Marathons are tricky beasts. It seems like you train for half the year for just one marathon and that race day will never arrive. Then, before you know it, race day arrives and suddenly in the span of a few hours, the race is over. You are left feeling very tired but in possession of a brand new medal and left wondering what in the world you are going to do with all this extra free time (spoiler alert – catching up on all the marking/housework/life stuff that has been neglected).
Ottawa Race Weekend has always been on my race calendar since 2010 – for my 9th year I signed up for the marathon. The marathon was the only medal I was missing in my ORW collection and I have previously attempted training for it, only to decrease to the half the month before. This year’s plan was to simply just get to the start line healthy and just improve on my NYC Marathon time (5:40). This training cycle was an interesting one. I decided to only run 4x a week and managed to do fairly well with getting my runs in. I did miss an entire long run (the 28K one) and had to shorten another one. I only hit the 20 miler once. Spring marathons are tricky for me as I’m always navigating a busy schedule filled with track, robotics and school stuff. This year I was also in charge of the Yearbook, which gets insanely busy during March/April. Luckily, I did not get too injured during training and was able to line up on Sunday feeling very confident that I would run a much improved marathon time.
The weather on Sunday kept changing and really we knew that we wouldn’t know the exactly weather we would be getting until that morning. Luckily, for the first time in years, the weather was great in the morning – around 15C and with clouds. I even wore a long sleeved shirt at the start. For those who have been reading for awhile – you might recognize this shirt 😉
My plan for the marathon was pretty simple – I was going to start with Kristi who was pacing the 5:00 marathon group. Joining us was lots of running friends, including Nina, Leanne and Jordan. We were also known as the “party group” according to Running Room founder, John Stanton. I knew I wanted to stick with that group for at least 5KM and then see where I wanted to go. The running group of this year’s marathon was smaller than other years, with about 2800 lining up at the start. It made running as a group much easier. As much as I worried about not having people around while running, I kind of enjoyed not being super crowded either – except during one section that I will mention later. Here is the 5:00 group just after Pretoria Bridge:
Isn’t this photo amazing?
The first few KM seemed to fly by. Everyone was in a great mood – especially since the weather was great. We passed by lots of supporters who were out so early to cheer us on. It was fun running as a big group and definitely helped settle any last bits of nervousness that was around. At around Dow’s Lake, I noticed that Nina and I were starting to go a little faster. We ran around 7:00 from KM 1-5 – but starting at the 6th KM – we started going under 7:00 for all KM from 6-17. Nina and I seemed to like the 6:30 pace – which is what the pace was on our watches every time we glanced at them. We stuck to our 10 minutes Running/ 1 minute walking plan.
We basically ran, chatted and made observations for the first 30KM. Some things we noticed while along the route included
- A guy dressed like a lumberjack (with a tutu), including holding an axe – he was doing the Lumberjack challenge which is the 2K/5K/10K and full marathon
- One guy with a megaphone on the river parkway yelling “woooooooooo – yeaaaaaaaaah” with so much enthusiasm that we could hear him for that entire loop
- a fish jump out of one of the ponds in the Glebe area
- the lady was the Gong on one of the neighbourhood streets
- the guy cheering on the runners, calling them out by their shirt colours – I was White Rainbow
- just the enthusiasm of the volunteers – they looked like they were having fun – especially while yelling NUUUUUUUN (it is fun to yell if you haven’t tried it)
The first half of the marathon went really well – we crossed the halfway point at just under 2:24. We took a longer break at my former water station in Gatineau but KM 1-30 were really, really good in terms of time and how we were feeling. During KMs 13-16 or so on the parkway, the slant in the road was bugging my ankles but luckily that went away. My knees/quads were on fire – as if someone smacked a bat on them – this all started around 22KM. Every time we took a walking break, starting up running again just felt awful. It was pretty frustrating as my cardio and nutrition were amazing. This was probably the best race I’ve ever had for my GI system and Nutrition. Zero stomach issues, no cramping afterward and I never ‘hit the wall’ in terms of low energy.
On the Gatineau side after we finished the “marathon only’ section – we joined up with the half marathon group. Unfortunately at this point in the race – we were running beside the top half marathoners. Luckily it wasn’t too busy and we were able to move to the side. There was one turn that was slightly dangerous but we managed to share the road. The bridge was interesting as well as it is a bit narrow. For the most part, the marathoners were trying to hug the right side and give plenty of room to the half marathoners. Only one runner squeezed between us. Speaking of the bridge – we totally ran up the bridge (and all the hills) with no problem. Sweet!
After 30KM – most of our KM were in the 7:00 range. We knew we had lots of time to get under 5:00 so Nina and I did not stress about it. I think at the 32KM mark, I noted that we both had 2 hours to run 10KM and PB – hilarious! We started to walk most of our water stops as well – and pulled over to stretch a number of times. I think we actually kept a good pace in running and if we didn’t stop so much we would have had an amazing time. At about 36KM to go – Nina was picked up by a member of the Extra Mile Crew and picked up the pace. At this time I put my music on and just concentrated on keeping my legs moving.
At 39K – I did see P and Max who were biking along the route. I stopped and chatted with them for a few seconds before continuing on. They followed on the bikes on the Colonel By side and then went around to the Finishing side. Those last few KM were very ouchy. I turned my music off and just listened to the crowd. The streets were lined with people. Earlier in the course we saw Running Room people, Ashley and Jayme cheering us on. I love this photo Ashley took of us in Gatineau.
The last 2KM was just about finishing the darn race. I noticed in my pacing graph that I was actually fairly steady until this point. We also noticed almost right away that the KM marking were not matching our watches at all. I’ve yet to run an Ottawa race the distance on our watches is accurate. After the halfway point the difference went from 100m to 300m difference. By the time we got to the Rockcliffe route, the KM flags were no longer visible when the watches went off. At the end of the race I ran an extra 1/2 a KM. So technically longest run ever! Finally the end of the marathon was approaching and I “ran faster” (not sprinted – hahaha) to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 4:58 – a 42 minute PB!
After the finish, I slowly walked to collect my medal, snacks and then hobbled to the beer tent. Why did the beer tent have to be so far away 😉 Luckily the crowds were not as intense as previous years so it did not take as long to get out of the race finish area. I enjoyed my beer and then went home.
I am happy that I finally finished another marathon and dipped under the 5:00 mark. I actually finished the marathon distance in 4:54 and know that if the last 5KM were not so awful, I could have been under 4:50. I think the next goal will be under 4:45 which should be achievable if I train a bit better. The lack of the mid-week longish run definitely put a bit of a hinder on those last 6 or so KMs. But a 42 minute PB is definitely showing progress in the marathon department.
Thanks Ottawa Race Weekend for another great year!