June 02, 2014

Race report – Ottawa 1/2 Marathon

Race report – Ottawa ½ Marathon
May 25, 2014
Finish time: 2:02:55 
Breakfast: instant oatmeal, orange juice 
Hydration: Fuel Belt w/Nuun (1 tablet between 2 flasks) 
Nutrition: handful of Honey Stinger chews and one orange slice

Less than a year ago, I wandered into a local discount sports store. They were having a sale on running shoes. I was at a point where I was trying to make some healthy changes in my life, so I decided this was an opportunity to replace my current shoes. The ones that had given me 17 years of faithful, though infrequent, service. “What kind of runner are you?” the helpful store employee inquired. Instead of responding with “The kind who doesn’t – unless they’re being chased by someone. With a weapon.” I looked her in the eye and admitted that I may, or may not, ever actually run in these shoes. Maybe I’ll take a Zumba class. Or something. But if the mood ever struck me to actually, you know, run – that I’d like to be able to do that too.

Turns out I did do some running in those shoes. I also bought a road bike. And some goggles. I’ll spare you the details for now  fast forward to May 25th. On this particular morning, I found myself getting ready for my first half-marathon, along with over 31,100 like-minded people. I saw small groups of team-gear clad athletes running on Laurier Bridge to warm up. Are you kidding me? We’re about to run over 21 km! Reminiscent of the duathlon I did last fall, I glanced around and took cues for dynamic stretches and warm ups (that didn’t involve actual running) from people who looked like they knew what they were doing. I headed to my corral early, as I wanted to glue myself to the 2:00 hr continuous pace bunny. My plan was to follow him as far as I possibly could. I wasn’t sure if my “break 2  hours, at least by a few seconds” goal was even realistic – my best-laid training plans were interrupted by a brutal flu in April, followed closely by a week off to resolve some knee pain. Plus, my last long slow run took me 2:15 to run 18 km. Was it even possible to cram over 3 more km into a time 15 minutes quicker? What the hell. Figured I might as well go for it, and find out.

As our start time approached, the crowd got denser. Before long, I was packed in a sea of people (a sea of shoulder blades, really – from my short-statured viewpoint) that extended in every direction. As our group approached the start line, someone accidentally stepped on my shoe and pulled it halfway off. With thousands of people surging behind me, I hopped forward on one leg to get my shoe back on, thinking “Don’t trip. Don’t trip. For the love of God, don’t trip.” 

The energy at the start line was fantastic. We set off down Elgin Street to cheering crowds and pumped up music. I stuck close to the pace bunny, conscious of the danger of going out too fast. Called out and waved to my Mum and my kids as we moved onto the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. Felt great for the first 10 km, enjoying the enthusiastic spectators with witty signs, and the live music. “Hey, that’s a 10k personal best!” I exclaimed happily to the pace bunny after glancing at my watch. “This is just the warmup,” he smiled. Then the hills started.

In my training, I kept my cadence and perceived rate of exertion constant – which meant going slightly slower uphill, and faster downhill. Our diligent pace bunny kept his pace, already an aggressive one for me, constant regardless of the terrain. I managed to stay on the bunny’s tail (so to speak) almost to the Museum of Civilization on the Hull side. But he gradually began to slip away, as I started to question the wisdom of signing up for a race where I would have to do this AFTER a 2 km swim and a 90 km bike ride.

The crowds reappeared as we made our way toward Colonel By Drive. At this point, many people were walking. One girl weaved unsteadily to the side of the road. “Slow down,” my brain suggested. “Walk. Stop. This sucks.” “The faster you run, the faster this will be over,” I insisted. I felt kind of off, like I should either eat or drink something, or I should really NOT eat or drink anything. I swished the remaining mouthfuls of Nuun water from my flasks and swallowed. So far, so good. I spotted my girls (with the awesome sign they made for me) and Mum again at the Pretoria Bridge, and managed to run over and give them a kiss. The final push up Queen E toward the finish was, or at least felt, uphill. Almost there. Almost there. Don’t leave anything in the tank. I raised my arms and crossed the finish line, my race over. Surprisingly, I had the presence of mind to stop my GPS watch within half a minute or so. I was happy to see that I had come in so close to my goal time. Closer than I had hoped for or expected.

Oh, and I ran this race in a new pair of shoes. Turns out I’m a runner who pronates a little, but I prefer a neutral shoe that is light, cushioned, and has between 8-11 mm of drop. You know, in case anyone asks.

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