We leave the house. D. wears his 98.4% chimp shirt. We're fifteen minutes later than we'd aimed for, but I think we'd aime for 6:15 because I'm notoriously late. I sip my water.
D. turns the car around because we've overshot our desitination in Mississauga. After turning around and driving all of 500 meters we're at a standstill. Now what? I sip my water.
We're still waiting. We've barely moved. A driver in the next lane motions to us to roll down the window. When D. does, he says "where are we going to park once we get in there?" D. says "We're new at this too. I'm not worried about parking right now." I can see the start line from the car, but I can't see any movement of traffic. Runners are walking along the street, across the overpass for the 403 highway. Should I do the same? I also need the port-o-johnny after all that hydrating.
I've attached my timing chip to my shoe and my bib to my Fauna Sanctuary shirt. D. and I both think it's best that I get out now and run to the start line. I zip up my jacket (it's a bit chilly and windy out there) and kiss D. goodbye. We'll see each other again along the route somewhere. I'm glad that I've gotten out am am now jogging over the highway to the parking lot near the start line. It feels good to run a little and get some of the jitters out.
I take off my warm up clothes and tag them for the baggage check. The volunteers are abundant and extremely helpful. There are runners everywhere. There must be thousands.
I get in the longest line ever for a port-o-jonny. Runners are scattered over the adjacent field, bypassing the port-o-jonnies, choosing instead to water anywhere they can. This is tempting and I hear the woman behind me tell her partner that she's going to head behind that brick building. She hops the fence and wades through the tall grass. Should I head for the field? How long will I be in line? The field seems so open. I'm such a shy person. I can see the backends of women crouching under trees. I decide to keep waiting.
Still in line. The main line breaks into mini line ups for each port-o-jonny. I try to pick one with the most men in line, but it's mostly women. I guess the men went for the field. I strike up a conversation with two women ahead of me running the half marathon as well. They've been running together for five years and do a race every year together. Their sons started kindergarten together and that's how they met. They have run this race before. One woman tells me that the finish line is deceptive. It looks closer than it is because you actually weave around the lake before getting to the finish line. I make a mental note.
The women and I wish each other good luck and I'm one person away from my port-o-jonny turn.
I run away from the port-o-jonny's. I can hear the end of the national anthem as I run across the grass to the road that is cordoned off with fenced in runners. I'm about midway down the pack when the gun goes off. I pick an opening and wait to join the walk through the start.
There's a friendly jack russell terrier in his owner's arms. The dog tries to kiss all those that pass him. He's very cute. I'm in the pack and we walk forward. As I near the start line I begin to trot a little. I can see the tsn cameras overhead and I wave as I go through the start line. I forget to look up and check the time of my start.
I remember to start my stop watch. I must already be a minute into my run. I go slow. Everyone is passing me and I have to resist the urge to bolt and run as fast as my adrenalin wants me to go.
The first water station is an indication that I've already gone 2 km. I decide not to stop at every water station. I tell myself that I don't train this way so why should I slow down now to drink? I do need the port-o-jonny again though. I'm okay for a bit. There's the 2:10 pace bunny! I don't want anything to do with her. I want to finish in 2 hours. She's running a good pace though. She stops to walk for a minute. I pick up a little pace, but I really want to keep my first hour slow because I know how hard the end will be. Or do I?
Running along the big stretch of Burnhamthorpe road is not as inclined as I thought. D. was right again. I worried for nothing. My achilles aches a little, but it's like a memory pain, faint, familiar. Crossing over the Credit River is beautiful. It's lush everywhere. I move to the outside so I can see the water rushing below. The tree tops are swaying quite a bit. I try not to think about the big hill after Dundas on Mississauga road. I try not to think about how windy the Lakeshore will be today. I try not to think about how much I want to run faster and tell myself it's the adrenalin. My achilles has stopped hurting and I feel completely warmed up. I decide to leave the cotton Fauna shirt on until the halfway mark. I've got a moisture wick shirt on underneath. I am warm though.
Mostly I hear voices of people conversing and lots of breathing rhythms. We round the corner onto Mississauga road. There is a gentle incline and we're mostly downhill again. I stop for water. I grab gatorade by mistake and then find the water, but only sip a little. I check my time because I'm eager for the 45 minute mark when I can have my first energy gel. I'm all nerves so I focus on my 3:2 breathing with each footstep. I take in the scenery as much as possible. I people watch. Conversation snippiets I hear, "I'm sorry to hear about all your troubles, but look you're hear now and racing." "How'd you get ahead of us, Dave?" "I saw you stop at the last water station, but I kept going." "Happy Mother's day all you mothers. You're looking great!" "Just keep your pace and you'll be fine."
