Although I do enjoy running, longer distance races are not really my thing. I get bored, feel awful halfway through and just prefer to be done with a race in 25-60 minutes. For my other two half marathons, it was all about survival. The first half marathon (Army Run 2012) that I ran, Max wasn’t even a year old yet. I did not make it past 17K in training and when I hit 17K in the race, I crumbled. In May, I ran my second half marathon. I was reasonably faster this time around, having done a few more training runs – but still my long runs were not really there (topped out at around 17K again) and I was running on a stress fracture. Once again, I crumbled at 16K and hobbled over the start line, but with a fairly big PB. I can say without a doubt, that on Sunday I did not survive a half marathon, I actually raced one.
I packed my gear the night before. Because it was going to be humid and rainy, I packed two outfits – a before and after. I packed my after back in a garbage bag. I also packed my own fuel and an extra hat.
I hopped on the OC Transpo bus early Sunday morning to get to the race site early and to cheer on the 5K runners. I planned on getting off at the University of Ottawa which would line me up right at the 1K-ish mark of the 5K route. I arrived just to see some the injured soldiers run/walk by. Soon the faster runners arrive. I tried to recognize some runners, but I was only able to see two friends from my previous school. I didn’t have my Heisenberg sign out this time – it was missed I think!
One thing that I noticed while watching was the amount of runners running up on the sidewalk. Not only is it against the rules, but it is rather dangerous. The roads are closed for the Army Run, but not the sidewalks. Where I was standing was at a tunnel entrance for the OC Transpo, and tons of people were out and about. Over the 30 minutes that I stood there (and was pushed back by runners), I saw runners almost collide with bikes, strollers, people and even almost get bit by a dog who was patiently waiting with his owner to cross the street. The kicker was that as I looked on the street (aka the actual race route), it wasn’t super crowded. Oh well!
Anyways, after about 30 minutes of watching, I went to the race area. The race area was booming! Lots of people were around, either getting ready or just finishing. I had a quick stop at the portapotty city and then proceeded to bag check. Out of two things that I felt were not 5/5 stars for the Army Run, one was the bag check. The bag check tent was right in the middle of everything and was rather busy. There were also 5K runners wanting to get their bags and half marathoners wanting to drop off their bags. I ended up waiting in line, but then followed some guys to where the organizers were asking half marathoners to go to drop off their stuff. All in all, it wasn’t too bad, just a change in location would be better.
As I was getting ready, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling too hot. My sinuses were still fairly clogged from my cold and I was feeling off. I definitely struggled with starting the race that day. As I made my way to the start, I really felt like throwing in the towel and just calling it a day. Because of this, my race nerves were sky high and I literally thought that I was going to die in the race (not even joking). I made my way to the yellow corral and stood off to the side. Normally, I am all pumped up, but this time I felt dreadful. It also didn’t help that it was humid as heck outside. I worried about everyone wearing long sleeved shirts!
The cannon went off at 9:30am. But this time, they let us go one corral at a time. I was in the third corral, so I waited about 10 minutes or so before we were off. This way, when it was our time to go, we were off!
I started the race with a plan, take it every 5K or so and see how it goes. If I felt dizzy, lightheaded or really off, I was going to stop at an aid station and be taken back home. I also did not put on my iPod for the first 10K. The first KM takes us past Parliament Hill (which I never look at – don’t know why) and the Supreme Court of Canada. I was fairly slow the first KM, just trying to get into the groove. As I ran, someone approached me and asked if I was Rebecca from Running.Food.Baby. We had a short chat and soon she was off as her pace was a bit faster than mine. Not sure who you were (why I didn’t ask, I don’t know!) but Hi! That put a smile on my face and I proceeded down the course. As we approached the War Museum, I noticed the bees. There were so many bees buzzing around us! It really freaked me out as what else could happen in a race but being stung by a bee!
I ended up seeing the 2:15 Race/Walk pace bunny at this point and decided to stick with that group. This section of the course has some rolling hills, but nothing too challenging. As we approached KM 4, we took a walking break to get a drink from the aid station. The Gatorade was mixed beautifully and I think it really helped me get over the sick feeling I was having.
