Race report: Marine Corps Marathon

Race date: October 30, 2016

Before I get into my personal race, I have to start by saying that this was the best race experience that I’ve had of any race I have ever done. The organization is top notch. Every detail was thought of. Everything was done to ensure that every single participant was taken care of and had a fantastic time. I would recommend this event. Highly recommend it.

When I decided to do this race I knew it would be a challenge for me. It has a fairly hilly profile and I’ve never been much good on hills. I mean, who likes to run hills? Add to that the 2 time cut-offs the course has, and the fact that I’m a back of the packer, and I knew I had my work cut out for me.

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My training over the 18 week training plan was focused on two things. First, hills. Of my four weekly runs each week, at least two of them included minimum of one giant hill and a few smaller ones, and at least every other week, my Sunday long run was hills, hills and more hills. The second thing my training focused on was consistency. I run 10 and 1s, and have always struggled on long solo runs with talking myself into taking extra walk breaks. With the time cut offs for this race, I needed to keep my pace consistent without the extra breaks if I wanted to ensure that I would make the cut-offs.

Training went amazingly well. By the end I had learned to run the hills at the same effort as the rest of the run as opposed to trying to keep up the regular pace, and all those hills and long solo runs had taught me discipline. I could run 10 and 1s all day. At least up to 35 km which was my longest training run in the cycle. I was so ready for this race!

The weather forecast for race day was unusually warm for the end of October but I had come prepared for any weather that Mother Nature could throw at us. Mike and I arrived in plenty of time to get through security, relax a bit, check our bag and head to the start. The temperature was 16c as I lined up in shorts and tank.

The start was amazing. As two Marine Osprey MV-22B aircraft flew overhead and the howitzer went off to start the race, you could feel the excitement in the air. It took about 15 minutes to cross the line and then Mike was gone and I was on my own.

The first 10 km were my first challenge. Besides the final climb at the end of 559182_241204297_xlargethe race, this was the hilliest part of the course. The part I’d been training for. It starts on the highway beside Arlington National Cemetery and winds through Arlington, Virginia uphill for the first 4 km. I had been afraid that in the excitement of the race start I would go out too fast on those hills and burn out, but I ran them really well. In fact I remember thinking “that’s it? That’s the big hill?” Confidence boosted. The next 4 km was a fairly steep downhill which required some control so as not to speed down and kill my legs. The course was heading into a beautiful wooded valley with a stream trickling alongside the road. It was nice and cool through this area and despite all the runners around me, it felt really peaceful. Two more hills at 8 km and 9 km and we were over a bridge across the Potomac River into Washington, D.C. and through Georgetown.

The seco559182_241048446_xlargend 10 km took us on an out and back along the Rock Creek Trail where I was able to catch a glimpse and a wave to Mike around 13 km, a huge spectator gallery complete with a Marine Corps band and then into East Potomac Park and along the course’s Blue Mile which is dedicated to fallen service men and women and is the most moving tribute I have ever experienced in a marathon. We continued around Hains Point and back through the park. I was still running my 10 and 1s comfortably and a check of my pace band at the mile markers told me I was on pace to challenge my marathon PB of 5:23:27.

The third 10 km held my next challenge. The first time cut-off, The Gauntlet, was at 25 km. Looking at my time, I knew I would make it without a problem. We ran out of the park, past the Jefferson Memorial and into West Potomac Park for another out and back with the Gauntlet at the end of the back part. Still running 10 and 1s easily. Pa559182_240720392_xlargece still on track. I reached the Gauntlet with an hour and 23 minutes to spare. No problem. Coming out of the park area, turning towards the Washington Monument and onto the National Mall, we were reaching midday and it was starting to warm up with no shade anywhere. Through this area I had started to feel some cramping in my stomach and tried to ignore it but by the time I hit 28 km I decided that I needed to make a stop. I’ve never had gastro issues in a race before and I’ve never had to stop mid-race, but I thought that would be the best option. I lost about 6 minutes at that stop but got back on the road and actually felt better in the crowd I had ended up with. It was a little less dense. Almost immediately I was approaching the second cut-off of the day, Beat the Bridge, at about 29 km with plenty of time to spare.

