Race Report: Mississauga Half Marathon 2013

Barefoot, Kilted, and Shirtless for the Mississauga Half!

Not a great finishing time (1:57.46.2), but not a bad one either. I went out too quickly at the start (when will I learn?), and pushed the hill at the 10K mark a little too hard. Not surprisingly, I paid for both of those mistakes later, with my pace dropping significantly post-18K. Still, it was a good race and I was reasonably happy with my finish.

A big highlight was a dailymile meetup before the start. I chatted with another good friend while waiting in the start line, ran with another for a short distance in the first few kilometers, and chatted with two more at the finish. That made the race much more of a social event than my races usually are. For an Aspie like me, this sort of stuff is a big deal.

And the weather was pretty much race-perfect: 10C at race start and 19C at the finish, sunny, with a 10 km/h wind, and 42% humidity.

The Meetup

dailymile meetup

The dailymile crew

Dailymile meetups are fun. Interesting, too, as they involve re-connecting with folks I already know, meeting face-to-face with people I’d only connected with online, and meeting new friends. This one was a large group, involving runners who were doing the half and full marathon distances.

The Numbers

My official stats for the half were as follows:

Chip time: 1:57.46.2
Average pace: 5:30
Overall placing: 816/2363
Category placing (male 60-69): 14/48
Gender placing: 525/1058

Interestingly, those numbers suggest that I may finally have broken out of my “mid-pack runner status” in terms of overall and category placing (though not in gender placing). That makes me feel much better about my slow finishing time.

Some Analysis

More numbers. The following kilometer-by-kilometer breakdown, generated by my Garmin Forerunner 210 and filtered through the SportTracks application, tell the story far better than any photo could. Look down the list, and then read on while I unpack the numbers a bit.

Kilometer 1: 5:24 min/km
Kilometer 2: 5:16 min/km
Kilometer 3: 5:18 min/km
Kilometer 4: 5:15 min/km
Kilometer 5: 5:19 min/km
Kilometer 6: 5:26 min/km
Kilometer 7: 5:26 min/km
Kilometer 8: 5:16 min/km
Kilometer 9: 5:18 min/km
Kilometer 10: 5:21 min/km
Kilometer 11: 5:46 min/km
Kilometer 12: 5:33 min/km
Kilometer 13: 5:35 min/km
Kilometer 14: 5:30 min/km
Kilometer 15: 5:35 min/km
Kilometer 16: 5:28 min/km
Kilometer 17: 5:29 min/km
Kilometer 18: 5:34 min/km
Kilometer 19: 5:36 min/km
Kilometer 20: 5:43 min/km
Kilometer 21: 5:31 min/km

My target finish time for this half was 1:53. I’d planned carefully for that. In theory, it was all very simple. I could pull off that finishing time (and therefore a new PB) if I kept an average pace of 5:21 min/km. Simple, right?

Concept was good, execution was rubbish.

Studies of runners at half and full marathon distances suggest that a pace only 2 seconds quicker than the runner’s targeted training pace means diminished performance later in the race. As you can see from the above numbers, I blew things completely. For kilometers 2 through 5, I was doing as much as 6 seconds faster than my target pace. And I did it again for kilometers 8 and 9. In fact, the only kilometer for which I held my target pace was kilometer 10. I slowed down a lot going up the hill at kilometer 11, and then dragged myself along for the second half of the race distance.

That was just lame. There’s no other word for it.

The Finish

Mississauga Half 2013

Strong old animal

Nevertheless, I wasn’t too shabby at the finish. Held my own, and acquitted myself with honour. Just wish I could look a little happier as I get close to the line. I try, heaven knows, but all that comes is that zombie focus thing.

Reflections and Learnings

Racing is always about learning. So, on reflection, what’s to learn from this race?

First, carb-loading, while it works for me for marathons, doesn’t work for the half (at least, it didn’t for this one). I’d read one study which suggested that, for many runners, carb-loading for 2 days prior to a half resulted in enhanced performance. So I loaded. And went into this race 5 lbs. over my target weight for this time of the year. It didn’t help, and may have hindered.

Second, pace. I’ve told that story just above, and won’t dwell on it, except to say that a good part of my training this summer will be about holding to a pace. ‘Nuff said.

Third, heart, or desire, or drive. I have it in spades in training, particularly in pushing myself to go long distances. But, in races, well, not so much. Robert Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, calls what I don’t have “gumption.” He defines gumption as “a combination of commonsense, shrewdness, and a sense of initiative.” In this race, I fell short in all three departments. Pirsig also talks in ZMM about “gumption traps.” The “trap” portion of the term refers to the negative feedback loop that an event or mindset creates. I fell into a gumption trap when I realized that I’d gone out too fast, and couldn’t claw myself back. Once again, more training is needed.

What’s Next?

The above isn’t meant to be negative. Very much the opposite, in fact. I had a good race, my finishing time was acceptable, and I had fun. Can’t ask for more than that. And I’ve learned.

Immediately after the race, I went back to my usual high protein, high fat, low carb diet, and, three days later, have dropped 6 lbs. After the half, I took a day off, then got back to running. Since then, I’ve done an 11K run and a 20K run, at easy paces, with no hurts, and feeling strong.

For a little while, I’m going to do some fun running. No goals, just running, on the roads, on the trails, and on the track. Plus some swimming.

On July 1, I’ll start a training program to prepare for my next sequence of races: the Iroquioa Trail Test 18K on August 17; the Milton Half Marathon on September 15; and the Vulture Bait 50K Trail Ultra on October 19.

And I’m going to learn to run at my target pace. Really, I am.

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2 comments

  1. Excellent report and analysis, Alan! I especially love the ZMM part about gumption and the gumption trap. As you know, this was my huge focus as well for this race (defined by me as stong mental capacity), and that focus served me well.

    Also a good reminder that I too want to focus on more even pacing and less reliance on the watch over the summer. Thank you as always for offering such wonderful lessons along with your great reports.

    And you ARE a strong old animal. I hope to be the same!

    1. Many thanks, Nicole. I’ve noted – and been impressed by – your focus. I have much to learn from you. I don’t think I’ll ever be as quick as you, though. 🙂

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