Race Report: 2017 Mississauga Marathon

mississauga marathon RR

The 2017 Mississauga Marathon is the main event for the Spring race season. This is the race I trained really hard for and the one that would hopefully send me to Boston. The good news is I age up for the 2018 race, so my qualifying time is now 3 hours and 25 minutes. Last year I finished the Goodlife Marathon in a time of ran a 3:13:42, so even if I don’t get a PR in Mississauga, my chances to qualify and “guaranteeing” a spot would be pretty good. Of course nothing is guaranteed until I receive the acceptance email from the Boston Athletic Association, but based on the cut-off times the past two years, anything faster than 5 minutes (equivalent to a finishing time of  3 hours 20 minutes) under the qualifying time should get me in.

Training

Back in the Fall of 2016, my buddy Daniel recommended I speak to Colin Murray-Lawson who manages the High Park Running Room. Colin, known as Coach Colin to the High Park Rogue Runners, also happens to be an accomplished runner and is blazing fast! Colin finished the Goodlife Half Marathon this past Sunday in 4th place in a time of  1:09:36! 

Daniel and I met with Coach Colin at the High Park Running Room one evening in late Fall and we spoke about my marathon experience and my goal for Mississauga. Based on my goal and when I would be able to fit my runs in, Colin built a training plan that I could handle and give me the best chance to qualify for Boston.

The first time I reviewed the plan, it was obvious the plans I developed myself for the previous five marathons I finished paled in comparison to Colin’s plan. I would be running between five and six days a week (I ran four days a week for the first three marathons and five days a week for the last two) and there would be two workouts a week plus a long run. In the past, I typically only performed one workout a week plus a long run.

As the weeks of training went on, it was clear I was training harder than I ever did before. I noticed my heart rate was lower on my easy and steady runs than it was in the past. To confirm what I was noticing in my training runs, the results of my Half Marathon and 30K races in March were beyond what I was hoping for and really boosted my confidence.

During the 18 week training cycle, I only missed two days due to a calf injury, one day for another reason I can’t recall, and one day because I was flat out exhausted from work and had no time to run. Other than that, I felt Coach Colin’s training plan was absolutely perfect!

Aside from the training plan, training in Winter weather has its own challenges. Luckily the weather wasn’t as bad as expected and I was able to get almost all of my runs completed outdoors. During the week, I did most of my runs on the Beltline Trail near my home and a few workouts on the track at a local secondary school as well as the local cemetery. Long runs were almost entirely done in the hilly Bloor West section of Toronto with a few taking place near the Lake on the Martin Goodman Trail.

Finally, I must admit I was not at all disciplined when it came to strength training and core work. Over the course of 18 weeks, I may have completed my Runner’s Academy strength training circuit a dozen times or so and did core work about twice as many times. This is one area I really lose focus so it would be interesting how the results would differ if I was actually disciplined in this area.

Pre-Race

Not visiting race expos seems to be the norm for me this year. I didn’t pickup my race kit in the two previous races either. My buddy Daniel made the trip out to Mississauga to pick-up a few race kits, saving me the trip! Thanks Daniel!!

The Friday before the race, Daniel, Dom, Anna, and I met our Kleinburg running friends Rose and Samantha for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Toronto for a good old fashioned carb-load! It was a great opportunity to chat race strategies and enjoy an awesome meal before race day.

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Race Day

With a 7:30am race start, I got up at 4:45am, walked my dogs, and headed out to pick-up Anna, Domenic, and Daniel before heading out to Mississauga. I was feeling good, but also really anxious about the race. The weather forecast in the days leading up to the race called for a chance of rain and lots of wind. While it was a little chilly at the start, the wind didn’t seem to be a big issue and it appeared the rain was going to hold off. Bonus!

We hung out in the Mississauga Civic Centre prior to the start of the race to stay warm and only headed out with a few minutes to go before the start. I started my watch and instantly realized I forgot my heart rate monitor at home. This is the first race I can remember where that happened, but I brushed it off and focused on the plan.

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My plan was to hold a race pace of 4:25/km, but I promised Rose I would hold back at the start (4:30/km). Rose is one of the most disciplined runners I know and is always giving me great advice that I often forget when the horn sounds.