The Beat the Bridge cut-off was on the Washington side of the bridge. The course ran over to Arlington again. The bridge was about 1.5 km long and at noon when I was going over it, I felt like I was baking. From this point until the end of the race it was open road, no shade, full sun with the temperature getting up to somewhere around 27c.

The next 10km was my least favourite of the course. Besides the full sun/heat, it wasn’t nearly as scenic. Maybe the heat and the waves of stomach cramping I was feeling is affecting my opinion and on a different day I may have a different opinion. It went through the Pentagon parking lot and into Crystal City. To be fair, this section of the course is not part of the usual course. Due to a major public transit overhaul and opening times, in order to allow people to get to the start of the race and still have a chance at beating the Gauntlet and Beat the Bridge, the race organizers decided to move about 2 miles of the course from Washington over to Arlington, into the Pentagon parking lot. This will probably be changed back in future years.

559182_240691865_xlargeMy race was quickly falling apart. Due to the gastro issues I was having, gels and blocks were not going down well after about 25 km and I stopped taking them, so I was not getting any nutrition. I tried some of the other things spectators were offering on the course. I thought that a bagel or something bready might do the trick, so I tried pretzels, a donut hole and animal crackers. Nothing seemed to help. I was still drinking water and electrolytes as much as I could but the heat was playing havoc with my tummy. By this time I was finding it difficult to run more than a couple minutes at a time as I continued to fight the cramps in my stomach. During an out and back in Crystal city, I had to run by my hotel twice at km 36 and 38. On the way out, I spotted a cooler with ice in it and grabbed a bunch to put under my hat. As I continued running, I saw a giant fan on a pole about 15-20 feet above the ground that was spraying water. It was like a wonderful rain fall. I took my time going through it and found it cooled me down and I was able to run a little longer. At one of the water stations along this area, the marines who were working it were actually just holding the jugs of water and pouring it into people’s mouths and letting it fall all over their faces. It was extremely hot for the end of October. Another ice station to grab some ice to melt on my face and neck cooled me down and I was ready to go into the final stretch.

The final 2 km went along the highway that the race started on. I could feel the sun burning my shoulders and back this entire way. The crowds, as great as they had been throughout most of the race, were getting thicker, and as I turned left up the final climb there were tons of people cheering and encouraging everyone to get up that hill. This was the final challenge I had trained for and as hard as it was, I pulled together everything I had and ran up that hill, around a turn and down the final stretch to the finish line.

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At the end of most races I’ve run, I have a sense of accomplishment, of pride, and this race was no different. But there was one thing I felt that I never had before. A feeling of frustration. A feeling that I had all these strengths that I had built up over months of training that I hadn’t used. I thought about running another marathon in the next few weeks and Mike and I started looking for options but there were none. So, off season begins, and I start planning for my next big race as I chase my goal of running a marathon in which I can cross the finish line and be satisfied that the race I ran, start to finish, was the best that I could run.

Official Time: 5:54:20

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2015 in review

2015 was a rollercoaster year for me.

In January I was still riding the high of running my first marathon in Chicago a couple months before. I felt strong, maybe even invincible. I had signed up for my second marathon which would take place in Ottawa in May. I had maintained a base long run of 15km for the past few months thinking it would be the best way to keep me fit and at the ready to jump into training. I was pumped and ready to go!

Through January and February my training went pretty well. I was training with Ginny and the Running Room marathon clinic. I was still dealing with a sore hamstring that I’d had for months but it wasn’t getting any worse. It was just there.

A couple months into the training Ginny sustained an injury that forced her to take some time off to heal, and eventually to drop out of the marathon and I found myself basically training on my own. Well, at least I would have, had I not been part of the best clinic ever!

Sunday Run

In March I ran my first race of the year, Around the Bay 30k, as a training run. I ran it at my LSD pace with Julie. I’d never done that before – run a race as a training run. It was nice to take all pressure off and just go out and enjoy the day. The result of that race was a time on par with my PB for that race which told me that my training was paying off.

My training continued to go wonderfully until the second week of April, when about 25km into a 32km run I tripped on the sidewalk and pulled my already sore hamstring. That seemingly minor trip caused a ripple effect that lasted most of the rest of the year.

