My whole marathon weekend seems a bit surreal now that its over. I’m going to try and recount events as I remember them. Hopefully, I get most of the details correct. There are a few things that I’m not 100% sure exactly where/when on the timeline they occurred. I may be off by a kilometer here or there.
I arrived in Mississauga around 2pm after an uneventful drive. The hotel was surrounded by construction and although I could see the sign I couldn’t find the entrance or parking until the third pass.
Checking in was a breeze, no line-ups and although I couldn’t get the in room wireless connection working at first, there we a couple of computers in the lobby, so I popped online and updated some emails and tweeted a bit.
KO arrived a bit late so we dumped her luggage in my room and we zipped over to the expo to meet up with the rest of the clinic group at the Running Room booth.
I expected a bit more from the expo, picking up the race kit and activating the timing chip were done quickly within the first two minutes there. I checked out the exhibitors, chatted a bit with John Stanton, took some group pictures, and made dinner plans.
A quick trip back to the hotel to get Marc, KO, and Kathryn checked in. a brief fly-by the hotel restaurant, which was surprising empty, to check on dinner reservations if our Boston Pizza plan didn’t “pan out”.
Kathryn navigated Marc to Boston Pizza, which was also surprisingly empty. We were able to get seating for twelve in the lounge (bar) and before the night was over we had closer to sixteen in the party.
Everyone had differing meal ideas. I kept mine simple, bruschetta and a spinach salad. The salad having bacon and boiled egg worked for me. I’m a bit clueless, but I believe I drank water with dinner.
Rebecca was able to get her daughter to grab a couple more group photos. We also discovered that most of the stores in Square One closed at 6pm on Saturday nights. It might explain why the restaurant wasn’t so busy.
After dinner, a quick foray in to Sportchek for Marc to pick up a pair of wrist sweat bands (his Garmin watch straps were the extra long ones from winter running) and over to Starbucks for coffee to store in the room for the morning.
We were back to the hotel by 9pm. Early to bed, with the alarm set for 5am.
As discussed during the clinic, the night before the race sleeping isn’t the best. I rested but was wide awake by 3:30am. I tried to nap, close my eyes and rest, but the brain was already working. I had laid out running tights, a long sleeve shirt, tank top. I was expecting a cold start with cool by 11am. I checked online and television weather trying to decide if I was overdressing. I rummaged around, found my Adidas shorts, a short sleeved shirt and created an Option B.
Then I started putting my race belt together, emptying 5 ELoad Heat formula gels in to my race bottle. I sipped on some Orange Gatorade. Mixed and filled two 10oz bottles with Amino Vital Endurance, filled the third 8 oz bottle with some of the Gatorade. Packed two bags of Gu Chomps in to the pouch, added a couple blister packs of Advil from the expo. A couple extra of the round Band-Aids to prevent nipple atrocities if the one’s I was wearing sweated off mid race.
Back to the weather channel, still undecided about what to wear.
Down to the parking garage, I couldn’t remember exactly where I had parked the car. The garage had filled quite a bit after the return from the expo. We were scrambling to get to the restaurant and I “kinda” knew where the car was located. It was now 5am and the lobby breakfast cart was setting up. I thought breakfast was included with the room, it wasn’t, back up stairs to grab some cash. While in the room, ran some hot water through the coffee machine to make my instant oatmeal, downstairs for a hot coffee and toast. Back up to the room to eat, and drink, peanut butter on the toast polished off a banana as well. About 800 calories in total
It seemed warm enough outside, cool but not unpleasant. I decided to go simple, shorts and shorts sleeved shirt. I had my $8 Value Village nylon shell jacket that was going to be dropped along the route once I was happy with the temperature.
I packed, emptied the room, down to the car, but didn’t check out. The front lobby was chaos with people everywhere. As I got downstairs to meet as planned, KO was running out the door at full tilt. Marty had arrived from London, Marc had his race packet. We chatted briefly and Marc walked in to the lobby.
Once Marty had his stuff, he went back to the start line. Marc finished getting organized and accepted his sunscreen offer. I covered my ears, back of neck, and cheeks just to be safe. We were the last ones to leave the hotel and take the 10 minute walk to the starting area.
As we arrived, they announced 18 minutes to the start, but only 8 minutes to drop off your bag at the bag check. Damn. Once we determined that we had to navigate the sea of people to get to the baggage trucks, I had to book it to get to the truck. I also discovered the running gods were already ahead of me. I started my Garmin to find the satellites and was greeted with a ``battery low`` message on the display screen.
No use in getting upset, expect the unexpected. I had to pull off my nylon shell pants to put them in the bag, so off came the watch, and so did the heart rate monitor, No use wearing it all race for no good reason. I smiled to myself. The theme for the day was so apparent, `Time Doesn’t Matter`
I had the choice of three trucks to drop my bag off, the first truck was too full, the second truck was half marathon only, and the third truck that seemed just right, was the one with Marc looking around frantically for me, he was putting his cell phone and room key in my bag. I guess we had gotten separated when I stopped to jam my watch and pants in to the bag.
From there we tried to meet up with the rest of the group. We found Chris. Marc was able to find Juliana, and he called Rebecca on the phone. She was in the port o`potty line.