The Race

First 5km splits: 4:20, 4:14, 4:21, 4:19, 4:12

Two kilometers in and I already broke my promise. Runners start at Celebration Square near Square One, then make two quick right turns on to Burnhamthorpe Trail. I went out fairly quick and was trying to reel it in although I was not successful. The first three kilometers are flat and then the course drops 28 meters until the 5km mark. I found myself looking at my watch far too often and struggling to reel it in the entire time; especially on the downhill! I really wish I had my heart rate monitor as that would have given me a good indication of how hard I was working, although it didn’t feel as if I was pushing the pace (that could have been the fresh legs from tapering). Looking back at the grade adjusted pace on Strava, I was running the equivalent of a 4:20-4:36/km pace, so all was not entirely lost.

Right from the start, I noticed my friend Jarek Zlamal (we ran a very similar race at Around the Bay)  and again we ran in very close proximity to one another. He was going for a 3:06 which concerned me because there were a few times I was running out in front of him!

Second 5km splits: 4:25, 4:19, 4:22, 4:15, 4:16

At the 6km mark of the race, runners make a left on to Mississauga Road and head towards the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. Just over a kilometre down the road, runners veer left and head around the campus. At this point of the race, the course drops 7 meters then another 5 meters before making a left turn back onto Mississauga Road where the biggest drop of the course (19 meters) occurs.

I remember two things about this part of the race: first, the University of Toronto Mississauga campus is beautiful and I would have loved to taken it all in a bit longer, but I was running too fast. Second, I was running a perfect pace if this was a half marathon; however, it wasn’t and again while the grade adjusted pace had me in a good place, I was still moving really quickly. One last 9 meter drop in elevation and we’re at the 10km mark of the race. I crossed the 10km just under 43 minutes.

I took my first gel at the 8km mark.

Third 5km splits: 4:36, 4:23, 4:19, 4:27, 4:21

What goes down, must come up, right? The first real hill of the race occurs around the 11km mark where Mississauga Road veers left. I was most thankful for this hill as it would allow me to slow down a bit; however, I ended up flying up the hill and then finally backed off a bit on the next few kilometers. We were nearing the point where the marathon runners break off from the half marathon runners, so I was starting to play a game in my head where I guessed how many runners would be left on the marathon course. This sort of distracted me for a bit and my pace, while still a bit too quick, settled down a bit.

Mississauga Road winds to the right around the 14km mark and heads under the QEW. Just shy of the 15km mark, runners make a quick right onto Indian Road. I could see 3-4 runners ahead of me and about the same amount behind me (including Jarek). There was very little crowd support and the only time I really saw anyone was when I crossed a busy intersection where the police were ensuring cars didn’t plow through the course. Occasionally there were volunteers near the kilometer markers and a they would yell “good job” or “slow down Jonathan!” I’m making up the last one, but it really would have been helpful if they yelled that out!

Fourth 16km – 21.1km: 4:29, 4:27, 4:29, 4:31, 4:29, 4:23

I don’t know if it was the lack of crowd support, the lack of runners, or something else, but I started to reduce my pace at this point. I was no longer feeling pulled by other racers and I was feeling really good with one exception; my right knee, likely my IT Band, was started to get sore. This happened in quite a few races in the past, so I was used to it.

At the 18km mark, runners make a left onto Lorne Park Road and then a quick right onto Truscott Drive. Having not run the course before and barely studying it in the weeks leading up to the race, I was handling the tangents pretty well. I passed the halfway mark at 01:32:22. At this point of the race, I was projected to finish in  a time of 3 hours 7 minutes. Too fast.

Crossing the midway point of the race, I did a full body scan and everything felt really good; my knee was getting more and more sore as I ran; however, I wasn’t getting tired yet and started to focus on the next milestone for me which is the 30km mark; this is where I really started to fade last Spring at the Goodlife Marathon as a result of going out way too fast.

I took my second gel at the 16km mark.

22km – 30km: 4:15, 4:22, 4:24, 4:27, 4:32, 4:32, 4:38, 4:37, 4:29

This next segment of the race really has its ups and downs; literally. Around the 21km mark, runners make a left onto Southdown Road. This is the exciting part of the course as runners make their way towards a turn-around point and, if you’re lucky (or going out way too fast), you get to see the elite runners coming towards you.

At the 24km mark, runners make a right onto Lakeshore Road West and then hit the turn-around point midway through the 26km mark. My right knee was still feeling pretty sore and I was hoping I wouldn’t have to stop to deal with it.

I took my third gel at the 24km mark.