I tried to continue on with my training, but with 4 weeks to go until marathon race day, I had to stop running completely for 2 weeks to try and rest my leg and even when I started up again, it was slow and painful. Thankfully, the race was not painful at all, but my lack of training showed when by the halfway mark my legs were done. I finished the race, about 40 minutes slower than my previous marathon, but I finished it. It was a long race, and a very humbling experience for me.

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I had a lot of time to think as I went around the course on my own that day, and in the 5 weeks that followed, as I was forced to take some time off to heal my leg, and I realized that after my first marathon, I had gotten it all wrong. I had chosen not to listen to the many experts that came to talk at our clinic, or to the experienced friends in my run clubs. I should have taken more time off after Chicago – more than the 6 days I’d taken off. I should have taken at least 2 weeks off with absolutely no running to allow my body to heal, and then kept it to light running until it was time to start training for my next marathon in January.

So, when I came back from the injury, at the end of June, I decided that the rest of the year would be taking it slow, letting myself recover, and just having fun. No pressure.

I trained through the summer, increasing my distance slowly and running slowly. I didn’t have much choice on the running slowly part. I had lost so much of my strength and cardio through all of this it took a long time to get it back. In fact, I’m still working my way back to where I was. I’m almost there, finally!

I sPride and Remembranceigned up for a bunch of races that I had enjoyed doing or had wanted to do just for fun. The Pride and Remembrance 5k, The B&O Yorkville 5k, The RBC Run for the Kids 15k, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon and ended the year with the Holly Jolly 5k run 1-P1040581which was one I had wanted to do since they had begun this run a few years ago and it did not disappoint. It was so much fun! I ran them all for fun, no pressure. At each of the races, I found myself feeling stronger, and my times were getting better.

After the Holly Jolly 5k on November 15th, I had promised myself that I would take the rest of the year to run easy, run less and let myself totally heal. And that’s exactly what I did. I was even able to resist the temptation to run the Tannenbaum 10k when it was put in front of me.

The results of this downtime has been wonderful. I’ve enjoyed the light running that I’ve been doing, I feel rested and my leg is almost always pain-free now.

Easy Run

Even with all the downtime I took, I still managed 139 running workouts including races and 1357 km for the year.

I feel like I’m ready to take on the challenges that 2016 will bring. My plan is to start off with a full training schedule up to the beginning of April while I train for Around the Bay, take a bit of a breather with lighter running through the spring with maybe a 10k in May, and hopefully start training in June for a fall marathon.

New motto for 2016 – Hill? What hill?

Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

Race date: October 18, 2015

After I ran the Ottawa Marathon in May, I decided to take some time to finally look after my right hamstring. I signed up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half marathon, took a few weeks off from running, and then began a slow, and sometimes discouraging summer training cycle. My leg was healing, but I’d lost so much cardio throughout all of this that I couldn’t keep up with my usual running buddies anymore. I have always been a back of the packer, but I was now running behind the back of the pack. Alone. It was a very humbling time for me.

In the final couple of weeks before the race, I was starting to feel some improvement. Not being left behind right from the get go, feeling a little stronger. My final race pace runs had me at a 7:05m/km and feeling winded so I decided that my goal for the race would be to just run comfortably, stick to my 10 and 1s and try to come in around 2:30:00.

This was the third time I’ve done this race and each time has been a slightly different course. The current version of the course was by far my favourite.

It was a special day for me because1-_DSC5194 my daughters were there to watch me run a half marathon for the first time and Mike was going to be there taking hundreds of photos.

12115751_10156257660030160_2760446347450234148_nWe met up with Ginny and Julie before the race and walked over to the start together. I enjoyed being able to leave home 45 minutes before the race avoiding the pre-race port-a-potty situation and just getting comfortable in the corral.

It was a cool, crisp fall morning and we were all wearing throw away tops over our race gear along with gloves. I had on a jacket, gloves and arm warmers that I would either give to Mike if I saw him within the first 5k, or throw away if I missed him.

The plan was to start out together, but to run our own races. We all agree that training together is great, but on race day, it’s your race. You have to run it for yourself.

