You’ve got to love the evening before a race; everyone has their own specific routine. I like to lay out all of my gear so I know I won’t forget anything, it makes it that much easier in the morning. I’ve felt a little bit nervous about this race. I’ve run many 1/2 marathons but I had never tried to run one at a 3:50-3:55 pace. It’s intimidating. So that had me feeling a little apprehensive. Furthermore, I’m always a little nervous if the training will take me to my goal. It’s the difference between a good day or a mentally/physically draining day if you’re intent on reaching that goal without being fully trained for it. Though the more races you have under your belt, the more often you can anticipate road blocks, which helps you progressively get better at the physical equation of racing.
I woke up this morning with that nervous feeling echoing through my body. My stomach was off and it definitely showed. There were a lot of reports this week that this Sunday morning would be rainy and cool; this was changing my outfit expectations. Once I stepped out of our door to let the dog out this morning, I realized it was only cool and breezy. Better than rain I thought!
We arrive at the starting area, and there was a sense of pride in the air. Being downtown, in the capital of Canada, is in itself a very patriotic feeling-add the Army Run in that mix, and it’s just a great place to be a Canadian. After warming up and leaving my stuff with my wife and mother-in-law, I head over to the start line. (Side note: if you’re a family member, volunteer, friend watching: thank you. Just coming from a race a few hours ago, it resonates even more. You make these events happen and you inspire us to achieve our dreams and goals. Your support is second to none.) After arriving at the start line, the 1/2 for ill and injured soldiers/athletes with disabilities is just about to begin. I feel so proud and inspired in this moment, these guys are real champions. What they’re doing takes a lot of courage and perseverance. I run for them, and I run for my Dad (retired Captain, who is a champ in his own right).
After 15 minutes, the main start is about to begin. I set the Garmin and the tunes. It’s time! I’ve set myself up in the front, and as we’re moving, there’s a lot of vying for spots and it’s got me running a little hot at 3:30/km. I’m a little hasty for the next 2km’s until I get a hold of myself and pull back on the speed. Trust me, it took some self motivation to step off of the gas. I felt good, but I didn’t want to blow a tire later in the race. I stayed consistent and my music was just perfect and really kept my pace up. This race has such a visual route. It was great to pass the parliament buildings right away and the war museum shortly after. I love races that keep me enjoying the view.
As we crest the first bridge past the war museum, a girl passes me, I wanted to stay with her but it was still a little too fast for me at nearly 5 km in, so I stayed disciplined. I was happy at this point to keep the pace, I wasn’t sure if it would hold, but my training and speed workouts are the key at this point. We’re running on the Ottawa parkway (Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway) when we turn around back toward the war museum just nearing Island Park Drive. Just before we hit the war museum there was a water stop, I grabbed a glass of what I thought was water: it was Gatorade. Of course I meant to get it in my mouth but I missed and hit my eye. I had to blink that one out, it was quite comical. I think we’re sitting at about 7Km in as we come across the bridge to Quebec. Things are still going well, and I’m really relaxed and comfortable, which is the difference between a good race and a crap race. Relaxing into a pace is key.
Quebec went by really fast, the girl that had passed me earlier is now far up ahead, though I can still see her. Girls are making this sport much better than it ever was. I think John Stanton said this morning “this race is 53 or 56% women”, which is amazing, but as a dude it’s hard getting your butt kicked by a girl. I’ve decided I’ll try and catch up to her by the end of the race, at this point she’s about 800m ahead of me.
As we head towards the Alexandra bridge coming back to Ontario, we pass the Museum of Civilization. I did a quick gait check in the window and hit the next water stop; this time successfully managing to drink the Gatorade. We’re approaching 11Km at this point, it’s definitely the most beautiful part of the race crossing over the Ottawa River, seeing the backside of Parliament on the right, and approaching the National Gallery to the left. From here we veer left onto Sussex Drive passing the Royal Canadian Mint and heading towards the Rockcliffe Parkway passing 24 Sussex on the way (Prime Minister’s Residence). I’m still feeling quite strong, and with 10k left, it’s only more motivation to stay at the same pace and remain strong on any hills I encounter. I brace myself for the hill just ahead toward the turn around at Rockcliffe Parkway. As we take a left on a roundabout towards the impending hill, the leader of the race passes on the opposite side of the road. I’m shocked as he’s well ahead of the second place finisher. Wow, if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is, this guy was cruising!
As we make our way back towards Sussex on the turn around from Rockcliffe Parkway, I decide to put the hammer on from here out and let loose. With about 7KM remaining, I pick up the pace to between 3:33-3:40/KM. I find the girl that passed me long ago at 5Km, and do what I like to call “target marking”. This is anytime during a race when you decide that you can make it through the last few kilometers no problem. You find someone up ahead and keep your eyes locked on them; don’t sway too long. It allows you to stay completely focused on catching up to them, and should allow you to keep that hard pace that you’ve decided to stay at. With this all in mind, I think about my gait, and start cruising my way back towards Colonol By (Rideau Canal) feeling great, and feeling confident that I’ll catch up to her. It was very nostalgic to how my Marathon in this exact same spot in May went. I had been trying to catch a guy for awhile and eventually passed him around the same spot. By 19Km, I’m getting very close to her, and by 20Km, I’ve just passed her heading into the last kilometer. Then I find another shirt, and I stay locked in, I know that it’s a long shot, but it allows me to pick my pace up for the last 500m, and come across the finish line in speedy fashion. I didn’t catch him, but shook his hand, and told him “good race”.
The end of a race is so amazing. It’s the time when the crowd is supporting you, the adrenaline accelerates through your body, and you can feel relief that it’s all over. There’s no more waiting, nervous feelings, questioning training/outcome, it’s finished! After I crossed I looked up to the bridge at my wife and mother-in-law, happy to see them. Today was a great feeling for me as I PB’d a 1:21 and took 23rd place of 6000+ people. I have come a far way from the boy who started running at a 6:00/km and had knee problems, stress fractures, muscle tears and and generally slow progression. I’ve had to learn this sport through multiple races and injury. It’s all about the running form (gait), training, nutrition, great advice, and experience. Training being key though. If you’re reading this wondering, could I do this? Believe that you can, put in the time, and you will at least get to a place that makes you proud and appreciative that you gave it your best.
Thanks Army Run, great race.
Here’s to you and the soldiers of this country!