Heading back on Lakeshore road West, runners make a quick right and work their way around Lakeside Park and then pop-out on to Southdown Road and back the way we came. There’s a pretty decent 10 meter climb up Southdown Road and I was really feeling it! Getting a little tired at this point, but not enough to cause any concerns.

Before turning off Southdown Road, I saw a few friends heading out to the turn-around point, including my buddy Dom!

At the 29th kilometer mark, runners turn right on to Orr Road.

The 30km mark of the race was in the back of my mind for most of the race. When I hit it, I was feeling pretty good although a little tired. I wasn’t about to slow down and start my usual power walking at this point the way I did at the Goodlife Marathon, but it did start weighing on my mind and I started to think about Boston and all the work that led up to this point. This kept me going a bit longer. My projected finish at this point of the race was 3 hours 9 minutes and looking back on Strava, I hit the 30km mark of the race around the exact same time I finished the Around the Bay 30K race last month; obviously I had no idea at the time, but still interesting nonetheless.

I don’t recall seeing many race photographers on the course and there really aren’t many race photos from the event, but someone was snapping photos at the 30km mark of the race. We found each other on Instagram (IG\thegivingtri) and he sent me the following photos! Not only do I love the sequence of photos below, but they are a perfect depiction of what goes through my mind when I run a race. Thank you Andrew for these awesome shots!

sauga 1
“30 Kilometers in. 12 to go. Getting tired. Please DO NOT stop running”
sauga 2
“Oh look, a photographer! Hi! I feel amazing! People are going to think I’m running so strong when they see this photo!”
missiagua 3
“Keep smiling, he’s still snapping photos.”

31km – 42.2km: 4:38, 4:33, 4:53, 4:30, 4:46, 4:30, 5:02, 4:57, 4:43, 4:57, 5:00, 4:45, 4:53

At the 31km mark of the race, runners make a quick left on to Meadow Wood Road and then another quick right onto Lakeshore Road West.

Somewhere around the 31-32 kilometer mark, I had to pull over to the side of the road to stretch my right knee. It was bothering me enough that I was starting to spend too much time focusing on it. I pulled over to the side of the road and propped my foot up on a fire hydrant and stretched. The entire process took just a few seconds and I was off again. From that moment on, my knee stopped bothering me and thankfully I wouldn’t really experience any soreness again for the remainder of the race.

This next section of the course features a few decent hills and it’s the point on the race where most runners bonk. While I wasn’t having any physical issues (calves, hamstrings, and legs felt tired, but good), I was overall getting pretty exhausted. The last 10 kilometers of the race were a combination of my typical power walking, running, and even stopping once to catch my breath at one of the final aid stations on the course.

I took my fourth and final gel at the 32km mark.

At the 33 kilometer mark, runners turn right off Lakeshore Road West at Owenwood Drive and then make an immediate left onto Echo Drive and then another immediate right onto Parkland Avenue. I remember seeing traffic cones continuing East on Lakeshore, but a sign pointing runners to make the right onto Owenwood. This really confused me at first and I almost panicked thinking the sign was wrong, but once I made the right turn, I noticed a volunteer waving at me and pointing towards Echo Drive. As soon as we were on Parkland Avenue, I noticed the Jack Darling Memorial Park I read about some of the race reports I read in the weeks leading up to the race.

As soon as runners reach the trail at the end of Parkland Avenue, they get a clear view of the Toronto skyline. I was exhausted, but seeing the CN Tower got me really excited! I actually waved and mumbled “Hi Toronto!” I probably looked and sounded like I had issues to anyone who was walking and running through the park, but thankfully they would have seen I was wearing a marathon race bib which would have confirmed I do, in fact, have issues.

Even though it was a crisp, windy morning, there were still a number of non-runners on the trail. Not enough to cause any concern and they were all really cool about staying out of the way. I did have to contend with a number of half-marathon runners, but even they were cool about staying to the far right of the trail.

I got in a few decent power walks through the park. It really is a nice space!

At the 39 kilometer mark, runners weave through the Port Credit Harbour Marina. Crowds really start to pick up here and thankfully I didn’t have to yell at anyone to get out of the way. Non-runners were really cool about the race cutting through this busy space as well!

This was also the part of the race where Walter Faoin passed me right around the point I needed to slow down. I knew it was Walter who was coming up behind me because he yelled out “FUCK YOU, Brooklyn!” to get me moving again. Anyone who knows Walter knows he’s not only an inspiration to many runners, he’s pretty good at motivating people when they need it most.