The race has both the full and half marathons starting together with each corral going off at 5 minute intervals. As we slowly walked up to the start line you could feel the excitement growing. We reached the mat at the start, shouted something like “let’s do this!” and we were off!

Right near the start I spotted Mike and the girls taking pictures and cheering us on. What a great way to start a race.

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I almost immediately fell just behind Ginny and Julie. Not because I couldn’t keep up, but rather because I really wanted to run this race alone. I didn’t want to be subconsciously running at a faster pace than I should be, potentially burning out prematurely.

The first 10km of the race took us through some of Toronto’s downtown neighbourhoods and landmarks. We ran up University through Queens Park turning onto Bloor and passing through Yorkville, the Royal Ontario Museum and then down Bathurst past Honest Ed’s (it will always be Honest Ed’s – even when they finally close for good). By 2km I had already taken off the jacket and tied it around my waist until I could find Mike. The arm warmers and glove came off shortly afterward. 1-_DSC6008At around 5km I saw Mike and the girls and prepared to stop for a second to give them my stuff. I had a hard time getting the jacket off my waist. The knot had tightened and my fingers were a bit cold so I lost a few seconds but not a big deal.

I continued down Bathurst, across the steel bridge, onto Fort York Blvd. and then began the long out and back on Lake Shore Blvd. where I moved into the centre of the street hoping to see some of my friends on their way back and was happy to see Andrew who was pacing a friend to a Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon run in a suit. I also saw Colin, Melissa and Greg along the way.

I was running comfortably through the front half of the race, not putting any pressure on myself, and only glancing occasionally at my Garmin, but each time I did, I was happy, and even a bit surprised, to see that my laps were consistently well under a 6:50m/km pace. Even the laps that contained a walk break in them were in that range as well.

The back half of the race took us the rest of the way out along Lake Shore to the turnaround at Ellis and back into the city. I was still running a fairly consistent pace and feeling really great but knew that I had to run the hill up to Jameson along this stretch. This out and back along Lake Shore is one of my least favourite places to run. There is a park that runs adjacent to the street with a trail on it that is very heavily used by runners, cyclist, inline skaters. 16-145154Personally, I’ve never liked running it. I’ve always preferred to run on the streets in the city than to run in the parks. I need the stimulation to keep my mind occupied. But near the end of this training cycle, I ran the trail a few times. I think that may have helped. There were no mind games. I was running at a good pace and even when I got to the Jameson hill, it didn’t seem as big as it usually does.

17-145559As we approached the city again, we were treated to a spectacular view of our great city with its beautiful skyline and the CN Tower in all it’s splendor. I ran through the 18k water station that was run by some of our running community, and then made the final turn onto Bay St. with 1km left to go.

Everything was going fantastic. I had been running consistently throughout the race. And then, it happened. As usual with about 2km left to go, I looked at my Garmin, did a quick calculation, and confirmed that I was ahead of my 2:30:00 goal time. So, what do I do? With 1km left to go, I take a walk break. For no reason other than I could. It was just a short walk of a few seconds. Maybe 10 or 15. But it was the first of 3 short walks I took in the last km of the race. I guess in the grand scheme of things it didn’t make much difference in my overall time but I think this is what I really need to work on. It seems that every race, regardless of the distance, I talk myself into taking unscheduled, and most importantly unnecessary walk breaks near the end.

In the final stretch of the race, it was great to see the crowds getting thicker. I was able to see Sonia and Jonathan waving and taking pictures and just past them I saw James with his parents and the girls, and Maria and Miguel with Zach. It was great to have the support!

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All in all, I’m really happy with the result. I finished ahead of my goal, I had no pain from start to finish, and I ended the day celebrating another awesome race with a group of my family and running buddies both old, and new.  I can’t think of a better way to cap off the 2015 race season.

Official time: 2:25:36.7

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Race report – B&O Yorkville 5k

Race date: September 13, 2015

This is by far my favourite local race, and with the addition of the Canadian 5k Road Race Championship race being added to the event last year, it’s even better.

