The Ottawa Marathon is a yearly event that is part of the Race Weekend here in Ottawa. Organizers claim it to be the largest marathon and largest running weekend in all of Canada. It sure feels that way with over 30,000 runners out in the different distances and the countless volunteers and cheerers that line the course.
I was actually pretty relieved when I woke up to find out that the weather forecast that started at 29 Celsius (84F) and sunny on the Wednesday were nowhere near accurate. The adjusted forecast on Sunday morning was 15 Celsius (60F) and cloudy with a 21 Celsius (70F) maximum. Perfect running weather!
We got to the start line a bit later than planned so there's no pre-race pictures. I had just enough time to visit the port-a-potty and get in my corral before the gun went off. I had spied the 3:40 pace bunny and planned to follow it for a while until I knew how I felt about the race. I knew that I could beat 3:40, especially given the perfect conditions. I even had a secret hope of closing in on 3:30 if I was having a great day, more on this later. We started at a pretty good pace. The lower number of marathoners made the start much more orderly than previous year's half marathons with their 10k+ runners.
I settled into a nice pace as we passed parliament and I got so much into the groove that I don't even remember which bridge we took to Gatineau. I remember that at some point the 3:40 pace bunny and his following got a bit on my nerves. Someone even said to one of his runners that she shouldn't talk since she needs every little bit for the end. Feeling great and ready for a big day, I decided they were definitively not my crowd and I hurried on along. The new course took us to a much nicer part of Hull than in previous years. The Lac-des-Fees promenade was actually a bit scenic if you could ignore the sewer renovation project. Local residents were out and about in their pajamas with a cup of coffee in hand, smiling, waving, clapping and cheering. I loved it!
Soon enough we were heading back towards Ottawa. I got to see my mom waiting for me on the bridge. That was such a energy booster / awesome moment.
My mom had been a little late as well and missed the start but I had prepared a map with a list of possible sightings and estimate times for me to go through. I forgot to tell her at the bridge that I was actually a bit faster than the planned sightings because I was so excited to see her and her boyfriend cheering me on. Alex was at a good vantage point on top of the bridge to capture these great pictures.
The race then took us into Beachwood and then Rockliffe which is a bit of a swanky neighborhood in Ottawa. It was great to see the people outside their Mansions, cheering the runners on. It was much less hilly than I feared and overall I felt I was doing great even if I was running a bit faster than planned. As I crossed the halfway mark at 1:42:46, I had to make a decision. Slow down a bit and lock in a reasonably good PB or keep up the speedier pace and go for broke under 3:30. I decided to keep going while monitoring everything to ensure that I could adjust quickly in order to salvage the race.
The second part of the race was spent mostly holding on to my lead. I made an analogy of a surfer riding the wave to the beach and that is totally how I felt. I had reached the crest of the wave and now all I had to do was hang on. I hadn't told my mom and Alex that I was going much faster than planned so even my optimistic sighting times for each point of the race were now too late. They missed me by about 2 minutes at the canal and Laurier. I kept the speed up and enjoyed the company of other runners. Two guys behind me were really funny. Race day is not when you want to start doing mathematics, especially not at km 28. Their 3:30 pace bunny had just failed them with a leg cramp and they didn't know how to continue. I tried to help them a bit with the math but my own pace band for 3:40 was pretty useless as well at this point :)
As we passed Bronson, I started having stomach cramps. Panic started setting in. I will not be able to finish. I screwed up on my hydration. I shouldn't have had this double mocha gel at km 25. My whole race will be ruined. Then I realized I was past km 30 and that the dreaded wall was probably trying to control me. I slowed down a tad and focused on my breathing and reasoned with myself. I have trained for this. My long runs have taken me further than this point and I have experienced this before. I will get through it and everything will be fine. Turns out that 10 minutes later I was back in pace. As we finally turned around and started heading back to downtown, I knew this race was in the bag.
I kept feeling strong and fast as I passed marathoner after marathoner. I love reeling in people even if it is ever so slowly. Then the half marathoners merged and the speedy ones started passing me by, making me feel really slow. I checked my watch and my pace was still very acceptable so I tried to ignore them. They motivated me to push a little harder but at this stage of the game there wasn't much fuel left in the tank for sprinting. Alex was waiting for me at km 39 and what a relief to see him waving around and taking pictures.
The Endorphins mixed with the reduced flow to the brain creates some interesting emotions and feeling inside. I could have stopped and hugged him but the finish line was calling me. I'm not sure what I was thinking in this picture. I think my eyes are closed and it looks like I'm saying I got nothing on me officer :)
As the roar of the crowds got louder, the resolve to finish and the taste of victory was getting overwhelming. I didn't even look at my watch anymore, I knew I locked in a PB, I was pretty certain I was under 3:30 but really I wanted to finish this one in style. When I reached the finish line I saw my mom and Michel cheering me on. I think they were more excited than me and seeing them made me cheer and shout. I can't wait to see the official race pictures, they will be interesting for sure. When I finally crossed the finish line, I didn't want to stop. Most people collapse or go into a walk right away but it took me a good 5-10 seconds to register that I was done and I could shut it down. I eventually found Michel and then my mom and we chatted it up a bit until I saw my friend Falk finish. This guy is fast. Super fast. There's no way I could have beaten him. Yet, there he was, crossing the finish line after me! Woot woot! This is major bragging rights I earned right here!
I almost don't want him to race another marathon because until he does, I can say I'm faster ;)
Overall this race was really awesome. The new course is much prettier than previously even if some parts felt a bit lonely. The music stations could be closer together (some even seemed abandoned). I think that the focus of this even is really on the half-marathon but still the marathon is a very worthwhile destination on race weekend. The beautiful runners and plentiful crowds make for an interesting race. The rotating medal is also pretty cool.
So I've decided to take 2 weeks off training. I may go for short runs but nothing over 15km. After that, when I start training again, my new mantra will be : 17 minutes to Boston! I will get there, yeah baby yeah! Hopefully I can squeeze in a race this fall and get closer to that 3:10 BQ. Any good marathons in November in your part of the world?