns; this slowed me down a lot. When I'm tired, I just don't manage tangents at all well - and I tend to slow way more on turns than I would otherwise. I also got caught in a few clouds of no-see-em's (i.e. gnats) - which were gross and led to significant coughing. Yucky!
But I pushed and pushed and pushed, just trying to hold on. I knew I was going to be very close to 1:45 - and I kept that focus all the way through the last few km.
I thought I had it...but as 21.1km on my watch passed, I wasn't quite at the finish line....I was close...closer...and then, there.
I finished in 1:45:27 - way beyond what I thought I was capable of on the day. I was over the moon. Even better, Garmin actually had me hitting 21.1km in 1:44:39 (I apparently ran 200m too far on my way to the finish-line). This made me unreasonably happy. It doesn't count officially...but it is still proof I had it in me. Of course, the satellites could have been off 200m - but I'll take the confidence booster anyways.
Official race stats
Final thoughts and lessons learned
- This race took a lot more mental work than most of the races I've done previously. It was a struggle to maintain the pace - and at times I figured I should just dial it back and take it easy...but I didn't. I just kept thinking about how awesome I was (my motto is "Be Awesome Today") just being out there doing it...and I kept pushing, right to the finish.
- You really can gain speed on the run by working on your bike. I did almost no speed work heading into Mississauga - but Coach Mark had me really pushing my bike skills. I'm sure that power translated. I'd never have hit 1:45 (and change) otherwise.
- If you have a minor injury and it doesn't go away - get checked out sooner, rather than later. I wasted a month or two figuring my calf injury (which was minor for most of 6 weeks before it became worse) would go away on it's own. It didn't.
- Coach Mark is awesome for putting up with me!