Going into the race this year, I had set 2 goals. My A goal was to finish under 35 minutes. My B goal was have a faster finish than I had at the Pride Run in June which was a personal worst for me at 36:39.

I have spent the last 2 and a half months coming back from that hammy injury. Slowly increasing my long run in accordance with a half marathon training schedule but only running 3 times a week. Basically taking it easy.

The course has a 2 km downhill at the start, turns flat and then makes another turn back up for 2 km before turning towards the finish line. It’s known to be a fast course, but that stretch of 2km up, up, up at 2.5 – 4.5 km is one of my least favourite stretches to run. I don’t know what it is, but I have a real mental block about it. It’s not really steep, it’s just a gradual, non-stop incline and it breaks me every time.

My race strategy was to run 15 minutes and take a 1 minute walk break to take a bit of a breather before heading up that incline. I thought that at some point along that stretch, I would need to take another bit of a walk to catch my breath and collect myself before turning to the finish stretch.

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The start of the Championship Race

I headed out early to take in the Championship race. A couple of people in my run community were brave enough (and fast enough) to enter and I love watching the elites tear it up on a fast 5k race. It’s really something to see and this year did not disappoint.

After being inspired by that race, I got myself ready for my race. I checked my bag, walked to the start line, caught up with Mike and wished him luck, set my iPod playlist to “Race Pace” and waited for the sound of the horn to start the race. There were no markers for people to line up according to their expected times, so everyone was mixed together depending on when they made it to the corral.

As I crossed the line to start the race, the crowds were pretty thick. It’s a small race of about 1,000 people but as with a lot of small local races, the field includes kids and a fair number of inexperienced people. I spent the first few minutes weaving past a lot of people who were walking, but running downhill made up for it.

The first 2km was even better than I had expected. orig-BOAD1079My leg wasn’t hurting and I wasn’t feeling that sluggish feeling I’ve grown to expect on most of my runs in the past few months. I was feeling great – Energized, stronger than I have in a long time. A glance at my Garmin confirmed that I was running quite well. About where I expected. Maybe a little faster. When I turned onto the short, flat section of the course I checked again and determined the timing was perfect.

By the time I hit the uphill, I would be at 15 minutes, I could take a walk break to recharge and psych myself up. But, when I turned onto University Ave., I didn’t feel the hill. orig-BOAE1843I thought to myself maybe the incline starts a little further up. So I decided to keep running until I felt myself slowing down on the hill and I actually needed a breather. Just past 3km, there was a water station. I walked through the water station, but decided not to take the full minute. I took a few sips and started up again. Another 1.5km of this incline to go. I still had it in my mind to take a walk before I made the final turn but I caught myself. I was feeling really great. Why did I need to stop at all? So I didn’t.

orig-BOAC1920I turned into the final 400m or so of the race, saw the finish line and kicked it up. As I approached the finish line, the time on the clock was 34:45. I knew then that I had broken 35 minutes. My A goal achieved. I was so happy.

When I looked at my Garmin, I saw that my chip time would be around 33:44. That’s not even close to my 5k PB of 30:47 which I earned in this race 3 years ago, but it’s well under my A goal, and after all my challenges over the past 6 months I’m really happy with this result. 
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I’m still reeling with fact that I didn’t feel that incline during the race. It didn’t wear me down. Mentally or physically. This is HUGE for me. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run that stretch, and I’ve hated every second of it. Every. Single. Second.

For me, that was the best part of the day.

Official time: 33:41.3

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Pride and Remembrace 5k race and injury update

Race date: June 27, 2015

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus since the Ottawa Marathon, trying to recover from this stubborn right hamstring injury. I took a full 4 weeks off, and then, just to get my legs moving and test them out before the Pride and Remembrance 5k run, I did two very short runs. Both were slow and sluggish.

The day before the race, I saw my physiotherapist for my weekly appointment. I was sore and achy and starting to believe that this stupid hamstring is never going to get better. It’s been almost 5 weeks of total rest and I feel like it’s not getting any better at all… Well, except that I don’t have to sit on a pillow at work anymore, so I guess that’s something. My physio applied some kinesiology tape to my leg, showed me how to do it myself and gave me instructions to stretch my quads and hip flexors before I run.

