Monday, May 31, 2010

Ottawa Half Marathon Race Report

My first half marathon was, in short, a memorable experience in every way. We left Toronto on Friday afternoon and had a lengthy drive through the typically horrible traffic even though we'd left long before the usual "rush hour". It was not a bad drive, just long and we arrived really tired.

The next morning, after attempting to sleep in and making it all the way to 7:30am, we took it easy and took forever to eat breakfast. Then we headed over to the race expo to pick up our bibs and t-shirts (Monica for her 10k, Owen for the kids marathon, and yours truly for the you know what). The afternoon was spent resting since Monica was to race the 10k at 6:30pm and I'd be responsible for keeping the kids safe and close by as we tried to get to spots along the start and finish areas to cheer her on and get some photos. The latter would prove hard to come by given the massive crowds both participating in the race (9000+) and lining the race route.

After walking the 3.5k to the start area Monica went off to warm up and the boys and I found a spot along the route close to the start. We stood and waited for almost an hour while the waves of elite runners were set off first and by the time we saw Monica run by my feet and lower back were hurting something fierce. As soon as she went by we got over to the finish area and found a spot along the barrier where we proceeded to wait and stand in amongst another crowd first cheering the elite racers and then everybody else. My feet and back were not well served by this experience, but we did have fun watching all the runners and especially the young kids. They got the loudest cheers from the crowd.

Monica had a great race and set a massive PR with a run of 57:21!

After her race we walked home and got there pretty late. I ordered pizza while we walked and once it arrived it was all we could do just to scarf it down and head for bed.

On Sunday morning I set the alarm for 6:30am since Owen's race was to go at 8am and then I would be running my race at 9am. Monica drove us as close to the start area as she could and the boys and I got out and headed over to drop Owen off. We got there in plenty of time and found a spot along the road near the start to wait for Owen. Monica arrived with about five minutes to spare and after the start of the race ran with Malks over to the finish area. (Apparently Malks was very fast and continued despite a tummy ache!)

After cheering Owen as he went by I ran over to the Laurier Street bridge and just managed to see him after he'd crossed the finish line to snap a couple of pictures. They are not very good, but I will post them once I transfer them from the camera.

Here's Owen crossing the Finish Line (look for the kid with the red hat and yellow horns):

Long after my race I found out that Owen dropped almost a minute off of his time from last year's race and came in 11th in his age category! 5:16.7 for 1.195km is not too shabby at all, and quite speedy in my opinion (4:25/km!).

Then it was my turn. With sore back and achy feet from all the standing I found myself standing in amongst a massive crowd of runners waiting for the start of the half marathon. Not good. I definitely felt tight and my lower back was seizing up, but I tried to bounce around a little as I waited for 9am to come. Chatting with a few people helped pass the time.

Then we were off and I thought only of going nice and slow at the beginning. My goal was to have a good solid training run, and I had full intention of staying easy and loose, maintaining a steady pace throughout the entire race. But then the 1:45 pace bunny came by sometime within the first kilometre (when my Garmin was telling me that I was running a pedestrian 5:41/km pace) and on the spur of the moment I decided to latch on just to see what would happen.

It was the best move I could have made. I didn't have to focus on my watch for pacing and as long as I kept feeling good I was free to look around and really enjoy the run. It was a great day for running: overcast, not very hot at about +18C, and it even sprinkled on us form time to time. This was a welcome change from the weather that had been forecast for the day earlier in the week: +28C plus humidity and sunny.

Anyway, it was fun to just run. The pace bunny was doing a great job of holding a steady pace after the second kilometre in which she seemed to try and make up time for the slow first kilometre. As the run progressed I had a notion of passing the pace bunny with about 5 or 6km to go.

I saw Monica and the boys after about 8km and I called out to them, "Check out the pace bunny!" since I'd told them that I likely would be coming in about 1:50 for the race. The course meandered all over the place at one point and I became completely disoriented as far as direction went, but didn't bother with that too much since I had the pace bunny to follow.

At about the 14km or 15km mark I started to tire and bit. At a couple of the water stations at this point in the race the pace bunny got quite a bit ahead of me as I had to walk through to try and get more fluid into me than onto me and I think the catching up and changing of pace took a bit out of me since I have not been training anything but easy long run pace with no fartleking or speed work of any sort. My previous plan to take off with 5km left in the race was not going to happen and by this point I was just happy to keep the pace bunny within sight.

The period from 15km to 19km was by far the toughest mentally and physically. I decided to change my tactic and instead of hanging back about 10-15m from the pace bunny I caught right up and ran right on her tail (no pun intended). This was a good strategy and definitely got me through the tough stretch. I kept of thinking to myself, "Just pull me along pace bunny. Just pull me along!"

Then when I hit the 19km mark I all of a sudden, almost without thinking about it, passed the pace bunny and just tried to pull away a little bit with every step. It felt like I was not running any faster so I kept on checking behind me to make sure that the pace bunny was not gaining ground. Each time I did a shoulder check I was a bit surprised to see that I, indeed, was pulling away.

Not surprisingly the last two-plus kilometres were my fastest. They were also the toughest in some ways, but I did pass a tonne of struggling runners and was very pleased that I crossed the finish line completely spent. I went much faster than I ever thought I could and had a lot of fun. What more could one ask for from their first half marathon!

The details are as follows...

  • Gun Time: 1:44:05.9
  • Chip Time: 1:42:46.4
  • Pace (chip time): 4:53/km
  • Place Overall: 1086/9207
  • Gender Place: 874/3876
  • Category Place: 174/691

The race splits are here.



Blogger Andrew is getting fit said...

That sounds like an awesome half marathon! Congrats to both you and your wife!

June 3, 2010 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Andrew is getting fit said...

And let's not forget Owen either!

June 3, 2010 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Ace said...

Smokin' Race! Great race report too. It is amazing to think where you are now compared to where you were (not able to run) not that long ago. Grats.

June 7, 2010 at 12:42 AM  

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