After passing the marina, runners enter Cumberland Drive and then back through the Waterfront Trail. For the final time in the race we had to cope with Half Marathon runners as well as non-runners walking around the marina and trail. At one point a father was yelling at his son to move to the side of the trail so runners could pass and the poor kid had no idea why his dad was so upset. At this point I knew I was making great time and it really took everything in my power to say something to the father, but I figured it would take too long to stop so I kept going.

At the 42km mark, the course takes us along Beach Street which makes a big right turn towards the finish line. At this point the number of spectators really pick-up and I noticed a bunch of friends from the running community. As soon as I saw them, I started waving my arms like a goose trying to land on a lake and started yelling, “I’m going to Boston!” over and over again. My friend Eric took a slow motion video of me and I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw it afterwards. I apologize if any geese were offended in the process.

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The race ends at Lakefront Promenade Park. Runners head down a narrow stretch of path towards the finish line. I ran over 42 kilometers and can vividly recall most of it up to this point, but the last hundred meters of the race was a complete blur to me. I did notice my friends who finished the Half Marathon earlier on the side of the course, but I honestly don’t remember crossing the finish line. This is very unusual for me as I am always looking for the clock to see how I did.

After the race, my friend Rose said I appeared to stop at the timing mat and I simply walked across it. I don’t even remember doing that, but it’s hysterical!

The Results

I crossed the finish line in 3:11:17 which is 2 minutes 25 seconds faster than my personal best time I achieved at the Goodlife Marathon last Spring. As a result, I beat the Boston qualifying time by 13 minutes 33 seconds! For those wondering, I’M GOING TO BOSTON in 2018! Actually, it won’t be official until I register in September and BAA sends me the acceptance email shortly after. According to the BAA website registration will open on Wednesday, September 13 for qualifiers who have met the qualifying standard by 10 minutes, 00 seconds or more (if space remains). That’s me!

September 13th can’t come soon enough!

Now that I had some time to reflect on the race and what I accomplished, I keep asking myself if I could have done better. Absolutely I could have! I did not run a disciplined race at all. I didn’t stick to the pace plan and was really hanging on for the last 10 kilometers. The Mississauga Marathon was my 6th attempt at the marathon distance and each time I run a marathon, I feel as if I ran it for the first time. At some point, I’ll need to trust the process and my training to run a disciplined race. Perhaps I’ll give it a try at the Chicago Marathon in October.

Here are the details of my results:

  • Overall Place: 47 out of 795
  • Gender Place: 45 out of 484
  • Category Place (ages 40-49): 9 out of 156

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Post Race

After the race, I walked over to the spot where my friends watched me finish. Anna had my checked bag and I threw on my sweatpants and a jacket because the winds were really picking up and I was getting pretty cold! We waited for Daniel and Dominic to come in and unfortunately, they did not make it in the time they needed for Boston and that really broke my heart. They worked so hard and both had challenges on the course. Dominic ran Boston in 2016 and has been my inspiration to train harder ever since I met him. I know he will be back! I also know Daniel will get there as well. his work ethic is incredible! These guys truly inspire me and I am so glad they’re part of my running family.

When I finished the Goodlife Marathon last year, I was amazed at how many people said I should run Mississauga this year instead of attempting Goodlife again. While Goodlife is more convenient (the start line is really close to my home), I thought the races were very similar; both had a wicked downhill at the start, a decent climb (although the Goodlife climb is around the 5 kilometer mark) early in the race, and finally a good amount of rollers towards the middle/end of the course. Hopefully next Spring I won’t have to run either of them again!

Once everyone came in, we hopped on a shuttle back to the start and grabbed lunch and a pint to celebrate the fact we all finished in one piece.

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For fun, I’m posting the race photos from Marathon-Photos to prove I take horrible race photos!

Up Next

I’m really going to enjoy running for fun for the next few weeks. Looking ahead, my next 18-week training cycle for the Chicago Marathon would likely start on June 4th. I am racing the Brooklyn Half on May 20th, but I don’t anticipate I’ll be going for a Half Marathon PR. A course PR is a different story!

The only thing left to do now is wait until September 13th when I can enter my name and finishing time on the BAA website and find out for sure whether I’ll be going to Boston in 2018. I did book a hotel room already, so there’s that!

QOTD: Did you participate in the Mississauga Marathon or Goodlife Marathon last weekend? If so, how did you do?

 

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