I lost everyone heading to the line. My plan to run with Rebecca at 4 hour pace wasn’t going to materialize at the start; I might find her on the course. I wandered in the chute looking for the 4:00 pace bunny. Eventually, about 20 yards ahead of me I could make out the 4:00 sign. I was able to fix on it for the start.
Sunday: The Mississauga Marathon
It took over four and a half minutes from the starter’s gun to crossing the Start Line. I’ve never been in a start like this. Elbow to elbow people, walking towards the start, and then as the chips beep, slowly beginning to run. It was two kilometres of elbows, heels, jostling, weaving, eyes on the bunny, slowly working my way up to the 4:00 entourage.
Around 4km I was feeling warm in the nylon shell, a good sweat, the sun was shining, not too much breeze, a comfortable pace. and the pace bunny was doing Running Room 10 and 1`s. I wasn’t planning on run/walk but it was going to be a go with the flow day, and without a watch and no Rebecca it worked for me.
By 6km I dumped the jacket on a traffic cone. Our pace bunny was a good one. He communicated well. Watched his pacing, noted when we got slightly ahead of pace. Suggested when to gel, and identified the water stops. He didn’t run with a fuel belt, but had gels. A lovely blonde, with a Lake Placid Iron Man jersey ran with him, they talked about plans for their next Ironman.
Over the first half of the course we talked a bit, I let him know it was my first marathon, that I was working through a few injuries and that I was happy running at a four hour pace. At times I though it was too slow, I was amazed at how in control I felt. At no time was I breathing hard. People were gasping, out of breath all around me. I was on top of the world. I was able to drink, pop Gu’s, suck on the gel bottle, although I found it very annoying trying to get the strap back on it when I wanted to ge tit back on to the Fuel Belt.
The half marathon participants separated at the 18km mark. We were a bit ahead of pace at the halfway mark clocking in at 1:57:12 for 21.1km. I also started behind the pace bunny so I had a bit of wiggle room in my time.
About kilometer 23, I noticed the same feeling in my calves that I had near the end of the Retina Run half marathon. It starts as a slight tightening that slowly knots. I can’t open up my stride without the knot becoming a full blown cramp.
I drank some more, switching over to the Gatorade bottle, took a couple more pulls on the gel flask and did my best to use the training mantra from our Riverside Drive Love Hurts's runs “Don’t think about it”
My pace bunny asked how I was doing and I mentioned the beginning of calf cramps, his suggestion was to vary up my stride and try to open up a bit more. I tried, but without much success, the more I tried to open up, the more it felt like I was going to go in to a full blown cramp. We reached an uphill and I had to fall back. The up hills took everything out of me. I couldn’t toe off to push up. I stepped off to the side, and walked a bit. It was only 27km in to the race. I had a horrible sinking feeling. How am I going to do this? Calf cramping was manageable at 19km of a 21.1 km race. This was different. I smiled to myself, now I knew why my watch battery was dead, and why I couldn’t find Rebecca. I was forewarned this wasn’t going to be the day I was expecting.
Ok Jeff, go with it, whatcha gonna do? Goal One: Finish the race.
I refused to quit.
I made it to kilometer 30.
I set small goals.
I wanted to see 32. If I saw 32 I knew I could do the final 10.
I did 1 and 1’s, I did 1 and 2’s What ever it took.
We were along the lakeshore park system. I pushed on lamp poles to try and stretch out the calves.
I massaged my calves.
I stretched my hamstrings.
I can do this. I pushed.
Whoops. Bad idea.
I cramped. That death like feeling of nausea when the muscle locks and you can’t breathe it hurts so much. I would get these in the middle of the night, bolting out of bed, grabbing the dresser and trying to stand on tip toe to stretch out the muscle.
I refused to fall over, I was scared. Was it really over? I had just passed 32.
Eventually, the cramp faded. I could move, just before the next water station was a guy with a bag of pretzels. WTF? Really? “Do you want a pretzel?”, he asked. I asked for a handful. I almost choked , they were so dry. I think I ate six of them, then two cups of Gatorade to wash them down at the aid station.
I could run again. Really, I was able to run.
Three, four kilometers, I don’t know. I passed the timing belts at 38 as I was starting to feel the cramping return. My split says 3:51:31. My body said, your done running.
I told myself to keep moving. I could still walk. Dammit, I’d crawl if I had to.
Closer and closer to the finish, more and more people,
You can do it!
You’re looking strong! (really, you talking to me?)
The crowd was great. I talked to a lot of them.
I joked. I felt fine, I just couldn't run.
I knew I’d make it. Just not the way I expected to.
I almost went off the course around kilometer 40. I saw a MacDonalds. Salt packets.
I was so tempted. I had salt packets on my desk at work. I was supposed to bring them home and throw them in my race pouch. I didn’t. Regrets. Maybe.
My legs were finished. It hurt to walk.
The crowd urged me on:
“Just around the corner, Jeff”
"You can do it!"
I ran across the finish line.
I did it.
Timing chip off
I am a Marathoner.
For me, the time doesn’t matter.
I finished in 4:27:19.7
On that day, in that race, it was my personal best.
One done, more to come.