Within a few hours of leaving her office, the pain in my leg was almost gone, but I wasn’t holding out much hope that it would lessen the pain that I felt on both of my short runs the week before because I had tape on my leg for those runs as well.

So, I’ve been looking forward to this race for months! I went out last year to spectate and it looked like so much fun I couldn’t wait for registration to open this year. This is a small race with a maximum of 1500 entries and they were all Me and the girls at pridespoken for. It’s also known for its amazing after party with a fantastic atmosphere, great music, food and cake from Dufflet Bakery. Mike and my daughters were going to come and join the fun as well. Neither of my daughters had ever been out to a race before so I was looking forward to them experiencing the excitement.

Because of my injury, the plan going in was to run easy and just have fun. No pressure. Based on the two runs I did in the last week (both were painful, slow and I found out just how much cardio I’ve lost in 4 weeks),Me and Julie I thought I would probably come in around 38 – 40 minutes. We met up with Julie and a couple other friends at the start line, took a few photos and then Mike and the girls went to find a good place to watch the race and we headed into the corral to wait until the confetti flew and the race was on!

We went out nice and easy, Julie letting me set the pace. The course is flat along Wellesley with a couple of small inclines as you circle around Queen’s Park (twice) before heading back along Wellesley to the finish. Julie and I chatted the whole way getting caught up with each other and enjoying the costumes of runners and the marching band along the course. I was really happy when I realized that I wasn’t feeling any of that familiar leg fatigue, ache or pain I’ve grown accustomed to. From beginning to end I was pretty much pain-free! Just a small niggling at the top of the right leg but that was it. I was also happy to be able to run for 21 minutes before taking a 1 minute walk break. That was the longest I’ve run continuous since the marathon over a month ago and nowhere near how I did earlier in the week. I didn’t bring any water and it was warmer than I thought so I did need to take advantage of the water station, and we took one other mini walk break before turning towards the home stretch.

1-_DSC6522 (2) I saw a lot of familiar faces along the final stretch. Friends who had already finished their race, or who had come out just to cheer. I crossed the line and was pleasantly surprised with the time I saw.

This race was both a PW (personal worst) and a PV (personal victory). It produced my slowest 5k race result to date, but it was also a victory because I ran it comfortably, pain-free and faster than anticipated. In fact, I couldn’t believe how great I felt!

Five days later, as I write this, I’m cautiously excited to share that I have had about 85-90% less pain in these 5 days, than at any time, in the past 5 months. I have to wonder what it was that caused such a drastic change. Did the weeks of rest I’d had finally kick in, was it the taping of my leg, or was it the magic that is the Pride and Remembrance run? Whatever the reason, I cross my fingers (and my toes) that the momentum keeps going.

My short term plan is to increase mileage and number of runs slowly over the next few week and hope that I’ll be back to regular training for my fall half marathon soon.

Official time: 36:39

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Race report – Ottawa Marathon

Race Date: May 24, 2015

I chose this race as my second marathon because I love the vibe of the city of Ottawa on race weekend. I ran my second half marathon there in 2012 and was really impressed with how excited and welcoming to all the out of town runners the city is.

This was going to be a much different experience for me than the Chicago Marathon was. Although the weekend has about 48,000 runners in 5 different races throughout the weekend, only 5,000 of those were running the marathon. The crowds running my pace would be much sparser than they were in Chicago and I would be running this race, all 42.2km, alone. Totally on my own. With the spotty training I had in the final few weeks leading up to the race due to injury, I had decided to take all pressure off myself. I hadn’t run anything longer than 16km in 4-5 weeks so I had no idea how long my legs would hold out. I had a comfortable, slow pace I was going to run at, and the only goal I had was to complete the race. Based on the pace I had settled on, and allowing for extra walk breaks and additional slow-downs throughout the race that meant a finish time of about 6 hours.

We arrived on Friday which gave us plenty of time to pick up our race kit, shop the expo (a few times), get caught up with friends and relax the day before the race.

