This weekend I participated in my 8th Ottawa Race Weekend. ORW is one of my favourite weekends of year and tends to kick off the upcoming end of the school year. Like last year, I was part of Team Awesome. This was a great experience and once again, I find myself with several new running friends. Some of us are already planning to meet up at upcoming Run Ottawa events. This year I signed up for the Half Marathon and the 2K with Max. Knowing that this was going to be my only attempt at the half this year, I really tried to stick to my training plan. I did better than ever in terms of having lots of long runs – but track coaching got in the way of completing those mid-week 8-10KM runs.
This year, our big East Regional Track meet was on the Thursday/Friday of Race Weekend. This meant lots of standing before the weekend and overall being incredibly busy. We were invited to the President’s Reception on Friday night. I finished up at the track at 5:15pm and was in a dress by 5:45pm. I stayed at the reception for about an hour before heading downstairs to the Expo. I did not stay long at the expo – only buying my GU gels and taking to Ben from iRun Magazine for a bit.
Saturday was a busy day for Max – he had T-ball first, and then we were off to downtown. Max apparently takes running very seriously. He kept asking how much longer until his race and when we got there he was all concerned about being at the start early. While waiting for the race, I kept looking back to see if P was going to make it (he was at a school event) and Max was getting mad because I “wasn’t looking at the start” and that I needed to put my phone away, lol. Max did great – he ran faster than last year and ran the entire 2K non stop. We started in the back of the race and somehow managed to pass about 1500 people. Next year, we are going to position ourselves a bit closer to the front.
After the 2K – we watched the 5K runners. I saw many of my Ottawa Lions runners go by, and several Team Awesome members who were completing the Voyager/Lumberjack challenges. It was pretty hot during the race and a few people didn’t look good. One poor kid threw up right in front of us. We grabbed some dinner afterwards. It surprises me that some local restaurants don’t run a full staff during the weekend. But dinner was good (breakfast at the same location the next day was not). The 10K was next and that was exciting. We stayed until a few of my running friends crossed the line and we went home.
I woke up bright and early on Sunday. I was already concerned about the temperature at 6am. I ran almost every one of my long runs in temperatures below 10C. One of my last long runs – I had my orange fleece sweater on because I was cold. I wore the same outfit I wore for last year’s sweatfest. P and Max went down with me as one of P’s students was running the Kid’s Marathon. We made it just in time to see her run. We had many noise makers from the night before – and I’m sure all of the apartments appreciated us making all that noise at 8am 😉
I waited for my race in the VIP tent area – I was very thankful for the VIP portapotties. My GI system was doing its thing – but luckily I had Imodium with me and started taking it right away. I also eliminated all trigger food (like seeds!) from my diet for the last week. I sunscreened up and went to City Hall to do some dynamic stretching. When I got to the start, I was already feeling hot. This was not good. I positioned myself in between the 2:00 and 2:05 pace bunny. My race plan was to not run anything under 5:40 – but to stay below 6:00/KM. This would equal a pretty big PB if I could maintain that pace.
Soon enough we were off. The race was pretty crowded for the first few KMs. I stayed a pretty steady pace for the first 5K – not walking at al and having all KM in between 5:42-5:53. I kept a careful eye on my watch. The pace felt easy enough but the heat was bugging me by KM 3. I had a water bottle in my hands for the first few KM. We hit a water station about 2KM in and I immediately dumped water on my head. The next water station wasn’t until past KM 5 and I will admit that that really made me feel yucky. I had a 6:10KM at KM 6 because I walked that water station and made sure to take a Gel and dump water all over myself. When we turned off of Carling, we went into a residential section. Last year, there were hoses out everywhere – this year, not so much. I remember feeling good for the first KM after a water station, and then felt awful and wanting another water soaking.
KM 5-10 takes you through the Westboro area. A great section of the course where lots of people are cheering you on. I tend to always run well during this section. I maintained my pace and hit all KM under 6:00. Then I hit Scott Street which has absolutely no shade. I know I’m not the only one who struggled from that point on. The Scott Street to Quebec section really took my energy. Running through the sunny streets was not fun. They had a sponge station just before you made it to the Parkway (and the first hill). I kept that sponge until I got another sponge in front of the Museum of History. That sponge saved me as every time I felt hot, I was dabbing in on my face.
I went from holding a great steady pace to walking every water station or taking a quick walking break whenever I felt overheated. I knew at KM 10 that I could easily PB (oh and that 10K split was the first time I went sub-60 in a half!!), so I intentionally shut it down. There was no point risking going down when I have the rest of the running season to look forward to. Once we hit the parkway, people were down everywhere. Ambulances were at every few KM, helping runners in need. My Water Station group on the marathon route said they had a runner go down right in front of the water station – luckily my station captain has extensive First Aid training and was able to help while waiting for the Medic team. The students said it was pretty scary. It was scary for the runners too – you know it is hot out when you cannot even go a KM without seeing someone passed out.
My splits were honestly not that bad. I did not have a single KM over 6:37, which is my “walking break long run pace”. I only had two KM in the 6:3X’s – so even though I felt like I was running really slow, I was still able to keep a decent pace. I ran up the big hill on the parkway and tried to run up the big bridge – but the course became exceptionally crowded at that point and I became boxed in. From that point on – so many people were walking. To clarify – I was running with the 2:00-2:05 half marathoners. So many people were walking the last few KM. I saw my video of me crossing the mat at the marathon 40K mark – at one point, almost everyone in the camera’s view was walking. I tried to just walk for a bit when needed. Looking at my pacing chart, it looks like I walked for 20-30 second each time. My legs felt fine almost the entire time – I felt my right post-tib go at 17K, but that is fairly normal.
I tried to pick up the pace for the last 3K – with the last 3 KM at 6:04-6:18-6:12. Like many people, I hit 21.1KM very early – I blame all the weaving I did to avoid people and to run in a shady spot. There were times were I went from one side to the other side just to run under a tree. According to my Strava account, I hit PB’s in the 15K, 10 Miles, 20K and Half Marathon distance. Not bad!
Finally, it was time to finish the race. I ran as strong as I could to the finish – apparently missing P and Max (I could hear them after I ran by). I crossed in 2:09:06 – which is a minute PB. I finished feeling not that bad. Although I had blisters on my left foot, my legs did not feel super tired. Possible proof that it was the heat that made me run slower. I quickly grabbed some more water and my medal and then ran (yes ran…) to the VIP tent so meet up with P and Max, and have a celebration adult beverage.
This race was definitely bittersweet. Yes, I am happy that I am finally below 2:10 for a half and that I PB’d, but that PB/Time is not the time I know I am capable of. I was on 2:02-2:03 pace for the first half and know that if I was running in 10C weather, I would have met that time. I’m glad that I finally tried to “go for it” in terms of running a half and not simply ‘running to complete’. I managed to keep a good pace in that second half and made sure to run well when I wasn’t walking. Although I wanted to quit fairly early in the race, I still managed to have fun – I high-fived a number of kids and tried to smile at the camera when I ran past the photographers (apparently smiling when you are overheated doesn’t work).
A big thank you to Run Ottawa/Ottawa Marathon organizers for having me on Team Awesome for another year. Once again, it was a great experience and hope to do it again next year. I’m looking forward to racing the 5K/10K next year and hope to return to water station duties on the Sunday. Another Ottawa Race Weekend has come and gone – let’s up next year’s race is just as amazing.