Ottawa Race Weekend was again this year an amazing event. I am always amazed by the amount of crowd support and the sheer number of runners participating in the various events. This was the first year that I was part of the Ottawa FrontRunners and they have a tradition of meeting up before and after the race as well as a delicious post race BBQ.
The weather forecast for the day had been all over the place the week leading to the event. Anything from sun and cloud with a high of 22 to thunderstorms and 32 with humidex had been forecasted. The weather at the start of the race was muggy and humid and around 20 degrees. I met with the runners from the club before the race for a bit of friendly competitive chatter and group shot and then quickly headed to the start line. Now I'm not sure why this happens every year but the corrals were too full and there was no room to squeeze in where I needed to be. I wasn't really racing this race so I didn't worry but even at the 2:00 pace area it was still very busy. Maybe the race marshals should ensure that runners take their appropriate place in the corrals or plan for more room if runners are all registering for the same corrals. Then 1:30 to 2:00 corral could probably also be split up in at least 2 or 3 larger corrals.
The gun quickly fired and a few minutes later I crossed the start line where my mom was waiting to wish me good luck! The new route continued down Laurier instead of going to Parliament hill and while I missed seeing the hill, it made the race feel a lot more urban to go through the downtown core. Lots of supporters were lining the street on Laurier as well. We quickly reached the turning point on Lyon and a bit later turned on Somerset on our way to Chinatown. The runners were not really thinning out and I was a bit faster than the runners around me so I continued to zig zag to keep a decent pace. The arch in Chinatown was a nice sight to see, I have never crossed it on foot from the middle of the street before :) I was surprised there weren't more members of the Chinese community cheering, maybe it was too early? I started to get a bit hot but at least the sun wasn't out so I knew that if I kept hydrated I would be fine.
After Chinatown we headed across Little Italy where the families were out in full force. I always get this really friendly feeling when I visit this part of town, as if everyone knows or want to know everyone else :) The runners were starting to thin out a little bit and it got really comfortable as we started heading to Hintonburg. This was definitively the neighborhood were the community came out in the largest number. The sidewalks on both sides of the street were lined with coffee toting families with strollers, dogs and all manners of signs and balloons. That's where my friends from FoodiePrints were waiting for me with a charming and very encouraging sign bearing my name! I was so happy to see them I crossed from the right side to the left and almost tripped over a police car! Sadly they didn't take a picture of that event, it would have been a funny race pic :)
We then went along the stretch that I was dreading a little bit. I knew that the crowd support would be thinner along the Ottawa Parkway. Thankfully a lot of the runner's support crew knew this as well and the parkway was not as lonely as I had feared. I remember one DJ station where the booming beats could be heard from a few hundred meters before reaching the top of the hill, that gave me quite a boost. Heading into Gatineau, a light mist started refreshing the runners. I looked at my time and knew that even though I wasn't racing I was doing really well. I had slowly picked the 2 hours pace bunnies and the 1h50 had also been reeled in. Could I do the same for the 1h40? Once the mist turned to water I realized that I could go for it without being afraid of blowing up and started picking up the pace a little bit. Coming back into Ottawa, I saw my good friend Thiago cheering runners on and taking pictures. Another refreshing boost! Every time I see a friendly face cheering for me along a course, it gives me extra incentive to run fast, little did I know what was in store later. Going down Colonel By I saw the members from the Ottawa FrontRunners toting cameras and cheering club members as they went by. They took this amazing picture of me, I think it may be my best ever running picture so far.
After getting a boost from the FrontRunners, I also saw my mom and her boyfriend cheering for me just a little bit after. I knew I was doing well and I could finish strong and looking at my watch I realized that my laid back goal of 1h50 was actually way too conservative. If I kept the pace I would break 1h40. My competitive side got the best of me and I increase the pace even higher. It was nice to turn at Pretoria instead of having to go all the way to Bronson. After the turn I pretty much entered my finish sprint. I had loads of gas in the tank so there was no use holding back. I passed a lot of people in the finishing chute and felt like a superstar. I finished with a time of 1h38 and some change. Not a personal record but a new personal course record for Ottawa if there is such a thing.
I met up with the rest of the FrontRunners and found out that my training Nemesis, Mark, had finished with a shorter time than I did. I'll have to get him in a rematch even if he is considering retiring while he is ahead :)
Looking at the speed chart, we can clearly see how my progression went as the race went by. I got faster and faster until the final sprint.
Thanks to all the volunteers, supporters and runners that participated in this weekend's activities. There is something about large races that make running even more fun :)
Oh yeah, I forgot to say I signed up for the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront Marathon at the Race Expo. I guess I have to start training for real this time. In the estimated finish time slot, I wrote down 3:05 which would be a BQ for Boston 2013. Hopefully writing it down makes it happen, I will put in the training required over the summer :)