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Race kit pick-up and Expo at the Shaw Centre

The race started at 7am so it was great that our hotel was a short 5 minute walk to the start, and with no cut off time to be in the corral, this would allow us to sleep a little longer, prepare in a more relaxed atmosphere and avoid the long lineups at the start line port-a-potties (which is always a bonus). The weather was forecast at 12 celsius at the start of the race climbing to 24 celsius by the time I was expecting to finish. I settled on a light weight tank and my favourite running skirt. I brought arm warmers in case I needed them until I got going but on the way to the start I quickly realized they would not be needed so dropped them in Mike’s bag-check bag.

In the corral I met up with two of my clinic training buddies Stuart and Greg. We chatted for a couple minutes before the gun went off and we started inching our way up to the line. We wished each other a good race, I crossed the mat and started my Garmin and within a few seconds Stuart and Greg were gone.

The first 10km went pretty smoothly. I saw Ginny at 1km cheering us on before her race began in a couple hours. I waved, gave her a high five and carried on down along the canal. That first km was a little fast but I soon settled into my running pace of about 7:25 – 7:30 m/k20x30-OTAX0780m. The runners thinned out pretty quickly but there were still a good number of people around me. The crowd support through here was great. There were tons of people out at 7:00 on a Sunday morning cheering everyone on. I high fived all the kids along the route, the weather was perfect. Cloudy, cool.

The next 10km was a little more challenging. It took us through Tunney’s Pasture and out onto Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway for an out and back before carrying on across the bridge over to Hull. It was at the beginning of this section, around 12km that I started feeling a rubbing on the bottom of my right foot. I stopped just as I turned into Tunney’s Pasture to take off my shoe and sock and used my Chapstick like body glide to stop the rubbing (a trick I learned while training for Chicago through a really hot summer). It seemed to do to the trick. As I headed out to the Parkway I wondered if I would see anyone I knew since it was an out and back section. I looked across the highway at the runners going the other way and spotted Mike coming out of a water station and waved. Not much further along, I spotted Stuart and Greg just heading into that same water station. The temperature was starting to heat up and the sun had come out. It was getting warm on the Parkway with no shady areas to cool us down. Just after I got to the turnaround point I was passed by the 5:30 pace bunny and her small group of runners. It was also along this stretch of the Parkway that we came to our first sponge station. To date, this is the best thing I have ever experienced on a race course. It’s brilliant!”

By the halfway mark I was starting to feel my legs getting tired. Really tired. And the rubbing had started again on the bottom of my foot. Just past the 21km mat I had to stop and apply Chapstick to the bottom of my foot again. Once applied I was back up and running. But my legs were prematurely done. It was around 22km and I had already started taking extra walk breaks. The results of not getting in much running the weeks leading up to the race. The runners had definitely thinned out by this point. The course ran about 5km around Hull and at about 24km I found myself merging with the half marathon participants. There were hordes of people. Running really fast. And I was getting overhauled by them. I looked around and saw the 1:50 pace bunny among the crowds. I started to feel really overwhelmed. Who did I think I was running a full marathon when all these other people were clearly better runners than I was? 20x30-OUAA2996It was really demoralizing. Maybe I’ll just run it in with the half marathon people. Call it quits. And then I heard someone call my name. I looked to my left and saw another friend, Sean, who was running the half. Sean with his big smile, waving at me. I waved back. It gave me a big lift and I was able to continue running over the Alexandra Bridge with its spectacular view back over to Ottawa with all those half marathon runners. Once across the bridge I felt a sense of pride as I made the left turn on Sussex Dr. for the marathon course while the others went right. Here I saw a ton of runners on their way back (they were at 37km and I was at 28km). I looked for, but didn’t see anyone here. At 29km I had to stop one last time to reapply the Chapstick on my foot. This would be the last time. I never felt the rubbing again after this.

From 30km to 38km it was really desolate. There were little to no spectators along this section and runners were few and far between. In fact most of the people around me were burning out and walking.20x30-OTBG1753 I was just happy to be adding some running in there. By this point I couldn’t run more than 2 minutes at a time. The positive was that the sun had gone away and it was cooling down a bit. The support at most of the water stations was still great though. Everyone was energetic and supportive. Helping us refill our bottles, giving us whatever we needed. In fact it was somewhere along here that I saw the best cheering squad. I’m not sure who they were, but they were all dressed in red. And even this far into the race, with so few runners coming through, they kept the energy going. They were excited, funny, and made me laugh. And they made us all feel like we were special.