The varying strides, paces and styles are astounding. I can pick out the marathoners. They're leaner with muscle defined calves that just stand out in the pack. There's a woman who has been biking ahead on her bike and then stopping to cheer us on with a small cow bell. I'm glad to see her. She's really encouraging. All the spectators are encourgaing with their homemade signs, pom poms, noise makers, boom boxes and shouts of encouragement.
We're already at the U of T Mississauga campus loop. It's lovely. It's downhill through a tree-lined narrow stretch of road. I can't wait and reach in my back pocket for the enegy gel. I have picked the strawberry. It's very warm from my body heat, but it's really good too. Up a slight hill and we turn to the campus exit. A woman marathoner walks along the side with her family. I wonder what has happened to her. She doesn't look in any sort of pain. Then, I see D. He's got his L.V. hat on and is waving. I wave. I'm so happy to see him and he's one of the few people in this stretch. He asks how I am and I slow a little. He runs a little ways with me. He takes photos. I give him my empty gel package and wave farewell. He's motivated me to get through to the end. I can't wait to see him at the end.
I reach the 10 km mark just at the top of a small hill. I'm over the time I wanted, but I'm okay. I stop at the port-o-jonny and wait with two other women. There's music playing, "I Will Survive." We dance and sing along. One woman ducks behind the port-o-jonny foregoing the wait. I don't wait long. I tuck my Fauna shirt in my shorts and I'm back on the road with a cup of water rehydrating. There's that 2:10 pace bunny. She must have passed me while I took my break. I pass her and pick up my pace. There's no way I'm doing 2:10. Where is the 2 hour pace bunny? I haven't seen him since the start. I can't worry about that now though. I've got a ways to go.
The sleepy neighbourhood is lovely. There are spectators along the way, but it's mostly treelined and quiet. I see a young boy running with headphones on. He must be no more than 13 years old. The back of his t-shirt reads "Happy Mothers Day." He's on his own and looks in good form. In one spot all I can hear is the foot pacing rhythms of all the runners around me. There's no one talking, or breathing too heavily. We seem to be moving together.
The hill I worried about is over before I know it or have time to really feel it. All those hills in my High Park training pay off again. I focus on form, keeping my head up on par with the incline, lifting my knees and relaxing my upper body. Then it's over and we're headed downhill again.
When we reach the QEW the wind gusts are huge and I feel myself being blown around on the road. It's a struggle. Soon we are in the old part of Mississauga. The marathoners turn right and we go straight. The streets narrow, the achitecture changes and is more urban looking. There are more people here. There's bands and dancing. I know we're near the lakeshore and I'm almost there.
As we approach the lakeshore trail, I have my second energy gel, GU Espresso Love. It's delicious and I take my time. The waves splash up against the rocks along the shore and the wind whips at us. I start to dig deep because I know I've still got at least 5 km to go. There are lots of people now cheering us on. The path is very narrow and it's difficult to manoevre around people but I manage. My legs are starting to ache. A siren is behind us. I step up onto the grass to let it pass. It's a golf cart ambulance with two paramedics. That's not a good sign.
We run into a heavily forested area and I start going over the names of the chimps at the Fauna foundation. I ask the ones who have recently passed away to help me find strength to get through the rest of the race. I place my hands over the chimp picture of Billy Jo on the front of my shirt and dig deep. I remind myself that this little bit of pain is nothing compared to what they endured every day of their lives in research labs or in the entertainment industry. I look up at the trees and imagine them having such a place to live out the rest of their lives, a place like Fauna.
We jog through a street and then back onto the lakeshore path. I see a kid on the stretcher with the paramedics. It's the boy with the mother's day t-shirt. He has an oxygen mask on and is being tended to.
I can hear the finish line. I'm almost there. Am I 3 km or 2 km? I can't tell anymore. My watch is no help because I'm so focused on just trying to finish. People cheer me on, calling out my name that they can read on my racing bib.
Around the beach, I can see the finish now. Someone calls out "C'mon, S. you're looking good you just need to open it up a bit." Whoever that stranger was was right. I let loose and open up my stride to the end. I'm really sprinting for the finish and see the clock at 2:08 as I pass under and finish.
I get my foil blanket and then D. is there. He congratulates me. There's foil wrapped runners everywhere. I get my chip removed. Someone puts a medal over my head. I'd almost forgotten. I get changed, stretch, eat my homemade vega bar from red jane and my pretzels. D. has brought me a banana. We snap photos. I ask a woman to take our photo wearing our Fauna shirts. I'm so happy to have run for this cause. I help myself to a orange from the fruit station and then wait forever for a massage, but it's worth it and then we finally head home.
My official time was 2:03. I'm proud. I can't wait for the next one.