KM 1 – 7:01
KM 2 – 6:39
KM 3 – 6:19
KM 4 – 6:38
KM 5 – 6:20
5 KM Split time: 32:57
As we approached Tunney’s Pasture, we were turned around and went back towards the War Museum. It is essentially the same thing, but in reverse, so we had to tackle those rolling hills again. Nothing too big to deal with and I was holding my pace rather well. Some military helicopters flew by overhead (we all cheered) and we also saw a group of soldiers go by in full gear (minus weapons) who were all marching together. We cheered for them too. We approached another aid station and I thought about stopping to go to the washroom, but decided not too. We then turned into Quebec and tackled a short steep uphill. Gatineau is rather hilly with lots of ups and downs. At this point, it started to rain. I laughed because I commented on Twitter that I figured the second half of the race would be rain-filled and I was right! As we approached the Museum of History, I heard some spectators comment on the long potty line saying “You know, it is raining and with that line, might as well just let it go”. I chuckled and even thought about just peeing, but didn’t. Soon I was at the bridge back to Ottawa. You know, the bridge I walked up for the Ottawa Race Weekend. Well this time, I ran up it! I went over the Sports Stat mats at 1:04 which was supposed to be the 10K mark, but I think the mats were just before the 10K mark (I think). Something was really wonky with the Sports Stat splits, so I am not really paying much attention to them. If you look at my splits on my results, they don’t really line up. Anyways, during this 5K section, I managed to keep the 2:15 pace bunny within reach the entire time, some times being right with the group. The pacer was going a bit quick at some points, so I decided to keep her within sight, but to run my own race.
KM 6 – 6:48
KM 7 – 6:30
KM 8 – 6:12
KM 9 – 6:40
KM 10 – 6:14
Next 5K Split -32:24 – 10K time was 1:05:21
As we moved our way back into Ottawa, we hit Sussex Drive – at this point, I put on the tunes. It was pouring and I was getting soaked. Sussex Drive is under construction, so we were very limited in terms of space to run. This is when I started to loose the pace bunny a bit. Not because I was slowing down, but because I kept getting stuck behind slower runners or having to zip around potholes or large puddles. I don’t remember passing people in my last half marathons, so this was new to me. Sussex Drive was a strong section for me, but also kind of hard. There are lots of large up and down sections on Sussex and this is the point that I felt awful at in 2012. I felt much more strong this time around. Rather than turning into Rockcliffe, we got to go into Rideau Hall (Governor General’s Residence). This was pretty cool. We entered the grounds in such a tiny spot, and then ran through the area. I almost high fived the Governor General, but he started talking to someone and I wasn’t able to score a high five. The Rideau Hall section was the point where I was the most bored. I couldn’t wait to get out of this area and proceed back downtown. Soon enough, we were back on Sussex Drive – which meant we had to run on those hills again! I managed to catch up with the 2:15 pace bunny again. At least until we got squished on Sussex Drive, then I had to do lots of weaving again.
KM 11 – 6:33
KM 12 – 6:06
KM 13 – 6:08
KM 14 -6:14
KM 15 – 6:02
5K Split – 31:03
At this point in the race, I started to get pretty tired. The crowds around downtown definitely kept me going. The great thing about the crowds, is that they were pretty huge despite the pouring rain. I saw the marching soldiers again, everyone was giving them high fives as they ran by. Lots of kids lined the streets and I definitely had lots of high fives. As soon as I made it to the Rideau Centre Mall, I knew I had about 3K to go and was good for time to PB. I started to feel a bit of pain in my left knee and my ankles and started to ease up a bit because I didn’t want to push anything and be injured with 6 weeks of marathon training left.
I did see the 2:15 pace bunny stop for a scheduled walk break, but I decided to keep running and walk when I got to the last water station. I only took a brief walking break at this point and kept going. As we rounded Pretoria Bridge, I knew that the run was pretty much done and started to pick up the pace to finish the race. At the 20K mark, I passed the pace bunny and ran the longest KM ever to the finish. At this point with 500m (Garmin distance) to go – my Garmin died. It started beeping at me at around 14K. I’m not sure what the deal was. I noticed in the morning, that the watch was stuck, so I had to reset it. It might have drained the battery a bit? Or the rain has something to do with it? I LOL’d (a theme for this run) and kept going to the finish. I crossed at 2:27, but that was gun time and I knew I waited a million years to start. I had no clue on what my exact time was. I saw the pace bunny right beside me at the mats – fun!