The last 4km had a lot more spectators. It’s amazing how much crowd support can affect your race. At this point I started to look for other friends from our run community, Doug and Sam, who were going to be cheering around the 40km mark. I wasn’t sure if they would still be there this late in the race but I watched for them anyway. As I approached the turn toward the 40km mat I saw Doug and Sam. They had seen me coming and were coming out onto the road to cheer me on! I was so happy to see them. They gave me high fives and told me I was doing great and it was just what I needed to push through that last 2km. I was able to run a little longer than the 2 minute intervals and the last km brought me back to my original pace from the beginning of the race. Heading to the finish line I saw Mike, Ginny and James waving at me from the VIP area. More support. Big smile. Crossed the line. Happy.

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This race was so different than my first marathon experience. Everyone told me that any marathon I ran after Chicago would be anticlimactic since Chicago was so amazing. I wouldn’t say it was anticlimactic though. This race was harder. The course was more challenging with many small inclines everywhere, it’s a smaller race so there was a lot less runners for me to draw off and I was on my own. I’ve never run that long or that far on my own before.

It was a very humbling experience. One I will never forget.

Besides my usual group of amazing running buddies and of course my partner in life Mike, I really need to give a special thanks to my coaches Vince, Chuck and Kathryn who were always supportive and so accommodating to everyone in our clinic. I learned more from you all in the last 5 months than I ever could have asked for. Also a big thanks to all of my clinic buddies. We were a small but tough group and it’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you.

Official time: 6:04:43.6

Ottawa Race Shirt

Final check-in before race day

In six days I’ll be running my second marathon. Just typing those words is terrifying to me. I haven’t run any long runs since April 12th at which time I felt pretty great. Me and GinnyIt was the third week in a row with a long run in the 30km range.The pain in my right leg was only a little niggling, I felt strong, and I enjoyed a gorgeous spring run that day running the first 16km with Ginny and the last 16km by myself. It was on that run, about 25km in, that I caught myself from a near fall and further strained my right hamstring and that’s when all my troubles began. Since my last post 16 days ago, I’ve had 12 days of complete rest (even walking was painful), missed my last 2 long runs in the training schedule, and had 2 of the most painful runs I’ve ever experienced. The pain in my right leg has moved into my left leg as well and I have been struggling with myself for 2 weeks knowing that I am probably not in any shape to run a marathon. FullSizeRender (4)I was having a hard time coming to terms with that. I don’t quit. Anything. I kept telling myself (as stupid as it sounds, even to me) that I’d rather go out on the course, try my hardest and not finish, than not try at all. I had to try everything I could think of to keep this commitment I made to myself 6 months ago. This past Saturday I had a 16km race pace scheduled and decided that this run was going to be the final deciding factor as to whether I was going to run Ottawa or not. I went into the run in full race day gear, with a slower race pace in mind, popped a mild muscle relaxant before we started and hoped that this would be enough of a tweak to have a pain-free 16km run. The result was interesting to say the least. The run was totally pain-free which was great, but also, since then, I have had almost no pain at all in either of my legs even though I’ve been pretty active and gone on a number of extremely longs walks. So, barring anything crazy happening in the next few days, the decision to run has been made. I’m still terrified. I’ll be running the whole race on my own. I had been hoping to use one of the last long runs to test my mental ability by running it solo, but those runs never happened. The longest I’ve ever run by myself is about 21km, about 2.5 hours. I’m expecting to have a slow finish, somewhere longer than 5.5 hours, and I have no idea what to expect mentally. I’m keeping a positive attitude (nobody would know how terrified I am unless they read this), I’ve filled my iPod with favourite 80s music that I haven’t heard in years to keep my mind occupied and outside of itself, and I’m going to run just run the race 1km at a time. Of course, if I feel like I can’t finish, I won’t risk further injury by plowing through. I’m not that crazy. But at least I’ll know that I tried my hardest, pushed myself as far as I could, and that’s all I can ask of myself. IMG_0360 (1)