Now that we have somewhat settled into the new house I find myself with time to FINALLY get back to blogging and post my Ottawa Race Weekend half marathon recap so without further adieu …
I went into my first half marathon expecting it to be a challenge and set a goal to finish. I wasn’t completely focused on an overall finish time because I really didn’t know what to expect. Mentally I had broken the race down into 5k segments telling myself it was like running four 5k races with a little added to the end. It seemed easier for me to process that way and I am so glad I did because when it started getting tough near the end I had to remind myself “Just one more 5k and you’re done. One more, you can do this.”
During my last long training run I had some tummy issues around the 7k point that turned what should have been a 2 hour run into a 2 hour and 45 minute run with frequent pit stops, walking breaks and a sunburn that you could see from outer space. The lessons taken away from that run were
- Expired sunscreen should be replaced.
- Eating something before a run you haven’t eaten before is NEVER a good idea.
- ALWAYS carry tissues with you on a long run.
- Plodding through a 19k run when you have the runs doesn’t make you a better person but you will be able to look back and laugh about the time you pooped in a bush or two … or three or four or five …
Our plans were to head up to Ottawa on the Friday before Sundays race so we could pick up our race kits from the Expo on Saturday morning and enjoy a relaxing visit with Mike’s family. Those plans had to change quickly when we realized Mike had a mandatory training session on Saturday from 8am-4pm for the volunteer fire department.
Cue panic and mayhem when I checked out the timings for kit pick up and noticed we had until 4pm Saturday to get the kits or we would not be running.
Phone calls were made to family members living in the Ottawa area and my beautiful sister-in-law agreed to brave the construction and traffic downtown to pick up our kits. Crisis averted.
We arrived in Ottawa late Saturday afternoon and spent the evening relaxing with family and trying to figure out what the weather was going to be like at 7 in the morning. Three different weather apps gave us three different forecasts so I played it safe and stuck with what I had worn on my morning training runs … shorts, bra and tank. I threw in an old hobo-hoodie to wear over my race gear that I could toss before the race started and I am so glad I did, it was a foggy 10C. Mike was running the marathon and his start time was 7am, the half marathon didn’t start until 2 hours later so I spent plenty of time wandering around, trying to keep warm, lining up for the porta-potty’s and eating my breakfast.
Soon it was time for me to find my corral and line up with the other runners. The sun had come out and it was starting to warm up. I ditched my hobo-hoodie and settled into the middle of the crowd of 13000 half marathoners. I started my Garmin, popped my Walkman into my ears and turned it on only to get a “low battery” beep. Thinking I didn’t hit the right button to start it I tried again. And again. And again. Nothing!
I started to panic. How was I suppose to get through 21.1k without any music? Turns out I didn’t need it and I am grateful I wasn’t distracted by tunes with all that was going on around me. I was able to enjoy, REALLY enjoy, the atmosphere and not once did I miss having music.
It was warming up quickly and I was glad I had listened to Mike when he said to under-dress for the day. Even in my tank and shorts I was sweating buckets at the 3k mark. The first 5k was crowded, people were jostling for a position and I took a few elbows to the ribs but went by rather quickly and the sides of the street were littered with clothing shed by runners who had also worn hobo-hoodies. Soon the crowd started to thin out and I could settle into a comfortable pace.
The Ottawa Race Weekend followed the Ottawa Tulip Festival and the section of the course along the Rideau Canal was in full tulip bloom. They had water stations spaced out every 3k and the crowd support was beyond what I expected. It was electric. There were bands playing music, kids holding out their hands for a high-five and motivational signs that made me laugh out loud. The course takes you through several affluent Ottawa and Gatineau neighbourhoods and the streets were lined with spectators cheering runners on. Some had their garden hoses out and were misting us as we went by … other were cheering us on by name. That part took me by surprise and wondered if family and friends had come down to the race to cheer me on.
It wasn’t until I was 3-4k in that it dawned on me … my name was on my bib! This girl? Not the fastest tractor on the farm.
Soon I was crossing the 10k timing mat and wondered how Mike was doing with the marathon. 11k came and went, I was feeling good. Half way there. 12k I needed to pee and made a pit stop at the water station. The line wasn’t too bad and I was back out on the course quickly.
15k came and went, I was tired but still feeling good. The day had started to get hot, the sun was out in full force and I was worried my sunscreen was melting off of my body. Only 6.1k left to go.
Between 18k and 19k my right calf started to seize and I had to stop to stretch it out. This stopped my Garmin because I had forgotten to turn the auto-pause feature off and I realized then that my bathroom break at the 12k point would have paused my Garmin as well so this is where I stopped looking at my time knowing that it would be way off of the actual chip timing.
Coming into the 20k point I start hearing the finish line announcer and the crowd. This was what I needed to give me that push for the last 1.1k. I picked up my pace, focused on one runner ahead of me and started reeling in. Once I had passed him I picked another runner, then another. I was reeling in people like I had never done before and it was pure adrenalin that made my tired legs keep moving.
Soon I see the 21k marker and I know I only have 100 meters to go. The crowd is booming, the music is overwhelming and I finally see the finish line.
One final kick and just like that … it’s over. I finished my first half marathon.
I move into the medal line, grab a cup of Gatorade and receive my medal. My first though is to call Mike but he doesn’t have his phone with him so I call my friend Hollie only to get her voice mail. I start to cry from the overwhelming emotion of what I had just done and try to leave her a message but I can barely get the words out.
I move my way through the crowd to the recovery area, grab a yogurt and a banana and make my way to the meeting point that Mike and I had agreed on before starting and he’s there waiting for me.
Mike finished his first marathon in 3:50:07.
We head back to our van that we had parked a few blocks away. On our way back to his parents house Mike says he wants to stop at the store to grab a bag of ice for an ice bath. Getting out of the van to head into the store we notice his wallet is missing and in a panic realize it had fallen out of the van in the parking lot downtown. We race downtown, back to the parking lot and start looking for it. While we are on our hands and knees looking under vehicles a man approaches us and asks if we had lost a wallet. When we tell him yes he says he had taken it to the security desk in Holt Renfrew.
Mike dashed over to Holt Renfrew where he was able to get his wallet but not before they had contacted out bank. His debit card had been cancelled and the bank called soon after to let him know his wallet had been found and they were about to cancel the credit card. We are so very grateful for this honest man that found the wallet and turned it in. It could have been much worse then the inconvenience of a cancelled debit card.
If you’re still with me after this long and drawn out post, Thank You. If you didn’t make it this far and just looked at the IG pictures I understand.
Later that evening when we were watching the news report on the race they said there were over 100,000 spectators out supporting and cheering on the racers! ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE!
Ottawa Race Weekend was bigger and better than I could ever have imagined. From the volunteers to the spectators, the course and the weather, it was by far the biggest race I have been in and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.
Next on the agenda: Half Marathon training for the Canada Army Run in September starts this week.
What are you currently training for? Have you ever been in a race with 13000 other runners?