I walked through the finishing area completely soaked to the bone. I noticed that my back really hurt. It hurt more than my legs, probably because I carried my fuel in my back pocket. But, I felt pretty good!
KM 16 – 6:25
KM 17 – 6:15
KM 18 – 6:17
KM 19 – 6:13
KM 20 – 6:27 – 5K split 31:37, 10K split 1:02:39 (technically this is a 10K PB!)
KM 21 (but only .63 of it) – 3:43 (at 5:53 pace)
Garmin Time – 2:11:43 – for 20.63KM
I proceeded to get my dog tags from a member of the Army and then head to the food tent. It was really pouring now. Puddles were everywhere at the park that holds the finishing area was a mud disaster zone. The food on offer was standard Ottawa race food: Bagels, bananas, yoghurt and power bars. I took a power bar and some gatorade. I’m just not a fan of banana and bagel after a race. I wish someone would hand me a warm poutine instead. Bag pick up was much more smooth and I was in and out in no time. P was text me to see where I was at, but my phone was slightly wet and so were my fingers, so texting wasn’t working. I figured the best place to dry off was City Hall. I proceeded to sit my butt down in the middle of City Hall and do some stretches and dry off. I got a text from P saying they were at brunch, so I had to wait to be picked up (and I had no bacon). I sat and played around with my phone, seeing how other people did, and asked the Ottawa mayor if it was ok to sit down in City Hall (it was).
I saw my results and was surprised: 2:15:28! A new PB! I got a text saying they would be there in 15 minutes, so I went to find a place to change. The small washroom had a line, but with my Army Run recovery jacket, my “bathing suit area” was covered and I just changed in the bathroom. Soon everyone was doing it! I did not tell Mayor Jim Watson that. I did however lose my Around the Bay 30K hat somewhere. Sad.
The splits from Sports Stat were a bit off. On my garmin, I hit 10K at around 1:05 – but I hit all my KM about 100m away from the actual course markings. Sportstat said I hit 10K at 1:04, which I know I did not. The original 21.1 split time they gave (1:23). Add those two together and you have my 2:27 gun time. If you look also at the time of day, I crossed 10K at 10:46 and finished at 11:57, which would mean I finished 11K in 1:11. A little messed up, but that is ok!
Army Run Half Marathon Chip Time – 2:15:28
Place – Pretty much in the middle of Place, Category and Gender – Not bad!
As I mentioned when I started this post – this race, I actually felt like I was racing the half marathon. 2:15 flew by. Sure, there were moments where I hurt and wanted to take a nap, but I felt very strong during this race. I know that I am going to have to slow it way down for the marathon. I was running at a pace that was fairly easy, but I still had to work for the pace. If I slow my pace to more of a 6:50 pace and also take the full 1 minute walking breaks, I’m pretty sure I could go farther than 21K. Actually, I will find that out in the next couple of days with my next long run. I really had no clue on what my splits were, so I was very surprised that I had a pretty big negative split for both 10K sections (1:05 and 1:02). The pace bunny definitely helped me push through that as she was speeding up during that second half. I rocked every single hill, not feeling like I needed to walk. I think the course was rather hilly, with only the last 3K being flat. That is good, because NYC is not flat at all (it starts uphill and ends with tons of rolling hills).
What is really sticking for me, is the fact that I can run negative splits now and I can run negative splits in a half marathon. I am starting to like this distance a bit more and have become comfortable with it. Actually training properly has helped, go figure! I still lack confidence in really going out fast for this distance. My 10K race history is rather small (only one race) and I think to get better at the half marathon, I need to run more 10K races. In terms of the marathon, I believe that the marathon is going to feel like my first half marathon – I will be able to do it, it just won’t be pretty. If I actually manage to negative split that race – I will be shocked.
The Army Run is one of my favorite Ottawa Race. If you haven’t signed up to run it yet, you really should. It is a different kind of race and has a big impact on all the participants, whether they are running or not. The people who organize the race have done an amazing job at taking this race to new places every single year with little problem. Back years ago, P was able to sign up on Saturday to run the 5K the next morning. This time, they sold out both races in record time, months before race day. I cannot recommend this race enough. So next year, join me in running the Army Run!